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Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  1,144 ratings  ·  172 reviews
The heroic story of Pussy Riot, who resurrected the power of truth in a society built on lies

On February 21, 2012, five young women entered the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. In neon-colored dresses, tights, and balaclavas, they performed a “punk prayer” beseeching the “Mother of God” to “get rid of Putin.” They were quickly shut down by security, and in the w
Paperback, 308 pages
Published January 8th 2014 by Riverhead Books
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3.77  · 
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 ·  1,144 ratings  ·  172 reviews

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☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣
Basically they got what was coming to them. In order to understand WHY they got their terms of 2 years in jail per person (they got out way earlier!), one has to realize that these gals were repeat offenders. And they did a lot of alien grade shit apart from scaring a bunch of grannies, priests and some underpaid churchyard security officer in one of the churches with richest religious and cultural history in Russia. Pussy Riot members were initially part of an art group Voina (which in English ...more
Update- because this:

That's all...

This is an excellent piece of reporting by Masha Gessen. For those of you who are interested in the background of the Pussy Riot collective this book will not disappoint. The three young women who were convicted for their piece of performance art (in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior) are remarkable. Their art dared to criticize Putin and his government policies and they paid the ultimate price. Their bravery and belief in their convictions shine throughou
Mar 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
When I began this book I was a little put off by the lack of distance between the journalist and her subjects. It is unusual (but not unheard of) for a reporter to so obviously take sides in a debate. By the end of the book, however, this lack of distance no longer troubled me. Gessen had no access to Nadya or Maria, two of Pussy Riot’s leading members who had been jailed in early 2012. Gessen was reduced to compiling information about their thinking and living conditions through their lawyers, ...more
Alan Johnson
This book shows what happens when church and state are not separated. There are two classic forms of church-state combination. The most familiar to us is theocracy, when religious clergy control the state or have the state do their dirty work, as in Calvin's Geneva (where Calvin, by his own admission, instigated the trial and execution of Servetus for heresy) and in seventeenth-century Massachusetts Bay (where four Quakers were hanged, Baptists were whipped, and Roger Williams and others were ba ...more
Jan 10, 2014 added it
Worth reading just for the speeches Maria and Nadzha give in court.
Deborah Markus
“How did our performance, a small and somewhat absurd act to begin with, balloon into a full-fledged catastrophe?”

That’s the question this book struggles to answer. It largely succeeds.

If I sound as if I’m hedging a bit, it’s because I’m still in shock from the very end of this book. I didn’t realize it had been written while the convicted members of Pussy Riot were still in prison. Not only is there no mention of Putin’s oh-so-magnanimous pre-Olympics order to release them early (such a sweeti
Owlseyes inside Notre Dame, it's so strange a 15-hour blaze and...30-minutes wait to call the firemen...and
Jan 16, 2014 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Owlseyes inside Notre Dame, it's so strange a 15-hour blaze and...30-minutes wait to call the firemen...and by: putinLeaks

Maybe this book is aiming at the Kremlin walls; maybe ,its cement. It’s a fact that Putin in X’mas 2013 dressed up as Santa Claus: he released from imprisonment Greenpeace people, and the once-richest Mikhail Khodorkovsky and: two of the Pussy Riot members. Commentators saw the move as strategic, aiming at something very different from compassion, much less justice. One of the Pussy Riot members said she preferred to stay in prison, showing clearly suspicion regarding the gift. Farcicality, at
Lord Beardsley
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read2014
I've been pretty much fascinated with Pussy Riot since I first heard about their actions. As Russia is increasingly turning into an unabashed fascist state (rather than hiding under the guise of democracy), I am drawn more and more to those with the bravery to speak out against it. I don't know if I would be that brave, but I believe it my duty (and everyone else's for that matter) to give people such as Nadya, Maria, Kat and many others credence.

Reading this gave a very clear picture of what i
I really don't get much performance art; I'm sorry. Most of what I have seen strikes me as silly or just a desire to shock. Yet, I still think it is a legit form of protest or art. I just don't like it.

Let's be honest, some of the art that Pussy Riot undertook is not my thing at all. And like much performance and much street art, you can argue about breaking the law all day long. Regardless, Pussy Riot was also a protest group, and in many ways reaction to them was based on the protest.

Meg - A Bookish Affair
Feb 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014, non-fiction
"Words Will Break Cement" is the story of Pussy Riot, a all-female punk band in Russia who dares to protest against Vladmir Putin, the Russian establishment, and the Russian government in a church. This gets some of the members sent to work camps and ignites passion for freedom of speech around the world. This book is by Masha Gessen, an author who whose previous work centers mostly on Russia. I have really enjoyed some of her previous work and was excited to see how she took on the subject of P ...more
da AL
Apr 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hard to say 'enjoyed' this book as its such a heartbreaking story, yet its a wonderful book. The reader frames it well. It tells of the humanity of Pussy Riot members, ordinary yet extraordinary women.
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Things I already knew: Putin's Russia is scary AF

Things I didn't know:
-the extent to which Putin's Russia is scary AF
-that Pussy Riot was only a fledgling group when three of its members were arrested
-that the women involved in Pussy Riot are true punk rock intellectuals - so much admiration for these women and their resolve to fight totalitarianism, misogyny and homophobia
Excellent history of Pussy Riot: the women's personal lives leading up to the event that got them arrested, and then the agony of their court cases and imprisonment. Shows the Russian reality behind the headlines....

I also really liked the eloquence of each woman's statement to the court. It was interesting to see each woman's unique perspective and how different they were from each other yet in sync enough to work together.
Sep 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book but it was heart breaking to read about how Russia is treating its citizens in the 21st century. It was especially horrible and upsetting to read about the conditions that women are subjected to in jail in Russia. I remember reading One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn when I was in my late teens or early twenties and I have never forgotten it. It seems that nothing has changed in Russian prisons, or work camps, between 90 and 100 ye ...more
Feb 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read this back-to-back with Gessen's Putin biography, and, although chronologically one follows the other, this is in no way a sequel. The pace and scope are completely different.
Coming down from the mini-epic "The Man Without A Face", with its atrocities and world impact, to this story of a bunch of naughty girls feels at first like stepping off a jet fighter onto a tricycle. (This book is also slightly longer!)
However, stick with it - the background stories are illuminating, particularly gi
Apr 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
I expected a lot more from this book. I expected a compelling work of protest lit. I expected verve and fire, especially from Gessen, whose previous work has unabashedly challenged Putin and his regime. In short, I expected *Words Will Break Cement* to deliver on the promise of its subtitle. But there simply is no passion in Gessen's account of Pussy Riot. It's essentially a dry chronology of the events that led up to the detainment and trial of the three collective members who, thanks to substa ...more
Jan 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If you followed Pussy Riot's story (especially if you could follow Russian media and blogs around the case), then most of the details might be already known. But the book provides a great summary and highlights the absurdity of the soviet-style show trials. But most of all this is a story of three brave, articulate and critical young women, who are inspiration.
Feb 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Margie by: Los Angeles Times
Shelves: non-fiction
"Passion of Pussy Riot" indeed! I am amazed at the passion, the courage, and the will of Pussy Riot, particularly Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina in defying and exposing Putin for the repressive dictator that he is. Even after 2 years in prison - in hard labor camps where they often worked 12 hours or more a day and were served garbage for meals, these young women came back and defied Putin at the Sochi Olympics. They were jailed again and chased off with pepper spray and whips! This ...more
Mar 09, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a good "current events" type book about Pussy Riot, going into the personal backgrounds of the main members of the group (hard to call them a band, since they are much more about performance art than music) and the cultural and political context from which they arose. If you are interested in the state of contemporary Russia, and particularly its criminal justice and penal systems, it's well worth reading, but, stylistically, it's more like a long magazine piece than literature.

One thing
Edward Rathke
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Regardless of what you think of Pussy Riot, this book is fascinating and kind of a must read during a time when america has a burgeoning resistance movement facing down an increasing authoritarian executive branch.

Gessen covers who they were before Pussy Riot, how they found their way to activism and resistance, how they found themselves in prison, the absurdity of their trial, and the cruelty of their time in penal colonies.

Much of this reminds me of what Chelsea Manning and Barrett Brown went
Mar 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
A good though not great account of Pussy Riot from their formation through to Nadya's hunger strike in prison. Buy it for the chance to know more about three members of PR who lost their anonymity as soon as they were charged and for their unedited court room speeches. I remain in awe of them, even more so after finishing this book. Hence the four stars. The masterpiece on Pussy Riot will come eventually - maybe from Masha Gesson, clearly an impressive journalist with a strong grasp of the vagar ...more
Katie Boyer
Jan 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminism
Close to 4.5 stars. These ladies are fearless, inspirational, and all about standing up for what's right. What's not to love?

I followed their trial when it happened but it was fascinating to read more about the women's backgrounds/upbringings as well as the formation of the group and life in Russia and Russian prisons too.
Sandy Irwin
Apr 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
A truly powerful book. The courage of these young Russian women to stand up for their beliefs, along with their attempt to bring a feminist movement to Russia, is captivating. Their lives in the Russian penal colonies is insanely horrific. I feel really lucky to live in the US.
Sep 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Great journalism about women who are brave as hell.
Jul 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I appreciated how timely this read felt given current events. That said, the distance of the journalist from the primary subjects of the book was challenging at times. There were multiple things ranging from small to significant left unresolved. It was also difficult to keep track of the folks involved at times. However, the book is an interesting read. It was an almost novel-like read at moments.
Anna C
Show trials are, in my opinion, the clearest example of the individual vs. the state. The verdict is decided before the court even convenes. Corrupt judges will hamstring the defense and forbid the defendant from meeting with the counsel. Russia has a long history of show trials, and there is a certain procedure. The defense attorneys know that their clients can never go free, but they use every underhanded trick to at least reduce the sentences. As for the defendants, they know they face a pena ...more
Hank Stuever
Aug 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Another fine piece of analytical reporting and writing from Masha Gessen. This book is also an especially good companion piece to the Pussy Riot documentary that aired on HBO a year or so back. It's been a pleasure to discover Gessen's smart, bold, beautifully-written books on Russian society and culture -- I think I'm going to have to join her fan club. I came to this book because I enjoyed and learned so much from her book on the Tsarnaevs ("The Brothers"). Now looking forward to going back an ...more
Jul 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Just about the time I was getting tired of trying to figure out what Pussy Riot was about, the book got very interesting when it got to the arrest and trial. Suddenly we weren't just hanging out with artistes, we were in the bowels of a horrid justice system.

The statements and speeches by these young women suddenly seemed very intelligent and coherent. How do you live your life when so many freedoms are suppressed? Pussy Riot may not be a real rock band in any sense, but they are the voice of pe
Amy (folkpants)
Mar 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book feels a little bogged down at times, but I think that is because the members of Pussy Riot are so much smarter than I am. This is a very thorough book detailing the start of Pussy Riot and the three main members who were put on trial. It's a good look at the absurdity of an idea of any kind of civil rights in Russia, even today.
May 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Once again a a different cover from the US,
A world and a struggle very foreign to me. So the book really explained the passion of the women well and also the weird thrombosis of thought in Russia via the Soviet years. THere's Lots about prison life too.
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Masha Gessen (born 1967) is a Russian journalist, translator, and nonfiction author.

Born into an Ashkenazi Jewish family in Russia, in 1981 she moved with her family to the United States, returning in 1991 to Moscow, where she worked as a journalist. She has since returned to the United States.

She writes in both Russian and English, and has contributed to The New Republic, New Statesman, Granta an
“In all societies, public rhetoric involves some measure of lying, and history -- political history and art history -- is made when someone effectively confronts the lie. But in really scary societies all public conversation is an exercise in using words to mean their opposites -- in describing the brave as traitorous, the weak as frightening, and the good as bad -- and confronting these lies is the most scary and lonely thing a person can do.” 7 likes
“Here is what I was trying to figure out: how a miracle happens. A great work of art -- something that makes people pay attention, return to the work again and again, and reexamine their assumptions, something that infuriates, hurts, and confronts -- a great work of art is always a miracle.” 5 likes
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