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Former Soviet Empire

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YULIA TSVETKOVA, drawings from the Woman not a doll series (2018) “Real women have body fat and it’s normal!”, “Real women have wrinkles and grey hair and it’s normal!” "Real women menstruate and this is normal!", "Real women have hair on their bodies, and that's normal!"

©Yulia Tsvetkova


In many countries of the former Soviet empire (Hungary, Poland, Russia, etc.) , the leaders, in order for them to get a better and idealy permanent grip on power, have chosen to gradually move their society away from the Western democratic model. To do this, they systematically relied on the most conservative fringes of the population and of the local clergy. Consequently, and with the aim of choosing scapegoats compatible with their conservative supporters, the rights of local minorities, whether visible or invisible (migrants, members of the LGBTQ+ community, religious or ethnic minorities) have been systematically challenged, fought, and presented as the driver of the suicidal degenerated Western model.

In this environment, contemporary art, presented as the embodiment of this degeneration, has become in three decades the target of the various tools gradually at the hand of the executive power and its regional and local levels:

- museums and public art centers are now run by followers of the ruling party,

- the judiciary and the press gradually lost all independence,

- small hateful and violent conservative groups, presented as uncontrolled but in reality very close to power or instrumentalized by it, are more and more active.

Local artists, if they want to be able to show their work in these countries, must therefore at least self-censor themselves on all subjects (feminism, right to abortion, rights of LGBTQ+ minorities, rights of migrants) that could go against the conservative forces on which the power is based. An artist will sometimes have to pledge his loyalty to the party in power. The only two spaces available for those who refuse to submit are the street and the social networks (when access to these is not cut off by the authorities). The protest works (such as the "Gay Clown Putin", an anonymous work sporadically presented during demonstrations against power in Budapest, Moscow and elsewhere) are most often in the form of graffiti or placards exhibited on the occasion of demonstrations that are most often unauthorized.The presence of CCTV cameras and police equipped with facial recognition tools tends to make this anonymity less and less protective. The same is true for works, often drawings, presented on social networks: their authors are most often identified even when they present themselves under a pseudonym. Some artists, on the contrary, decide to act openly, choosing to use the repression against them as a platform and a means of raising awareness.

The Russian artist Youlia Tsvetkova, feminist and openly homosexual, is one of them.



This one has been harassed by the Russian justice system for years.

2019: she is questioned several times by the police and the security services for her educational, artistic and militant work, before being placed under house arrest.

In late 2019 and early 2020, she was forced to pay two fines under Russia's infamous "gay propaganda" law for some of the drawings she posted on social media.

She has since been prosecuted for producing nude drawings. If she were condemned, it would create an incredible case law, the history of art being populated by paintings and sculptures of nudes.

06/03/2022: the Ministry of Justice announces that Yulia Tsvetkova is considered by it to be a “foreign agent”. This judicial qualification entails significant legal and financial restrictions.

06/14/2022: the prosecutor's office requested three years and two months in a penal colony against the artist for production and dissemination of pornographic material.

07/15/2022: the Komsomolsk-on-Amur court acquits the artist. The travel ban is lifted. After the acquittal homophobic activists sent around 200 requests to various authorities demanding that a new case be opened against her.

07/22/2022: the prosecutor's office appealed against the acquittal. Since her acquittal in the first instance, Yulia Tsvetkova can contact people, but she chooses to refrain from communicating before the appealed jugement.

08/2022: her page on the Russian social network VKontakte is blocked.

The appeal is scheduled for September 27, then pushed back to November 22, 2022, as the prosecution attempts to flesh out an empty case. The artist faces up to six years in prison.

AC, 11/18/2022

Last twist so far before new homophobic complaints are dealt with: today, 11/22/2022, the Khabarovsk Regional Court upheld on appeal Yulia Tsvetkova's acquittal and right to rehabilitation.

11/25/2022: Yulia Tsvetkova has left Russia.

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