Nadya Tolokonnikova (@tolokno) is one of feminist art punk collective Pussy Riot’s most visible members, and she’s the author of Read & Riot: A Pussy Riot Guide to Activism.
What We Discuss with Nadya Tolokonnikova:
- The roots of Nadya’s distrust of authority — and why she became a headstrong activist against it at an age when many Americans are only beginning to discover themselves.
- What Pussy Riot’s protest art aims to accomplish by openly defying such authority.
- What life in a Russian prison labor camp is really like and how Nadya and her bandmates survived their sentence for “hooliganism” there.
- How today’s young people are making contributions to their communities in ways undreamt of just a generation ago (and often pulling bigger paychecks than their parents).
- The potential perils of shoplifting to survive for eight years and creating DIY music in a corrupt police state without a stunt double.
- And much more…
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Being a subversive artist in a country where free speech is protected can be risky enough when the people who don’t like what you have to say make their displeasure known in dangerous ways. But being a subversive artist in a country where your work can land you in a forced labor camp for years takes a certain level of commitment.
Nadya Tolokonnikova, author of Read & Riot: A Pussy Riot Guide to Activism, explains what it’s like to be a perpetual thorn in Vladimir Putin’s side as an actionist activist in 21st century Russia. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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More About This Show
At an age when many Americans are still finding themselves, Read & Riot: A Pussy Riot Guide to Activism author Nadya Tolokonnikova left her Siberian home town and moved to Moscow when she was just 16. But the age at which someone becomes empowered to make a difference in their community is relative; Nadya thinks today’s young people around the world — including Americans — are starting to get involved even earlier in unexpected ways.
For example, the modern phenomenon of slime videos on YouTube has created a community obsessed with gooey concoctions made from various mixtures that even Nickelodeon couldn’t have foreseen. It’s a scenario that has people of all ages literally getting their hands dirty conceptualizing, designing, creating, sharing — and selling — slimes as diverse as the imagination allows. In fact, preteens are making big bucks by dreaming beyond the tried (and tired) lemonade stand model that worked for generations of old.
“Yesterday I was happy…not just because my book came out, but because a girl from Instagram — I think she’s 11 — she replied to me,” says Nadya. “I wrote to her that I really wanted to buy 10 of these slimes. They smell really good. She’s from Russia and it’s a big thing to have American-quality slimes. Now I will have some respect in the eyes of my daughter, who is 10 years old right now!”
So even though Nadya is famous on the world stage as one of feminist art punk collective Pussy Riot’s most visible members, endured 18 months in a Russian labor camp, and just published a book, her daughter keeps any potentially ego-swelling notions at bay by reminding her that, in spite of all she’s accomplished thus far, Nadya is still no nouveau riche slimetrepreneur.
Thinking back to her own childhood, Nadya can easily trace where her own distrust of authority began. While taking walks with her father on the streets of post-USSR Moscow, she noticed that police would illegally profile and question anyone who appeared to be an outsider.
“My dad hated to deal with cops,” says Nadya. “He knew that it was not legal…but they can bring you all sorts of trouble. They can bring you to the police department and since Russian cops are super corrupted, if you start to argue with them and make them mad, they can put weed in your pocket and you’ll go to prison for 10 years.”
Nadya points out that this mistrust of authority permeates Russian society in a way that might seem contradictory to westerners.
“It’s not just about me,” Nadya clarifies. “It’s about all citizens of Russia. We hate government. We all hate government. We love our country, but [we] hate government…I am anti-Putin, and I am pro-Russian.”
Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about Nadya’s reaction to accusations that she’s a Russian spy, where she sees the place of amateurs in politics, the origin story of Pussy Riot, the potential perils of creating DIY music without a stunt double, Nadya’s favorite subversive projects, what it’s like to get a reaction out of Putin, why Nadya and other members of Pussy Riot are committed to remaining in Russia in spite of the constant danger, what life in a Russian prison camp is like and how it compares to correctional systems around the world, how Nadya copes with activist depression, and much more.
THANKS, NADYA TOLOKONNIKOVA!
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Resources from This Episode:
- Read & Riot: A Pussy Riot Guide to Activism by Nadya Tolokonnikova
- Pussy Riot at YouTube
- Nadya at Instagram
- Nadya Tolokonnikova at Facebook
- Nadya Tolokonnikova at Twitter
- The Most Satisfying Slime ASMR Video that You’ll Relax Watching, Satisfying Compilations
- Pop, Crackle, Squish: Student Creates Successful Slime Business by Zenebou Sylla, The Berkeley Beacon
- Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokno: Julian Assange Is ‘Connected with the Russian Government’ by Marlow Stern, The Daily Beast
- Pussy Riot Takes You Inside Putin’s Prison, Where the Justice System Is ‘Based on Breaking the Human Spirit’ by Madeline Roache, Newsweek
- The Riot Grrrl Movement Still Inspires by Melena Ryzikjune, The New York Times
- So This Is What The Girls From t.A.T.u Look Like Now by Laura Jane Turner, Look
- Russian Parliament Hijacked by Voina group on November 7th, 2008, Flickr
- Vladimir Putin Reacts Angrily to Angela Merkel’s Pussy Riot Comments by Miriam Elder, The Guardian
- Art Term: Actionism
- Art Riot: Post-Soviet Actionism, Saatchi Gallery
- Petr Pavlensky: The Protest Artist Who Stumps Putin by Masha Gessen, The New Yorker
- Pussy Riot Attacked with Whips by Police at Sochi, The Telegraph
- We Now Know More About the Apparent Poisoning of the Pussy Riot Member Pyotr Verzilov by Masha Gessen, The New Yorker
- Pussy Riot Claims That Masha Alyokhina Has ‘Found a Way to Escape’ Russia to Perform in Scotland, Defying a Travel Ban by Henri Neuendorf, Artnet News
- Pussy Riot Launches MediaZona, An Independent News Service in Russia by Molly Beauchemin, Pitchfork
- What Pussy Riot’s ‘Punk Prayer’ Really Said by Jeffrey Tayler, The Atlantic
- After Jail, Pussy Riot Focuses on Prisons by Mansur Mirovalev, Al Jazeera
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
- The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
- De Blasio Welcomes Pussy Riot to City Hall, NBC New York
- Pussy Riot Members Visit Occupy Activist Cecily Mcmillan in Prison by Jon Swaine, the Guardian
- Pussy Riot Wants to Take You to Prison by Patrick Heardman, Vice
- House of Horror: Inside the Infamous Stasi Prison by Ete Brook, Wired
- Why Do So Many Activists Commit Suicide? by Kate Raphael, Medium
Transcript for Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova | How to Read and Riot (Episode 118)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:00 ] Welcome to the show, I'm Jordan Harbinger. As always, I'm here with my producer, Jason DeFillippo. At first, when I heard of the Russia-based group Pussy Riot, I immediately thought that it was the worst name ever. Either something got seriously lost in the translation or they're just going for shock value, devoid of any substance. Well, I could not have been more incorrect. Shortly after I heard about Pussy Riot, they gained even more international attention when they were sent to a Russian prison for two years for one of their protest actions after intensely criticizing Vladimir Putin's regime in their homeland. When I heard Nadya Tolokonnikova was giving a talk in San Francisco, I pulled all the strings I could to get a rare interview beforehand. In this episode, we dig into the roots of Nadya's distrust of authority, why her protest art is important not only to her but to the future of Russia, and we hear some pretty harrowing stuff about life in prison and lessons gained in one of the worst labor camps in Siberia.
[00:00:59] This is truly a rare opportunity to speak with an internationally known performance artist and musician. And I really hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did. If you want to know how I book all of these great people, those strings I knew to pull and how I manage my relationships using systems and tiny habits, check out our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Don't forget, we've got worksheets for today's episode so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of all the key takeaways here from Nadya Tolokonnikova that link is in the show notes at JordanHarbinger.com/podcast. All right, here's Nadya Tolokonnikova. First of all, being 38 years old, I think I'm a decade or so older than you.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:01:42] I'm 28 now.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:01:43] Yeah. So what conditions were you in growing up that inspired you to grow into this sort of activism role? Because I think when I was 28 I was like, let me go to the bar chasing women. Go home, watch a movie. Yeah. Late bloomer maybe.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:02:00] Oh, I didn't know. I think Americans and Russians are very different in this instance because the Russians, they just have to grow up faster. First of all, legally, you can start drinking just at 21 and we can drink at 18 and effectively, we start to drink at 12. Second, I finished my school when I was 16 years old. And when I was 16, I left my home, I left my parents' home and I moved just by myself to Moscow. And then know that here you are supposed to study in school until 19.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:39] Yeah. And most parents would be like, “Oh, you're thinking of moving out at 16? Maybe to the garage.” You know, “Can I go to Moscow?”
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:02:45] My mother wasn't thrilled of me moving too, but I just collected money from lunches and I bought a ticket. And we're in good relationships now, but I didn’t talk with her like for six or seven years after that. She wasn’t really happy. Yeah. In general, people start to grow up faster I think. But it's changing. It's all changing that quick. We can talk mostly just about our generations, but if we'll take a look at the younger generations, like the people who are 14, 15 years old, I think it's true for both Americans and Russians. That they are already, like some of them, they're an important part of the economy. They're making money on vlogs. They're making money on slimes. Do you know what slime is?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:39] I do know what slime is. This blew my freaking mind when I found out that people were buying this crap. I couldn't believe it.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:03:46] Do you know that 10 years old kids are making slimes and making like thousands of dollars more than their parents?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:53] Yeah. Like you will be lucky if this show and your book do as well as some eight-year-old kid who has a YouTube channel making slime.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:04:01] No, I don't think we can really compete with them. Yesterday, I was happy as fuck, but not because my book came out. Because a girl from Instagram, I don't know, like I think she's 11 or something, she replied to me and I wrote to her that I really want to buy like 10 of these slimes. They smell really good -- like American slimes and she's from Russia, it’s like a big thing to have American quality slimes. So she replied to me and understood that it was just like, “Now I will have some respect in the eyes of my daughter who is 10 years old right now, too.” So that's the only one way actually, how to get some respect in her eyes. And that girl from slime Instagram, she recognized me and she started to like my videos of me performing at the Charlie XCX party the other day. And so that was just an ultimate happiness.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:03] It's funny, I don't know what that communicates about our generation, what we're trying to get our approval from like 10-year-olds who make things on the internet and they don't know who we are at all, or if we're happy when they go, “I think I saw you on the news, my mom was watching and I looked over her shoulder.” Yeah.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:05:21] For me, it's connected with my daughter. I just want to be a cool parent, you know, as a whole. We all do.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:29] Yeah. You can be an internationally recognized artist and it's like, “Yeah, but do you make slime? Didn't think so, bish. Get out of here.”
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:05:36] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:37] Yeah. That could bring you down to the level on the regular, right? As soon as you get a fool of yourself, just ask your kid what she thinks of your career.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:05:46] Exactly. I was like, “Yeah, Gera, my book came out. Did you see that interview like that interview with Dick?” Well, one Russian YouTube blogger actually had a pretty good interview like it’s over a million and a half views, just in seven hours. And I haven't seen this interview because I kind of hear or see myself on tape, but all my friends are freaking out. They're saying it’s such a great interview. So I asked my daughter if she’s seen this interview. She sounded really bored and she asks me about slimes again, “So when will you come back home again? And will you bring this parasol right away?”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:26] Yeah. Like, “How quickly are you going to bring that American slime back? That's what I really want to know.”
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:06:31] Yes.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:32] So you’re six years old, you're walking around with your dad and you cross the street when you see cops on your side of the road – obviously, there's some kind of rational or irrational fear that something's going to happen. It seems like that might have been maybe the Genesis of your, I don't want to say, rebellious streak because it's not really a streak. It's kind of who you are at the core. What was going on there? Why was your dad even when you were a kid avoiding the authorities.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:06:58] There is a strange tradition among Moscow cops that they are stopping people on the streets of Moscow. And they are saying that you cannot be in Moscow without special registration, which is a total bullshit. But they're doing it for over two dozens of years because they expected that they will find a person who doesn't know about this. And like most of the people, they don't know that cops are going against the law when they're asking for this and mythological registration. And mostly they're stopping people who are looking poor, or people who are coming from and you know, the poorer countries like ex-USSR republics, you know, say our version of your Mexican immigrants.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:46] Sure. So somebody from like Georgia or Kazakhstan or something like that.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:07:50] We’re from Kazakhstan [00:07:51][indiscernible] from Georgia because Georgia is just too rich. No, Georgia, it's a Western country after the revolution. It's not just satellite of Russia anymore. And you know, just people who look like they might be from other city rather than Moscow. And my dad hated to deal with cops. He knew that it's not illegal what they're trying to ask him, but you know, they can bring you all sorts of troubles. They can bring you to police departments and since Russian cops are super corrupted, if you start to argue with them and you will make them mad, they can put weed in your pocket and you go to prison for 10 years, just because of that. So nobody wanted to fuck with the Russian cops. And it's federational thing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:46] Yeah. So it's not an irrational fear. It's a rational fear that they're going to make your day, turn your day to shit. So it's like, “Let's just cross the street.”
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:08:55] Or your next 10 years, to shit. So my father always, you know, crossed the street or like, we would never go like, hold hand when we walk. No, we don't do it because I don't know, we're not physical creatures in that sense with my dad. I don’t know, we just never hugged. We never hold hands and stuff like that. So he would hold my hand when he sees a cop because, at some point, he started to fear that this cop will think that he's still a kid. And so this holding your hand should be a sign of me being okay with me walking with this man -- my dad. And I don't think that this fear is irrational because the cops really, cops from Russia are super corrupted, and the reason why people want to work in Russian police now because they expecting to get a salary because salary is super low. They want to get bribes.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:00] Right, that makes sense. So these are the seeds of your early distrust of authority. I could sense like. Yeah, that makes sense.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:10:08] It's not just about me, it's about all citizens of Russia. We hate government. We all hate government. We love our country, but we hate government. I was talking yesterday with one American person, he told me that in his mind there is no such big distinction in people's minds between state and country, between government and country, but in Russia and states just completely two different things. One of them we love, another one we hate.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:42] That's interesting. Yeah. And in states, I think we do sort of put the government and the state in one basket and you see people who are not supportive of the government and people say, “How can you not be patriotic?” But of course the counter argument is, “I am patriotic. I'm showing you how much I hate this current government or whatever.” And that's kind of what you do in a lot of ways, right? Of course, people accused you of being anti-Russian, but you're more just anti-Putin. Is that fair?
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:11:04] It sounds like more I am anti-Putin and I'm pro-Russian and in America recently, I was accused of being Russian spy because, I mean I would never want and think of being anti-Russian.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:22] Wait. Who accused you of being a Russian spy?
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:11:25] Let me give you an example, when I'm trying to be real and not living in a universe of black and white things. For example, like when I'm saying that Putin did interfere in American elections, but he's not that effective as you think he is. And that I don't think that Putin is the main reason why Trump was elected and there might be some internal issues like poverty and inequality, like problems with health care and the education system that might brought Trump to power just because people wanted to rage. And some people in America, they accused me of being Russian spy because…
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:14] Yeah. That's ridiculous. Yeah. I don't see the connection there.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:12:16] Or say like when I'm saying like, Russian prison system sucks, but American prison system sucks too. And they're like, “Yeah, you sound like Putin as all the time she's saying [00:12:28][indiscernible] but Guantanamo.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:31] Yeah. I suppose there's a difference between, that's not really how spies out. These people know. They don't know any real spies that much is clear. Yeah. But it's kind of funny the comparison with Trump because I think a lot of people who voted for Trump that I know, he's kind of their Pussy Riot. They're like, “You know what? I don't like Hillary Clinton. I don't want his establishment. I'm going to vote for this guy. I think he's probably just a weirdo reality star, but I'm going to vote for him.” So in a weird way, he's like the Pussy Riot of the United States where it's like, “Look, I'm just going to vote for the wild card. The guy who's going to kick everyone in the nuts. He's going to be that guy.”
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:13:06] I know I had a hard time when I was writing this book about how I was writing that everybody has to take part in politics. And I think that it's good if not professionals will, I want to see more unprofessional people in politics because you know, the experts brought us to Neo liberalism, which I don't really like. And then writing these lines, I realized that actually Trump is not professional, but I'm not that happy to see him in power. But I think it's still true. That is good to have more unprofessional voices in politics. But I guess just Trump has to be counter, right? What is the English word for his saying that?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:00] He has to be countered?
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:14:01] Countered. He has to be countered.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:02] Oh yeah, countered, like, counteracted.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:14:04] Yeah. But by somebody else from our side. So let's say more progressive unprofessionals in politics.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:12] Nice. Well, lots of us are unprofessional progressors, I'll put it that way. A lot of people hear the name Pussy Riot and they think, “All right, what is this? You're just trying to get shock value.” Can you tell us the beginning a little bit of what Pussy Riot is? Because when I was reading the book and you said you just made it up for a lecture, I was like, “There's got to be more to it than that.”
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:14:29] No, seriously. We made it up for a lecture. We promised to make a lecture on punk feminism, Russian punk feminism in 2011. And then we realized like five hours before the lecture that there really is no punk feminist tracks in Russian and we created the first track in one hour and none of us knew how to sing, how to make music, how to write lyrics for songs. And we knew nothing about songwriting.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:05] Don't worry, I think most of the people on the road have no idea about songwriting either.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:15:10] But we decided to make a band as a conceptual art gesture, and we were thinking how to call it. And we were inspired by Riot Grrrl Movement for awhile.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:24] Riot Grrrl Movement? Yeah. Okay. I had to look that up when I read it the first time. It’s kind of like what it sounds like.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:15:32] What do you mean? You didn't know? You didn't know Riot Grrrl.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:36] No. Riot Grrrl? No, I hadn't heard of it before.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:15:39] Seriously?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:40] Yeah. Well, look, I'm a former attorney. I'm not exactly in that. We act as like cool punk kids.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:15:47] No, I thought it's really in the American constitution. This words, like I said is just, you know, it's like knowing Britney Spears.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:57] Britney Spears? Yeah. Maybe. I don't know. Maybe I'm the one who's lost on it. I don’t know, the listeners will tell me on Twitter where I've been under a rock, if they've all heard of it. We used to just do like the rehearsing of the music in these abandoned buildings and like you're talking about being out in the rain on some playground, in singing into a tape recorder with like the battery acid from your speaker dripping down your back. I mean, this is like legit punk slash fully irresponsible type of scene that you started.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:16:30] Why, you're responsible?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:34] I don't mean that, the fact that you let your back get burned by battery acid, that was just like, “Okay, we get it. You're legit. You don't have to hurt yourself.”
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:16:40] Oh, we didn't want to hurt ourselves. It just happened as you have to be effective. And when you're trying to go against people like Putin, you have to be twice as effective. So it's not about fun. It's not about anything like that. It's about being tough, rough and effective. So it doesn't matter if you will end up being, I don't know how to say it. I'm saying, I forgot all English words.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:19] That's okay. So you're kind of saying, as far as I can understand, it doesn't matter if you get a couple of scrapes on your knees and elbows while you're doing it. The point is to be effective. You don't have to look, it doesn't have to be smooth.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:17:31] It doesn't have to be smooth. I was living in this mindset since 2007 when I started to make actions that we would done lots of crazy actions and we lived for eight years just only by shoplifting, we didn't have any money.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:50] You shoplifted for eight years to survive?
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:17:55] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:56] That's a long time. You must've gotten caught several times unless you…
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:17:59] Obviously, yeah. You have little bit of money, so say you have $50, and you have it for months and you think, maybe in a month you can be caught once or maybe not. But yeah, you give this $50 as a bribe and then you go to the next shop because you have to eat.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:29] Yeah. Oh, I see. So the getting the money was the insurance policy against getting caught, and shoplifting was the survival mechanism.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:18:35] Yeah. But in order to survive, you need just $50 a month, which is a good deal.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:41] Yeah. No kidding. Wow. I don't know what part of Moscow that is, but it seems more expensive now. That's for sure.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:18:47] It's not just Moscow. We were traveling all around like hitch hiking and [indiscernible][00:18:52] lives. So it showed me that you can live amazing life without money. It's not like it's an ideal scenario, but at that point I had to decide between art and working on some boring job for some boring idiot boss and definitely I choose to make art and to live by shoplifting.
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Jason DeFillippo: [00:22:58] Thanks for listening and supporting the show. To learn more about our sponsors and get links to all the great discounts you just heard, visit JordanHarbinger.com/deals. And if you'd be so kind, please drop us a nice rating and review in iTunes or your podcast player of choice. It really helps us out and helps build the show family. If you want some tips on how to do that, head on over to JordanHarbinger.com/subscribe. Now back to our show with Nadya Tolikonnikova.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:23] You're probably one of the most famous Russian cultural exports aside from Tetris, which of course is the number one of all time.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:23:29] What about tattoo?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:30] Tattoo? I forgot about tattoo. Oh my God. We'll have to link to that in the show notes because no one knows what we're talking about right now.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:23:40] [singing in Russian]
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:42] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh my God. That was from college, I had Russian college roommates, so that was blasting at all of our house parties. I had to learn it. What are some of the acts that you did? A lot of people know that you make music, but they don't know about, say the skull and crossbones projected onto the White House. Tell us about some of the things that you think are more maybe some of your impressive pat-yourself-on-the-back type of acts that you're surprised you pulled off.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:24:08] Yeah, skull and bones are my favorite. It was on my birthday, 7th of November. It's a day of Russian revolution. 1917. So it was my birthday of 2008. And we gathered a bunch of people, bunch of activists who were a storming team. And another group of protesters who, somehow got big laser projector and we projected across the river in the Moscow river from Ukraine hotel. We somehow made it to the roof of this Ukraine hotel. Just broke the door and brought this laser to the roof of Ukraine hotel. And then projected the skull and bones on their parliament building of Russia. It's called arts by the house and it was 4:00 in the morning and it's beautiful. It's like 60 meters wide and tall skull and bones and it was a signal for a storming team and they had to climb under the fence -- a six meters fence, because the Russian government is really afraid of people.
[00:25:38] So this is why they decided to protect themselves from the people with this six meter fence. And so our idea was to show, and the people that actually they tried to protect themselves, but it's not really effective because you know, just a bunch of idiots, punks Anarchist can break through it. It means that big like massive crowds can do it easily. And so we climbed over the fence and just ran in the territory. And in 15 minutes, we were gone. And just after it -- this 15 minutes, cops were awake. Not even cops, like, you know, the special security forces of parliament. And they started running around with these lights and trying to find us, what's going on. And they were unable to find us.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:27] Well, they know who it is now.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:26:29] They know. Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:30] But I guess it's too little, too late. You made your point at that juncture.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:26:34] And it's funny that Putin is like you're asking me now to tell about this actions, and saying that nobody knows about it, but Putin knows them really well as once he met Angela Merkel in 2012 when we were in prison already. And the first question, did she ask was like, “What's up with Pussy Riot?” And he started to give her lecture on art, but it is a little bit, he was basing on real facts, but he would completely change their ideology. So let's say, we made one anti-fascist action and he'd described the action and he said that we made it under fascist slogan and he wanted to scare and kill Merkel with it. Yeah. But he told her about like five of our earliest actions, which was crazy.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:27] Yeah. It must be. How does it feel to have these world leaders who are in these private chambers with their tea and their bodyguards, and you're sitting in a Russian prison and they're like, “So these 25-year-old women or however you want…”
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:27:40] I was 22.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:41] “Yeah, these 22-year-old women, they're screwing my world up, man. Got to do something about this. Look at how bad they are.”
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:27:48] I was really happy that Putin is in trouble because of us. Because they definitely didn't expect anything like that. After us, they put on one person who is actionist, who is artist. Do you have this word actionist in English? Actionist?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:04] Activist maybe? Actionist? What does that mean?
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:28:06] No. Actionist. Actionist, it's a word which describes a person who is making action. So Petr Pavlenskii, he was inspired by us and he is an actionist from Russia. And he burned the door of FSB building.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:25] He burned it?
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:28:26] He burned.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:27] That's like walking up to CIA headquarters or FBI headquarters. And he's like lighting it on fire and being like, “Yo! Here's my middle finger.”
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:28:33] And then he made a photo of himself standing with this oil canister. And just being tough as fuck and with this burning door behind him. So they put him in jail indeed, but they had to, I was really scared for him. I thought he will end up in jail for like for terrorism for 20 years. But they let him go after six months. And a lot of people told us actually that, we were the reason why they let him go so easily because they don't want to fuck with artists and activists, actionists anymore.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:10] Yeah. There's immediately a spotlight goes on that government when they do and in part because of you. But this stuff is still risky. I mean, I saw the video at Sochi Olympics where they were like whipping you guys with, is it like a leather whip? And they're hitting you with sticks and stuff. I mean, this is like gnarly. These guys aren't like, “All right, kids, time to go.” They're like, they walk up right away and start hitting you. They don't warn you nothing. I mean, they're coming after you. Where are your parents? They’re not worried? This is more dangerous than ever, right now.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:29:39] Of course, they do. My mother thinks that I need to immigrate, run immediately.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:46] Yeah, you still live in Russia? I can't even believe that.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:29:49] Yeah, she is convincing me that I have to leave since 2014. That’s since the time when I got out of jail and, yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:57] Yeah. I mean, one of your bandmates -- your former partner, he was just poisoned with something and he's a super healthy guy. He was in intensive care for a couple of weeks. This is weeks ago. And he recovered thankfully because he's the healthiest guy in Russia. But you know, this kind of thing would freak me out. Do you even see Russian activists dying, maybe their actionists, I don't know, dying in the UK? You see people getting poisoned across the world, Alexander Litvinenko getting tea cup poisoning -- does that not make you stay awake at night, just a little?
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:30:29] No. I sleep really well.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:30] Okay. Why?
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:30:33] It's just, I'm healthy and you know, I have healthy sleep. No, you are asking me if I'm afraid?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:43] Yeah, I'm asking if you're afraid.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:30:45] Yes. I am. We have different approaches to answering this question because we have different theories on that. Within Pussy Riot so like let's say, Masha Alekhina theory is that she's just telling that she's not afraid at all. She doesn't have any fears.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:03] Masha’s your band mate, not afraid at all? Okay.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:31:06] No, no, no. And like knowing Masha, I'm 100% sure that it's true because I think it's some variation in her DNAs, she doesn’t know like what is fear. She read about it in encyclopedia but she doesn't know exactly how it felt. She had tried but she couldn't actually show. Actually she does it. She kind of tried Facebook post. She told me like the only one fear that she has that she cannot post in socials. Social things like she's writing, she cannot write but her actions, she asked somebody else to write about her action. That's only one fear that she has.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:44] So she's afraid of posting on Facebook, but she's not afraid of Vladimir Putin, or the FSB.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:31:50] She's not afraid of being poisoned, killed, or imprisoned. She’s not -- just Facebook posts makes her really scared. And I have another theory about here, I admitted that do have a lot of fears but I have my way to channeling these fears, working with these fears, and I think you will not achieve a lot in our country if you will. Let her get over you because you don't want fear to own you. So we were in dialogue with my fears all the time, but they definitely exist.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:25] That's good. At least you're human in that respect, right?
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:32:27] I was like, I was trying to be like at some point I was scared really. I was staying out of Russia for like almost a year. I was coming back but I was trolling so much that I felt like it's more comfortable for me to be out of Russia. But it was really tough period for me because I understood it actually pretty hard for me to be out of Russia most of the time because it's the languages, culture, people – they are really brave there. Like the Media Zona, this website that was started after we were released from jail and the journalists who works there reporting on really dangerous issues or reporting on abuses of human rights and in the most dangerous regions of Russia like Chechnya, they're risking their lives on daily basis, but then they're just laughing about it. They could be shameful to fear. And if you're surrounded by people like that who are really brave, you becoming more brave by yourself. So I feel good in Russia.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:35] Yeah, I can see that. I can see you obviously have a network that supports this kind of work. You know, there's 10 voices telling you, you can do it. And only your mom and a few other people are saying, “Why don't you move?” So I can see how you can compartmentalize that.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:33:50] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Nadya Tolokonnikova. We'll be right back after these messages.
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Jason DeFillippo: [00:35:43] Thanks for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers is what keeps us on the air. To learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard, visit JordanHarbinger.com/deals. Now, for the conclusion of our interview with Nadya Tolokonnikova.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:55] One thing that would have scared the crap out of me though and still does even when I read it, is you went to prison in Russia for a couple of years. Give us a picture of how you got caught and ended up going to a Russian prison.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:36:09] We were in a car right away because people in the church, they didn't really care about us. So we made our prayer. They caught us, I mean yeah, the guards caught us, but they let us go. They just told us like, get out of here.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:30] So you're in the church kind of doing this disruptive, what would you call it? Like performance. Yeah, like this disruptive performance. Mock prayer with your brightly colored ski masks.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:36:41] It’s not a mock prayer. It's a real prayer. It’s a punk prayer.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:44] Real prayer. Got you. So the guards kicked you out?
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:36:46] We didn't want to mock Christianity. You know, we want to empower it because we think that the world changed and with the world, Christianity should change too. In order to be, you know, still interesting for people because including new generation like my daughter, she doesn't want it. Like she doesn't want to go to church like it looks right now. It's just not cool and I only wanted to make Christianity cool again. Like it was in the times of Christ.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:18] Yeah, probably it was basically Pussy Riot circa years zero, right? This rebel long hair, great abs goes and tells people everything they know is wrong.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:37:30] He is a punk rocker.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:31] I'm going to get so much hate mail for this. I just already know. So just stop writing your email right now. I already know what you're going to say. So leave me alone. So you didn't get caught right away?
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:37:42] We didn't. No, because it wasn't their job to caught us, to get us to police. They thought we were just a bunch of freaks and idiots, and they forgot about us. And then in half an hour, but then we released a music video and this few music videos somehow was picked by big Russian television channel. And I think probably through this television channel, somebody from administration of president or Putin himself or Patriarchate of Russian Orthodox church, they noticed it. And they decided that we actually, you know, this patriarchal thing, they kind of let the girls just come to their place, their home, to their property and just told them that they are fools, that they're corrupted. They're not honest with their people. And yeah, they decided to punish us. They opened a criminal case and in two weeks after the performance, we were arrested. But it was really tough for them to catch us because at that time we were activists for six years already.
[00:38:49] We knew how to hide from the cops. And for a week, just dozens of cops were looking for us. And when they caught us finally, they were so happy because clearly all this week their lives were really hard because they cannot just find a bunch of stupid crazy punk anarchist, idiotic girls.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:16] You’re making them look like fools but then you end up…
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:39:19] We did, it’s our profession.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:21] It is your profession literally. And you ended up as a political prisoner inside Russia. And this, the stories from the book are horrifying. I mean, they burned your eyes with some sort of acid liquid? I mean, what the hell is that all about? You're not blind, thankfully. But that hurt, obviously, that was the point and scary.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:39:39] It hurt yet it's intimidation first of all, because it was really tough for me. That’s just after a couple of times, they doing it with me, I started my panic about Russia and it was the time when I decided I'll stay away from Russia for almost a year. Yeah, it was really scary. I was a person who got into fights when I was a kid. So like physical pace and physical safety zone was really important for me all the time. I think it's really different for someone who is just fighting older childhood. So it's not that traumatizing, but I'm the only one kid in the family. So like for me, my safety zone is sacred because I was really just physically scared.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:32] Well, they put you in a cell with somebody that murdered two of your friends as well. I mean they're like messing with you psychologically as well as trying to hurt you. And so they got you. So in police uniforms and all this, what gives you the strength to go forward when you're worried about, “Are they going to try to blind me? Are they going to try to beat me up?” I mean they were highly abusive to you while you were behind bars.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:40:53] I just prefer not to think about it. Maybe some people will say that it's not that smart, but again it's just become a psychological mechanism. I made a decision. Did I want to make art in Russia? If I will think about all that stuff that you just mentioned, like I would not be able, either or.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:18] Yeah, it would scare you away. So you're not going to let that happen. So you're just going to say forget it.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:41:24] Exactly. I don't think about it, but it exists. So I didn't know. It's not the easiest thing, but life is not an easy thing and in the end, you will die. So I just somehow deal with it. I understood that I'm dying. I'm dying outside of Russia because I'm political artist whose inspiration is in my politics and my community. I'm trying to make, I wanted Russia to occupy the world. Yeah. But with art.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:58] With art? I can live with that part. I was a little scared for a second. Yes, with art. In the end.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:42:04] Like it was in beginning of 20th century, it was so beautiful. Our art was in there – Avant-garde of the world art and still, is still possible. And I mean, it's still reality because Russian rap is just the best. Russian music, Russian rap is the coolest. How can you leave without Russian rap and listen to just that, you know, this American, which I like. I like American rap, but then I’m saying that there is great potential in my country, and in my culture that has to be developed. And I think if all ambitious young people will think like, “Oh, I will leave Russia and I will make my life and career somewhere else”, then we'll never have the future. So I really support those people who decide to stay in Russia. And it's really hard to make a career because, especially if you're anti-Putin, anti-Kremlin person, but there are more and more young people – 20, 22, 23 [indiscernible][00:43:27] and we will make anti-Putin art and we don't care that, you know, we will not be as successful as we would move to London and just study some design and to fashion bullshit.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:44] Right. Sure, sure. Who's your favorite American rapper? I got to know.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:43:49] None. No, I'll not tell you. I'm not telling you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:51] Because you're embarrassed or because…
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:43:55] It’s too personal.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:56] Your favorite rapper is too personal?
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:44:00] Yes, you know, this question is too personal. No. My favorite rapper is not personal to me, but you know, the idea that everybody will know what I'm listening to is just shocking.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:14] You mean you're embarrassed?
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:44:17] Yes, I think so. Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:19] Really? So you'll show up in the middle of a music video in a bra and panties. But tell Jordan your favorite rapper? Not going to happen.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:44:28] Yes. I'm like mashing this sense.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:31] I feel like I just can't. This is a fight I'm probably not going to win, so I probably shouldn't ask again, but you know, I'm even more curious. My God. Is there anybody that you like that maybe isn't your favorite, but maybe like top five? Can you give me a hint?
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:44:45] No. I’m not answering this question.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:47] No problem. Hey look, I got to respect your boundaries. You said you learned a lot in prison. In fact, you learned a lot more in prison than you would have in the two years than if you were free. What are some of the lessons that you took from being in one of the crappiest places that humanity's ever devise?
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:45:05] I was thinking a lot about Viktor Frankl. And surely you cannot compare my experience with his experience because he was really in a death camp in Germany and it's quite different, but I think their mechanisms, psychological mechanism that he noticed and something that I noticed there are similar to some extent that you understand that if you have meaning in your life and that you have this feeling of sense, and if you find something to live for like helping people around you, like thinking about art, thinking about art in the future that you will create, trying to write something, trying to think instead of being turned into a lifeless body, like do into a shade of a person who you were before
[00:46:09] on freedom. It teaches you how to really meaningful goals for yourself that literally can save your life. But the problem with all of that [indiscernible][00:46:24] pointed it out in idiot. You promise yourself that if you will be saved and they will not kill you because he was thinking about it, when he was on the way to death sentence. He said to himself that I will cherish every moment of life after. But he pointed it out brilliantly that you forget about it, just in the moment you live like a normal idiot. Yes. And I'm trying to remind myself to go back sometimes to those conclusions that I made when I was in prison and partly, that's why I wrote this book. And in that sense, it's my own psychological work. And for some reason, I decided to publish, just my diary -- like psychotherapist diaries.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:13] Sure. But don't tell anyone who you listened to in the car, but publish all of your prison journals as a book and sell as many copies as possible. Yeah. You wrote -- The future has never seen so full of enrich and wonderful possibilities as when I was in a labor camp and literally had nothing but dreams. -- And I think that that's so amazing to be thinking about that while you’re getting beaten up by guards, getting fed rotten potatoes, watching people get killed around you who are dying of slave labor essentially, or the cold. And you learned a ton about yourself in prison. You don't have to be helpless in prison. And the little things that you write about -- seeing green leaves for 30 minutes a day or at the whole summer, sorry, not 30 minutes a day, 30 minutes for the whole summer, or catching 10 minutes of sunlight once a week, and finding joy in that -- that you wrote was the ultimate act of subversion and finding joy in a refusal to pay and obey in an active living by radically different values. So you still kind of have this punk rebel vibe in prison and that's how you credit your survival. That and knowing you had an army outside supporting you. So after you got out of prison, you visited a bunch of other prisons around the world. And I thought that was kind of an interesting choice because if I got out of prison, I don't know how quickly I'd be determined to get into a bunch more of them -- even as a tourist.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:48:43] I know. Honestly, it's a really great feeling when you're coming to prison as a tourist. I mean you know that you will be able to get back to freedom. It wasn't the main reason. The main reason was us really going deeply into prison reform issue. And we started an NGO that's called Zona Prava or Zone of Justice. And our goal was to find a way how to make Russian prison system better. And in order to do that, we didn't want to went in bicycle and we wanted to take a look how prison system is structured in different countries. And when we came to New York, we met Bill De Blasio who just become a Mayor of New York at that time and he made really nice reception for us and he was really kind and sweet and nice. And then he asked, “What can I do for you? How can I help you?” And we asked him if we can go to prison. And then the next day, he arranged the tour for us to Rikers Island.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:52] That's fast. Well, if there's one thing we do in the States really well, it's send people quickly to prison.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:49:56] Exactly. But I don't think it was a real tour. Like obviously when you go with officials to prison, then you don't see the real side of prison. But it was interesting for us anyway. And then after a couple of months, we ended up too in Rikers Island for the second time without Bill De Blasio at this moment. And it happened because we realized that Cecily McMillan who's Occupy Wall Street protestor, she ended up in prison because protesting basically because a policeman while arresting her, grabbed her by the breast and she just automatically elbowed him and she ended up in prison, not him, though he assaulted her. And she was facing seven years in jail, exactly the same amount of years as we were facing. So we would just understood that it's really, [00:50:55] [indiscernible] 30. And we talked about her in Washington, in the Senate and [indiscernible][00:51:02] the senators – poor senators and journalists. And then we jumped in plane, went to New York. And that was the time when we've seen real Rikers Island with the cue of relatives standing like really long line. I believe we were the only one white people in that line. And I remember asking my friend like, “Why don't they put white people in jail in America?” And so it was a beginning of my big question and big investigation. Why does it happen? So that’s America, but we had better experiences in prisons in our countries, in other countries, in Norway, for example. We ended up in Bastoy, which is a prison island. It contains of a number of cottage houses,
[00:52:02] and eight people live in each house with their own room. And their prison warden showed us a special cottage where prisoners can make music -- has guitars, electronic guitars, equipment for recording song and a number of CDs that prisoners recorded while they're in prison. And the same picture in Netherlands and basically, with Scandinavian countries are known for their attitude towards prisoners. And it works.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:41] For their warm attitude towards prisoners? So if you go to prison in Norway, you end up with a beach front dacha or cottage and a rec room. The only downside is you got to live with eight other or seven other people that you might not know or get along with. Not bad.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:52:56] They have normal prisons too. Like not normal, but they didn't have cells. They look like normal house. They're not islands, but it's like normal house with rooms and every prisoner has his own room. Yeah. But the attitudes towards prisoners are so different because it's all about self-realization. It's not about punishment. And that's why recidivism is much less in the Scandinavian countries, in Europe in general, than in America or Russia.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:33] Because it seems counterintuitive, why would the attitude of warmth and caring more about the prisoners help people not to go to prison? Right? It seems like it might be the other way around.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:53:44] Not really because there, the goal of prison is to help people to re-enter this society. The reasons why the people end up in prisons, mostly, they end up in prison because they were growing up not in a really light environment. They were traumatized when they were kids. They were growing up in poor families. They were growing up in separated families. They didn't have a good education, so they didn't have a chance to get a good job.
[00:54:16] They were assaulted by somebody. And so they feel like the whole humanity is against them. So when they end up in prison, they have to reestablish somehow this belief that they can work together with humanity. That people are not turned against them. So if you punish them, if you hurt them, if you traumatize them more deeply when they are in prison, they will definitely commit more crimes when they will get out of prison and they will come back. That's why in America, this rating recidivism?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:56] Recidivism. Yeah, don't worry, that word is hard for everybody. Native English speaker or not.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:54:59] Recidivism rating is quite high. You can compare America with Canada in terms of amount of crime rating. America has seven times more prisoners per capita than Canada. But crime rating is pretty much the same. It means that putting more people in jail doesn't help you necessarily to get rid of crimes. So I believe in America it's mostly about economy. It's mostly about prison industrial complex. It's about privatized prisons. And as far as I know, Barack Obama started to think about reforming, addressing prison question. And so when Donald Trump won presidential elections, I know that they got really excited about Trump because they knew that he will not shut private prisons down.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:00] So the private prison companies, their stock went up considerably when Donald Trump won the election. Yeah, I'm aware of that as well.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:56:07] And the last prison I want to talk with you about his prison in Germany, in Berlin. It's important this Stasi prison…
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:17] So former secret police from East Germany prison.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:56:21] Exactly. Yes. Many people were killed and tortured in that prison and now it looks like pretty nice place where people can move freely from their rooms to the kitchen where they have access to plates, knives, food -- they can cook and it's gained about realization.
[00:56:41] When prisoners are in system like Russian or American, when they don't have access to normal things, when they get out of prisoner to 10 or 15 or 20 years, they have no idea how to live normal life. And the philosophy of Stasi prison in Berlin is completely different. They are providing prisoners for the jobs that can be used later on by them in normal life. So they would give them various jobs that they can pick so that they can choose. It's not like you have to work, you have to. So police uniform, like it was with me like…
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:25] Yeah, you were sewing police uniforms with dull needles.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:57:28] Why would I need it outside of prison? I was trying to let them know that I don't want to have anything with police uniforms when I'll get out of prison. Actually, it would be much better for me and for my improvement because you know, they put it in prison to improve me as a human being. Just put me in the library and I'll improve myself in two years. I will be smarter, more educated person. Yep. So in German prison, you can choose if you work, if you don't work, if you can live in the library if you want to. And then I started to speak with the prisoners there in Russian. So that’s why I was sure that prison wardens couldn't understand what we're talking about. So the prisoners were really honest and they told me that the biggest problem that experienced so far is that they still don't have internet. Though they were promised to having the internet two months ago and fuck those cops didn’t.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:34] Seek human right. Seek human right, I’m telling you. If you gave me a choice between running water and internet, you'd see me outside catching rain, I'll tell you that.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:58:43] And then I asked like, “What if you have an affair?” That's fine. You can just write an application and they will let you live and sleep in one room.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:54] Unbelievable. Yeah, so you're on the prison campaign mission. That's one of your latest causes. I know you wrote that you find yourself in activist depression from time to time and it almost seems like you get into a pattern of self-doubt. It's almost like impostor syndrome, which I've talked about on the show a lot, where people who are really doing something, they start to feel like, “Well, am I really making a difference? Does this really matter?” That happens even to you?
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:59:22] Is it really? Does it happen not only to me, really? I mean, you're saying that it's a popular problem.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:32] Oh yeah. It's a popular problem. Yeah.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:59:34] And it happens to me a lot. Yeah. I just recently started to work with a therapist about this problem because before I didn't believe in psychological doctors. I was thinking that I can deal with everything by myself. But recently, I understood that it's really hard.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:55] Yeah. It's not wise to try to solve these problems on your own. We're not really equipped for it.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [00:59:59] Really? But I'm getting better. Yeah. So I would advise people to go to therapist from time to time.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:08] I think it's interesting that that happens even with you. And one of the common themes on the show is, we interview somebody who's maybe a Navy Seal special forces or some politician or a CEO of a big company. And what high performers all have in common is we all have these times where we go, ‘Yeah, what I'm doing sucks. This is worthless. It's pointless. What a waste of time. Everybody thinks I'm full of shit.”
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [01:00:29] Exactly me. The last time I was doing it, I was in the plane here to San Francisco so I was like, 8 hours ago.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:36] Yeah. Eight hours ago. You had a bunch of self-doubt creeping in.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [01:00:41] Exactly. I was thinking that everything what I'm doing sucks. My music sucks. My action sucks. I shouldn't be talking in front of people because I cannot tell the main thing interesting. And maybe it's true, but you know, it doesn't matter if it's true or not. You shouldn't feel these things. You should somehow deal with yourself to get rid of it because it doesn't bring you anything and you can’t really improve if you're full of these fears. So it's better to start acting and just improve step by step this situation by doing actually anything. Doing stuff.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:21] Yeah. By taking action. Yeah. I feel I agree with you. I think action ends that kind of suffering. I've said this before, like whenever I feel like absolute crap, I just try to learn something new or move forward in some way -- whether it's a breakup and you feel like you're worthless. So you want to learn a new language, that's definitely happened to me before. Or you just have self-doubt creep in and you decide, “Look, I'm going to figure out what I can do maybe to help somebody else.” And that action just nips it right in the bud.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [01:01:49] How many languages do you know?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:51] Me? Five. Yeah.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [01:01:53] So you really suffered a lot on this self-doubt?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:55] That's right. I've got endless amounts of self-doubt or just a lot of breakups, right? Break up with somebody gets him self-doubt? Learn a language -- rinse and repeat.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [01:02:07] Yeah. Actually it works like that. Yeah. When I stopped living with my ex-husband, I really learned English because he's bilingual and so I didn't feel like I have to really use English language. Though I knew it, but I was like, “Oh, I'm shy. I don't want to talk. You can talk.” I mean, you can translate but then I just realized that I'm on my own and I have to talk.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:39] Yeah. And I don't believe that you're shy. I mean, I'm just looking at some of the videos I saw on YouTube. Not really, maybe just shy with English, but certainly not shy in general.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [01:02:48] No, I'm shy. That's the thing. I still think that art is the best psychotherapy. I mean, it doesn't mean that you don't need therapist, but art is the best psychotherapy for me because I was the most modest, shy-est nerd ever.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:07] Well, you did, at age 14, have a crush on a revolutionary poet, which to me says nerd times a million. If you could meet with Vladimir Putin or talk with him, what would you say?
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [01:03:19] Nothing. Because I think it’s useless. I don't want to talk with him because I will not change his behavior.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:24] Not even? No point in it at all. He can hear from you through your art.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [01:03:30] He will not hear from me. I don't want to do useless actions.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:33] Just talking to a brick wall is what we said. That's the English expression for this.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [01:03:38] Exactly yes! We have this expression too. I just didn't know that you have expression too.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:43] Oh yeah. It's like talking to a brick wall. Ask any married person about talking to a brick wall, and they'll have an example for you. What advice do you have for people listening to this right now, who maybe that don't live in a free society and there's a lot of people listening to these in countries that are not free societies. What advice would you give them?
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [01:04:02] Wait a second. To imply that America is a free society?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:06] Yeah. Maybe I'm not. Maybe I'm implying the opposite, I don't know.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [01:04:10] That's funny. You sound like this Freedom House Organization right now, in Washington. And we were making so much fun of this organization like, you know, Republicans think tanks that are splitting globe. I didn't know how do they decide? So this country is free. This country's not free. These countries are free. I'm like, “How do you know? Did you ever live in this country?” Because as I was talking with somebody from Cuba, he’s like a taxi driver, obviously we all like to talk with taxi drivers, and he said like, in a way, obviously politically situation sucks in Cuba, but let's say like I really like to drink while I’m walking down the street, he said to me, and it's completely impossible here in New York when we had this conversation, but he was like, “Yeah, you can freely do it in Cuba.” So all your liberal bullshit about one country like the only one criteria by whether you can if this country free or not, it's not true exactly. But yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:23] So hopefully that's the only question that sounds like Freedom House Radio. Speaking of self-doubt, you got me too. You kicked me in the nuts on the last question. We've got to end on something different.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [01:05:32] No, I couldn't give advice just to people who are living in the world because I don't like boarders in general.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:42] Go for it. Throw me a freaking bone here, Nadya. Come on.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [01:05:50] Try to solve your problems through art first and old people asked me in America about like what can you advise as to, like if you want to go against Trump? I'm not a professional in American politics, but I think art can be really helpful to you because I haven't seen enough protest music, enough protest art since Trump was elected. Obviously, I've seen some good things, but I expected to see much more on 9th of November, 2016. I saw decking in the next few months. Everybody would search recording political albums like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift -- no, didn't happen including protest music like underground music. I'm constantly looking for more and more political art. And again, I'm not saying that there is no protest art, but as I was thinking it would be like huge wave of different genres that became political but it didn't happen. So just try like, I want to see it so badly.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:07:02] Do you think Americans are more passive than Russians when it comes to this or just more too passive in general?
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [01:07:08] They're not. I think it's the question of trend, think about punk -- it is really cool to make political art. I think it's just not considered as a cool thing to make political art now, so we have to somehow break this trend and I think it's just a matter of time.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:07:31] I think a lot of folks might think that what you're doing as an activist seems like really crazy. You know, you're going up and you're getting arrested in a church or you're protesting at the Olympics. Do you think it has to be like that? Because I think a lot of people would make political art, but they think, “Well, I can't just go and be Pussy Riot tomorrow.” There's got to be something, maybe a beginner step for people to make.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [01:07:51] No, we were writing music and we’re making music videos, which is pretty comfortable and conventional thing to do. You can do too.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:01] Simple as that.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [01:08:03]Yes.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:04] Nadya, thank you so much.
Nadya Tolokonnikova: [01:08:06]Thank you.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:07] Jason, did you know about Pussy Riot beforehand?
Jason DeFillippo: [01:08:11] I did. I did. I watched all the protests. I watched them go to jail. I was, you know, kind of wrapped with the news and I was amazed that you actually got her on the show. Good job, man.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:22] Yeah, man. She does not really like interviews. And it was funny because I had to kind of beg, borrow, steal for this one, you know, maybe no stealing -- but it was a tough one. She had a talk right after, she had a gap in the talk. So I drove up to San Francisco and she had just gotten off a plane and was kind of like, “Hey, you know.” She was super cool, super nice, actually relatively shy. And after the interview I was like, “Hey, you know, you got a lot of interview requests”, so she's like, “Yeah, I just don't like them. I like talking to you, but most interviewers aren't like you.” And I took that as a huge compliment because I can imagine she's been interviewed by some pretty impressive folks and yeah, people just, they don't do the homework.
[01:09:03] They asked the same stuff and we were just kind of chilling. You'll be able to see it on YouTube soon as well. We're really just kind of hanging out in this studio. And she kept bumping the mic because I think she forgot it was there. And that was also, I took that as a compliment because it's not like she's not used to a microphone. She's a freaking musician. I thought it went really well. And I really enjoy these kinds of a-little-bit-off-the-beaten-path interviews. They're unique, you know? And that's rare.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:09:29] It's nice that we can do these things now. And it's gratifying that you can get people that you want to have on the show every now and again -- which is awesome. And I'm really, you know, I'm really proud of this interview. You did a great job, man.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:39 ] Thank you. And a great big thank you to Nadya Tolokonnikova, that book is called Read and Riot. And you're darn right. I worked on pronouncing her name. I'm going to use it. That's why I had done it four or five times in the intro and the close here. It was not easy. You try it. Just try it right now. I’ll wait.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:09:56] Nadya Tolokonnikova.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:58 ] Fine. Screw you. If you want to know how I managed to book great people like Nadya Tolokonnikova and manage my relationships using systems and tiny habits, check out our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. And look, I know you think you're going to do it later -- you're not going to do it later. You're going to kick that can down the road and then you're going to go, “Oh no, I didn't dig the well before I got thirsty.
[01:10:24] I need these relationships now, and now I'm too late.” These drills are designed to take just a few minutes per day. I really wish I knew this stuff a decade and change ago. This is not fluff. This is crucial to move forward. You can find it all for free at jordanharbinger.com/course. Speaking of building relationships, tell me your number one takeaway here from Nadya. I'm @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram. And don't forget, if you want to learn how to apply everything you heard and learned today from Nadya Tolokonnikova, make sure you go grab the worksheets. Also in the show notes at JordanHarbinger.com/podcast. This show is produced in association with PodcastOne and this episode was co-produced by Jason “the linguist” DeFillippo and Jen Harbinger. Show notes by Robert Fogarty. Worksheets by Caleb Bacon. And I'm your host, Jordan Harbinger. The fee for the show is you share it with friends when you find something useful, which is hopefully in every single episode. So please share the show with those you love and even those you don't. We get a lot more in the pipeline ready and excited to bring it to you. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show so you can live what you listen and we'll see you next time.
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