Nadezhda Tolokonnikova

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Nadezhda Tolokonnikova
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova während einer Paneldisskusion auf der republica 2015-cropped.jpg
Tolokonnikova in May 2015
Native name Надежда Андреевна Толоконникова
Born Nadezhda Andreyevna Tolokonnikova
(1989-11-07) November 7, 1989 (age 28)
Norilsk, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Residence Moscow, Russia
Nationality Russian
Other names Nadya Tolokno (Надя Толокно)
Education Moscow State University
Occupation Student, Political Activist, Performance Artist
Years active 2008 to present
Organization Voina, Pussy Riot
Known for Provocative political protests; imprisonment for hooliganism
Criminal charge Hooliganism motivated by religious hatred
Criminal penalty 2 years imprisonment
Criminal status convicted on August 17, 2012, released under amnesty on December 23, 2013
Children Gera (b. 2008)
Awards LennonOno Grant for Peace
Hannah Arendt Prize (shared with fellow band-mate Maria Alyokhina)

Nadezhda Andreyevna Tolokonnikova (Russian: Наде́жда Андре́евна Толоко́нникова, IPA: [nɐˈdʲeʐdə təlɐˈkonʲːɪkəvə]; born November 7, 1989),[1][2] nicknamed "Nadya Tolokno" (Надя Толокно), is a Russian conceptual artist and political activist. She was a member of the Anarchist Feminist group Pussy Riot, and has a history of political activism with the controversial street art group Voina. On August 17, 2012, she was convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" after a performance in Moscow Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and sentenced to two years' imprisonment. On December 23, 2013, she was released early with another Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina under a newly passed amnesty bill dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Russian constitution.[3]

Tolokonnikova was recognized as a political prisoner by the Russian human rights group "Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners".[4] Amnesty International named her a prisoner of conscience due to "the severity of the response of the Russian authorities".[5]


Early and personal life[edit]

Tolokonnikova walking with Pyotr Verzilov (L.) in the June 2007 Dissenters' March

Tolokonnikova was born on November 7, 1989 in Norilsk, a heavily polluted extreme-weather industrial city in the Russian Arctic. In her late school years, she was active in amateur modern literature and art projects, organized by the Novoye Literaturnoye Obozreniye.[6]

In 2007, Tolokonnikova enrolled in the philosophy department of the Moscow State University. She since married Pyotr Verzilov and gave birth to daughter Gera in 2008.[7] She has Canadian permanent resident status and her husband is a dual citizen of Canada and Russia.

Performances and protests[edit]

Tolokonnikova and Verzilov joined the Voina art collective in 2007 and participated in several of their provocative art performances.[8] In February 2008, they were involved in the "Fuck for the heir Puppy Bear!" performance in which couples were filmed engaging in sexual acts in the Timiryazev State Biology Museum in Moscow.[9][10][11] The performance was said to be intended as a kind of satire of then President Dmitry Medvedev's call for increased reproduction. She was in the late stages of pregnancy at the time.[12] Tolokonnikova was among the Voina members who disrupted a trial for the director of the Andrei Sakharov Center in 2009.[13][14] But later, according to the "Rossiyskaya Gazeta", together with Pyotr Verzilov were expelled from the "Voina" - "for provocation and surrender of activists of the group to the police".[15]

She also took part in a series of actions Operation Kiss Garbage,[16] (Russian: "Лобзай мусора", roughly translated as "Kiss a pig") from January through March 2011. This project comprised female members' kissing policewomen in Moscow metro stations and on the streets.[17]

Arrest and indictment[edit]

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova at the Moscow Tagansky District Court.

Following the "Punk Prayer" incident in February 21, 2012,[18] a criminal case was opened on February 26 against the band members who had participated.[19] On 3 March, Tolokonnikova and two other alleged members of Pussy Riot were arrested by the Russian authorities and accused of hooliganism. All women at first denied being members of the group and started a hunger strike in protest against being held in jail away from their young children.[20] They were held without bail and were formally charged on June 4, with the indictment running to 2,800 pages.[21]

There was speculation that Canadian authorities might attempt to intervene because Tolokonnikova is a Canadian permanent resident;[2][22] however this did not occur.

Court case and imprisonment[edit]

Tolokonnikova at a protest on 4 February 2012

Tolokonnikova was serving the remainder of her two-year sentence in the IK-14 women's penal colony near the settlement of Partsa (Russian: Парца, Явасское городское поселение), Republic of Mordovia.[23] On September 23, 2013 she went on hunger strike over prison conditions and alleged threats against her life made by prison staff.[24][25][26][27] Her letter on the conditions of the women in the penal colony asserts that the women have no rights, that the prisoners must work 16–17 hours and sleep 3–4 hours a day, and that they have a day-off every 8th week. Further she claims that if they complain, they are punished, and that if they complain over the treatment of other prisoners, they are punished even harder. Collective punishment is allegedly frequent, but she also states that the prisoners may be beaten up with particular focus on hitting the kidneys. Another punishment would consist of keeping a prisoner outdoor in the cold without sufficient clothing. Most of what she reports is affirmed by other sources.[28][29][30]

While imprisoned, she exchanged letters with filmmaker, philosopher, and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek discussing democracy and her activism.[31] Their correspondence was arranged by the French philosopher Michel Eltchaninoff, and their eleven letters were compiled into a short book, Comradely Greetings: The Prison Letters of Nadya and Slavoj, published by Verso Books in 2014.[32][33]

In late September 2013, Tolokonnikova was hospitalised after going without food for a week. She was treated in the prison's medical ward, and authorities didn't release more specific details.[34][35][36][37][38][39]

On October 21, 2013, she was transferred to another prison; her whereabouts remained unknown for several weeks.[40][41] On November 5, 2013, it was reported that Tolokonnikova had been transferred to IK-50, a prison located near Nizhny Ingash, approximately 300 kilometres from Krasnoyarsk, Siberia.[42][43] On November 15, she was again able to communicate with her husband through a video call from the prison hospital.[44]


On the afternoon of December 23, 2013 Tolokonnikova was released from a prison hospital in Krasnoyarsk, where she was being treated for an unspecified illness.[45] According to Yelena Pimonenko, senior prosecutor assistant of the Krasnoyarsk Krai, Tolokonnikova was released because the article "hooliganism" of the Russian Criminal Code falls under the newly introduced amnesty bill.[3] Putin’s amnesty was seen by the freed prisoners and numerous critics as a propaganda stunt as Russia prepared to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in February.[46][47][48][49][50] Tolokonnikova said "... releasing people just a few months before their term expires is a cosmetic measure... That includes the case of Khodorkovsky, who didn't have much time left on his prison term. This is ridiculous. While Putin refuses to release those people who really needed it. It is a disgusting and cynical act"[51] and urged countries to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics.[52] She and Alyokhina said they would form a human rights movement for prison reforms.[46][49] On March 6, 2014, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were assaulted and injured at a fast food outlet by local youths in Nizhny Novgorod.[53]

Sochi detention[edit]

In February 2014, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, were detained in Sochi by the Adler Police in connection with an alleged hotel theft. They were released without charge.[54] On February 19, footage surfaced showing Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina being attacked with nagaikas, by Cossacks, who were helping patrol Sochi during the Winter Olympics.[55]

In 2016 she published the autobiographical book How to Start a Revolution.

Awards and honors[edit]

She is co-winner of the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought (2014).[56][57]

In popular culture[edit]

A documentary following the Pussy Riot court case, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, debuted at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.[58]

In 2015, Tolokonnikova and her Pussy Riot bandmate Maria Alyokhina appeared as themselves in Chapter 29 of House of Cards, a popular American television drama series that airs on Netflix. In the show, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina heavily criticized a fictionalized version of Vladimir Putin for corruption, while dining in the White House.[59]

An interview between Jessica Williams, Phoebe Robinson, and Tolokonnikova was featured in a November 2016 episode of the podcast 2 Dope Queens.[60]



  1. ^ "Дело группы Pussy Riot". 23 March 2012. Archived from the original on 21 September 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Bowman, John (17 August 2012). "UPDATE: Should Canada intervene in the Pussy Riot case?". CBC. Archived from the original on 21 September 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Толоконникова получила на руки документы об освобождении (in Russian). December 23, 2013. Retrieved 23 December 2013. 
  4. ^ "Троих предполагаемых участниц Pussy Riot признали политзаключенными" [Three of the alleged participants of Pussy Riot recognized as political prisoners]. Росбалт (in Russian). 25 March 2012. Archived from the original on 12 September 2012.  Google translation.
  5. ^ "Russia: Release punk singers held after performance in church". Amnesty International. 3 April 2012. Archived from the original on 23 July 2012. 
  6. ^ Кичанова, Вера (2012). Пусси Райот. Подлинная история (in Russian). Moscow: Project. 
  7. ^ Elder, Miriam (8 August 2012). "Pussy Riot profile: Nadezhda Tolokonnikova: Philosophy student Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, has been described as the evil genius behind Pussy Riot". The Guardian. Moscow. Archived from the original on 21 September 2012. Retrieved 9 August 2012. 
  8. ^ Peter, Thomas (August 16, 2012). "Witness to Pussy Riot's activist beginnings". Reuters. Archived from the original on 16 September 2012. 
  9. ^ Voina fucks for the heir Puppy Bear. Moscow: Voina. Mar 2, 2008. 
  10. ^ Ученый совет решит судьбу студентов МГУ, участвовавших в оргии в музее . RIA Novosti (pre-resubordination) (in Russian). March 6, 2008. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  11. ^ Akinsha, Konstantin (1 October 2009). "Art in Russia: Under Attack". ARTnews. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  12. ^ Archived from the original on March 5, 2014. Retrieved December 26, 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ Muelrath, Forrest. "Voina, Art Insurrectionists"., 10 January 2011. Archived from the original on 21 September 2012. 
  14. ^ Christian Riveros-Faune. "The New Realism". Art in America Magazine, 1 June 2012. Archived from the original on 21 September 2012. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ Elder, Miriam. "Radical Russian art group shows love for the police, Voina showers female police officers with kisses". Global Post, 1 March 2011. Archived from the original on 21 September 2012. 
  17. ^ Voina (Feb 28, 2011). [Video on YouTube Группа Война зацеловывает ментов] Check |url= value (help). Moscow: Voina. 
  18. ^ "Pussy Riot Declare Hunger Strike". RIA Novosti. 5 March 2012. Archived from the original on 27 October 2012. Retrieved 27 October 2012. 
  19. ^ "Police Open Criminal Probe into 'Punk Prayer' at Christ the Savior Cathedral". RIA Novosti. 26 February 2012. Archived from the original on 27 October 2012. Retrieved 27 October 2012. 
  20. ^ "Russian punk band Pussy Riot go on hunger strike in Moscow". The Week. 6 March 2012. Archived from the original on 27 October 2012. Retrieved 8 August 2012. 
  21. ^ "Участниц Pussy Riot официально обвинили в хулиганстве по мотивам религиозной ненависти ("Pussy Riot members officially charged with hooliganism motivated by religious hatred")" (in Russian). 4 June 2012. Archived from the original on 28 October 2012. Retrieved 8 August 2012. 
  22. ^ "Pussy Riot's Canadian Connection". CBC. 17 May 2012. Archived from the original on 21 September 2012. 
  23. ^ "Алехиной разрешат мультики, а Толоконниковой запретят кипятильники ("Alyokhina to have access to cartoons, Tolokonnikova to be denied water heaters")" (in Russian). Moskovsky Komsomolets. 23 October 2012. Archived from the original on 31 October 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2012. 
  24. ^ "Pussy Riot member declares hunger strike, slams prison conditions". Moscow News. 23 September 2013. Archived from the original on 24 September 2013. Retrieved 23 September 2013. 
  25. ^ Tolokonnikova, Nadezhda (23 September 2013). "Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova: Why I have gone on hunger strike". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 September 2013. 
  26. ^ Jailed Pussy Riot Member Starts Hunger Strike In Russia. 23 September 2013, by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
  27. ^ Tolokonnikova, Nadezhda (23 September 2013). "Вы теперь всегда будете наказаны". Retrieved 23 September 2013. 
  28. ^ Solopov, Maxim (27 September 2013) "Nothing personal, just business": Human Rights Council Confirms Tolokonnikova’s Claims. Gazeta.Ru.
  29. ^ Tolokonnikova’s report on abuse in colony partly confirmed. ITAR-TASS 30 September 2013.
  30. ^ Rights in Russia: Member of Human Rights Council says Tolokonnikova’s complaints based on facts. (26 September 2013). Retrieved on 26 December 2013.
  31. ^ "Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot's prison letters to Slavoj Žižek". 
  32. ^ Smallwood, Christine (July 2014). "New Books". Harper's. Vol. 329 no. 1,970. Harper's Foundation. p. 87. (subscription required)
  33. ^ Žižek, Slavoj; Tolokonnikova, Nadya (2014-09-30). Comradely Greetings: The Prison Letters of Nadya and Slavoj (1 ed.). London: Verso Books. ISBN 9781781687734. Retrieved 18 June 2014. 
  34. ^ Pussy Riot inmate claims Russian prison took away water. 25 September 2013 by Agence France-Presse. The Raw Story.
  35. ^ Tolokonnikova Calls 'Safe Cell' Solitary Confinement. 25 September 2013, by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
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  37. ^ Russia moves Pussy Riot inmate Nadezhda Tolokonnikova to medical unit. 28 September 2013 by AFP. Herald Sun.
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  39. ^ Black, Phil (3 October 2013) Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, jailed Pussy Riot member, halts hunger strike. CNN.
  40. ^ Martins, Chris. "Imprisoned Pussy Riot Member Disappears". Spin. Retrieved 1 November 2013. 
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  46. ^ a b "Pussy Riot: Russia frees jailed punk band members". 
  47. ^ Herszenhorn, David M. (23 December 2013) Released Punk Rockers Keep Up Criticism of Putin. New York Times.
  48. ^ Mezzofiore, Gianluca (23 December 2013). "Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova Freed under Putin Amnesty [VIDEO]". Yahoo News. 
  49. ^ a b Vasilyeva, Maria & Isayev, Nikolai. "Amnestied Russian punk band pair criticize Putin after release". Reuters. Retrieved 23 December 2013. 
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  54. ^ "Pussy Riot Members Nadezhda 'Nadya' Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina Detained in Sochi Ahead of Protest Performance". Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  55. ^ Pussy Riot whipped at Sochi Games by Cossacks. 19 February 2014. BBC News.
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  59. ^ "Chapter 29". House of Cards. Season 3. Episode 3. Netflix. 
  60. ^ Bonus Election Episode! Pussy Riot Drops by to Play Putin vs. Trump, retrieved 2016-12-16 

External links[edit]