Nadezhda Tolokonnikova

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Nadezhda Tolokonnikova
Надежда Андреевна Толоконникова
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova während einer Paneldisskusion auf der republica 2015-cropped.jpg
Tolokonnikova in May 2015
Born (1989-11-07) November 7, 1989 (age 31)
Other namesNadya Tolokno (Надя Толокно)
EducationMoscow State University
OccupationStudent, Political Activist, Performance Artist
Years active2008–present
OrganizationVoina, Pussy Riot
Known forProvocative political protests; imprisonment for hooliganism
Criminal charge(s)Hooliganism motivated by "religious hatred"
Criminal penalty2 years imprisonment
Criminal statusConvicted on August 17, 2012, released under amnesty on December 23, 2013
Spouse(s)Pyotr Verzilov (div.)
AwardsLennonOno 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 life and education[edit]

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

Tolokonnikova was born on November 7, 1989 in the industrial city of Norilsk, Russia, to parents Andrey Stepanovich Tolokonnikov and Yekaterina Voronina.[6] In her late school years, she was active in amateur modern literature and art projects, organized by the Novoye Literaturnoye Obozreniye.[7]

In 2007, at age 17, Tolokonnikova moved to Moscow[8] and enrolled in the philosophy department of the Moscow State University.


Tolokonnikova and Verzilov joined the Voina art collective in 2007 and participated in several of their provocative art performances.[9] 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.[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] On March 3, 2008 she was detained by police at a dissenters march in Moscow.[13] Tolokonnikova was among the Voina members who disrupted a trial for the director of the Andrei Sakharov Center in 2009.[14][15] But later, according to the "Rossiyskaya Gazeta", together with Pyotr Verzilov were expelled from Voina "for provocation and surrender of activists of the group to the police".[16]

She also took part in a series of actions Operation Kiss Garbage,[17] (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.[18]

Arrest and indictment[edit]

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova at the Moscow Tagansky District Court.

Following the "Punk Prayer" incident on February 21, 2012,[19] a criminal case was opened on February 26 against the band members who had participated.[20] On March 3, 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.[21] They were held without bail and were formally charged on June 4 with the indictment running to 2,800 pages.[22]

There was speculation that Canadian authorities might attempt to intervene because Tolokonnikova is a Canadian permanent resident;[2][23] however this did not occur.

Court case and imprisonment[edit]

Tolokonnikova at a protest on February 4, 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.[24] On September 23, 2013 she went on hunger strike over prison conditions and alleged threats against her life made by prison staff.[25][26][27][28] 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. Claiming that collective punishment is frequent, she also stated that the prisoners may be beaten with a particular focus on hitting the kidneys. Another punishment would consist of keeping a prisoner outdoors in the cold without sufficient clothing. Most of what she reports is affirmed by other sources.[29][30][31]

While imprisoned, she exchanged letters with filmmaker, philosopher, and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek discussing democracy and her activism.[32] Their correspondence was arranged by the French philosopher Michel Eltchaninoff, and their 11 letters were compiled into a short book, Comradely Greetings: The Prison Letters of Nadya and Slavoj, published by Verso Books in 2014.[33][34]

In late September 2013, Tolokonnikova was hospitalised after going without food for a week. She was treated in the prison's medical ward; authorities did not release more specific details.[35][36][37][38][39][40]

On October 21, 2013, she was transferred to another prison; her whereabouts remained unknown for several weeks.[41][42] 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.[43][44] On November 15 she was again able to communicate with her husband through a video call from the prison hospital.[45]


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.[46] 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.[47][48][49][50][51] 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"[52] and urged countries to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics.[53] She and Alyokhina said they would form a human rights movement for prison reforms.[47][50] On March 6, 2014, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were assaulted and injured at a fast food outlet by local youths in Nizhny Novgorod.[54]

After release, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina founded a penal and judicial-themed media outlet MediaZona.

Sochi detention[edit]

In February 2014, Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, were detained in Sochi by the Adler Police in connection with an alleged hotel theft. They were released without charge.[55] On February 19 footage surfaced showing Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina being attacked with nagaikas by Cossacks, who were helping patrol Sochi during the Winter Olympics.[56]


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

In 2018–19, Tolokonnikova wrote music for and toured with the musical production Riot Days, based on the book of the same name by Maria Alyokhina.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Tolokonnikova was previously married to Pyotr Verzilov.[57][58] They have a daughter, Gera, born in 2008.[59]

She is pansexual.[60]

Awards and honors[edit]

She is co-winner of the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought (2014).[61][62]

In popular culture[edit]

A documentary following the Pussy Riot court case, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, debuted at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.[63]

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.[64]

An interview between Jessica Williams, Phoebe Robinson, and Tolokonnikova was featured in a November 2016 episode of the podcast 2 Dope Queens.[65]


  • Comradely Greetings: The Prison Letters of Nadya and Slavoj (with Slavoj Žižek; Verso, 2014)
  • How to Start a Revolution (Penguin Press, 2016)
  • Rules for Rulebreakers: A Pussy Riot Guide to Protest (HarperOne, 2018)


  1. ^ "Дело группы Pussy Riot". March 23, 2012. Archived from the original on September 21, 2012.
  2. ^ a b Bowman, John (August 17, 2012). "UPDATE: Should Canada intervene in the Pussy Riot case?". CBC. Archived from the original on September 21, 2012.
  3. ^ a b Толоконникова получила на руки документы об освобождении (in Russian). December 23, 2013. Retrieved December 23, 2013.
  4. ^ "Троих предполагаемых участниц Pussy Riot признали политзаключенными" [Three of the alleged participants of Pussy Riot recognized as political prisoners]. Росбалт (in Russian). March 25, 2012. Archived from the original on September 12, 2012. Google translation.
  5. ^ "Russia: Release punk singers held after performance in church". Amnesty International. April 3, 2012.
  6. ^ ""Таких не берут в кос-мо-нав-ты"".
  7. ^ Кичанова, Вера (2012). Пусси Райот. Подлинная история (in Russian). Moscow: Hocus-Pocus.
  8. ^ Vasilyeva, Nataliya. "Women behind the mask of Russia's Pussy Riot band". The Pottstown Mercury.
  9. ^ Peter, Thomas (August 16, 2012). "Witness to Pussy Riot's activist beginnings". Reuters. Archived from the original on September 16, 2012.
  10. ^ Ученый совет решит судьбу студентов МГУ, участвовавших в оргии в музее. RIA Novosti (pre-resubordination) (in Russian). March 6, 2008. Retrieved December 29, 2013.
  11. ^ Akinsha, Konstantin (October 1, 2009). "Art in Russia: Under Attack". ARTnews. Retrieved December 29, 2013.
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  13. ^ "Photographer's blog: Witness to Pussy Riot's activist beginnings". August 16, 2012 – via
  14. ^ Muelrath, Forrest. "Voina, Art Insurrectionists"., January 10, 2011. Archived from the original on September 21, 2012.
  15. ^ Christian Riveros-Faune. "The New Realism". Art in America Magazine, June 1, 2012. Archived from the original on September 21, 2012.
  16. ^ "Панк-молебен в Храме Христа Спасителя готовился заранее и обсуждался в ЖЖ". Российская газета. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  17. ^ Elder, Miriam. "Radical Russian art group shows love for the police, Voina showers female police officers with kisses". Global Post, March 1, 2011. Archived from the original on September 21, 2012.
  18. ^ Voina (February 28, 2011). Группа Война зацеловывает ментов. Moscow: Voina.
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  21. ^ "Russian punk band Pussy Riot go on hunger strike in Moscow". The Week. March 6, 2012. Archived from the original on October 27, 2012. Retrieved August 8, 2012.
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  23. ^ "Pussy Riot's Canadian Connection". CBC. May 17, 2012. Archived from the original on September 21, 2012.
  24. ^ "Алехиной разрешат мультики, а Толоконниковой запретят кипятильники ("Alyokhina to have access to cartoons, Tolokonnikova to be denied water heaters")" (in Russian). Moskovsky Komsomolets. October 23, 2012. Archived from the original on October 31, 2012. Retrieved October 31, 2012.
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  26. ^ Tolokonnikova, Nadezhda (September 23, 2013). "Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova: Why I have gone on hunger strike". The Guardian. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
  27. ^ Jailed Pussy Riot Member Starts Hunger Strike In Russia. September 23, 2013, by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
  28. ^ Tolokonnikova, Nadezhda (September 23, 2013). "Вы теперь всегда будете наказаны". Retrieved September 23, 2013.
  29. ^ Solopov, Maxim (September 27, 2013) "Nothing personal, just business": Human Rights Council Confirms Tolokonnikova’s Claims. Gazeta.Ru.
  30. ^ Tolokonnikova’s report on abuse in colony partly confirmed. ITAR-TASS September 30, 2013.
  31. ^ Rights in Russia: Member of Human Rights Council says Tolokonnikova’s complaints based on facts. (September 26, 2013). Retrieved on December 26, 2013.
  32. ^ Žižek, Slavoj; Tolokonnikova, Nadezhda (November 15, 2013). "Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot's prison letters to Slavoj Žižek" – via
  33. ^ Smallwood, Christine (July 2014). "New Books". Harper's. Vol. 329 no. 1, 970. Harper's Foundation. p. 87.(subscription required)
  34. ^ Žižek, Slavoj; Tolokonnikova, Nadya (September 30, 2014). Comradely Greetings: The Prison Letters of Nadya and Slavoj (1 ed.). London: Verso Books. ISBN 9781781687734. Retrieved June 18, 2014.
  35. ^ Pussy Riot inmate claims Russian prison took away water. September 25, 2013 by Agence France-Presse. The Raw Story.
  36. ^ Tolokonnikova Calls 'Safe Cell' Solitary Confinement. September 25, 2013, by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
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  58. ^ Escritt, Thomas; Martin, Michelle (September 18, 2018). "Anti-Kremlin activist saved by prompt treatment: doctors". Reuters.
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  60. ^ Kut, Andry (October 10, 2018). "Tolokonnikova told about sex with girls and public orgy in a museum". Hand of Moscow.
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  64. ^ "Chapter 29". House of Cards. Season 3. Episode 3. Netflix.
  65. ^ Bonus Election Episode! Pussy Riot Drops by to Play Putin vs. Trump, retrieved December 16, 2016

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