64 days of war – Feminist anti-war resistance in Russia

As today marks yet another week of the ongoing brutal war on the Ukraine, we want to take a look at feminists mobilizing and uniting against this senseless act of aggression in Russia. What kind of tools of resistance do they utilize and what can be done from abroad to support feminists opposing the war?

Logo of the Feminist Anti-War Resistance (“FAS”). Copyright FAS.

“War means violence”

“As Russian citizens and feminists, we condemn this war. Feminism as a political force cannot be on the side of a war of aggression and military occupation. […] 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.” [1]

This is an excerpt of the manifesto of the Russian Feminist Anti-War Resistance (“FAS”), taking a clear stance against the war on the Ukraine. This group was formed on February 25th, the day after the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. Feminist associations which had been working closely together already before the war, connected and mobilized immediately, and quickly established their main channel of communication on telegram.[2] Shortly, the manifesto speaking out against the war was published and has been translated in over 30 languages already.

Security through obscurity

How do the feminist activists mobilize and communicate under a repressive and totalitarian regime? A state, where even the use of the word “war” can lead to prosecution and incarceration? To ensure the safety of all activists, the movement is organized horizontally without an individual coordinating group. The lack of a centralized coordinating body and the lack of vertical structures make the group more resilient from being targeted. This gives individual participants also better protection, in case police seize their phones, read their correspondence or force them to submit all their digital data to the authorities. The telegram account serves as the main communication channel where actions are shared and information is disseminated.

Acts of disobedience

Anti-war activities include a wide portfolio of civil disobedience and anti-propaganda actions. As Thursdays have begone to mark yet another week in the ongoing war on the Ukraine, feminists have invoked the anti-war action “Women in Black” to paint Thursdays as days of mourning. All around the world, anti-war activist are encouraged to wear black on Thursday as a sign of protest and posts photos and texts under the hashtag #WomenInBlack (#Женщинвчёрном). In some of the pictures, activists gather in public places, wearing banners and holding a white rose in their hands. The white rose commemorates the resistance group in Nazi-Germany “White Rose”, which was composed of student activists around the prominent figure Sophie Scholl.

Many other actions are centred around distributing anti-propaganda materials, such as leaflets calling out the so-called “special operation” for what it is, a war; drawing graffiti; and even leaving anti-war messages on bank notes.

Rouble banknotes with anti-propaganda messages scribbled onto them, such as “The TV is lying”, “They are using our taxes to kill people”, “Grandmother used to say, if only there had not been a special operation”. Copyright Feminist Anti-War Resistance.
Activists in the city of Kazan have replaced price tags in a supermarket with the text “The Russian army has destroyed an art school in Mariupol by bombing. Around 400 people had been hiding in there from the shelling.” Copyright “Protesting Kazan” via Feminist Anti-War Resistance.

All these actions speak to the ingenuity and creativity of the anti-war protests. Looking at it from another perspective though, these actions clearly display how difficult it is to infiltrate the information bubble that the state has created around the narrative of fighting a “special operation”. Thus, activists have to resort to use alternative channels of communication. Or as someone scribbled on a 100 rouble banknote above “The TV is lying”.

Alliances against the war

The reaction of the Russian authorities to these peaceful acts of resistance speaks to their fear of (feminist) civil society. Already, there are reports of activists being jailed for wearing black clothes and a white rose on a Thursday.[3] To support one another, the feminist activists have launched a support hotline for anti-war activists, giving psychological and legal advice. Mobilization with allies is key. Another prolific anti-war movement in Russia is the group “Anti-war sick leave”. The group helps workers to protest the war by strikes, sick leaves and mild sabotage of the government. Together with the Feminist Anti-War Resistance they have established a fund to support their actions. Because, as they write, on their recently launched website “[…] no significant strike movement has developed – and we know the reason why. Even though many workers were ready to do it, the devastating economic crisis has left them living barely from hand to mouth, and they were too afraid of losing the last money they had.”[4] Thus, together with the Anti-War Resistance movement, they have established this strike fund, collecting money to support all anti-war activities.

Supporting anti-war activists from abroad

Lastly, the question remains, what can you do to support the people in the Ukraine and all anti-war efforts in Russia. There are many ways how to show your solidarity and support, be it through actions or through donations.

The activists of FAS continuously ask their followers to spread the word about them. Message control and hegemony over the discourse are central components of any war. Thus, speaking out against the war and the state-controlled narrative is a form of resistance as well. To show your solidarity, consider following FAS on telegram, sharing articles about them, or doing your own actions. Join a Women in Black protest in your city, spread their stickers or leaflets in your neighbour.

Unfortunately, transferring money to the Russian Federation is hardly possible at the moment. However, if you are technically adept and know how to use cryptocurrency, you might consider donating to the Anti-War Fund: https://www.antiwarfund.com/eng You can also share the link with your friends and networks. To quote the activists of the Anti-War Fund: “Of course, such funds cannot be a priority nowadays. If you have only a few spare bucks to donate, you should give them to the people of Ukraine and to all those who have suffered – and who continue to suffer – from the Russian aggression. But if you have some leftovers and want to support our resistance – we promise not to waste your money.”

In this case, you might also consider a donation to our members of the WAVE Network or to other Ukrainian organisations you would like to support. Whatever you do, every action counts and is needed to stop this brutal war.

Peace for Ukraine! Freedom for Russia!

Мир Украине, свободу России!

Мир Україні, свободу Росії!

[1] https://jacobinmag.com/2022/02/russian-feminist-antiwar-resistance-ukraine-putin

[2] https://t.me/femagainstwar

[3] https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2022/03/29/the-feminist-face-of-russian-protests-a77106

[4] https://www.antiwarfund.com/eng