Russian conceptual artist and political activist Nadya Tolokonnikova became well known throughout the world when she was arrested in 2012 as part of the punk feminist group Pussy Riot. Together with two other Pussy Riot members she was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment following an anti-Putin performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

Before joining Pussy Riot, Tolokonnikova, who has a history of political activism, was part of the controversial street art group Voina. She was born on 7 November 1989 in Norilsk, an industrial city in the Russian Arctic. She studied philosophy at the Moscow State University.

With the Voina art collective Tolokonnikova participated in provocative art performances, including the ‘Fuck for the heir Puppy Bear!’ performance February 2008. In this performance, couples were filmed engaging in sexual acts in the Timiryazev State Biology Museum in Moscow, as a reaction to then President Dmitry Medvedev’s call for increased reproduction. She also took part in ‘Operation Kiss a pig’ in 2011, in which female members kissed policewomen in Moscow metro stations and on the streets.

In 2014, after her release from prison, Tolokonnikova co-founded MediaZona, a free-of-censorship independent Russian media agency focusing on law enforcement issues like conditions in prisons and prosecutions of political activists. In 2016, she published the autobiographical book How to Start a Revolution.