Maria Alyokhina is the closest thing modern-day Russia has to a rock star. And the diminutive 29-year old, clad in black with mousy blonde hair spilling out from under a beret, isn’t even a musician. For the past four years, she and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, fellow founder of the feminist punk art collective Pussy Riot, have traveled the world with the story of their time in remote prison camps — where they were sentenced to two years for their extraordinary protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin on the altar of Moscow’s main cathedral. They have made music videos with Chloë Sevigny and posed for photographs with celebrities from Yoko Ono to Hillary Clinton. They even had a scene-stealing cameo in a Putin-themed episode of House of Cards. Yet in her native city she cuts a low-key figure. "Who could ever have thought all this’d really happen," she sighs, as I turn on my tape recorder. I arrived at Dom 12, an unassuming café tucked into Moscow’s expensive Golden Mile district,...

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