Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova shares 5 prison habits to get you through quarantine

Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova shares 5 prison habits to get you through quarantine
Image: Pussy Riot via Facebook

4 May 2020

Former Pussy Riot member Nadya Tolokonnikova has released a new Facebook video on staying sane in lockdown. Tolokonnikova says she picked up the tips while serving time in Russian prison. From exercising to reading and political activism, here are the five habits she suggests we observe while self-isolating, as well as in our post-Covid-19 lives:



Don’t just sit on your ass.

“Everyday in the pre-trial detention centre, I went out for a walk, going in circles in the jail courtyard — which in principle isn’t different from the room we now have available,” says Tolokonnikova. She recommends stretching, push-ups and abs exercises so you can get out of lockdown “even healthier” than before.



Books! Books! Books!

“Maybe you remember that in our last appearance in court we quoted Socrates, St Paul, and Jesus Christ. We were accused of having a superiority complex. But that wasn’t it. For us, that was a survival mechanism. Books were our only conversationalists. That helped me stay sane.”



Embrace introspection.

The contemporary pace of life is a source of constant stress, Tolokonnikova says. The benefit of isolation — whether that happens “under meditation, lockdown, imprisonment, or at a monastery” — is that it helps us become more introspective. “When we return to our amazing post-industrial world, with its endless contact, we can be much better people.”



Pay attention to the quality of our interactions.

During her six months in pre-trial detention, Tolokonnikova became best friends with a former investigator, who was also awaiting her day in court. “I could not imagine this happening before or after imprisonment, it was a unique situation,” she says. “So make the most of your unique quarantine experience.”



We should all be a little more existentialist.

“It seems like the whole world has gone a bit more Sartrian since lockdown. We’ve begun to think of what awaits us in future — it would be good to preserve this spirit. We should stay just as attentive to each other and to global issues. Now, the whole world is trying to solve Covid-19. After we solve the pandemic, let’s all think of how to solve all our other problems, like global warming and pollution.”



Tolokonnikova rose to fame in 2012, when she was handed a two-year prison term for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”, following a Pussy Riot performance at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Earlier this year, the band was detained again, this time while shooting a video featuring feminist and queer activists alongside cultural figures in Russia.

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