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Pussy Riot in Asheville: 'Fight For Democracy or Lose it'

Protests aren’t new, certainly in Asheville.  But with the vitriol of the recent election still fresh on people’s minds, they’ve taken on a new intensity.  Intensity is something Maria "Masha" Alyokhina knows something about.  Alyokhina is a member of the feminist Russian punk band Pussy Riot, known now all around the world for its defiant opposition to Russian president Vladimir Putin. 

Pussy Riot achieved international notoriety when in 2012 they staged a performance in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior.  They were arrested and charged with hooliganism and Alyokhina as well as 2 other members of the band were sentenced to two years in prison. 

Alyokhina talked about her experience Wednesday night at UNC Asheville and I asked her whether the results of OUR election surprised her.  

She said, they did…

“But I live in the country where crazy asshole has a president here for more than 15 years.  So it’s hard to me to be surprised at 100%.  But we see a lot of similarities between these two figures.”

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Masha Alyokhina speaking with Jeremy Loeb

In fact Pussy Riot released a music video shortly before the election for a song titled “Make America Great Again,” blasting Donald Trump. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-bKFo30o2o

“In United States, this crazy story just started.  I think now is the time to protest against it because in Russia, for example, from the very beginning of first term of Putin, a lot of people thought that they could somehow manage the situation and control them, because we also had a democratic mechanisms.  Well, if you do not show that you are not agree, they will just take all the power and crush the mechanisms of democracy.  I think it’s very kind of simple.”

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Credit Jeremy Loeb/WCQS
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Masha Alyokhina during a panel discussion at UNCA 11/16/16

“In 2012 before Putin’s third term, we had huge protests around Russia.  And, well, what happened after, they just put it to prison a lot of people, like more than hundred people in 2 years.  They started a war with Ukraine.  A lot of people just left the country.  And they tried to keep their power through fear.  If you use the fear against the citizens of your own country, the reason why you use it is the fear inside yourself.”

For Alyokhina, the message is simple.  If you don’t fight for your democracy, you’ll lose it. 

“I believe that community of artists and human rights activists, which we have, because since I was released I met really many people that stand for the same things as we stand.  I think we are stronger than them and we somehow can overcome any situation.” 

JL: “What would you say to protesters here in America who maybe have grown comfortable, you know, in today’s society?”

“The main advice that you should not stop fight for the things which you are believe.”

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Credit Jeremy Loeb/WCQS
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Journalist Alexandra "Sasha" Bogino (left) and Masha Alyokhina at UNCA

Below are my full interviews with Masha Alyokhina and journalist Sasha Bogino, who talked about her independent Russian media outlet, Mediazona, and the dangers of being a journalist in Russia.

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Pussy Riot member Masha Alyokhina speaks with Jeremy Loeb
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Mediazona journalist Sasha Bogino speaks with Jeremy Loeb

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