Born on Revolution Day

2 min read
Photo via HarperCollins
Photo via HarperCollins

From 1927 until 1990, November 7 was celebrated in the Soviet Union as “Revolution Day” in commemoration of the Bolshevik Revolution.

Revolution Day died with the Soviet Union in 1991, but a new force for revolution was born on November 7 in 1987 in Norilsk, the world’s northernmost city, located inside the Arctic Circle, built on the permafrost with the forced labor of political prisoners of Stalin’s gulags.

Her name is Nadya.

Nadezdha (“Nadya”) Tolokonnikova is the lead singer and instigator of the all-grrrl-power Russian punk band, Pussy Riot. She began her political activism as a member of the conceptual street performance art group, Voina.

As the leader of Pussy Riot, she and fellow Rioter Maria Alyokhina were convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” for an unsanctioned performance of the band’s “punk prayer,” entitled “Holy Sh*t,” at the Moscow Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

They were imprisoned for nearly two years in the IK-14 women’s penal colony, where they were subjected to separation from their young children, no contact with their husbands, 16-17 hour workdays on only 3-4 hours sleep, and regular beatings and other punishments in violation of universally-recognized prisoners’ human rights.

Nadya was hospitalized after protesting with hunger strikes. Her condition, her location, and even whether she was dead or alive were kept secret from her family and supporters by the prison authorities for long stretches of time.

Since being released from a prison hospital in December of 2013, Nadya has again resumed a leadership role in demanding revolutionary change worldwide, even as she continues to be a vexing thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin.

Her prison correspondence with radical Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek was published in 2014 and Read & Riot A Pussy Riot Guide to Activism was published in 2018.

Happy Birthday, Nadya! – from the editors and readers of Residence 11.

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