Tolokonnikova in May 2014
|Native name||Надежда Андреевна Толоконникова|
|Born||Nadezhda Andreyevna Tolokonnikova
November 7, 1989
Norilsk, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
|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; born November 7, 1989), nicknamed "Nadya Tolokno" (Надя Толокно), is a Russian conceptual artist and political activist. She is a member of the anti-Putinist punk rock 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.
Tolokonnikova was recognized as a political prisoner by the Russian human rights group "Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners". Amnesty International named her a prisoner of conscience due to "the severity of the response of the Russian authorities".
Early and personal life
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.
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. She has Canadian permanent resident status and her husband is a dual citizen of Canada and Russia.
Performances and protests
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Tolokonnikova and Verzilov joined the Voina art collective in 2007 and participated in several of their provocative art performances. 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. The performance was apparently 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. Tolokonnikova was among the Voina members who disrupted a trial for the director of the Andrei Sakharov Center in 2009.
She also took part in a series of actions Operation Kiss Garbage, (Russian: "Лобзай мусора", roughly translated as "Kiss a pig") from January through March 2011. This project comprised female members' forcibly kissing policewomen in Moscow metro stations and on the streets.
Arrest and indictment
Following the "Punk Prayer" incident in February 21, 2012, a criminal case was opened on February 26 against the band members who had participated. 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. They were held without bail and were formally charged on June 4, with the indictment running to 2,800 pages.
Court case and imprisonment
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. On September 23, 2013 she went on hunger strike over prison conditions and alleged threats against her life made by prison staff. 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.
While imprisoned, she exchanged letters with filmmaker, philosopher, and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek discussing democracy and her activism. Their correspondence has been compiled into a book Comradely Greetings: The Prison Letters of Nadya and Slavoj, published by Verso Books on September 30, 2014.
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.
On October 21, 2013, she was transferred to another prison; her whereabouts remained unknown for several weeks. 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. On November 15, she was again able to communicate with her husband through a video call from the prison hospital.
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. 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. 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. 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" and urged countries to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics. She and Alyokhina said they would form a human rights movement for prison reforms. On March 6, 2014, she was assaulted and injured at a fast food outlet by local youths in Nizhny Novgorod.
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. On February 19, footage surfaced showing Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina being attacked with nagykas, by Cossacks, who were helping patrol Sochi during the Winter Olympics.
Awards and honors
In popular culture
In 2015, Tolokonnikova and her Pussy Riot band mate 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. An interview between Jessica Williams, Pheobe Robinson, and Tolokonnikova was featured in a November 2016 episode of the podcast 2 Dope Queens.
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