7 anti-war street artists still working in Russia

From the first day of the invasion of Ukraine, anti-war art spread through the streets and squares of Russian cities. And, despite detentions and fines, for 10 months they continued to protest against Russian militarism.

The Moscow Times selected seven of the most compelling anti-war artists and spoke to some of them about their work and their lives.

Yav Art Group

“Window on Europe” by the artistic group Yav
Yav/Instagram Art Group

The experimental art group Yav (“reality”) from St. Petersburg was founded by Anastasia Vladychkina. “My life motto is ‘what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger’,” she said.

Prior to February, members of Yav painted his murals on the walls that a lot of people could see, but after the war started they started painting on abandoned buildings or fences – so there would be less chance of a fine.

One of their most recent works is called “A Window on Europe” and was painted in an industrial district. This famous phrase was first used by Venetian poet Francesco Algarotti on a trip to Russia. Later, the poet Alexander Pushkin used it in his poem “The Bronze Horseman”. Today, St. Petersburg is still often called “Russia’s window to Europe,” but in Yav’s work, the window to the West is barricaded with blood-splattered concrete bricks.


“Vladimir Solovyov” by Koin
Koin / Instagram

The anonymous underground artist Koin began painting a series of gruesome creatures when opposition leader Alexei Navalny was arrested in 2021. Since then, Koin has posted devastating portrayals of Russian politicians and elites on social media as grotesque vampires and monsters .

Without being strictly speaking a “street” artist, his work is widely available online, especially on social networks.

“Some time ago I stopped painting because I didn’t want to work on this horrible theme anymore, I didn’t want anything to do with dirty politics anymore… But after February 24, I started again, and now I can’t stop. I was depressed and disappointed with the war and what people thought about it. I was disappointed by people. I don’t really know how to live with this. It may sound selfish, but I make art because it helps me. I release the toxic emotions that poison me – anger, rage, fear, disgust. I know that my work also helps other people in this field,” Koin told the Moscow Times.

Elena Osipova

Saint Petersburg artist and activist Yelena Osipova on Nevsky Prospekt.
Sergei Rybezhsky / Kommersant

Elena Osipova has been called “the conscience of St. Petersburg.” The 77-year-old retiree has been protesting Putin’s regime for two decades. Although she has been repeatedly fined and arrested, she will not stop even in times of war.

During the May Day holiday, she took her latest work to the city’s main street, Nevsky Prospekt. His painting had the words “international solidarity”, “no war” and “21st century: wars kill humanity”.

Journalists Yelena Lukyanova and Alexei Dushutin of independent media Novaya Gazeta had photographed her and was standing next to her when the police arrived. Journalists were sent to the police station, the police took Osipova home — and the painting was confiscated.


“Only rain should fall from the sky” by Ffchw

Perm street artist Ffchw creates provocative street art about life in Russia. But sometimes provocation is barely provocative. On December 24, he was arrested while working on a new piece of street art titled “See you soon…” written in different languages ​​including Ukrainian.

Ffchw’s favorite song is called “Only the rain should fall from the sky”.

“All my works are made from the heart and I have no regrets,” he told the Moscow Times.

“After February 24, I had to look for a new language for my statements. My art is divided into ‘before’ and ‘after’. Now, it also comes with many emotions like guilt and fear over the horrific and catastrophic events that are unfolding. I’m sure art can change lives, but can it change diets? I do not know.”

Vladimir Ovchinnikov

Vladimir Ovchinnikov next to his graffiti in Borovsk. Vladimir Ovchinnikov / Facebook

Vladimir Ovchinnikov next to his graffiti in Borovsk.
Vladimir Ovchinnikov / Facebook

Vladimir Ovchinnikov85 years old, is a well-known figure from Borovsk, a small town in 10,000 people not far from Moscow.

Ovchinnikov was fined 35,000 rubles ($475) earlier this year for drawing a little girl wearing the colors of the Ukrainian flag with three bombs falling on one of the buildings in his town. Under his image, he wrote: “STOP”.

The mural was repainted, but later Ovchinnikov painted a new piece in the same place – the word “bezumie” (“madness”) in Russian with the Latin letter Z – the Kremlin symbol of his “special military operation”.

Micha Marker

“Goes *****” by Misha Marker
Misha Marker / Instagram

The works of one of the most famous Russian street artists, Micha Marker, are repainted almost as soon as they appear on the streets of St. Petersburg. But that doesn’t stop him. Before the war, his work was exhibited in many galleries and museums, including the Russian Museum. Marker hides his face in public so no one knows what he looks like or how old he is.

In recent works, he uses five snowflake-like asterisks as a replacement for the Russian word for “war” (the word is forbidden by Russian law and people are supposed to use the phrase “military operation” instead). special”.)



“Repka” by Zoom

Like many other Russian street artists, Zoom does not reveal his real name or appearance and speaks to his audience through social media and graffiti.

His works previously appeared on the streets of Moscow, but now he works mainly in St. Petersburg.

His recent painting “Turnip” refers to the famous Russian folk tale “The gigantic turnip.” In this tale, a grandfather plants a turnip, which grows so large that he cannot pull it out himself. He asks his wife, but even together they can’t. Afterwards, their granddaughter and their pets are also recruited to help them, until they finally pull the turnip out of the ground.

Zoom painted its version of the tale with a nuclear explosion and skeletons over Ulitsa Khersona, named after the Ukrainian town occupied by Russian forces for 8 months this year.

“I first showed this work a few years ago at a solo show, but its street version is now more relevant than ever. People see that this is no joke,” Zoom told the Moscow Times.

“We live in traumatic but very interesting times. My personal challenge is to create works that unite people and prevent them from dehumanizing others. If that’s not what art is for, then what is?

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