"We understood for sure that it might end up like this," interview with Yekaterina Samutsevich
17.10.12 16:34 By Darya Zagvozdina, edited by Karina Ayvazova
Yekaterina Samutsevich was freed by the court during an appeal of the verdict Photo: ITAR-TASS
The freed Pussy Riot member Yekaterina Samutsevich told Gazeta.ru about the punk prayer in the Cathedral, about the life in prison, about her attitude towards the church and the patriarch.
-When you carried out your protest in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior
-Absolutely not. Our band was created in October 2011 and we chose a spontaneous method of protest in public places. We have always had so many ideas! We always discuss them carefully. We had been planning the protest in the CCS for a long time. Recently the Russian church has been transformed into a political instrument by Putin and the United Russia party. For example, the church was very active in discussions over the anti-abortion bill, which limits the rights of women significantly. At some point patriarch Kirill lost all of his shyness and has been praising Putin openly since autumn 2011, he even hinted that Putin is a saint and that people should vote for him. It was all so inappropriate. We live in a secular state and a high-status official should not use his position to teach people for whom to vote. The long queue to touch the Bogoroditsa belt was used by the Church to show that believers are very passive and they will vote for those who they are told to. That is why we chose the CCS for our next performance. Many people asked why we chose to perform inside the Cathedral and not near it on the street, but we think that a street performance would look strange.
-Why do you think it was the performance in the Cathedral, out of all Pussy Riot performances, which drew so much public attention?
- I think there are several reasons for it. I think the authorities were watching us from the very first performances and they just could not remain patient when we performed in the Cathedral. So they decided to take measures against us.
- Does this mean that you were prepared for prison?
- We understood for sure that everything might end up like this. But we cannot stop our activities just because security agencies are watching us. At the same time we did not expect to be arrested and that a criminal case might be opened against us. We thought that even if a criminal case were opened it would be formal and everything would end peacefully. However, the performance in the Cathedral coincided with the presidential election campaign and the authorities decided to keep us under arrest until election day on March 4.
In my opinion the authorities just decided to start a general repressive campaign.
-After spending so much time in the prison did you somehow change your views?
-My values and views did not change. They have even strengthened as everything that I thought of people and society was confirmed. The problem of our society is the vertical hierarchy and the absence of the principle of egalitarianism.
-How did it feel to be in a prison?
-It was tolerable, we quickly got used to the slow rhythm. We woke up eevery morning and waited for the evening. We watched TV, read books sometimes, ate. The conditions were normal.
– Did you find a common language with your cellmates?
- At first they did not understand my position, but when I started to talk and explain it, their opinion changed. Even before the trial they were on my side and supported me throughout the entire court process. They looked after me and tried to help in household affairs, warmed the food and waited until I returned from court.
-Did you expect that you would be released?
- No, it was a surprise for me. First I did not understand what was happening. But then I realized that a door would be opened and I would be set free.
-How do you communicate with the arrested Pussy Riot members now?
- We communicated via letters. They will be transported into a prison colony soon.
- Your defense lawyers claim that it would be very hard for Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina to be in the prison colony.
– My cellmates told me that many prisoners talked about us and that there is an even number of supporters and critics. But as soon as we start to explain our position to the critics, they become more supportive and understand us.
– How does your father treat your activity?
– He is positive about it. He does not exactly understand the ideas of feminism, but he gets the anti-Putin ideas very well. He was very passive about it earlier, but he has become an active protester lately.
–Have you ever considered performing in a less shocking way so that people could understand you better?
– Our image is very simple – a woman in a bright-colored dress wearing a balaklava. We have simplified our messages and way of protesting as much as we could. The problem is that the authorities deformed our images and presented us as blasphemers.
– Right after the release you have become almost a media person: you give interviews, you participate in TV shows. How does that correspond with the strategy of anonymity?
– I now give interviews not as a Pussy Riot member, but as a woman who was arrested and who was forced to take away her mask. I spent 7 months in prison and now I am talking about how it was. Someone should speak about it. Concerning the band, we regret that our names became famous. We did not want it to happen.
– You defense lawyers often said that the Pussy Riot case was politically motivated and that the court ruling would depend on decisions from "higher levels." Do you agree with this?
– Well, I think it was clear from the very start and there is no need to repeat it. The Western media headlines said "Anti Putin group arrested." The world immediately understood that this was a political case. And it seems that certain things prevent other states from telling Russia what to do. For example, the USA cannot pressure Russia over Pussy Riot, and the Magnitsky list does not work completely. I guess there are some financial and global economic contracts which prevent this from happening.
-What do you plan to do next?
-I would like to continue with the band.
-Are you planning to hold performances in churches or any other religious buildings?
-The band never performs in the same places, this is our concept.
-Will your future performances be positioned against Putin?
- This is a very simple definition. Our band is punk-feminist. Punk concerns music, because we are against the commercial music. Feminism is another concept of our band. We are not content with Russian society.
- What bothers you in Russian society?
- We would like it to be less sexist. The authorities should have less means for propaganda of conservative values. For example, the bill about gender equality has still not been adopted. Feminists should be more active, we should create civil organizations linked with feminism.
- Do you think this is the foremost problem?
- Well, we do not have a hierarchy of problems. All problems are important. For example, the problem of ecology.
- What about police torture?
- Yes, of course, there is the problem of prisons and our system of punishment.
Nothing will change if Putin just goes away. We should, first of all, change society and eliminate the vertical concept of power.
Moreover, there is a problem of societal activeness. Unfortunately, the authorities gradually take away every way to influence people. They adopt anti-rally bills, they deprive the people of the opportunity to protest peacefully.
– Do you think the idea of one leader is not efficient?
- I do not believe in the idea of one leader.
-Do you plan to expand the geography of your performances?
-People send us letters with requests to perform in different cities. We support such initiatives. We support openness in general. We showed the concept of our performances, people can do the same: put on a dress, a balaklava and sing.
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