Pyotr Verzilov

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Pyotr Verzilov
Pyotr Verzilov
Born (1987-10-25) 25 October 1987 (age 29)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Alma mater Moscow State University[1]
Spouse(s) Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova
Children Gera, born c. 2008 (age 8–9)

Pyotr Verzilov (born 25 October 1987[2]) is a Russian-Canadian artist and activist who came to wider prominence as the unofficial spokesperson of the band Pussy Riot when they were arrested and jailed by the Russian state in 2012. Verzilov is married to Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.


Born in Moscow,[3] Verzilov lived in Canada as a boy, attending school in Toronto between 1999 and 2003. He returned to Russia to complete his school education, then studied philosophy at Moscow State University.[1] "I always saw my future in Russia. I am a Russian man. I am inspired by the Russian language, the Russian reality," he later told the Toronto Star.[1] However, because of his residency Verzilov obtained a Canadian passport and residency rights.[4]

Verzilov met Nadezhda Tolokonnikova at university. They both became well known for outrageous art performances[1] as part of the performance art group Voina.[5] This included filming public sex acts in a Moscow biological museum to protest the Mayor's call for increased reproduction, in 2008, when his wife was heavily pregnant.[1] After Voina split in 2009, the St Petersburg faction accused Verzilov of being a police informer.[6] Verzilov later described these accusations as "lies – brutal, old lies", blaming them on the "very nasty breakup" of Voina.[2]

In July 2010, at the conclusion of a trial of two art gallery curators in a Moscow court, Verzilov reportedly burst in and released a bag of live cockroaches.[7]

Verzilov took part in the Euromaidan protest in Kiev (Ukraine) in December 2013.[8][9]

Pussy Riot[edit]

Verzilov's wife Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is a member of the Russian feminist punk rock group Pussy Riot who, in February 2012, staged a protest inside the Moscow Cathedral. On 17 August Tolokonnikova and two other members were sentenced to two years' imprisonment for 'hooliganism'.[10] Subsequent to their arrest and imprisonment Verzilov became a prominent representative and spokesperson for Pussy Riot.[5][6][11]

He lobbied the singer Madonna for support prior to her 2012 Moscow concert.[12]

On 14 September 2012 Verzilov was interviewed by the BBC's Zeinab Badawi for a full programme of HARDtalk.[13]

In September that year Verzilov accepted the LennonOno grant for peace from Yoko Ono, on behalf of Pussy Riot, at a ceremony in New York.[14]

However, in October 2012 the jailed Pussy Riot members published a letter via their lawyer disowning Verzilov as their spokesman. They said he had "seized representation and decision-making of Pussy Riot" and had misrepresented their views. "The only person who can legitimately represent the group is a girl in a balaclava," they stated. Verzilov's actions were "treacherous to punk."[5]

Personal life[edit]

Verzilov and Tolokonnikova have a daughter, Gera, born c. 2008.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e Narizhnaya, Khristina (19 August 2012). "Husband of Pussy Riot member says they'll revisit Canada". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c "Husband of Pussy Riot Member: 'We'll Continue to Fight, No Matter What the Verdict'". Der Spiegel. 14 August 2012. Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  3. ^ Верзилов Петр Юрьевич (in Russian). 12 May 2013. 
  4. ^ Adams, Joanna (18 August 2012). "Pussy Riot: Nadezhda Tolokonnikova's Husband Pyotr Verzilov Says Canadian Connection Puts Band At Risk". Huffington Post (Canada). Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c Malpas, Anna (12 October 2012). "Pussy Riot women disown husband as group's spokesman". The Daily Star. Lebanon. Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Pyotr Verzilov: Pussy Riot’s Bearded Face". RIA Novosti. 22 August 2012. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  7. ^ Judah, Ben (13 July 2010). "Russian curators anger church, but escape jail". Reuters. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  8. ^ Why do Ukraine protests matter?, BBC News (3 December 2013)
  9. ^ 2 December 2013 episode of As It Happens, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (2 December 2013)
  10. ^ "Pussy Riot members jailed for two years for hooliganism". BBC News. 17 August 2012. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  11. ^ "Putin is deciding this trial: Verzilov (TV interview)". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 10 August 2012. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  12. ^ "Pussy Riot turns into squabble for money". 2 November 2012. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  13. ^ "Pyotr Verzilov – Russian artist and political activist". HARDtalk. BBC News Channel. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  14. ^ "Yoko Ono bestows peace grant on Pussy Riot". The Washington Times. 21 September 2012. Retrieved 3 March 2013.