Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Punk and Disorderly

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Punk and Disorderly

Article excerpt

The young woman who saunters out of Kuznetsky Most Metro station in central Moscow might be a member of the world's most notorious punk band but none of the pavement smokers and street hawkers milling around the station entrance gives her a second glance.

However, Yekaterina Samutsevich is no longer the anonymous activist who once hid her identity behind a lurid balaclava at the provocative performances that made her band, Pussy Riot, infamous. The trial last year in which Samutsevich and two of her band mates were convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" has removed her protective disguise for ever.

"Of course it's cool when you're hiding. No one knows who you are and you can say whatever you think; of course this image had its magic," Samutsevich says. Not that she is exactly trying to fade into the background; on this warm spring afternoon, she is a wearing a pink hoodie with a CND logo and bright orange jeans, and happily consents to having her photograph taken with a shaven-headed young admirer who approaches her in the middle of our conversation in a cafe.

Samutsevich's sentence was suspended on appeal while her friends Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were sent to prison colonies to serve two-year jail terms. The 30-year-old might appear shy but her rhetoric is defiant. Her telephone is tapped, she believes, and her movements are under surveillance, but as soon as the others are released, Pussy Riot will rise again.

"Nothing is preventing us from putting on balaclavas again," she insists. "[But] this is a new situation and we need to manoeuvre our way out of it."

The two jailed women also remain committed to their cause and both have been refused parole in the past month due to their failure to "repent". Tolokonnikova's husband, Pyotr Verzilov, says that an official approached her after one parole hearing and asked: "'After you're released, do you plan to continue your involvement in politics? …

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