Even for Pussy Riot, gender equality must begin at home

In their first exclusive interview since they were granted asylum in Sweden, Pussy Riot stalwarts Lusine Djanyan and Alexey Knedlyakovsky talk to Harriet Marsden about not-so-political art, fighting over their image and how Russia needs to catch up post-MeToo

Sunday 01 December 2019 23:25
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You might recognise the name, but what do you know about Pussy Riot’s history, their inner workings or their rivals?
You might recognise the name, but what do you know about Pussy Riot’s history, their inner workings or their rivals?

In Pussy Riot, male members are in short supply. But while the Russian punk feminist collective does not have a defined list of participants, one man, Pyotr Verzilov, is usually included. The husband of Nadezhda “Nadya” Tolokonnikova (the group’s most famous member), is well known thanks to fighting with his wife while she was in prison, gatecrashing the 2018 football World Cup final in Russia and the fact that he was poisoned last year, allegedly by intelligence agents.

Far fewer have heard of the artist/activist Alexey Knedlyakovsky, who is married to another Pussy Riot stalwart, Lusine Djanyan – but in fact, he was the first male member of Pussy Riot. The pair were granted asylum in Sweden this year after death threats were made against them and their two children. Last week, the couple gave a lecture on art activism at the 2019 Astrid Lindgren Conference in Stockholm. Afterwards, The Independent met them for their first exclusive interview.

It was, in many ways, surreal, not least because Knedlyakovsky claimed that art could not be political (despite his lecture) and, when discussing feminism, repeatedly talked over his wife.

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