A street artwork representing the Russian people’s waning patience towards increasing repression and corruption briefly appeared in St Petersburg before being swiftly painted over. Ahead of this weekend’s nationwide protests called by imprisoned opposition politician Alexei Navalny, the graffiti, which depicts an energy bar at a critically low level, symbolises the frustration felt by many Russians, according to the authors, the art collective Yav. Hours after it appeared, the artwork was covered over with white paint.
The graffiti, called Patience [Terpenie in Russian], appeared on 22 January on a street kiosk on Liteyny Avenue. The collective first came up with the idea for the protest artwork around May last year, but they decided to leave it for later. “We decided to do it exactly when our patience was coming close to zero. And that moment has come,” they said.
“The latest events around Navalny have taken us straight to a dystopia. What is going on in Russia is a farce, a theatre of the absurd. Navalny is just an excuse,” wrote Yav on their social media platforms. “The meager salaries of teachers and doctors, small pensions, awful quality of healthcare, terrible education, unqualified personnel in government positions, corruption, the state persecution of bright, active, intelligent figures, the eternal attempts by the authorities to ban everything and everyone. Our patience wore out slowly, year after year.”
Over the past couple of days, people across Russia have mobilised on social media platforms and across many cities in protest against Navalny’s imprisonment. Navalny was detained on 17 January after flying from Berlin to Moscow, and jailed following an improvised court hearing in a suburban police station. The activist had been hospitalised in Germany since August after being poisoned by a suspected nerve agent in Omsk, in what Navalny and a number of western leaders consider a Kremlin-backed plot.
The Russian government swiftly asked social media platforms to take down posts “encouraging” young people to take part in the protests, and TikTok, YouTube, VKontakte, and Instagram responded to the call by blocking most content calling for the support of the opposition.