Pussy Riot to Perform in Tel Aviv in May

The group that became famous for its opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime was invited to Israel by the International Writers Festival, which will take place in Jerusalem at the beginning of the month

Pussy Riot performs at the Vive Latino music festival in Mexico City, March 18, 2018.
Christian Palma/AP

Pussy Riot, the Russian punk rock group that became famous for its opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime, will perform at Tel Aviv’s Barby club on May 16.

The group was invited to Israel by the International Writers Festival, which will take place at the Mishkenot Sha’ananim cultural center in Jerusalem from May 8 to 11. Two of its members, Maria Alyokhina and Olga Borisova, will perform a piece called “The Authors’ Revolt” at the festival’s opening event on May 8. Alyokhina, whose book, “Riot Days,” describes her time in prison, will also hold a conversation about it with lawmaker Merav Michaeli. The book will be available for purchase at the festival.

Pussy Riot, which features a different group of women in each performance, was founded in 2011. It focuses on social and political issues like women’s rights, LGBT rights, government corruption and religious coercion. It is best known for its guerrilla performances, videos of which are often posted to social media and have gone viral both in and out of Russia.

Its most famous performance, featuring five members of the group, was a “Punk Prayer” staged in Moscow’s central Russian Orthodox cathedral in 2012. The prayer urged the Virgin Mary to become a feminist and get rid of Putin. It was meant as a protest against Putin’s close ties with the country’s religious leadership.

Pussy Riot performs a "Punk Prayer" in Moscow's central Russian Orthodox cathedral, 2012.

The performance led to three members being arrested and tried for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” Two of them, Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, were sentenced to two years of hard labor in penal colonies in 2012.

In prison they suffered sexual abuse in the form of weekly “gynecological checks,” solitary confinement and the incitement of other prisoners against them. They continued their protests through hunger strikes and lawsuits claiming violations of prisoners’ rights. Women demonstrated in their support in front of Russian embassies worldwide, and in 2014, the two won the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought. Both women were released in late 2013.

In the video clips uploaded to social media since then, all the Pussy Riot performers except Tolokonnikova have worn masks to protect their identities. On Saturday, the day before the Russian election, they released a new hip-hop video entitled “Elections” to protest “18 years of Putin’s reign.”

Pussy Riot's "Elections" video