Three generations of Russian women protesting the war: The female face of resistance 

Ekaterina Kyazhina
August 26, 2022

Since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine people across Russia have been trying to speak up and protest the war, as well as Putin’s regime. Thousands of Russians were detained, and hundreds prosecuted. Within the first ten days since the invasion, the government introduced 3 new laws on spreading fake information about the Russian army or publicly discrediting its actions. The new laws threatened all the opposition media in the country and made it dangerous even to mention such words as “war” or “peace”. 

Nevertheless, the protest in Russia was still happening: on the streets, in the supermarkets, on the internet and even on Federal television. Most of it has a female face. 

Sasha Skolichenko

On the 31st of March 2022, a young queer artist from Saint-Petersburg changed the price tags in a local store with messages about war crimes in Mariupol, the second-largest city in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine. Now, Sasha Skolichenko is facing up to 10 years in prison. 

Despite her ill health, specifically the problems with her heart, Sasha has been denied access to prescription medication and a gluten-free diet and was refused a doctor’s visit. Sasha’s tooth was pulled out in the pre-detention centre, but the wound was not stitched. As a result of the infection, Sasha developed infective endocarditis. Eventually, she was forcefully placed in a psychiatric hospital “for expertise”. 

Sasha still continues protesting, even from inside the detention centre. She draws, writes poems and continues advocating for the end of the war. In her interview with the “Washington Post”, Sasha said that she was not an activist but an artist, a performer. She considers her time in jail as an antiwar protest, calling it her largest work: “It not only cannot be stopped by our authorities but it comes with their full support and funding”

Marina Ovsyannikova 

In March 2022 the woman appeared behind the back of the anchor during the evening news on Channel One with a poster saying: “No war. Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda. Here they are lying to you.” The woman was Marina Ovsyannikova. She had been working on Channel One, a state-controlled television channel, for several years as an editor.   

“What is now happening in Ukraine is a crime, and Russia is the aggressor. And the responsibility for this aggression lies on the consciousness of only one person. This man is Vladimir Putin…Unfortunately, in recent years I have been working on Channel One, working for Kremlin’s propaganda. And I am very ashamed of it. I’m ashamed that I was letting them tell those lies from the screen…It’s up to us to stop this madness. Come out to rallies, don’t be afraid of anything. They can’t imprison all of us”. 

Marina was instantly detained and spent a night at the police station, where she was denied access to her lawyers. In July 2022 Ovsyannikova went on the protest in front of the Kremlin holding a poster which said Putin is a killer, his soldiers are fascists. 352 children have died. How many more have to die for you to stop? Almost a month later police came to search her apartment. Marina is now prosecuted under the law for spreading fake news about the Russian army.  She is under house arrest. 

Elena Osipova 

Elena is a 76 years old artist, sometimes referred to as the “conscious of Saint-Petersburg”. In March 2022 Elena was detained several times while holding an anti-war poster she drew herself. The poster said: “Putin is war. We don't want to die for Putin.”

"What's happening is a disgrace. So many people are being killed. The authorities are trying to arouse patriotic feelings in the public. But it's all a deception. And many are deceived by the propaganda that has gone on for years and that has changed people. It's terrible." – Elena said in an interview with BBC. She started protesting Putin’s regime in 2002 during the Second Chechen War when the hostage crisis happened in Moscow’s Dubrovka Theater. “That indifference is our main problem. We’re too late. If people had come out and protested from the beginning, maybe everything would have turned out differently.” — she said. 

The Russian anti-war movement has a female face. Most of the solo pickets are organized by women. The only senator publicly opposing the war was Ludmila Narusova. On March 20, six women blocked the traffic on a bridge across the river: they demanded information about their husbands and sons, who were serving in the military and disappeared after the start of the war. All of them were detained.

Feminist anti-war resistance is one of the biggest movements for peace that is still operating right now. They publish and distribute their own anti-war paper, help refugees and organize outdoor agitation to demilitarize Russia. Their manifesto states

“War means violence, poverty, forced displacement, broken lives, insecurity, and the lack of a future. It is irreconcilable with the essential values and goals of the feminist movement. War exacerbates gender inequality and sets back gains for human rights by many years. War brings with it not only the violence of bombs and bullets but also sexual violence: as history shows, during war, the risk of being raped increases several times for any woman. For these and many other reasons, Russian feminists and those who share feminist values ​​need to take a strong stand against this war unleashed by the leadership of our country.” - Feminist Anti-war resistance manifesto 

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