What started that night was the Russian
protest movement, what came to be called the
Snow Revolution; the name appeared the following day. A lot of patterns were set that night.
People would be getting arrested in the coming
months, almost every day. A small team of young
men would be tracking the arrests and helping
coordinate legal help (the tracking system was
born that night at my apartment, near the pro-
test site, when one of the young men came there
to warm up and started tweeting information
about detentions—I watched it start but did
not know what I was seeing). Everyone in the
protest movement was making it up as things
developed. Including, of course, the women who
had become the group they had made up a cou-
ple of months earlier. Now that the revolution
had started, Pussy Riot would be heard.
From Words Will Break Cement. In February
2012 Pussy Riot performed its song “Punk Prayer”
at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, criti
cizing church support for Vladimir Putin. Three band
members, Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich,
and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, were soon arrested
and sentenced to prison. Pussy Riot became a cause
célèbre; all three have since been released. Born in
Moscow, Gessen is a journalist and the author of nine
books. She left Russia in 2013 after its crackdown on
homosexuality and lives in New York City.
Tartar Officer with Blond Lady Playing Musical Instruments, Chinese silk album leaf, nineteenth century.