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Activism Under Totalitarianism: A Lecture and Performance Series

Nadya Tolokonnikova (Pussy Riot) and Masha Gessen

Pussy Riot

Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Gessen both work to expose corruption and pro­ mote meaningful change. This discussion­ based lecture series will delve into Swarthmore’s role in understanding inter­ national civil society, authoritarian politics, and social movements in Eastern Europe. Tolokonnikova (of Pussy Riot, a Russian punk­rock art collective of all women) and Gessen will offer an urgent perspective on activism under repressive regimes and how students can become active members of international movements for political free­dom and personal liberty. They will focus specifically on Russian politics, but their experiences speak to the efforts being waged in numerous regions against illiberal­ ism, intensified homophobia, and endemic corruption.

Pussy Riot garnered international atten­ tion when it staged a performance inside Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior in 2012, criticizing Vladimir Putin’s power. Three members (including Tolokonnikova) were arrested and convicted of “hooli­ganism.” Since her release, Tolokonnikova has continued creating music against Putin and authoritarianism (in Russia and abroad); she also co­founded Zona Prava, a group that aims to support Russian legal defense and provide aid for people whose lives are under threat due to actions taken by corrections officials, investigators, or judges. Tolokonnikova and her collaborators have brought successful suits against the Russian government to the European Court of Human Rights, organized acts of civil disobedience during the FIFA World Cup and the Sochi Olympics, and received the prestigious Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought.

Gessen is an award­winning Russian American author and journalist. Best known for her LGBTQ activism and investigative journalism, she is a contributor to numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and U.S. News & World Report, and, since 2017, a staff writer for The New Yorker. Gessen has covered such topics as Putin’s rise to power, Pussy Riot, the Boston Marathon bombing, and, in her most recent books, the return of total­itarianism in Russia and the challenges of the researching of Stalin’s gulag camps in Putin’s Russia.

Presentation and Q&A with Nadya Tolokonnikova
Thursday, Sept. 26, 7 p.m.
Science Center, Chang Hou Hall (Room 101)

Concert with Pussy Riot
Thursday, Sept. 26
Tickets available starting at 8:15pm
Show starts at 9:00pm
Clothier Hall, Upper Tarble 

Presentation and Q&A with Masha Gessen
Wednesday, Oct. 23, 7 p.m.
Book­signing to follow at 8 p.m.
Science Center, Chang Hou Hall (Room 101)