An Open Letter To Vladimir Putin, From Pussy Riot


Heavy industry made my hometown look like a post-apocalyptic wasteland, where rivers run red and the snow is black. It also made some men very rich.

Posted on July 9, 2019, at 4:54 p.m. ET


Irina Yarinskaya / AFP / Getty Images

A stray polar bear outside a mine on the outskirts of the Russian industrial city of Norilsk in June.

Today Pussy Riot released a new music video, Black Snow, alongside an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin by member Nadya Tolokonnikova. This is an edited excerpt of that letter.


Hey hey, Mr. President, it’s Nadya Tolokonnikova.

You might remember that two-year prison sentence you slapped me with back in 2012, when I performed a 40-second act of protest and beseeched the Virgin Mary to chase you away. I was 22 at the time, and my young daughter Gera had just turned four. But right now I’m not interested in talking about church or prison – I want to talk about a different issue. I want to talk about rivers of blood, black snow, toxic waste, and acid rain.

You fill the Russian North with unprocessed garbage. You criminalize ecological activists — see the 5 new cases against Alexandra Koroleva, the co-chair of Ecodefense. Meanwhile, the inhabitants of Kuzbass are forced to seek environmental asylum in Canada to escape intolerable living conditions, high rates of oncological illness, black snow, poisoned water, and the indifference of local government officials. People in Kuzbass ask: “How can you be a patriot of something or someone who won’t even notice how we live? How we breathe? What we drink?.” This is completely unacceptable.

I was born and raised in the polar, industrial city of Norilsk – a city built on bones. The city was built by prisoners from the Norilsk Corrective Labor Camp, and over 500,000 people came through there from 1935 to 1953 – one in three prisoners perished while building the city. In Norilsk, winter lasts nine months, with temperatures as low as -49 degrees Fahrenheit, and winds that go up to 55 miles per hour. Snow starts to fall in September, followed by nine months of winter, black blizzards, and permafrost. If that wasn’t enough to undermine the health of the locals, our icy hell is also deadly and toxic thanks to the heavy industry that dominate the city.

As a kid I used to play in slag. We had giant mountains of it in our backyards, and little bunches of grass would grow through them. As a six year old, I would rake up the slag and bring buckets of water from my house so these little patches of grass could grow.

The trees around Norilsk are dead. Their black branches pierce the sky, like in a post-apocalyptic movie. Their leaves have necrosis from acid rain. My hometown produces the following kind of headlines: “A river in Norilsk has become ‘bloody’ again,” or “Bloody rain over Norilsk.” People post Instagrams of the blood-red rain that falls from the sky.

Here’s a short list of what gets dumped in the rivers there: iron, nickel, petroleum products, lead, copper, chlorides, nitrates, calcium, magnesium, phosphates, zinc. Here’s what goes in the air: sulfur dioxide, nitrates, sulfates, phenols, industrial dust, heavy metals.

Sometimes you can’t see the neighboring houses in Norilsk because of the air pollution. I’ve never seen an aurora in Norilsk – the sky is smog.

When you go outside, you have to wrap yourself up in scarf – not just because of the blizzards, but because the sulfur dioxide in the air burns your eyes, nose, mouth, and lungs. When combined with water, sulfur dioxide turns into sulfuric acid. If the trees get necrosis from the acid, what do you think is happening to our lungs? Nobody the hell knows.

In the morning, people make their way to school. A classmate of mine steps outside and starts coughing. She says that the air burns her lungs. Fuck. Like many others, she has had asthma since childhood – people with asthma can barely handle the pollution. Doctors say that people living in Norilsk are twice as likely as other people to develop cancer. On average, the life expectancy in Norilsk is 10 years shorter than in other parts of Russia.

The fortunes of some of Russia’s richest men were built by the labor of people forced to live in some of the dirtiest cities in the world. By some accounts, the amount of toxic waste in Norilsk exceeds even Chernobyl.

So, to President Putin:

Soon we will create a progressive, Russian environmental party. We will have a majority in parliament, we will cooperate with the management of the country, and we will be as thick as thieves.

To everyone else:

Corporations, especially those that use natural resources, cannot exist without public control. Each of us should be able to see and influence what they do. The decisions made by corporations don’t just affect the rich and powerful – they affect me, you, some guy, and the kids and grandkids of that guy. Toxic emissions don’t dissolve – they accumulate and cause mutations in humans and animals alike, and they will lead to irreversible environmental catastrophe.

I’m not suggesting that we immediately close all factories, but the way I see it, humanity has two options. Either we leave things as they are and we just die out, turning our planet into places like Chernobyl and Norilsk. Or we figure out how to build a technologically advanced civilization with clean industries.

The lack of corporate oversight is not a uniquely Russian problem – activists all over the world are calling on businesses to take responsibility for their actions. But in Russia, the corporations are especially heinous because of the hellish corruption in the country. The rule of law doesn’t apply to them. What we can do is take power into our own hands, and this takes a certain level of arrogance. We need to act like we have already won – we need to act like we live in a clean Russia of the future, where we elect and be elected, where the media is free and independent, where we can create autonomous environmental watchdogs, where we can support Great Thunberg and “Fridays for Future,” and where we can go outside and be organic kittens.

I love you – but I don’t love Putin.

xx Nadya



Sahred From Source link World News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *