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Pussy Riot’s Masha Alyokhina Talks Hope, History, Activism, and the “New Cold War”

“You can sometimes not be sure that you have enough internal power to just keep doing what you are doing. And when you hear people’s words, when you receive letters, when you feel the difference, you can,” Alyokhina said. She also expressed that performing outside of Russia infuses the group with renewed purpose, since they carry out demonstrations in Russia when they return.

Fairness, solidarity with the oppressed, and a unified sense of strength with those around the world fighting for democratic transparency are what keeps Pussy Riot’s spirits up and maintains their commitment to using music as a weapon.

“I believe that art is changing the world because art is the only field and the only sphere which is asking uncomfortable questions,” Alyokhina said. “Art is reflecting the reality because it can create another reality.”

Pussy Riot’s performance that night in April had a raw feel: Dark red lighting in the venue on the Danube River accompanied a multipanel screen behind the members, with pictures of Russians jailed for, among other things, treason, along with English subtitles of the collective’s lyrics.

Their storytelling prowess is powerful, and they’ll get in your face about making sure their message is heard. One of the male collective members sprayed the crowd repeatedly with water when he felt there were too many cellphones taking video and not enough eyes on the lyric subtitles, as if to say, “Put down the phones and think about how speaking the truth can land you in prison.”

For Alyokhina, there is no difference between the collective’s call for freedom of expression and calling for equality for women. “Feminism is not like a special thing. It’s very inside politics,” she said. That’s one of the reasons the collective is named after a female body part: Not just to shock, but also to empower women in their country by making feminism a bit brash.

As an example, she explained how, in 2017, Russia passed a law decriminalizing some forms of domestic abuse against women, children, and even other family members.

“We have this dark Russian joke: Woman is calling to police [saying], ‘He is beating me.’ The policemen are like, ‘When he kills you, call us,’” Alyokhina quipped. “It’s a joke, but it’s real. It’s what they’re really saying to women.” The collective’s lawyers have been working on instituting tougher sentences for domestic abusers in response to the amended law, and she noted that international media exposure is valuable in putting pressure on Russia to revisit the law.

The collective has also been holding secret concerts in Russia in order to collect donations for survivor support groups, because, when it comes to providing for those efforts, Alyokhina said, “It’s feminists or the church. It’s just two groups of people who are taking care of women who are in danger, who can be killed at any moment.”

The church and organized religion in Russia might seem an unlikely ally to Pussy Riot’s efforts, given that three of the group’s members were imprisoned for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred,” but Alyokhina said it is not so strange given that oppression often makes for strange bedfellows.

“I think it’s quite a huge stereotype that we are fighting with the church,” Alyokhina tells Teen Vogue. “Especially in Russia, this is important because we are the country where the church and the whole Christian religion was repressed almost the whole century.” During the Soviet Union’s existence, the government set the goal of eliminating religion and persecuted several religious groups.

“We have a tragic history when priests were shot or sent to labor camps,” Alyokhina said. “People were sent to labor camps just for celebrating Christmas.”

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BTS’s Jungkook Bid an Emotional Farewell to the U.S. During Their New Jersey Concert

BTS has officially wrapped the U.S. leg of their Love Yourself: Speak Yourself tour, and the boys will be leaving U.S. soil soon, after leaving us with a handful of tear-jerking moments.

After sweeping the BBMAs and touring for almost a month, kicking things off at the Rose Bowl in L.A., with stops in Chicago, New Jersey, and a Beatles homage in between, BTS’ 2019 U.S. adventure came to an emotional close on May 19.

During their last stop, at the sold-out MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, Jungkook got a bit more than teary-eyed singing “Mikrokosmos” during the septet’s encore, breaking ARMY hearts on site, and all over the world, thanks to Twitter, Elite Daily reported.

“I can take all the pain in this world but jungkook crying is something that I can definitely not take,” a fan wrote on Twitter, alongside the video of JK’s heartwarming moment.

If you’re bawling (I know I am), don’t worry, because the MetLife ARMY was there to support our emotional golden maknae turned hyung and showered him with love; so did Jimin, on and off the stage.

Kookie wasn’t the only one feeling all the feels. J-Hope also got emotional during his goodbye, immortalizing the moment on Twitter: “The US tour is now over,” he wrote with crying emojis and two pics from the concert. “Shout-out to our fans for doing it together! Thank you! Also, we promise to be back! I am your hope, You are my hope. I love you all!” he added.

But it was RM’s speech that really stoked the tears. As usual, the leader of BTS delivered a powerful speech to close the concert, but since this was the last stop, he made it extra special.

“OK, where do I start? You know they say the so-called American Dream? It’s a dream that I don’t know, some say we’ve reached, some say not… but we’ve never dreamed it because it was always considered something that we could never dream of. It was impossible,” RM said. “But, dear ARMY, look at this. We made it together. And dear America, thank you for embracing us. Thank you for having us and accepting us. We’re seven boys from Korea who sing in Korean and who have even different looks and speak different languages. But you guys truly proved to us that music transcends language, looks… everything. Thank you.”

“Let’s put away those dreams for a second,” Namjoon then continued. “I didn’t notice it, but I really realized this moment, you guys here, did become our real dream. Nothing [else] is important. Really, the most important thing is this moment — breathing with you guys, singing with you guys… just vibing, enjoying the same thing, the positives. This moment will forever be my dream.”

And that, ARMY, truly is the power of BTS. Where do we get tickets for next year?

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Want more from Teen Vogue? Check this out: The BTS ARMY Defended Suga After He Faced Racist Comments

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