Image via Getty.

Pussy Riot’s Masha Alyokhina has a warning for Americans under Trump: “I think it’s honestly just the beginning of a huge battle which the United States faces. I wish you bravery.”

On the most recent episode of Big Time Dicks, Alyokhina talked about her new memoir Riot Days, which chronicles Pussy Riot’s now infamous 2012 protest in a Moscow church, their arrest, and her subsequent two-year prison sentence for speaking out against Vladimir Putin.

One of the central themes in Riot Days is the idea that revolution begins with the individual, and a refusal to bend your will, a lesson she drew upon again and again while in prison. Guards forced inmates to undress, squat and bend over during checks that became routine. At first, she complied. Then she began to wonder: “Is it legal?” And then, she began to say no. “It’s very important to keep this ‘no’ with you. Because they are putting pressure every time.”

“This is one of the ways to be yourself,” she said.

Alyokhina paid a price for saying no: Officials threatened to extend her sentence, threatened to take her son away, put her in solitary confinement, and she almost died while on hunger strike. But her civil disobedience also led to some victories: While being held in a penal colony in the Ural Mountains, she—along with the help of other activists—took officials to court for inhumane conditions. Her case led to the firing of eight guards and improving conditions, including increasing prison wages. “That was a huge experience for me for understanding that you can win against authorities even if you are wearing a prison uniform.”

Advertisement

She’s taken her lessons beyond Russia, and with the rise of Donald Trump in America, has a warning for us: “You can look to Russia as an example of what can happen when such a person is the president for 17 years. It’s not only about breaking freedoms,” she said. “It’s about killing people for their political views... putting [them in] jail for Facebook posts. It’s not a reality that you need, I think.”

In addition to learn how to “say no,” her advice for activists is “to be brave, to be honest. To understand the responsibility of your country, and to not forget about humor because it really helps in difficult situations when you have almost half of the country not going to vote, it’s no way to have another result.”


Big Time Dicks can be found on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Play, iHeart Radio, and on the NPR One app.

Advertisement

Want to tell us about a Big Time Dick in your life? Send us a voice note to BigTimeDicks@jezebel.com. Also, please rate and subscribe to the podcast, and recommend it to your friends, to make sure others are able to get their weekly dose of dick. If you need an antidote to this dark (but explained in a fun, relatable way) subject matter, check out our sister pop culture podcast DirtCast.