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Masha Gessen’s Words Will Break Cement

Diagram of Maria Alyokhina’s pretrial jail, Moscow, 2012.

IN THE MONTHS since journalist Masha Gessen wrote the postscript to her riveting history of Pussy Riot, a lot’s happened. Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, two of the women imprisoned for their guerrilla performance at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior in early 2012, were released in advance of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, thanks to Vladimir Putin’s grudging, Christmastime concession to world opinion. In February, after Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina spoke at an Amnesty International concert at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, an open letter from Pussy Riot appeared online, stating that the two were no longer members of the anarchic collective and that, with their new focus on prisoners’ rights, they didn’t represent “the aspirations and ideals of our group—feminism, separatist resistance, the fight against authoritarianism and personality cults.”

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