Masha Alekhina

  • Name: Masha Alekhina
  • Discipline: Activist and member of art collective Pussy Riot
  • Country: Russia
  • Threat(s): Arrest, imprisonment
  • When: August 2016–present
  • Current Status: In exile

Masha Alekhina was one of the original members of Pussy Riot, the feminist art and protest collective founded in 2011. They reached international prominence the next year after performing a song called “Punk Prayer,” which criticized the Orthodox Church's support for President Vladimir Putin, in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. A few weeks later, Alekhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were arrested for the stunt and charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” They were held without bail until their trial in late July, when they were each convicted and sentenced to two years in prison. Samutsevich was released on probation in October 2012, but Alekhina and Tolokonnikova remained in prison. Following international outcry, they were released in December 2013. Since then, Alekhina has continued to fight for human rights through Pussy Riot and individual activism and writing.

From the Artist:

“It’s very useful to know the law and know your rights. You cannot go through this shit without mistakes. You have the right to make mistakes, and you shouldn’t crucify yourself for your mistakes. But you can know your rights—spend time and learn this.”

I’m not a musician at all. And you should know that Pussy Riot is not a musical band. It’s a collective of people who are making political art in different ways. “Documentors” are the most important people. Because if you do not have documentation of an action, you do not have an action at all.

The first time I was arrested was in Red Square during a Pussy Riot action, “Putin Pissed His Pants.” We spent four hours in the police station, and that’s it. The second time was a bit tough, after “Punk Prayer.” We were not touched, no police, nothing. But after 24 hours, some people were waiting for me near my flat. I was coming home from the kindergarten with my son, so that was quite problematic. We started to run away, but after one week they caught us and gave us two years. 

Today I’m not allowed to have a bank account in Russia, so all my bank accounts are closed. I have about 5,000 euros in fines for my two last activities. Before this blocking of accounts, I had an official travel ban, so I was not allowed to travel or to cross Russian borders for a year.

When I was arrested for “Punk Prayer,” after one week I was transported to a Moscow jail, where I spent eight months during the so-called investigation. We had TV there, and every day we were watching state TV and news. They were calling us witches, bitches, enemies of the people, enemies of the state. They started to construct this idea that we were against all the good, all the saints. 

There are no mechanisms to protect yourself 100 percent. That’s not possible. Because we are not government, we don’t have state power. But we have our brains and hearts, and we are doing good things. If your mobile phone is in your hands, write everywhere you can write. Write on social media: “I’m arrested.” “They’re bringing me to this location.” “Come there and help me.” And then you should spread this message and link your social media message to all the journalists you know. And your lawyer should spread this message to all the human rights organizations you know together. So that, very fast, everyone will know what is going on with you and provide support. When you put a light on their activities, you protect yourself.