Miss Charm: Pussy Riot denied parole

Nadya Tolokonnikova on trial, July 26, 2013. Photo REUTERS/Sergei

Nadya Tolokonnikova on trial, July 26, 2013. Photo REUTERS/Sergei Kapukhin

This week, both sentenced members of Pussy RiotNadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokina – were up for, and denied, parole.

Masha – who was forbidden from attending her own hearing – reportedly did not meet parole requirements because she had committed multiple violations, including not making her bed properly, forgetting to wear a head-scarf at work, and writing letters after lunch.  Nadya committed an even more grievous error: she refused to participate in the Miss Charm contest, a beauty pageant celebrating the unique elegance, possession and charm of the female prisoner.

We fear Nadya wouldn’t have stood much chance at Miss Congeniality. At her hearing, she delivered quite a powerful speech, showing that at the very least, her spirit is still kicking. “The time I served in prison has done nothing for my correction, therefore I see no sense in keeping me behind bars,” she reasoned. She also consistently maintained that she was not guilty, therefore how could she have reached repentance?

She was looking uncomfortably glamorous for someone who has been in a labor camp (“Prison does wonders for a girl,” Max Avdeev joked on Gruppa Voina‘s Twitter stream, which was live-broadcasting the trial.) She used her considerable looks for some pretty pointed photo-ops – including one in which she held up a newspaper with woebegone Moscow mayoral candidate Alexei Navalny‘s face, reminding the international press that the Pussy Riot case was never just about two Russian girls.

Nadya cited the “clumsily-wrought” ideological apparatus of the current political system, which models its aesthetics on Socialist Realism, which itself borrows from the Imperial Tsar. In this situation, Nadya claims [quotes that follow are our translation from the Russian original, for the purposes of this blog]: “Once again, Russia finds itself in a situation where resistance – not the least of which, an aesthetic resistance – is our only moral recourse and our civic duty.” 

I know that in Russia under Putin, I will never get parole. But I came here, to this court, to once again demonstrate the absurdity in this oil-and-gas commodity “justice,” condemning people to a pointless labor camp, where they are scrutinized for their scarves and when they write their letters [[Trans note: A reference to Alyokina’s hearing.]]

What’s important to remember, is that no one can guarantee that the person who has the power and force to suppress today will still have that power tomorrow. Power has a limit; that’s even more inescapable truth than two plus two equals four. Understanding this, any power should act to restrict itself, in the name of its own future security.

Raising the conformed majority, correction – correction! – the individual in an obedient mass, certainly will one day play a kind of sick game with those in power. Any power which depends on its subjects’ loyalty and willingness to obey, rather than on thought-out principles and respect for its citizens, is a weak power. If your power depends on the indifference or even the fear of the people, then this is terrible news for you. Those who stood in line to vote for Putin today will just as likely stand on the side of the next contender to rise to power tomorrow.

I used to worry about the question “If not Putin, then who?” Now that question brings me more and more joy, as the argument doesn’t hinge on loyalty to Putin, but rather on growing discontent with him.  Alternatives are already rising. They are rising in part because of the inept, panicked, repressive actions of the current administration. How inconsistently, how humorously, literally changing one’s boots in mid-flight, does the current power behave himself, when it comes to Alexei Navalny, who, in contract, demonstrates that he is a man of integrity, courage and loyalty to his own convictions. This increases the political capital not of this administration, but of Navalny.

I am proud of those who are ready to sacrifice their own lives to stay true to their principles.

While that was pretty potent stuff to get out there, Tolokonnikova also had some choice words about Miss Charm:

So, basically, if you’re a woman, let alone a young, even moderately attractive one, then you are simply expected to participate in the beauty contests. If you refuse, they will deny your parole on the basis of you ignoring your duties to the “Miss Charm” pageant. If you do not participate, the conclusion of the labor camp and the court is then that you lack “proactive stance on life.”  I assure you, I have a principled and carefully-thought out stance on life, and that is the boycott of this competition.

Tolokonnikova is set to be freed March 14, 2013. Her complete hearing speech (in its original Russian) can be found here.

The 2012 Republic of Mordovia Miss Charming contestants

The 2012 Republic of Mordovia Miss Charm contestants

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4 Responses to Miss Charm: Pussy Riot denied parole

  1. Pingback: “Re-Aligned Art” Brings Chto Delat, Pussy Riot, et al, to Norway | Baibakov Art Projects

  2. Pingback: Bleak is the New Black: Nadya Tolokonnikova describes life in a Russian penal colony | Baibakov Art Projects

  3. Pingback: “Amnesty” for Pussy Riot, Greenpeace, other political activists? | Baibakov Art Projects

  4. Pingback: Амнистия для Pussy Riot и Гринпис? | Baibakov Art Projects

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