Decoding the Antiwar Messages of Miniature Protesters in Russia


Fish, asterisks, clean messages and the letter Z: All of those are symbols of opposition to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. In a rustic the place public criticism of the struggle comes with the specter of incarceration, protesters have taken to social media to stay nameless and adopted a secret language to convey dissent for the Kremlin.

Final 12 months in St. Petersburg, an artist uploaded a number of pictures of tiny clay collectible figurines in a public area to Instagram underneath the account Malenkiy Piket, which means Small Protest. In a separate submit, he invited others to affix him in his silent demonstration.

One in all Malenkiy Piket’s first posts.

Since that submit, he has acquired nearly 2,000 pictures containing selfmade collectible figurines, many holding posters of protest with curious symbology. Contributors are in a position to protect their anonymity by sending non-public messages within the app to the artist, who then posts their pictures. At its peak, the account acquired round 60 pictures each day, the artist informed The Occasions.

Sending such photos, even privately, carries monumental danger: Sharing antiwar messages is usually a trigger for imprisonment. Hiding collectible figurines in public areas may very well be captured by surveillance cameras. Police used CCTV footage to trace and arrest one contributor in 2022.

A red figurine in a window holds a white sign with the inscription “Don’t be silent” in Russian.

“Don’t be silent”

Utilizing strategic ambiguity to protest authoritarian governments just isn’t distinctive to Russia: pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong held up clean indicators as a type of protest, and social media customers in China used the candle emoji to commemorate the anniversary of the Tiananmen Sq. bloodbath.

The artist informed The Occasions that it’s necessary for individuals to see that Russians oppose the struggle, too. “Not everyone seems to be with Putin. We all know how the media simply skips this, cuts out every part that reveals individuals in opposition to it.”

The messages within the pictures

An illustration of fish memes that became a symbol of protest.


In 2022, a lady was arrested for writing “нет в***e” in graffiti in a public sq., placing asterisks as an alternative of letters in some locations. The police believed she had meant to jot down the phrase “война” for struggle, however the lady mentioned she had written “вобла,” a fish native to the Caspian Sea that Russians historically eat with beer or vodka.

The story went viral, producing tons of memes and even a track. The lady was finally fined, however by then, her story had already turned the vobla fish and asterisks into symbols of protest.

A green figurine holding a yellow poster with asterisks and a drawing of a fish.

Subsequent to a highway.

A figurine holding a fish with a red X through it.

On the base of a sculpture.

Two figurines holding antiwar posters, one with asterisks and the other with a peace symbol.

Three asterisks, adopted by 5 extra. A code amongst protesters which means “нет войне” (No to Struggle).

A yellow and blue figurine holding a poster with the word “No” and a fish drawing.

In a bush.

An illustration of figurines raising blank posters.


Clean posters underscore how Russia has criminalized free speech. In the course of the first months of 2022, after Russia invaded Ukraine, many Russians took to the streets with clean posters, and the police arrested them.

A mouthless monk wearing red clothes holds a blue poster.

A mouthless monk sitting on a fence.

A sticker of a figure with bunny ears holds a blank banner.

A sticker connected to a lamp submit on Bolotnaya Naberezhnaya, Moscow.

Three figurines hold blank posters by a river, a large church in the background.

By a river.

A blue figurine, seated on a post at the side of the street, holds up a blank poster. In the background is a snowy street.

By a highway.

An illustration of figurines holding antiwar flags. The flags are white with a blue stripe.


Acknowledged as an antiwar image, the white flag with a blue stripe within the center was created by Russians who opposed the invasion of Ukraine and disapproved of Putin’s authorities.

A doll set on grass holds an Ukrainian flag that reads, “Stand with Ukraine.” On its right, another doll holds a white and light blue flag that reads, “No war! No blood!”

A Ukrainian flag is typically paired with an antiwar flag.

Two paper silhouettes holding hands, each holding a flag. One is a blank, the other an antiwar flag.

Paper collectible figurines caught to a graffitied wall.

Two crying figurines hug.

Each flags are once more represented within the embrace of those crying collectible figurines, atop a memorial stone.

A figurine with an antiwar flag, perched on a fence.

A fence outdoors of a Russian authorities constructing.

An illustration of figurines raising placards with a letter Z crossed out.

The letter Z

Members of the Russian military emblazon their tanks and vans with the letter Z to distinguish themselves from Ukrainians within the discipline. Lots of Malenkiy Piket’s pictures present the letter Z crossed out.

A figurine wearing the Ukrainian flag colors raises a poster of a letter Z crossed out.

This figurine wears Ukraine’s colours.

A figurine wearing a blue T-shirt holds a placard with a letter Z crossed out.

On a park bench.

A clay figurine with a poster of a letter Z crossed out.

Connected to a wall.

Illustration of seven figurines holding or wearing the peace symbol.


A few hundred pictures shared by Malenkiy Piket present the peace signal.

A blue figurine wearing a yellow T-shirt with a peace sign on it.

On the foot of a statue in a public sq..

A Lego figurine holding a peace poster.

On the bottom.

A yellow figurine holding a peace card.

On the Moskva River, throughout from Moscow’s Pink Sq..

A Lego figurine holding a peace poster.

At a bus cease.

Illustration of 45 figurines with written messages on their posters.

Messages in Russian

Many of the collectible figurines maintain messages written in Russian. Malenkiy Piket mentioned that many of the pictures he acquired had been from individuals residing in Russia, however many had been despatched from Ukraine and different former Soviet states.

A paper cutout shaped as a person with an antiwar poster.

“So long as Putin is right here, there can be struggle,” reads a poster held by a paper doll on a grocery store shelf.

A figurine with a mustache sits on a fence holding a poster with the word NO, as people walk in the background.


A Lego figurine holding a poster saying “No to war.”

“No to struggle”

A figurine wearing a yellow dress and hat holds a white flag with antiwar inscriptions.

Down with the autocracy”

Two paper cutouts holding antiwar posters.

“Russia ≠ Putin” “Putin = Struggle”

Two figurines standing in front of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow while holding antiwar posters. One reads, “Stop Killing Children,” the other, “Stop Bloody Vlady.”

“Cease killing youngsters”

A figurine holding an antiwar poster in front of a cathedral.

“Peace to Ukraine, freedom for Russia,” reads this poster simply outdoors of the Important Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces.

Illustration of 24 figurines with posters.

Worldwide help

Lots of of pictures present the Ukrainian flag. Lots of extra have messages written in English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and different languages.

A multicolored woven doll holds a flag while sitting on a mailbox.

A doll on a mailbox within the U.Okay. holding a Ukrainian flag.

Three minion toys holding pieces of paper that say, “The Unprovoked Invasion.”

“The unprovoked invasion”

A picture of a multicolored rag doll holding a peace poster.

A doll whose location is tagged as Argentina holds a poster with the inscription “peace” in Spanish.

A yellow and blue minion figurine holds a poster that reads, “No War.”

On the Colosseum in Rome.

“These little males did what it grew to become unattainable for us to do brazenly. And I noticed that there are individuals who, like me, are in opposition to this struggle,” mentioned a contributor, an activist who lives in Russia.

She defined that she searches for a public place the place there are not any cameras and waits for the second when nobody is round. “I take a photograph and shortly go away. It is like a sport typically,” she mentioned. “And it will be enjoyable if not for the context.”

One other contributor mentioned she was impressed to ship pictures to Malenkiy Piket as a result of she mentioned her pictures can last more than the road protests, which had been damaged up by the police way back.

“It’s necessary additionally for individuals like myself to see that I’m not alone,” she mentioned.

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