Alina from Izhevsk found out that [Roskomnadzor] had begun in Ukraine on her shift at the hospital. She tried hard not to cry in front of her patients in the first days. In March, the young woman changed: she began openly expressing her position and spreading information about what was happening in the neighboring country. Feminists Against War (FAW for short), the horizontal movement of women which appeared on February 25, helped her become braver. Read 7x7’s text with the stories of the feminist resistance’s participants from the regions of Russia: what they are fighting for and why they believe that Russian women have become the face of protest.
Women in black
Alya, a student from Murmansk, celebrated her 18th birthday two weeks before [Roskomnadzor]. Then she dreamed of moving to her partner in Ukraine. He lived in Bucha.
“I am not sure how I would feel about [Roskomnadzor] if I did not have a Ukrainian partner and did not know the history of relations between Ukraine and Russia from him — not the kind they tell us in schools,” said Alya.
The young woman held her first protest rally on February 27. And in March, she saw the announcement of the Women in Black Action in one of the Telegram news channels. The participants of the rally had to wear mourning clothes and take to the streets of their city on March 18 — the holiday of the reunification of Crimea and Russia. The announcement was published by FAW’s channel. Alya followed it and joined her associates.
The feminist resistance appeared on February 25, 2022. It has no formal leaders and coordinators. People and organizations from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Turkey and other countries participate in the movement. By April 15, 30.4 thousand people followed FAW’s channel in Telegram. They are united by their opinion on the events in Ukraine and a wish to express their position publicly or anonymously.
The Women in Black Action was FAW’s first notable initiative. When Alya from Murmansk took to the streets in mourning clothes, she was detained, but later released without a protocol. She is not afraid of policemen anymore. The protest has made her more radical: the young woman wears a homemade patch on her bag, wears blue and yellow. Because of this, an unknown teenager called her a "Ukrainian piggie".
Alya's partner managed to leave Bucha for Poland after [Roskomnadzor] began.
The state where I live
Russian women are following the fate of their Ukrainian friends. Hashtags #голоса_украинок (‘the voices of Ukrainian women’) and #голоса_россиянок (‘the voices of Russian women’) appeared on Twitter. Activists publish monologues of women on both sides of the border there.
Every time Sofia goes to feminist protests in Novosibirsk, she remembers the messages of her friends from Ukraine saying, "Something boomed, just do not worry, but it was very close," "There is no electricity, we do not know how to leave," "Tanks are under my windows, I am scared, I pulled the mattress out into the hallway, and I am lying in total darkness." In the early morning of February 24, Sofia, along with a friend from Kiev, watched a movie via video link.
“An hour ago, we were laughing at some nonsense, but [Roskomnadzor] began, and the state where I live [Roskomnadzor] the state where she lives,” the young woman recalls.
She began putting up FAW’s leaflets and telling others about what was happening in Ukraine.
"’Now someone is crying, someone is silent, and someone is happy, someone is happy’," she quotes Tsoi. "Happy with Z’s on cars and with a big smile on their face. I no longer want to consider this country my homeland, there is nothing to like here."
Breaking into the media landscape
Leaflets were one of the main methods of the feminist resistance. Sonya from Ivanovo Oblast explained why.
"My goal is to break into the media landscape of citizens who do not have access to an alternative point of view. Propaganda's screams are deafening. We should not be silent! We do not have access to TV, but we do have access to the streets.
An anti-[Roskomnadzor] poster will find a person at a bus stop near his house, regardless of his political interests, — unlike links and posts in social networks."
Sonya from Vologda goes to high school and is afraid to hold street rallies because of her age. She made a badge and a patch, began writing thematic poems — without publication prospects for now.
“Censorship is getting tighter and tighter. I have to think twice about what consequences there can be both for my family and me. What I use is more of an opinion demonstration than a fight. That is why I am looking for new tools,” she says.
Sisters and aunts of Anastasia from Kirov lived in Donbass, her uncle and brother stayed in Kiev. Anastasia was preparing to celebrate her son's birthday on February 24.
"I was busy with the children, preparing for the congratulations and following the news at the same time. The world seemed to have split into the usual cozy and somehow alien and surreal one. I still live in this feeling of duality," the woman says.
Anastasia, like other activists of the feminist resistance, began looking for an available way to protest. [Here she talked about what she was doing, but we cannot publish it because of the requirements of Roskomnadzor.]
I would go against myself
FAW has no leaders, the participants most often act anonymously, that is why it is difficult for the associates to find each other and unite. It becomes a problem for some of them, while it gives the others a sense of security and independence.
Tatyana from Yakutsk distributed leaflets, and on March 7, she held an anti-[Roskomnadzor] rally. Another young woman came to the central square together with her. Both spent a day in a detention center; they were taken to court the next day. Tatyana continued participating in the resistance alone: she donates money to independent media and distributes information in social networks.
A designer who asked to be called by her nickname, RASSVET, creates art projects and embodies them in the streets of one of the cities of the Krasnoyarsk Krai,
“I knew that if I did not find any anti-[Roskomnadzor] associations, I would go against myself. I will kill a human being inside me if I turn a blind eye.”
Those feminists who do not find support in the family are trying to unite. Ekaterina, an artist from Voronezh, could not sleep in the first days of [Roskomnadzor], fought with anxiety attacks. She felt better when surrounded by her friends, so the young women began going to the rallies together: "We decided that it would be wrong and inhumane to isolate ourselves. And unification is necessary in order to feel that you are not alone."
Ekaterina wanted to create a series of paintings about spring by its beginning. She only draws anti-[Roskomnadzor]-themed paintings now and takes them to the streets. The young woman thinks that feminists from the resistance need lectures, discussions, plein-airs. Activists could attend them to rest together.
This is how we are brought up
FAW is the largest anti-[Roskomnadzor] movement in Russia by the number of followers in social networks. The feminist resistance’s pages in social networks have 45 thousand followers. The Vesna (‘spring’) Youth Movement, which has a similar position, has 37 thousand followers, the Socialist Alternative Party has 30.7 thousand followers. The participants believe that this is natural.
S. and her associates live in a city in Leningrad Oblast on the border with Estonia. When S. joined a chat of those who were going to an anti-[Roskomnadzor] rally in St. Petersburg, she was surprised: there were only three men out of 50 participants. All the others were young women and non-binary people.
“This is because we have to defend our rights more often than men and think about the future much more because of the prevailing gender norms in the country”, she believes.
RASSVET partially agrees with her. "In this [Roskomnadzor], I see a reflection of many problems that women have been fighting with internally for years, while men swatted it away. For example, the problem of tolerance to violence or even a request for it."
Alya from Murmansk is sure that Russian women have become the face of the protest because they are attentive to people’s agony, ready to fight injustice hard.
A feminist from Yekaterinburg who introduced herself as Beatka called gender socialization the main reason for the female majority in the protests. "This is how we are brought up — to be responsible for our brothers, future husbands and children, to show empathy and compassion."
Feminists believe that women become the main victims of conflicts in any country. And this is not just about [Roskomnadzor].
“Women become victims of menstrual poverty. [Roskomnadzor] is not hygienic at all and is incredibly scary — including small everyday humiliations,” says A., a teacher from Murmansk Oblast.
The goal is to inspire
Other Russian organizations are working along the FAW. Supporters of the Vesna Movement, which originated in St. Petersburg, have been organizing political rallies and performances, gathering rallies, participating in elections since 2014. Maria, an activist of the Siberian division of Vesna, said that she "cried when Putin announced the recognition of the LDPR".
“But I cried when I found out about [Roskomnadzor]. When I finished reading the news, I immediately started working. A clear realization has come: I cannot be lazy anymore. If I want to live in peace, in a free country, I have to give my all. The fear of saying the wrong thing, of being abrupt are gone, shyness is gone. It seemed to me that I was able to break the door to Putin's office down and tell him everything in his face.
Members of the Socialist Alternative Party, which has been operating since 2016, are in solidarity with feminists. A., a teacher from a small town in Samara Oblast, saw leaflets of the Socialist Alternative in social networks and decided to put them up in the streets. Colleagues at her school refused to hold actions and homeroom periods in support of [Roskomnadzor].
The FAW’s example inspires Russian women to create their own movements. Student K. from Kazan drew posters together with her friends on the second day of the [Roskomnadzor]. They hung in place for two minutes; the activists will have to pay fines. K. saw paddy wagons in the city every day. Because of them, people are afraid to hold protests: they know that they will be detained immediately. But K. and her friends have founded a student resistance group.
“Our goal is to inspire other students and not only them to unite with friends and associates, to help us in the fight against [Roskomnadzor] at least at the level of educational institutions.”
People from related fields, such as eco-activism, join the feminist resistance. An eco-activist from Novosibirsk with the nickname Sova (‘Owl’) started protesting for the sake of the future of her newborn daughter.
“It seemed to me for several days that I was sleeping and could not wake up, that this was a nightmare and could not be true. We are building a bright future, saving the planet. There can be no [Roskomnadzor] in the 21st century!”
Sova cannot "just go somewhere in a paddy wagon" because of her daughter. She recalls that at environmental-oriented rallies, as well as anti-[Roskomnadzor] protests, the majority are women.
“Men are being torn. They have been told what to feel and what not to feel since childhood. Now I understand why,” she says.
I am not abandoning Russia
All FAW’s participants who shared their stories with 7x7 want to stay in the movement when [Roskomnadzor] ends. They hope to build an equal-right society in Russia.
Anastasia from Kirov believes that the resistance can become a political party or a movement that will work at the legislative level. Ekaterina from Voronezh hopes that it is women who will be given posts in all spheres of society. Student Sonya plans to build a "bright future Russia".
“I am not abandoning it. Even if my love for Russia is unrequited.”
Alya from Murmansk is sure that women will save future Russia. They should take senior government positions, adopt "feminist laws" — on criminalizing domestic violence, on introducing abortions into the obligatory medical insurance policy, on abolishing the list of professions prohibited for women, on state funding of crisis centers for women who had to deal with domestic violence.
Teacher A. from Samara Oblast dreams of living in a country without a cult of power. She says about the role of women, "We, who are used to everyday violence, know what it does and will be able to stop it."
Hadiya from Ufa supports this idea.
“Russia has already been in a state of an internal [Roskomnadzor], where dissenters are killed, poisoned, tortured, husbands and cohabitants kill and maim thousands of women every year. [Roskomnadzor] is a consequence of the patriarchy. Therefore, I want to see a woman as the future president of Russia.”