A Pussy Rioter’s riveting, hallucinatory account of her years in Russia’s criminal system and of finding power in the most powerless of situations
In February 2012, after smuggling an electric guitar into Moscow’s iconic central cathedral, Maria Alyokhina and other members of the radical collective Pussy Riot performed a provocative “Punk Prayer,” taking on the Orthodox church and its support for Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime.
For this, they were charged with “organized hooliganism” and were tried while confined in a cage and guarded by Rottweilers. That trial and Alyokhina’s subsequent imprisonment became an international cause. For Alyokhina, her two-year sentence launched a bitter struggle against the Russian prison system and an iron-willed refusal to be deprived of her humanity. Teeming with protests and police, witnesses and cellmates, informers and interrogators, Riot Days gives voice to Alyokhina’s insistence on the right to say no, whether to a prison guard or to the president. Ultimately, this insistence delivers unprecedented victories for prisoners’ rights.
Evocative, wry, laser-sharp, and laconically funny, Alyokhina’s account is studded with song lyrics, legal transcripts, and excerpts from her jail diary—dispatches from a young woman who has faced tyranny and returned with the proof that against all odds even one person can force its retreat.
We came up with an idea to make a film about the revolution. A real movie that would be shown in every theatre. Filming a frozen chicken being pushed up a cunt was good, but it wasn’t for a mass audience. Art for the masses...
Praise for Riot Days
“A pacy page-turner… Riot Days could so easily have been a straightforward, from-the-horse’s-mouth confessional account of one of the most publicized political protests of recent years. Alyokhina takes on a far greater challenge: creating a text that is not just a reflection on a piece of art, but becomes one itself, and one that, in many places, lives up to her own criteria of protest: that it must be ‘desperate, sudden, and joyous.’”
—The Guardian (UK)
“Alyokhina’s eye for surreal detail gives Riot Days a welcome does of dark humor.… Through the chinks in the abusive system, Alyokhina glimpses human beings.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“A future cult classic.”
“Urgent and bold.”
—Financial Times (UK)
“In oppressive political systems, some of the most effective weapons are sarcasm and dark humor. It is exactly these weapons that are employed by Masha Alyokhina in the brilliantly written Riot Days. Once you begin reading, you are completely disarmed, unable to put it down until the last page.”
“Riot Days is one of the most brilliant and inspiring things I’ve read in years. This book is freedom.”
—Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick