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St. Petersburg, April 2022

‘A small way for me to channel my pain and rage’ The St. Petersburg resident on a personal mission to get pro-war symbols removed from the city

Source: Bumaga
St. Petersburg, April 2022
St. Petersburg, April 2022
Marina Mamontova

Since the start of the war, St. Petersburg resident Alexey Lakhov has been sending complaints to various government agencies requesting that they remove pro-war symbols from public spaces. St. Petersburg news outlet Bumaga recently published a story about Lakhov and his small acts of protest. With their permission, Meduza is publishing a translation below.

In late April, Alexey Lakhov filed a complaint with St. Petersburg’s property relations committee about the letters "Z" and "V" on a building under construction on Yesenin Street. In response, the committee said the property was being leased to the developer and the lease agreement didn’t contain any requirements related to the building’s appearance.

A building with pro-war symbols on Yesenin Street
Alexander Chizhenok / Kommersant

Lakhov then filed a request to the administration of the city’s Vyborgsky District asking them to explain why they were allowing pro-war symbols on a school building, Gymnasium No. 73. According to Lakhov, someone from the administration called him and told him that the school has the right to display those symbols, and that “[the building] doesn’t say anything anywhere about supporting the special military operation.”

A real violation would be something like making children march in support of the army, they reportedly told Lakhov.

Later, they also sent him a written response. “The district administration would like to express its bewilderment that you saw the St. George’s ribbon, which has always served as a symbol of military glory, valor, bravery, a symbol of Victory, and a symbol of the memory of our Great history and its heroes, as a call to military action or support for it.”

On May 22, Lakhov wrote to the Smolny external affairs committee and the St. Petersburg Metro to suggest that they remove advertisements that show the letter "Z." Neither agency has provided a response.

He contacted the city’s media relations committee with the same suggestion. In response, he was told that the Federal Antimonopoly Service was responsible for the content of the cities’ advertisements, so he contacted that agency’s local office. He pointed out that the Defense Ministry doesn’t officially recognize those symbols as military symbols, and that signs featuring them could mislead city residents.

From Lakhov’s letter:

I work on my laptop every day, which can have a negative impact on my vision; letters often look blurry to me. As a result, I often read the words “We Don’t Abandon Our Own” as “We Don’t Mangle Our Own.” This reading of the message likely doesn’t correspond to the meaning its author intended. [...] I suggest you take down billboards containing the letter "Z" and the slogan “We Don’t Abandon Our Own,” as they may be misleading to St. Petersburg’s residents and visitors.

He hasn’t yet received an answer.

Alexey told Bumaga that he continues to submit these complaints to local officials because he wants to exercise his right to free speech and to express his disapproval of the Russian army's deployment on foreign territory.

Alexey Lakhov:

I post these complaints on social media, several media outlets have reported on it, and it allows me not only to feel connected to my fellow countrymen who oppose the “special military operation,” but also to express my support for my friends and colleagues from Ukraine; it allows me to show them that not all Russians want war. Finally, it’s a small way for me to channel the pain and rage that I’ve felt almost every day since February 24.

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