Eleven Silent Men

Speech balloon: “The children of officials won’t be going to the front. No war!” Movie poster: “An Alexei Pimanov film. Eleven Silent Men. In theaters from February 17.”

February 14, 2022

We have received a message from an anonymous activist group and are posting it to declare our support.

This is not the time to be discouraged! No one but us will save the world!

On the eve of a major war, Russia looks disconcertingly unanimous. Although the majority of the population has a negative attitude to war with Ukraine, their opinion is not represented at all in the media or the national conservation.

The media is completely controlled by the state. There is no force yet to organize rallies. High-profile opposition figures are either in prison or have left the country. Individual protest is also virtually banned — solo picketers are sent to jail and sentenced to absurdly huge fines. In the media, reports of arrests overshadow the meaning of the protest actions themselves, while on social media, information is distributed only among people who are already politicized. The police are hunting down all the more or less well-known opposition activists and preemptively throwing them in jail.

But the situation can be changed. It is easy to imagine Russian cities covered with anti-war agitation. In such circumstances, there would be no talk of the unanimity of the regime and the people in the face of war. People who came out to protest brandishing creative posters a year ago may well not want to stand holding them and wait to get arrested, but they could paste a dozen such posters on fences, walls, window niches, billboards, and the reverse side of road signs. Graffiti, stencils, leaflets in mailboxes and on shopping mall stands, business cards in elevators — we are limited only by our imaginations.

We are not talking about one-off heroic actions, or large formats, although large formats would do, but about daily, slightly routine, thoughtful, and maximally safe work to change the urban environment here and now.

The target of this activity would be the still passive 50% of society — the lower strata of the working class, pensioners, and apolitical youth who do not read opposition bloggers, and who until now have had things other than politics to worry about. It is these segments of the populace that war, a collapse of the ruble, and a rise in prices would hit first and foremost, and it is these people who need to be shown that people opposed to war do exist.

The authorities will certainly put street cleaners to work [tearing down the anti-war posters], but as the snowfalls have shown, the resources of the municipal services are very limited. By engaging reliable friends who will watch our backs when we are putting up posters, we can become an anti-war snowfall ourselves. This snow will trigger a political spring!

The authorities will beef up foot patrols and continue preventive arrests, but the more people take part in the snowfall, the safer it will be for the rest. However, we shouldn’t forget about cameras, hoods, and PPE either.

Don’t be scared, get organized! Think globally, act locally! Don’t wait for leaders, be leaders! Let’s meet on the streets!

#NoWar! #HandsOffUkraine!

You can find more illustrations of this street anti-war agitprop at the original Facebook post. Translated by the Russian Reader

At the Aid Center for Displaced Persons in Kyiv

Vadim F. Lurie
February 13, 2022

It’s quite shameful to talk about one’s own experiences of the war, which are minor compared to the experiences of people who found themselves in the war’s meat grinder. But I just wanted to say where it was that I got the strongest impressions of Ukraine’s new wartime reality . Not at the war museum in Kyiv (where the captured “export” tanks are located), not at the military hospital where I spoke with the wounded, not at the checkpoints or when I saw the aftermath of shelling in Stanytsia Luhanska and other places. And not even from the stories of survivors of the (torture) basements or the shelling. What was probably hardest for me back in 2016 was visiting the aid center for displaced persons in Kyiv, where people who had sometimes fled the war with only the clothes on their back could get basic things they needed and receive various forms of assistance. There is no forgiveness for those who killed tens of thousands of people and made millions of Ukrainians refugees.

Photo by Vadim F. Lurie. Translated by the Russian Reader