Pussy Riot's Nadya Tolokonnikova on Supporting Bernie Sanders

"I need to see come inspirational things going on in another country," says Tolokonnikova

American voters are, on the whole, pretty jaded about the political process. Just over half of the U.S. population (53 percent) voted in 2012 presidential election. In the 2014 midterms, that number sunk to 36 percent, the lowest of any election since the before World War II.

Non-voters give a variety of excuses for not participating — "too busy," "not interested," "forgot," "inconvenient" — but each of them boils down to the fact that they just don't think voting will make much of a difference in their lives.

Pussy Riot's Nadya Tolokonnikova knows the feeling; the difference, of course, is that in her native country, Russia, there's a lot more evidence to suggest her vote really doesn't count.

"It is interesting for me, American politics. There are a lot of problems which are similar in the U.S. and Russia — for example, the prison system" and income inequality," she tells Rolling StoneBut, she adds, "the political system in the United States is much more open than in Russia."

She notes that for the most part, Americans "aren't attacked for their political views, and they aren't put in prison." Tolokonnikova knows about that kind of treatment firsthand: She spent nearly two years in a Russian prison after she staged a symbolic protest against Vladimir Putin in a Moscow cathedral.

These days she works on prison reform in Russia, and is watching the U.S. election closely for strategies that she might be able to put to use at home.

The emphasis Bernie Sanders has placed on the issue of prison reform helped convince her to use her celebrity to support him. She also admires his dedication to addressing income inequality. "The difference in salaries, this problem which was raised by the Occupy Wall Street movement — one percent and 99 percent — in Russia this problem is even stronger," she says.

She likes that Sanders advocates for breaking up the big banks, raising the minimum wage and increasing taxes on the wealthy. "Last year I was quite sad and disappointed because it seemed to me that the voices of these people who started Occupy Wall Street, they are not so loud anymore. But now you can see that Bernie, he expressed his voice on a political level."

Tolokonnikova says she's genuinely curious if Russia's problems might get solved in a place with "less free media and elections" — not that the media is entirely free in the U.S., she's quick to add. "You have different owners of this media, and it's not like in Russia where all media are owned by just one person, who is Putin, and who is in the Kremlin. So it's more diverse anyway. It's not so solid and the structure of power is not so vertical."

Tolokonnikova, who released a song about Russia's prosecutor general, Yuri Chaika, with Pussy Riot earlier this month, says she's writing a song about Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

In the meantime, she has a message for apathetic American voters. "I want to ask all people who... couldn't decide anything to go and vote for Bernie," she says. "His presence in our current campaign, it is a miracle."

"I need to see some inspirational things going on in another country, because it could inspire me and other activists to work more and work harder in Russia. Please be our inspiration."