Alexander (Sasha) Sofeev is a Russian artist, activist and member of Pussy Riot since 2012. His art and activism are centered on themes of protest,police brutality, political prisoners, LGBTQ rights and feminism in the Russian Federation. As a prominent member of the group, he has been the target of a concerted campaign of political persecution, leaving him no choice but to leave Russia.
Along with fellow artists and Pussy Riot members Ann Kuzminykh, Nika Nikulshina as well as Roma Durov, Alexander Sofeev recently escaped to Georgia, where he is currently an AR-Resident at Artists at Risk (AR)-Tbilisi at Untitled Gallery.
Sofeev’s marriage of art and activism date back to the campaign for the release of Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina in 2012, who were imprisoned in response to their protest piece of performance art, the “punk prayer” Mother of God, Drive Putin Away, at Moscow’s central cathedral.
In 2013, Sofeev participated in a protest-exhibition held near the prison in Mordavia at which Tolokonnikova was incarcerated. At the time, she was on hunger strike in protest against the conditions of forced-labour and what amounted to torture of the inmates. Alongside other Pussy Riot members and affiliates, he protested outside the prison in support of her cause for several weeks.
In 2017, Alexander organised an art-action to advocate for the freedom of jailed Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison on falsified charges following the occupation of Crimea. This action took place near the penal colony where Sentsov was held, in Eastern Siberia.
In the spring of 2018, Sofeev also was part of a performance action in support of the messaging service Telegram, which had been banned across Russia. With other activists, he threw paper planes (the icon of the Telegram service) at the headquarters of the FSB, Russia’s state security agency, which resulted in police reprisals.
In 2020, Sofeev was involved, alongside Ann Kuzminykh and Nika Nikulshina, in Pussy Riot’s action on Red Square to protest the new amendment to the Russian Constitution which was designed to grant Putin an extension of his term of office until at least 2036. The artists-activists lay down on the Square, their bodies forming the numbers 2036, in reference to the famous 1991 protest by Soviet conceptual art group E.T.I.
Later in 2020 on Putin’s birthday, Masha Alekhina, Sofeev, Nikulshina and other members of Pussy Riot staged a performance-action across Moscow, hanging Pride flags on major government and administrative buildings in protest at his government’s oppressive policies on LGBTQ rights. As part of this performance a manifesto was released including demands for investigations into the murder and dissapearance of LGBTQ people; an end to the harassment of LGBTQ activists and organisations; and laws preventing discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation, including the legalisation of same-sex partnerships.
This past year, Sofeev co-founded the Queer Studio Project, which held a charity festival in support of arrested Pussy Riot members Maria Alekhina and Lucy Stein and the wider LGBTQ community in Russia. Several Russian artists and over a thousand people attended this festival, but it was shut down by the police and pro-government fascist militias.
Related at AR:
- Telegram campaign in support of free internet. Photo report (in Russian)
- Light for Sentsov
- Pussy Riot Members Arrested in Russia Following LGBTQ Flag Protest
- Pussy Riot Flies LGBT Flags From Gov’t Buildings to Mark Putin’s Birthday
- Russian police detain Pussy Riot activists for hanging pride flags around Moscow
- Pussy Riot mark Putin’s birthday with rainbow flags | LGBTQ+ flags on Russian government buildings
- Russia World Cup: How Pussy Riot managed to burst into final
Alexander (Sasha) Sofeev is an Artists at Risk (AR)-Resident at the Artists at Risk (AR)-Untitled Gallery Residency in Tbilisi, Georgia. The programme is funded by the Artists at Risk (AR)-Bridging Fund, with support from Kone Foundation and organised by PM as part of the AR-Network.