A letter from Russia
Hi from nowhere, my name Maria Kuvshinova, before Feb 24 I used to be a Russian film critic and a cofounder of a feminist cinema web site which is now frozen or even closed (I really don’t know). I see no use (and no right) in covering Russian cinema after the horror of Bucha, Mariupol and many other cities of Ukraine. One of my Ukranian friends wrote on Facebook, that Russian culture has a moral obligation to be silent for at least 10 years only reflecting its imperial essence and exploring of the roots of evil manifested by the Russian army in Ukraine (and before Ukraine in Chechnya, Georgia and many other places of the former empire). I agree with him.
As thousands of Russians I left the country after being arrested during an anti-war rally in Saint Petersburg on February 27. After the first days of intense anti-war protests, no possibility left even to call the current war a “war” publicly and not risking to be arrested with a potential of a 15 years term in prison due to a new “anti-fake’ law (officially it’s not a war, but a “special operation”). People who had no chance to leave the country are now checking their clothes for yellow and blue (the colors of the Ukrainian flag) before going out, as far as the police arresting people dressed in these two colors or wearing a greed band (symbol of protest) or something white-blue-white (a project for a new Russian flag without it’s blood-red bottom stripe). Anyone with any poster in hands with any text (or even without text, sometimes people just use 8 stars — *** ***** — which means “no to war’, “нет войне”) are being captured by police in seconds. People are being fired or/and arrested for spreading any information about this war on the internet. The price of a protest still low (a penalty or few weeks in prison), but tortures and humiliation is not a rare thing at the police stations and two arrests in a row would lead to a stronger punishment. And we don’t know how the repressive machine will act in a couple of months.
So, they are doing everything to shut down any protest. But people are still protesting and getting arrested every single day.
Surprisingly for many (but not for me) the most powerful, creative and organized ant-war movement in Russia nowadyas is a Feminist Anti-War Resistance emerged on Feb 25, the second day of war. Their telegram group includes 30 000 readers and participants, inventing more and more forms of protest on a daily basis, absorbing upcoming ideas of anonymous activists from dozens of Russian cities. They’re successfully trying to break through the lies broadcasted by the state propaganda by changing price tags in the supermarkets with anti-war messages, writing “no to war” on banknotes and contracting improvised memorials marked with a burial crosses in their yards. They are wearing black clothes each Friday (and also being arrested for that), supporting the strike fund (unfortunately no strikes yet), publishing evidence from Ukrainian women and inspiring readers to invent their own forms of protest. There are some public figures behind the FAR-group such as Daria Serenko, a poet, and Ella Rossman, a scholar (both are outside of Russia), but the movement is constructed as a horizontal no-leader organization easy to join only by willing to join.
Why the Feminist Anti-War Resistance is so successful (not in stopping this war by now, but in giving hope to many)? Russian authorities have been erasing all forms of political protest for years, but the growing feminist movement was never taken seriously by the men in power. The state ignored the demands of laws protecting women from the domestic violence or representation of women in power structures (or even on screen). Feminists were pariahs in mainstream media, and film industry, and literature circles and everywhere else. They were mocked by elites and constantly persecuted by far-right villains. But for all these years they (we) were raising their (ours) voice against violence and creating networks. Russian feminists already knew the enemy Ukraine is facing today: Russian militarism and imperial chauvinism they’re facing for years. Russian feminists know very well how all forms of violence are interconnected.
I really don’t know the future. I just want the war to be over and I don’t even bother with the Russian future or even with my own future. But every time I open the FAR channel on telegram I think that we may still have some future.
Maria Kuvshinova (1978), Russian film critic from Saint Petersburg. Cofounder of KKBBD.com