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Pussy Riot Celebrate Freedom in Estonia

Estonians, including the country’s President, weigh in on freedom of speech and creativity with Russian rebels.

Published: April 9, 2014 (Issue # 1805)



  • Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot spoke with journalists and musicians at Tallinn Music Week.
    Photo: Sergey Chernov / SPT

  • Estonian President Toomas Ilves speaking at the opening of Tallinn Music Week.
    Photo: Sergey Chernov / SPT

Pussy Riot packed the room at Tallinn Music Week late last month, while the public listened attentively until the very end even though they did not play any music, but rather spoke about the current political situation and protest movements in Russia and recent events in Ukraine.

The annual music industry conference and festival took a look at the roots of rock and roll, which largely started as manifestation of freedom and independence.

Announced six days ahead of the festival, Pussy Riot’s appearance summed brought events full circle from March 2012, when Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves became the first international politician to demand the release the group’s members, who had been arrested earlier that month.

Two years later, Ilves met with Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina in person after they had served nearly 22 months of the two-year sentences they received for an anti-Putin performance at Russia’s main Orthodox church, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow.

Opening the festival as he does every year, Ilves — perhaps the world’s only president with a competent knowledge of and sincere love for rock music — stated that freedom and rock and roll went hand in hand, and set the tone for the event as a celebration of freedom of expression.

In his speech, Ilves said that rock musicians suffered alongside may other people in Estonia under the Soviet rule and referred to Elvis Presley, John Lennon and the Sex Pistols, who were seen as offensive at their time in the West.

“That is the role played by rock ‘n’ roll,” he said. “To offend sensibilities enough to cause people, societal attitudes and government behavior to change.”

Ilves said that before the Enlightenment, people who were creative and different than others were denounced to the wide approval of the community, and were burned at the stake because group-thought outweighed the ideas of the lone individual.

“This is the ultimate tragedy of authoritarian societies,” Ilves said on Mar. 28.

“When you kill creativity, you kill the spark of life and the culture, of science; you kill your scientists, you kill your artists. In doing so, you kill your society and also the chance to change.

“When collective belief systems, be they Marxism-Leninism, Fascism, or one or another religion that thinks it holds the unique key to truth, have more of a say than the lone individual, the result is tragedy and the end of any hope for democracy, for freedom or for real art of any kind,” said Ilves.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Monday, Sept. 22


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Tuesday, Sept. 23


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