1: Introduction: Feminist Resistance in Russia

In this chapter, motivations for studying feminism in neoconservative Russia are set out. The author argues that it is highly instructive to study feminist activism in Russia, not only for those engaged with Russia, but also for global readers more widely. The case challenges the hegemony of Western feminism, and illustrates how a conservative and authoritarian context moulds feminism. The author explains the rationale for a broad approach to politics involving both covert and overt resistance, as politics in Russia has often been narrowly understood as the privilege of a restricted elite. After introducing the other key thread of the book, that of movement resources and how their shortage affects the movement, the author argues that it is necessary to study resistance in this context from a spatial perspective as well, especially as it regards activists who are non-male and in some cases non-heterosexual. The research material produced in St Petersburg and Moscow, and key methodological choices connected with feminist ethnography are explicated.

‘Who defends us from the defenders of the fatherland?’ enquires a feminist banner held up by an activist with a bruised eye.1 A photograph of this activist, sitting on the stairs of an Orthodox cathedral amidst fellow activists with similar bruises on their faces, was circulating on the Russian web on the Day of the Defender of the Fatherland in 2016, which celebrates Russian armed forces. It was published on social media as part of a protest seeking to bring awareness to the issue of gendered violence in Russia. The question posed by the protest banner was a commentary on how violence permeates Russian society, as the state indirectly allows structural violence while educating defenders in the army. Of course, the feminists performing being female victims of domestic violence had not really been beaten up, as the photograph suggests. Furthermore, although they were performing passivity on the steps of the Orthodox space, they were actually taking an active role as activists to bring attention to an issue that has been key to feminist politics in Russia since the 1990s. However, whereas some of the goals of feminist politics have remained unchanged since the 1990s, the means of activism have altered, due to a conservative backlash, shrinkage of the political space and diminishing resources for independent activism in the 2000s.

The feminist action in front the Orthodox cathedral exemplifies the tactics and means used by contemporary feminism in neoconservative and authoritarian Russia. Indeed, the fact that the majority of its audience, myself included, was online rather than live speaks of the essential role of the internet and social media in contemporary feminist mobilizing, as well as how feminism in Russia has become thoroughly mediatized. While other political opportunities have diminished, the internet has allowed the development of new tactics and styles of activism. The action also illustrates spectacular and performative aspects of feminist protest aiming to attract public attention.

The stunt might also be observed as an example of feminism as a language. This juxtaposition was made by anarcho-feminist Milka, aged in their early thirties, one of the activists interviewed for this book. In Milka’s view, feminism was exactly the ‘language’ demanded by the political situation in Russia in the 2010s, as conservative forces were evidently dominant in both power and opposition politics, and authoritarian tendencies were growing ever stronger. For Milka, what was special about this ‘language’ was that it was able to speak of violence and its gendered aspects, an issue that is not problematized by any other political ideology. However, it is not only gendered violence that feminist vocabulary renders visible. It is sensitive to a number of other issues not articulated in the dominant politics, such as issues of non-normativity. Furthermore, while serving as a language itself, feminism also draws elements from other languages and vocabularies, one of which is the language of global therapeutic culture. Indeed, like mediatization, therapeutization of feminism is a global trend, albeit observed in this book from the perspective of local motivations that connect with both Russia’s history and its increasingly authoritarian contemporary context. I suggest that analysis of feminist activism and its evolving tactics in contemporary Russia brings to the fore an intriguing mixture of local elements and motivations converging with global trends, such as feminism blending with media and, via popular culture, with therapeutic understanding of the self. Studying feminism in contemporary Russia is productive for these and other reasons, not only for those engaged with Russia, but for anyone interested in feminist activism and its contemporary manifestations.

Feminist activism has seen a resurgence, not only in Russia but throughout Europe and beyond, as a reaction to, among other things, economic crises, austerity, and the rise of the far right (Dean and Aune, 2015). It takes many shapes in the contemporary political climate, sometimes turning to a postfeminist sensibility (Gill, 2007, 2016) and neoliberal feminism (Rottenberg, 2016), two concepts that focus more closely on individuality and self-actualization than on a collective struggle for emancipation and equality. These forms of feminism tend to obscure social structures that affect how individuals are positioned in networks of power, and whether they are privileged or oppressed based on various intersecting social categories such as gender, sexuality, class, religion and ethnicity. ‘Femonationalism’, a combination of feminism and nationalism, is also on the rise, turning feminism into a tool for ‘othering’ in the name of equal rights, and portraying some cultural contexts as more backward than others (Farris, 2017). A strong anti-feminist sentiment has also emerged (see, for example, Eriksson, 2013; Szelewa, 2014) in tandem with the rise of populist, nationalist and conservative political movements in several countries in Europe and in the United States, further stimulating feminist activism.

Also, the Russian government has deployed increasingly conservative and authoritarian politics in the 2000s. This has significantly affected both the overall sphere of independent civic activism, and specifically the country’s non-male and non-heterosexual populace. The Russian government initially framed gender as a political question in response to demographic challenges and Russia’s declining birth rate (Rivkin-Fish, 2005; Temkina and Zdravomyslova, 2014). In order to push through its conservative ideology, it formed an alliance with the ROC, which has become a visible social actor and an authority in post-Soviet Russia. The increasingly conservative political orientation was also manifested in the legal sphere in the early 2000s, in the form of bills proposing limited access to abortion, and a series of laws banning public discussion of non-heterosexuality when minors might be present. The Church–state tandem advocates essentialist gender roles, highlighting motherhood as a key female fulfilment. It is noteworthy that as policies became increasingly conservative in Russia, feminism as an ideology was construed as motivated by self-interest in relation to the deepening demographic crisis (Rivkin-Fish, 2005: 218). Following the release of Pussy Riot’s Punk Prayer in 2012, which attracted international attention to the Russian feminist group, patriarch Kirill, head of the ROC, called feminism a dangerous phenomenon that might destroy the country, offering its women ‘a false sense of liberation’ (Elder, 2013). The members of Pussy Riot were later accused of engaging in hooliganism with the Punk Prayer, and some were arrested. Indeed, the pressure targeted at feminists in the 2010s is vividly observed by Russian feminist scholars, Anna Temkina and Elena Zdravomyslova (2014: 265–266), who state: ‘Currently, in addition to verbal threats, to which feminists have become accustomed, we face the risk of political and criminal charges. In the context of authoritarian tendencies, this is not pleasant, to put it mildly.’

The neoconservative orientation was accompanied in the 2000s by increasing political authoritarianism. This was manifested in the state instrumentalization of traditional media, especially television (Hutchings and Tolz, 2015b; Roudakova, 2017), and a crackdown in the independent civic sphere, as well as election rigging documented across the country in the early 2010s (Gelman, 2015: 9–13; Gabowitsch, 2017). However, these changes have invigorated the rise of a new generation of feminists in the 2010s, following a quieter period in feminist activism. And while Pussy Riot remains the best known example of feminist activism in contemporary Russia, the field of feminism is much more diverse, as will be illustrated.

The changing political opportunities, as well as limitations on the rights of women and of those identifying with non-normative gender or sexuality, are the key drivers of this book. The main question explored in this study is: how is feminist politics conducted in neoconservative and authoritarian Russia, and what forms does it take in this political context? More specifically, I ask:

  • How do feminist activists make sense of feminism in their lives, and how do they mobilize it to challenge conservative gender norms, meanings and identities in Russia?

  • How do the activists carve out space for feminism, and what kinds of spatial and temporal dimensions does feminist resistance take?

  • What resources are the feminists able to deploy for their activism, and what kinds of practices are those resources turned into?

‘Politics’, and what counts as such, is ambiguous in this context, as Russians often view politics as the privilege of a restricted elite. Understanding politics as distant from the everyday struggles of ordinary people often leads Russians to despise the very concept, associating it with corruption, self-promotion and fraud (Mason, 2016: 14). However, feminism takes a very different approach to politics. Thus, in interrogating politics, it offers an intriguing ‘lens’ – to quote the activists in this study – through which to analyse what constitutes being political in the first place. As one prominent feminist, Audre Lorde (1984: 110–114) has observed, ‘the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house’, suggesting that the oppressed cannot use the tools of their oppressors to fight back, but must instead make their own tools. Taking a cue from this, I suggest that feminist politics and its tools are redefined over and over again in relation to the specific ethico-moral context, which always plays a key role in how political subjects come to be formed in the first place (Mahmood, 2005: 9). I respond to Johnson and Saarinen’s (2013: 544–545) proposal that researchers should seek feminist resistance in places that do not, at first sight, appear to be political spaces, since they suggest that feminism is bound to be disguised in the increasingly repressive context of Russia.

Since political opportunities have been significantly curtailed over the past decade in Russia, and because feminism itself often challenges the very concept of politics and how it is understood, a broad understanding of both overt and covert forms of politics is adopted (Hollander and Einwohner, 2004). I analyse resistance conducted in both confrontational and more camouflaged ways in the context of activists’ everyday lives. Furthermore, in detailing feminist practices, I draw on Ann Swidler’s (1986) idea of culture as a tool kit and understanding of available tools as being limited by the cultural context, allowing access to some capacities while making others unavailable.

In this book, I argue that feminist politics in Russia comprises four key dimensions: reparative politics, the politics of sheltering, the politics of expertise and the politics of appearances. First, reparative politics speaks of the healing texture of feminist resistance, and how it has helped the activists to see the pathology in social structures rather than in themselves. It also speaks of the individual and collective dimensions of activism, and how both of these are elemental to feminist everyday resistance, for example in combatting gendered violence. The second dimension, the politics of sheltering, suggests that, whereas activists’ long-term aim is to expand the feminist space by spreading feminist ideas in society, the more urgent spatial project of feminism is that of creating shelter, privacy and safety for individuals and activists, who express a chronic lack of these. The third dimension, the politics of expertise, highlights the movement’s internal struggles over who and what kind of knowledge legitimize the adoption of a feminist subjectivity, public action and the position of a feminist expert, thus raising the question of whose perspective counts. This question is apposite beyond the Russian context, as more and more feminist knowledge is being produced outside traditional realms of feminism such as universities, for example in the various digital spaces. Finally, the fourth dimension of feminist politics suggests that, as the available political opportunities exist mainly on the internet and in the realms of new media, public feminism is becoming a politics of appearances. This last dimension highlights how some activists play skilfully with the media logic in order to attract the largest audiences possible and are, at times, able to make the movement seem larger than it actually is. However, in response to the politics of overt appearances, a feminist politics of veiling is also appearing. Contrary to the politics of appearances, the latter engages in covert forms of activism, highlighting that lived culture is never simple but always formed of contradictory elements.

Accordingly, my aim is not to tell a single coherent story of the Russian feminist movement, nor do I think that would be possible. Rather, I share many, sometimes contradictory, stories covering both loud and visible, and less visible and hidden, dimensions of feminist activism. The overall ‘storyline’, if there is one, speaks of the complexity of resistance and feminist culture, and their connection with scarce resources.

Indeed, in addition to resistance, resources are a key thread running through the book. The following encounter with a feminist activist serves as an introduction to the significance of this theme. In the middle of my fieldwork, I ran into an activist whom I had met briefly earlier, but who had not responded to my request to be interviewed for this study. However, based on “observing me and my work” (I had indeed noticed her presence at a couple of events in which I had participated), she now suggested that, in her view, I only spent time with “resourceful feminists”. The concept of a ‘resourceful feminist’ puzzled me greatly, as the activists with whom I had spent most time seemed to have little money, and often avoided using it by creating value in other ways, for example by relying on networks and contacts. However, over time, I came to realize that this notion in many respects goes to the core of feminist activism in Russia, focusing attention on the cultural resources available for activism and the practices for which those resources can be used. One task for me is thus to answer the riddle of what are the characteristics of a ‘resourceful feminist’.

Gender is another central concept and research topic running through the analysis. I understand gender here as referring to the group of meanings that a culture assigns to biological sex differences (Cohn, 1993: 228). Gender is a symbolic system that organizes societies hierarchically by making male–female distinctions (Scott, 1986). It not only shapes how individuals in a given culture experience and come to understand themselves, but also interweaves with and shapes other discourses (Cohn, 1993: 228). For example, Valerie Sperling (2015) has detailed how gender has been deployed as a key political tool by both the Russian government and the opposition in the 2000s. This has been done by producing plausible political subjectivity as masculine, and ridiculing rivals by marking them as feminine. Formal politics has thus become coded with gender and imagined as a ‘distinct masculine endeavour’ (Gal and Kligman, 2000: 3).

I suggest that studying feminist activism in Russia not only brings many new and valuable insights into both Western social movement theory and feminist theory, but also places the idea of the Western hegemony of feminism under a critical gaze (see, for example, Wiedlack, 2016; Solovey, 2020). In illustrating the richness of contemporary Russian feminism and its historical roots, my aim is to highlight how feminism and activism take different paths, depending on the location, which can only be understood when observed in dialogue with local historical and political factors. Thus, the purpose of this book is to highlight the unique traits of feminism in Russia, while acknowledging that, in an era of globalism and internet feminism, influence flows two ways – from non-Western countries to others, and vice versa. By challenging ‘Western bias’ in studying activism, the book is of relevance both to those engaged with Russia, including scholars, experts and enthusiasts, and to feminists, activists and social movement scholars around the world.

In this book I build on three bodies of scholarship. First, I contribute to contemporary understanding of feminist activism by offering a rich ethnographic account of how activism was conducted in the increasingly authoritarian and neoconservative political context of Russia in the 2010s. In the empirical chapters I reveal the immense dynamism of feminist praxis in relation to power, and show how activists adapted to the increasingly repressive context. This is highly relevant to scholars and activists around the world, as many Western countries, too, are confronting a conservative and populist backlash.

The detailed ethnographic account of how feminist activism mobilizes and its key tactics and tensions is the book’s central contribution to Russia studies, as no other book maps the re-emergence of the feminist movement in the 2010s in such depth. The few existing studies on this topic include Valerie Sperling’s (2015) analysis of feminist groups and initiatives in the early 2010s, and their responses to increasingly conservative policies and the patriarchal condition. Like Sperling, others have also analysed feminist activism in Russia, although mainly from the perspective of the Pussy Riot case and its aftermath, as well as focusing on internet activism (Bernstein, 2013; Sperling, 2014; Gapova, 2015; Jonson, 2016; Wiedlack, 2016; Kondakov, 2017; Solovey, 2018). I broaden the perspective by elucidating the manifold nature of feminist activism and illuminating some of its key internal struggles, about which little is as yet known (however, see Senkova, 2018; Kondakov and Zhaivoronok, 2019). I also uncover contemporary feminist mobilization in dialogue with earlier feminist mobilizations in Russia. A wealth of research has been conducted on the Russian women’s movement and feminist politics in the 1990s and early 2000s (Posadskaya, 1994; Zdravomyslova, 1996; Sperling, 1999; Kay, 2000; Caiazza, 2002; McIntosh Sundstrom, 2002; Henderson, 2003; Hemment, 2007; Salmenniemi, 2008). These studies illustrate how the earlier movement engaged with feminist politics in a context of increasing political opportunity and economic resources. In this study the next generation of feminists and their activism are analysed within a very different opportunity structure, with significantly less access to economic resources and fewer political allies. I also build on studies of politics and resistance in contemporary Russia. I do this by speaking of the under-studied topic of gender in the context of contemporary activism, and also by revealing the complexity of resistance in Russia, and how it employs both loud outcries and hidden gestures. Furthermore, I argue that it is impossible to study resistance in authoritarian and conservative Russia without analysing spatial aspects. I aim to render visible the highly peculiar texture of activism, which often mimics power, thus illustrating the ambivalent relationship between resistance and power.

Finally, I contribute to social movement scholarship, and studies of resistance in general, by demonstrating the central role played by resources at every stage of activism, in both internal and external struggles of movements. Thus, the study is not only aligned with previous research on the centrality of resources for social movements (McCarthy and Zald, 1977; Edwards, 2007), but also enables novel insights into social movements’ functioning in resource-scarce and repressive political contexts, by illustrating the centrality of resources to all dimensions of feminist politics. In addition, I reveal some key power relations within the movement connected with resources, and differences in activists’ access to them. However, although feminism may be consuming, the study also speaks of it as an immense therapeutic resource for the activists engaged in it.

Producing the research with feminist ethnography

The research material for this book was produced ethnographically in feminist communities in St Petersburg and Moscow. In this book I draw mainly on 42 semi-structured thematic interviews, with altogether 44 activists, observations of various feminist events and gatherings, as well as internet and social media materials, and reflection on the research process documented in the researcher’s field diary. Most of the material was collected during my stay in Russia during autumn 2015. This fieldwork was complemented with numerous follow-up visits in 2016, 2017 and 2018 when, among other things, I collaborated with some of the activists and took part in feminist festivals and meetings. I also participated in the organization of a few feminist events. With numerous preparatory and follow-up visits, the overall time spent onsite grew to four months. This long-term approach, with the possibility of returning to re-interrogate issues, was pivotal to the success of the data collection. Were it not for the regular follow-up visits, the material would not have taken shape as it did. Furthermore, the later visits played a decisive role in deepening my understanding of the key phenomena about which I was writing. After the intensive onsite fieldwork, the ethnography shifted online, with observations made between 2015 and 2019. This seemed natural, as the majority of feminist actions were shared on feminist social media sites. Indeed, the analysis also draws on feminist actions that I was only able to observe online, since some had taken place before or after the actual fieldwork period.

I was not familiar with the feminist movement in Russia when I started this research, though I had lived in Russia and studied self-help groups in St Petersburg in my previous ethnographic research. Thus, it was a pleasure to notice that many feminist actions, meetings and events were organized in the two cities during the period of the fieldwork. The first feminist interviewees were recruited via common acquaintances. Following the first interviews, new interviewees were found either through contacting them online, or with the help of those activists whom I had already interviewed, as many of them helped me to organize new meetings with activists.

A typical week during my fieldwork comprised following feminist discussions on the internet, meeting and interviewing approximately two to four activists, and taking part in between one and three feminist events, which ranged from theatre rehearsals to feminist discussions, informal get-togethers, festivals, self-defence classes and demonstrations. At first sight, feminist activism appeared to be agile, spontaneous and often instigated by a few key people, who mostly acted alone or in small groups of activists who had the time and motivation to participate at a specific time. Furthermore, typical of feminist events and meetings was the fact that the venues were very often announced at the last minute, and feminist events were sometimes also cancelled at the last minute. This ad hoc nature was also typical of the interviews, as people were ready to meet me at very short notice.

The focus of this book is on understanding how the activists made sense of feminism and how feminist resistance was manifested in their everyday lives. For these purposes, I considered ethnography to be the most suitable research method. Ethnography as a research method is a sophisticated tool for in-depth research on everyday action in a specific community. According to American anthropologist, Clifford Geertz (1973), ethnographic research aims to produce a thick description, its purpose being to understand the research topic in a nuanced way. In practice, the thickness is guaranteed by drawing from various research materials, which support each other. Ethnography also allows appreciation of the complexity of lived realities. Rather than looking for absolute ideas and truth, ethnographic inquiry concentrates on the multivocal, and at times contradictory, ideas of ‘truth’ in the community in question (Hakala and Hynninen, 2007: 211).

Moreover, this ethnography has been thoroughly informed by a feminist sensibility. Among other things, this means that I am engaged in the feminist understanding of knowledge as always situated and produced from a certain position (Haraway, 1988). This also refers to an understanding that my own knowledge, as well as the knowledge of those studied, can only be partial based on our varying positions (Nagar, 2014: 12–13). My analytical focus is on the activists’ feminist agency, and how they made sense of their activism, depending on their positions. I am also interested in the question of ‘in whose interest?’ (Skeggs, 2001: 437). Thus, my curiosity is oriented towards all hierarchies and power relations produced within and outside the feminist movement. This means that while critically observing broader hierarchies between non-feminists and feminists, and Western and non-Western forms of feminism, I also illustrate hierarchies and tensions among the feminists. By discussing the friction in the movement, I want to avoid ‘romanticizing’ the movement, and rather to highlight the ambivalences that are there always too (Ortner, 1995: 180).

The feminist research approach also entails reflections on my own position, and has regularly made me turn a critical gaze on my own potential bias or prejudice. I am a White, middle-class Finnish woman, and my own position and privilege may increase my blindness to certain issues. Yet I suggest that my position, as someone from a neighbouring country not yet embedded in all the local feminist practices, norms and struggles, has also allowed me many insights (for a more detailed description, see Appendix), as I did not take the feminist practices and struggles as self-evident. In order to keep track of my own insights and possible blindspots, I kept a field diary throughout the research process. Key to my research approach were analysing feminist struggles and practices from different angles, and interviewing differently positioned feminists in order not to emphasize any one form of feminism. It was essential for me not to take sides, nor to prefer one form of feminism over another, but rather to try to understand different perspectives on it, and where these sprang from.

I argue that the strength of this ethnography lies in its rootedness to certain places and spaces. Indeed, conducting ethnography always necessitates a decision to locate one’s research somewhere, rather than trying to be everywhere at once. Moscow and St Petersburg were chosen for the fieldwork, as they were more likely than smaller Russian cities to host regular feminist activities and alternative sub-cultures. As cities they are, of course, in many ways peculiar compared with the rest of the country. St Petersburg has often been described as the ‘Western capital’ of Russia, as it accommodates an especially liberal and open cultural spirit. On the other hand, Moscow, as the administrative capital, has been characterized as more official and less liberal because it hosts the premises of power. The two cities represent urban Russia, while many other forms of feminism in smaller cities remain undiscovered. Indeed, during my onsite observations I met various visiting activists from the regions, who told me what it was like to engage in feminism in the regions, and how feminism and activism in some cases had to be conducted completely anonymously. My discussions with these feminists suggest that there is much yet to be discovered in the context of feminism in Russia, for which this book is only a starting point.

Introduction to the feminist activists interviewed

The main criterion for choosing interviewees for this study was that they identified as feminists or were otherwise well-connected with the feminist sphere and would have valuable insights into the movement. Most of the interviewees identified as feminists, with the exception of three interviewees. Of the individuals not identifying as feminists two identified as men. They insisted that as men, they were not allowed by the female activists to call themselves feminists. Although they were still very well-connected with feminist groups, took part in organizing feminist events and participated in some feminist debates. One female interviewee also noted that she was not a feminist but was active in an artists’ collective that also conducted projects with an approach that appeared very feminist. Indeed, her own artworks might well be interpreted as conveying a feminist message. Furthermore, feminism meant various things to the activists who identified as such.

Based on the activists’ own identifications, among them were anarcho-feminists (4), intersectional feminists (3), queerfeminists (8), radical feminists (6), LGBT activists supporting feminist ideas (5), eco feminists (1), trans-feminists (1), leftist feminists (1) and cyber-feminists (1). Some indicated that they identified as belonging to more than one category, while others stated that they did not want to label themselves further, identifying simply as feminists (14). In this book, I note where the activists identified with a particular school of feminism, and where I do not specify, they often simply identified as feminists without additional labels.

As Finn Mackay (2015) points out, definitions of different feminisms are often complex and difficult to specify. This is also the case with the identifications here. Based on the interviews, the activists often understood labels such as queerfeminism, intersectional feminism and radical feminism differently, and highlighted different aspects as central to these schools of thought. Furthermore, the activists’ self-identification sometimes contrasted starkly with how other activists would define them. For example, some activists were defined as radical feminists by others, whereas they themselves would identify as queerfeminists, anarcho-feminists or intersectional feminists. In addition, not all identified as activists, but rather as just feminists, feminist researchers (4) or artists (9). Nevertheless, I define them as activists based on the fact that they participated in feminist public action, whether by producing or translating texts, organizing or taking an active part in events and discussions, or producing feminist art. I understand the concept of activism much like Flacks (2004), who views activists as people whose identities and daily lives are strongly structured by their commitment, in this case feminism.

The activists identified as women (32), men (3) and genderqueer (5), and some did not want to identify themselves in any way in relation to gender. A considerable number identified as non-heterosexuals. The majority had been born in the 1980s and 1990s and had become politicized during the 2010s. However, I also interviewed five veteran feminists who had already been active in the women’s movement and other counter-cultural movements in the 1990s. At the time of the interviews, most of the veteran feminists were still active in the contemporary feminist scene in one way or another. The veterans interviewed had been born in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

In addition to being artists and researchers, the activists interviewed worked in various other professions, such as consultancy, journalism and social advocacy, for non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as directors, PR managers, philosophers, teachers, lawyers, translators, sales managers, photographers and freelancers, or were unemployed. While most were situated in St Petersburg or Moscow during the interviews, many had been raised in other smaller cities and regions around Russia. Most had a higher education degree. In order to protect the feminist activists interviewed, all the names of the interviewees have been anonymized. I use the pronouns ‘he’, ‘she’ or ‘they’ in this book based on the interviewees’ own preferences in referring to themselves.

The activism observed for this study was largely project-based. The fact that very few of the activists interviewed operated as a part of registered NGOs reflected the strict contemporary Russian NGO laws, which define NGOs receiving foreign funding as foreign agents, subjecting them to increased surveillance. Only two of the activists interviewed represented a feminist NGO, and both discussed how their organizations were uncertain of what the future would bring. The new legislation had increased the organizations’ bureaucracy and blurred their future prospects. These interviewees wanted their feminist activism to be clearly separated from their official positions in their organizations. Moreover, while I had originally planned to interview representatives of more institutionalized forms of feminism (for example, members of the gender faction of the Iabloko party), I soon decided to focus instead on the younger generation of activists, who seemed to take a very different and more agile approach to feminist issues than representatives of feminism within official party structures.

The goals of activism voiced by the feminists were diverse. In the interviews, most of the activists highlighted mainly external goals, such as influencing people’s overall perceptions and understanding of feminist issues, including sexism, misogyny, gender, patriarchal structures, heteronormativity and gendered violence. Some groups focused their work mainly on issues around gendered violence, both to increase awareness of the issue and to support those who had experienced it. Other groups and individuals interviewed focused on dismantling the norms of binary gender and the associated heterosexuality. Various other goals were mentioned, such as achieving equal pay and working conditions, changing social values by spreading knowledge and offering education, transforming gender and parenting roles (both motherhood and fatherhood) and improving the lives of transgender individuals. Some groups stated that uniting the fragmented feminist movement was their goal, thereby focusing on the movement’s internal rather than external goals.

The most profound ideological division among feminists during the period analysed appeared between radical and queer feminist approaches. However, it is important to stress that the groups and divisions, such as the queer/radical split referred to in the interviews, were in reality shifting and volatile. Despite these discursive divisions, individual activists often drew on different schools of thought, sometimes in contradictory ways, and identifying as radical or queer stood for partially different things for different individuals.

The core question dividing the movement during the period of this study was the issue of sex work/prostitution and how it should be approached. For those identifying along the lines of anarcho-queer, it was typical to talk about sex work as a choice, concentrating on the agency and subjectivity of the sex workers rather than their alleged patriarchal ‘oppression’. The queerfeminist approach to sex work often contained the idea that the ‘Swedish model’ of criminalizing customers of commercial sex would not work in Russia, because solving the challenges around sex work was much more complex (for a fuller discussion, see Kondakov and Zhaivoronok, 2019). For the radical feminists, on the other hand, prostitution (not sex work, as it was highlighted that prostitution was not a choice for everyone) was always about oppression and patriarchal exploitation, just like pornography, although the latter was observed much less during the course of my fieldwork. Many of those marked as radical feminists by others, and in some cases identifying as such themselves, advocated the Swedish model of criminalizing the act of buying sex in Russia. The other key struggle deterring some activists from cooperating with or facing some other groups was that of ethnic or religious appropriation. In a similar vein to those dealing with the theme of sex work/prostitution, these struggles often seemed to centre around the issue of agency and letting those discussed speak and choose for themselves. This was also a very common and timely debate in other countries during the production of the research material, connected with intersectional feminist analysis and thinking. However, for those identifying as radical in this configuration, the focus was mainly on dismantling different forms of patriarchal oppression which, in their view, left some individuals with no choice.

Despite their differences, the activists also shared many features, such as their broader political orientation, as many took a critical stance in relation to the current political regime. Most of them had also taken part in the ‘For Fair Elections’ mass protests in 2011–2013 and can be thus seen as representing different parts of the non-systemic Russian opposition.

In this book, I address the field formed by various feminist groups as a social movement. However, it is necessary to point out that the movement was by nature a spill-over movement (Meyer and Whittier, 1994), in the sense that it spilled over into different parts of the Russian leftist non-systemic opposition. In addition to being loosely situated in the realm of different parts of the opposition, various feminist individuals and groups were also situated in the counter-cultural project and spaces of art, drawing inspiration from punk, anarchism and Riot grrrl. This is also why the field has sometimes been addressed as a formation of various feminist movements in the plural (see, for example, Solovey, 2020). Nevertheless, I consider it fruitful to address the feminists as a movement, as the groups, even if at times distant from each other, were working on the feminist discourse in dialogue with each other, sometimes in collective agreement, and at times struggling over the issues described. Perhaps the movement can for this reason best be described as a loose networked movement, a typical form of mobilization in Russia during the internet age (Bode and Makarychev, 2013). Following this, it was clear that the main task of the movement was that of producing knowledge in order to make feminist ideas available in the Russian society. The emphasis on epistemic practices is also why I discuss them in various chapters of this book from different perspectives.

This book focuses on feminist alliances that were predominant during the production of the research material, thus analysing their interactions with leftist, anarchist and LGBT movements. However, it must be noted that at the time of the research, the latter was somewhat scattered. The often connected letters LGBTQ should not be viewed as forming a united community as such. Some influential LGBT communities were conducting valuable work to make the lives of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and in some cases transgender people, easier in Russia. My interviewees included representatives of these communities. However, the transgender individuals interviewed for this book, representing the letter T, also partially problematized the assumption that the LGBT community could represent them, and they thus identified rather with the transgender community or certain schools of feminism. Furthermore, those identifying as queerfeminists were connected mainly with the anarcho-queer scene, and not the LGBT movement. Therefore, for clarity, I usually separate the ‘Q’ from the other letters, and refer to LGBT when speaking of the LGBT movement, while using the short version LGBT/Q when referring to the wider, more diverse group of feminists who identify with one of these letters. Finally, I have omitted the letter ‘I’, as the issue of intersexuality was not politicized in the context of this research.

Theoretical road map of the book

In tracing how feminist politics is conducted in contemporary Russia, I draw theoretically on studies of social movements and resistance, as well as theorizations of cultural practice and relational space. These broad theories are deployed in this book because they allow an appreciation of the various individual and collective, as well as covert and overt forms taken by feminist resistance. Furthermore, they allow analysis of feminist politics in Russia from its own premises, rather than assuming anything based on feminist activism or tradition elsewhere. Thus, the theoretical tools deployed enable a critical approach to the Western hegemony of feminism and studies of activism, and challenge the ‘Western bias’.

In the remainder of this chapter, I first introduce the broad theoretical framework of the book, that of overt and covert resistance. After discussing the various forms that resistance may take, I present the spatial and temporal theoretical tools deployed in this book. I then discuss culture as a tool kit that offers activists certain tools for action.

Tracing feminist resistance in Russia

In order to trace the multiple forms of resistance in which feminists engage, I adopt a broad understanding of the term. Despite great variation, what I consider common to all resistance is action of some kind, whether verbal, cognitive or physical, as well as the intentionality of the individual engaging in resistance (Hollander and Einwohner, 2004: 538). Another element common to all forms of resistance investigated here is a sense of opposition, of being counter to or subversive towards something (Hollander and Einwohner, 2004).

Researchers focusing on resistance have observed that understanding politics only along the lines of open contention and revolt leaves many of the more subtle forms of non-compliance unobserved (Scott, 1990; Mahmood, 2005; Baaz et al, 2017). They suggest a broader approach to politics that also takes account of hidden forms of resistance (de Certeau, 1988; Scott, 1989, 1990), as well as local specifics and contexts that dictate what constitutes resistance in the first place (Mahmood, 2005). ‘Everyday resistance’, a concept coined by James Scott (1989), refers to covert and hidden forms of resistance in the context of mundane life. Everyday resistance tends to be quiet, dispersed, disguised or apparently invisible. For example, it may take the form of passive non-compliance, subtle sabotage or evasion. The hidden nature of everyday resistance may refer to hiding either the act of resistance itself or the intention for it, depending on the context and the political limitations. What is key is that resistance is hidden in various ways because it is conducted by subordinated groups and the non-privileged in authoritarian contexts where open revolt might have severe consequences that the individuals cannot risk. Thus, although everyday resistance is intentional, it tends to go unnoticed by its targets and observers (Scott, 1990: 40). In Russia, covert resistance is motivated by various factors, not least by increasingly repressive legislation and a hostile attitude towards political groups independent of the state. An example of camouflaged resistance is that of feminist critique moving increasingly into the sphere of art, a realm of action that is still relatively unregulated. In moving from more traditional spaces of resistance into that of art, resistance statements tend to turn from loud claims into more delicate artistic expressions that must be sought ‘between the lines’. Covert forms of resistance also tend to be more popular among activists in more vulnerable political positions, such as individuals identifying as LGBTQ. This is because current legislation in Russia bans public discussion of issues of non-heterosexuality in the presence of under-age individuals, thus indirectly criminalizing those who identify with one of these letters.

Furthermore, when tracing resistance, sensitivity to context is needed, as practices of resistance are formed in relation to the ethico-moral context in which they take place (Mahmood, 2005). Indeed, as Mahmood (2005) highlights, it may be impossible to recognize acts of resistance if detached from their context, as the political conditions in which they take place give them their meaning. Thus, omitting the context would mean losing the essence of the political subjectivity itself, as it is always construed in relation to a particular moral and ethical order (Mahmood, 2005: 32–35). However, while analysing how context affects practices, I argue that many forms of feminist resistance in contemporary Russia may also speak of related phenomena in other contexts, especially with similarly authoritarian tendencies. One such dimension highlighted by this study is how resistance has various therapeutic dimensions in tandem with political dimensions. Indeed, the two are often profoundly entangled in contemporary feminism, as I will show in Chapter 3.

A core form of everyday resistance which may be both covert and overt is that of resisting disciplinary and normalizing power by engaging in alternative self-making. This kind of resistance is about refusing to participate in self-disciplinary practices which suggest that subjects should comply with certain social norms (Lilja and Vinthagen, 2014: 122). Foucauldian technologies of the self, which allow the embodiment of an alternative moral order (such as that of feminism), are thus understood here as a way of resisting and engaging in ‘counter-conduct’ (McNay, 1992; Lilja and Vinthagen, 2014: 122). For example, central to such counter-conduct is how activists refuse to comply with certain gender norms, and instead engage in undoing those norms in their everyday practices (Butler, 1990; Rossi, 2015). However, when conducted in relation to specific discourses and disciplinary power, the act of refraining from action altogether may similarly count as resistance. As Saba Mahmood (2005: 15) has observed, ‘agentival capacity is entailed not only in those acts that resist norms, but likewise in the multiple ways in which one inhabits norms’. Furthermore, while engaging with alternative self-making as resistance, individuals may simultaneously strengthen some forms of power, for example when they align with neoliberal and postfeminist ideas of the atomized self and with local cultural practices connected with gender norms. As I shall show in Chapter 3, resistance is rarely untainted by forms of power, even when mobilizing to resist them.

Alongside the covert and hidden everyday forms, feminist resistance takes many loud and confrontational forms. The loud forms of resistance that Hollander and Einwohner (2004: 544–545) call ‘overt resistance’ are those recognized as resistance by all parties – the resisters and their targets, as well as observers. These open forms of resistance often aim at social recognition (Hollander and Einwohner, 2004: 540). Social movement scholarship is instructive for analysing overt resistance, as it traces contentious forms of politics that usually aim to openly confront their opponents, whether the state, global actors or other interest groups (Della Porta and Diani, 2006: 20–22; Edwards, 2014: 24). Social movements are formed in order to politicize issues and bring those issues to public discussion and contestation. However, political opportunities must exist in order for social movements such as the feminist movement to emerge and be able to politicize issues in public.

‘Political opportunity structure’ (Tarrow, 1998; Tarrow and Tilly, 2009) refers to possibilities for and limitations on political action. The concept relates to characteristics of a regime and its institutions that enable or foreclose collective action, and also acknowledges changes in them (Tarrow and Tilly, 2009: 440). In Russia, several laws, regulations and policies currently limit the political opportunities available for independent civic activism. Also, social actors independent of the state, such as feminist groups, usually lack economic resources, and lack of funding limits their opportunities to engage in certain forms of activism. However, as these groups function mainly unofficially, they have been able to act more agilely than if they had been NGOs. Organizations receiving foreign funding are labelled foreign agents and risk legal punishment, so all NGOs operating in Russia that engage in political activity are in an increasingly precarious position, both economically and in terms of their future prospects. Furthermore, traditional media, in the form of the main television channels, are government controlled, significantly diminishing the types of political opportunities that Della Porta and Diani (2006: 219–220) call ‘discursive’, as the media are a key realm allowing both expression and formation of opinions. The more autonomous and plural a country’s media structure, the greater the discursive opportunities for activists and social movements (Della Porta and Diani, 2006: 220). Although discursive opportunities in Russia have diminished owing to the state’s increasing instrumentalization of traditional media following the relatively liberal 1990s, new opportunities have emerged as a result of the growth in internet spaces and new media outlets, which are still much less regulated by the state. Indeed, it has been suggested that in the 2000s, digital spaces have pluralized the ‘monologic structure’ of Russian political discourse by enabling the formation of new kinds of political subjectivities and loosely tied networked movements, such as the feminist movement (Bode and Makarychev, 2013; Nikiporets-Takigava and Paina, 2016).

Finally, when analysing resistance in relation to power, it is necessary to bear in mind that the two have a peculiar relationship and are mutually constitutive (Hollander and Einwohner, 2004). In other words, the various forms of resistance are shaped by existing power relations, and resistance also creates new power relations (Hollander and Einwohner, 2004: 549). Disciplinary power is thus contested not only in relation to conservative and dominant political discourses, but also in relation to discourses seeking to become the norm among resisting groups themselves (Lilja and Vinthagen, 2014: 114). Accordingly, this book aims to illustrate the more complex dynamics of feminist resistance by highlighting some of its internal power dynamics and struggles, as well as the fact that resistance not only produces power but also more resistance. My aim is thus not to fall into the simplifying dichotomy of powerful and powerless, as there are always multiple systems of hierarchy. Furthermore, as I shall highlight, the same individuals and activists may appear simultaneously powerful and powerless within different systems (Hollander and Einwohner, 2004: 550; Mahmood, 2005: 15).

Discovering spatialities and temporalities

Space offers a valuable theoretical and methodological ‘lens’ through which to study resistance and social movement relations. Indeed, the relationship between social movements and space is two-dimensional: spatial aspects affect social movements, but social movements also themselves mould space (Martin and Miller, 2003; Daphi, 2014: 171).

I understand space as being formed in social relations (Harvey, 1996; Martin and Miller, 2003; Massey, 2005). The concept of relational space holds that space is not merely a container, but rather a constant process, a meeting point and a multiplicity (Massey, 1991, 2005: 55). This means not only that space is conceptualized in terms of social relations, but also that relations themselves can only fully be recognized by thinking spatially (Massey, 2005: 39). Relational space can be discovered through various spatial dimensions, such as place, scale, networks, socio-spatial positionality and mobility (Martin and Miller, 2003; Leitner et al, 2008). Place as a physical manifestation of space is pivotal for social movements, especially for the feminist movement with its constant shortage of spaces of their own. Scale refers to the simultaneous interplay of multiple scales in space, as the local, national and transnational may coexist in varying configurations. The idea of simultaneously present spatial scales enables investigation of whether resistance is locally confined or widespread (Hollander and Einwohner, 2004: 536). This concept aids interrogation of how the activists comprehend the movement, in local, national or transnational terms or, as in the case of the feminist narratives, in all of them but with different emphases. Networks refer to the way that movements are networked across space. Networking may occur through physical interaction as well as through virtual and social media space, as was often the case for the feminists interviewed. Movements’ networks are crucial, among other things, for sharing different forms of insight and knowledge. Socio-spatial situationality, on the other hand, enables one to look at the varying positions deployed by different individuals, and thus allows one to zoom in to the sometimes unequal relations between differently positioned activists (Leitner et al, 2008: 162–164). Finally, the spatial aspect of mobility refers to the fact that some individuals and groups are more mobile and move across space more effortlessly than others (Skeggs, 2004; Leitner et al, 2008). However, mobility can also be conceptualized as a mental category, as ‘one can be highly mobile from a fixed position via connections’ (Skeggs, 2004: 49). Thus, good networks and connectivity provide some individuals with a sense of mobility even when they are not physically moving (Skeggs, 2004).

A key characteristic of relational space is its constant negotiation, which also makes it political in nature (Massey, 2005: 179). Spatial politics arose in the context of the feminist movement studied when the activists were negotiating spatial axes such as invisible/visible, private/public, closed/open and safe/unsafe. All of these spatial aspects tended to be present in the feminist spaces at the same time, although different activists highlighted different aspects. Some aimed to make feminist space open rather than exclusive, whereas closing it in order to produce safety and privacy appeared more urgent to others.

As this discussion reveals, the concept of relational space connects closely with temporality. Indeed, when analysing relational space, time and space should not be separated but observed together and in relation to each other as ‘space-time’ (Massey, 2005: 55). Michel de Certeau (1988) has conceptualized everyday resistance in relation to space-time, which is useful when tracing feminist resistance in spatial and temporal terms. De Certeau distinguishes between strategy and tactic in examining power relations in space-time. These concepts are distinguished in order to highlight their different positions in relation to space, time and power. In de Certeau’s duality, ‘the strategy postulates a place that can be delimited as its own and serve as the base from which relations with an exteriority composed of targets or threats can be managed’ (de Certeau, 1988: 34). Strategy thus entails the idea of a physical place of its own, with borders that can be governed and controlled (see also Sederholm, 2002: 79). In contrast to strategy, tactic has no place of its own, but only the time at hand. It is thus constantly on the alert to take over the space of strategy, even if only temporarily, to ‘manipulate events, in order to spin them into possibilities’ (de Certeau, 1988: xix). Tactic operates by grasping opportunities ‘under the gaze of the enemy’. It is thus invisible, present nowhere; yet at the same time this very nature allows it to seize the moment when it appears. In the case of the feminists, this means that although they are ‘stuck’ in the territory of the powerful, by using time and inventiveness they are able to take over the space of the other for their own purposes, even if only temporarily. Space thus enables the subaltern – the tactic – to make do, turning it temporarily into something other than what the strategy suggests (de Certeau, 1988: 32–37).

In Chapter 4, I analyse feminists’ spatial tactics with the help of de Certeau’s spatio-temporal conceptualization. Furthermore, in Chapter 5, I look at how activists themselves, with the help of temporalities, sometimes construe an understanding suggesting that some forms of feminism are ‘primitive’ (belonging to the past), while the forms and feminist perspectives that they themselves take and advocate are signified as up-to-date. I argue that the activists are able to do this based on their particular socio-spatial positionality, networks and mobility.

Mapping feminist culture

In detailing feminist political culture, I draw from Ann Swidler (1986), according to whom culture, rather than being something internal to individuals and only value-based, affects individual action and practices from the ‘outside’ as much as from the ‘inside’ (Swidler, 1995: 31). From this perspective, the cultural context in which individuals are embedded has a causal effect on their action, as it can only offer certain tools and capacities to individuals who, based on these available capacities, construe certain lines of action (Swidler, 1986: 277). That is not to say that they are ‘passive dopes’, since they are active in construing lines of action from the existing options (Swidler, 1986). Furthermore, culture is always complex, not least because the capacities of different agents within it vary considerably based on their backgrounds and the resources to which they have access. While the feminist activists studied here have access to various resources, most are intangible in the form of skills and know-how, rather than tangible such as money (Edwards, 2014: 44).

While I touch on the question of the movement’s culture by discovering feminist processes of meaning making and resisting practices throughout the book, Chapters 5 and 6 focus on analysing culture by drawing on the Swidlerian idea of culture as a tool kit comprising certain available habits, skills and styles. In these chapters I thus trace the tool kit by identifying feminist practices and what these practices may speak of regarding the ‘outside’ cultural effect, for example how institutions, contexts and available resources affect the practices deployed (Swidler, 1995: 32).

In Chapter 5 I chart feminist political culture by mapping feminist epistemic practices, which is achieved by drawing on the concept of cognitive praxis (Eyerman and Jamison, 1991). This concept suggests that social movement knowledge is always shaped socially and should thus be traced in communications and interactions between the individuals and groups who come together to form it. Rather than being comprehended in terms of particular interest groups, social movements are understood as cognitive territories and conceptual spaces filled with dynamic interactions between different interest groups. However, as pinpointed by Eyerman and Jamison (1991: 62), the actors themselves are often unaware of certain dimensions of the social movement’s cognitive praxis, which must be identified by actually looking for them. In Chapter 5 I elaborate on feminist culture in terms of the knowledge resources available for the feminist epistemic work in a political context of information regulation. I also discuss the key role played by academic institutions in giving feminist practices a special flavour and thus affecting feminist practices from the ‘outside’, while also illustrating the rise of alternative forms of non-elite feminisms beyond the reach of academic cultural influence.

While my focus in Chapter 5 is on internal movement practices, in Chapter 6 I concentrate on the movement’s public practices and lines of action in turbulent political times. Public feminist lines of action are scrutinized in dialogue with Swidler’s (1986: 273) idea that patterns of action are likely to change during unsettled periods, such as that in Russia in the 2010s resulting from various changes in the structure of political opportunity. Indeed, when some forms of action have been forbidden, the activists have been forced to look for new styles and patterns of action. The lines of action analysed here refer to the ‘chains of action’ typical of a cultural context, rather than to specific instances of action. As Swidler (1986) points out:

People do not build lines of action from scratch, choosing actions one at a time as efficient means to given ends. Instead, they construct chains of action beginning with at least some pre-fabricated links. Culture influences action through the shape and organization of those links, not by determining the ends to which they are put. (Swidler, 1986: 277)

As part of the lines of action traced, I discover what kinds of emotions are publicly displayed (Goodwin and Jasper, 2004; Jasper, 2014). In interrogating emotions in feminist lines of action, I treat them as socially construed styles of action (Goodwin et al, 2001).

The latter chapters of this book thus help me concretize not only the changing practices of feminism, but also how these relate to the activists’ varying access to cultural resources. Indeed, my suggestion is that differences in access to cultural resources among the activists play a key role in forming the feminist culture and its central struggles. They also reveal how elite ownership of this particular cultural domain is actively challenged, and suggest that differently situated activists draw on partially very different cultural tool kits, as the more immediate contexts in which they take action tend to vary, while they also share the broader context of political authoritarianism and repression.

Structure of the book

I start by discussing the background and setting out the basis and motivations for the mobilization of the feminist movement in Russia in the 2010s. In Chapter 2 I introduce the development of the sphere of civic activism in Russia and present the history of both gender and feminist politics in this specific locale. I also illuminate the neoconservative and authoritarian turn in formal politics and how it engaged increasingly with gender norms in the 2000s as a consequence of demographic and political developments in the country. These are of relevance to those unfamiliar with the context, as well as those wishing to refresh their memory on these topics.

The empirical analysis is divided into four parts, enabling me to chart feminist politics from four angles. These should be of relevance both to global readers interested in feminist resistance and activism, and to those engaged with Russia as activists, scholars and experts. In the first empirical chapter, Chapter 3, I provide an introduction to the lives and politicization of the feminist activists studied. I also look at core forms of feminism in the activists’ everyday lives, and at changes and continuities in relation to earlier activism around gender in Russia. As feminist activism is discussed in dialogue with local tradition, it is relevant not only to individuals studying activism in Russia keen to understand some of the changes, but also to a wider audience seeking to understand how both local and global ingredients play decisive roles in how feminist activism takes shape. In this chapter it is suggested that although feminism is produced in the conservative discourse as a ‘foreign import’, it should rather be viewed as profoundly local as a result of its unique historical path in Russia. The chapter is relevant to scholars of resistance and gender, as it illustrates how therapeutic and political come together in feminist activism. Novel insights are offered into how postfeminist elements also exist in feminist activism in a non-Western and authoritarian context.

Having examined feminism as a therapeutic resource in Chapter 3, in the three empirical chapters that follow I help the reader appreciate ways in which limited resources produce specific kinds of feminist activism. These issues are of relevance to scholars around the world seeking to understand the workings of social movements in resource-scarce and challenging environments, particularly as many countries are exhibiting increasingly conservative and authoritarian tendencies. In Chapter 4 I interrogate spatio-temporal aspects of feminist resistance. I illustrate how activism conducted by those who are subaltern has profoundly spatial dimensions in a context of increasing authoritarianism. Three key spatial metaphors of feminism used by the activists are introduced, and their wider implications explored. In building on earlier work around space and its political dimensions in Russia, I observe that space cannot be detached from discovering resistance in such challenging contexts of activism.

In Chapter 5 the movement’s internal struggles for the few existing – especially epistemic – resources for action are uncovered. In discussing social movements’ resources, I introduce the novel angle of their constant lack, and thus a persistent focus on them. I uncover struggles over epistemic resources within the Russian feminist movement, and suggest that such tendencies resonate in the broader global feminist context. Furthermore, by illustrating the atomization of feminist groups, in this chapter I speak of the wider atomization of independent political groups in Russia.

In Chapter 6 I analyse the intensively mediatized tactics deployed by the activists to reach out to new audiences in Russia and to expand feminist public discourses. The chapter is highly relevant to all researchers of feminism and activism, as it shows some potential extremes of activism when squeezed into a very small space in a repressive and conservative context. At the same time, those engaged with Russia will gain a fresh understanding of emergent forms of activism in an online environment.

Finally, in Chapter 7 I draw together the main arguments of this book, and envisage some future prospects for feminist activism and resistance in Russia and beyond.

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