In an electric talk at Session 4 of TED2023, Pussy Riot founding member Nadya Tolokonnikova delivered a powerful message to Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding his war in Ukraine: “You have already lost. You know it … The world is with Ukraine.”
“Courage is contagious, and it’s a strength we all have inside us,” Tolokonnikova says. In 2011, she cofounded the Russian protest and performance art group Pussy Riot in opposition to Vladimir Putin’s oppressive regime. After a string of protests and arrests, she and her fellow members were sentenced to two years in prison for their “Punk Prayer,” performed in a central Moscow cathedral. She was 22 years old at the time, wondering, “Can one person change the world? … Am I going to be able to achieve my dreams, or am I inevitably going to be smashed by the system?”
Since her release from the Siberian penal colony in late 2013, Tolokonnikova has continued her fight. She founded the investigative news agency Mediazona, a rare independent media organization in Russia. Her other initiative, UnicornDAO, is supports female artists. Now living in exile, Tolokonnikova stands as a leading voice in the fight for freedom in Russia and was named a top enemy of Putin simply because, in her words, “Courage is contagious.” She calls for everyone to embrace the courage within themselves.