Nadezhda Tolokonnikova on Why She’s Going on a Hunger Strike

In an open letter released two days ago, Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who has served her first of a two-year sentence at Penal Colony No. 14 in the Russian state of Mordovia, explains why she’s decided to go on a hunger strike.

The prison wardens refuse to hear me. But I will not back down from my demands. I will not remain silent, watching in resignation as my fellow prisoners collapse under slave-like conditions. I demand that human rights be observed at the prison. I demand that the law be obeyed in this Mordovian camp. I demand we be treated like human beings, not slaves.

In August 2012 Tolokonnikova, 23, and fellow band member Maria Alyokhina, were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for singing a protest song titled Virgin Mary, Redeem us of Putin, in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and sentenced to two years imprisonment. Anesty International has declared her a prisoner of conscience.

She goes on to claim and describe 16 and 17-hour workdays for which she was paid about 67 euro cents per month, the prison’s brutal and degrading conditions, and physical and psychological abuse.

My first impression of Mordovia was the words uttered by the prison’s deputy warden, Lieutenant Colonel Kupriyanov, who actually runs PC-14. “You should know that when it comes to politics, I am a Stalinist.”

This letter, published today in the journal n+1, is an extensively revised version of the letter published in The Guardian on Wednesday. Check it out. It’s riveting reading.

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