How Do We Stand Up to Evil

December 19, 2016. For years I warned about Putin’s ambitions and the dangers of propaganda: “‘The U.S. Would Benefit from Such a President as Putin’ or Why You Should Read It” (Jan 26, 2015) and “Invitation to a Beheading or Absurdist from Kremlin” (Apr 18, 2015). I wrote that Russia was sick, brainwashed, and that the disease was spreading not only outwards, but inwards. By 2017, America has contracted the same illness and we are facing the Kremlin rule in the U.S. Little needs to be changed in this article. It applies to all of us now. The Arts Resistance is one way to protect your sanity and spirit. There are other ways but this is my path. I am sharing it on this sad day, with grief and hope.

Jan. 31, 2015. Russia is sick.

This is not a lobster. Russia is sick. It hurts. We don’t want to speak about it. Can we avoid it? What to do?

THE ARTS RESISTANCE is a movement open to all. We create a passionate thinking space outside of the totalitarian mentality BY MEANS OF THE ARTS. We are artists, writers, scholars and people of good will, gathered to use the language of painting, visual arts, music, literature, performing arts, and dance to resist the injustice, inequality, hate, war and support human rights. During the last three years, we staged literary theater shows, painting exhibits, poetry translation readings, and standup comedy nights and raised funds and awareness for various causes including Nepalese hospital for handicapped, LGBT and human rights in Russia, the US mobile bookstore run by teenagers, Syrian refugees in Europe and more. Please visit us at


I have realized a few months ago that confrontation with the Kremlin regime — in a form of physical street protest as we used to protest two years ago during the Pussy Riot trial and/or verbal or rational debate in mass media — was futile at this moment.

In 2012 we still felt somewhat hopeful and even could joke about it.

By 2015 it has become clear: engaging in any contact with the system makes one a part of the system and the system wins. However, in the words of a Ukrainian poet Vasyl Stus:

“I believe that in such conditions silence is a crime.”

Botticcelli Deformed by an Unknown Artists, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

So, what to do?

How to resist and maintain emotional and intellectual integrity? I believe that the only way is by complete and non-negotiable refusal to be involved with the system in any way.

Any contact with the contaminated source leads to infection.

But how do we protest without protesting?

I have written an article sharing my thoughts — or, rather, questions — on the subject.

A few Russian and Ukrainian-speaking artists and artistically inclined people have joined me. We started a conversation. And, we have decided: THE ARTS.


I believe that it is critical that we develop our own cultural space and language outside of Kremlin’s matrix. But what language? Well —

“Language and, presumably, literature are things that are more ancient and inevitable, more durable than any form of social organization. The revulsion, irony, or indifference often expressed by literature toward the state is essentially the reaction of the permanent — better yet, the infinite — against the temporary, against the finite. . . .” — Joseph Brodsky.

By adhering to the human core values expressed by the arts one can avoid the toxic and mind-altering new speak of the totalitarian power.

We need to keep our ability to cry and laugh at all things human regardless of national, religious or political identity. We need compassion. The universal language of a human soul is the arts.

The Fury of the Muses.


Kremlin uses psychological means to keep masses under control. It has now branched into the West and applied the mind war tools (brainwashing, fake news, hacking, etc) to support Brexit and Trump election.

Prisons, tanks and guns are employed, too, but selectively. The human soul becomes the target of this war for power.

Boris Nemtsov, an opposition leader, killed two days before the opposition march and three hours after the public address on the radio with the call for action. Kremlin denied accusations but anyone who lived in Moscow (and I did, for four years) knows that jumping out of a car, firing a gun and escaping at this distance to Kremlin is IMPOSSIBLE — unless it is sanctioned.

The propaganda machine alters minds and emotional patterns using psychological weapons and brainwashing techniques based on physiological factors. To convert, it creates the atmosphere of danger and crisis through the continual flow of mass media fabrications. It instills fear, paranoia and confusion by falsifying and distorting historical reality of past and present. Thus, it causes stress. Then it targets people at the time that is perceived as vulnerable, offering solutions and acting on a subliminal level, promoting ultra-nationalistic ideas, militarism and the cult of personality in Russia.

A monument to Putin.

This multimillion dollar system employs mass media, Internet, PR, marketing and advertising techniques, Western mass media experts and channels, the Russian Orthodox Church and other religious institutions, oppositional political parties and modern art. It combines modern technology with the Nazi, Communist and Cold War brainwashing methods.

A Russian Orthdox priest blessing rifles. The poster on the wall reads: “If we are united in sports, we are invincible.”

Putin’s first move as the President in 2000 was establishing the government control over the TV. He arrested and exiled the oligarchs, shareholders of the main Russian TV channel. By January 2001 all eleven directors of the TV channel were appointed by Kremlin. In 2010, Putin’s government spent $1.4 billion for international propaganda only. RT (formerly Russia Today) is a 24/7 news channel broadcasting in English, Arabic and Spanish worldwide was setup by presidential decree with an annual budget over $300 million (as of 2012). Nine out of 10 movies made in Russia receive government financing, and therefore majority of the films are “patriotic”, “happy” and government-friendly.

It is important to note that instead of the constant physical oppression and bans of alternative ideologies, KGB occasionally infiltrates or embraces them. For example, authority does not ban a modern art exhibit that exposes the use of religion as a propaganda tool. Instead, it recruits a skinhead youth organization to attack the artists and destroy the exhibits.

Or, it will allow the street protest against the war in Ukraine but will ensure the presence of ultra-nationalistic group that will provoke a conflict and call the police. Eventually, the protesters and artists alike will be jailed. The people’s wrath against them will be depicted on the TV and in press. Their public images will be distorted; their ideas will be compromised; Kremlin will reign again as the “provider of stability.”

Their public image will be distorted: in Moscow, at a railways station, “the enemies” are honored with stars…

Not one party or organization is in fact supported by authority; but all are being used as its tool in application of the “Divide and Rule” principle. In other words, KGB manipulates everyone in order to serve its own goal — keeping the power at all cost.


Inviting people to participate in The Arts Resistance, we did not intend to match this industry and scale. We do not have resources nor ambitions. But we can not allow ourselves to be sucked into this absurd and no-win, no-rules game and become yet another instrument of this power machine. There are many ways to resist now: street protests, volunteering, daily awareness, zero acceptance on discrimination. The Arts Resistance calls to express feelings by using the universal language of the arts.

By expressing individuality and the diversity of opinions artists resist propaganda and totalitarian regime.

Independent thought process and free expression are the long-term antidotes to the autocratic state.


On April 25th, 2015, we ran the first event: Russian and Ukrainian Poetry in English Translation: The Arts Resistance.

Native Russian and Ukrainian speakers will read their favorite works by Akhmatova, Kharms, Khodasevich, Kostenko, Mandelstam, Oliynik, Pasternak, Stus, Symonenko, Arsenij Tarkovsky, Tsvetaeva, Tychina, and more. Each poem will be accompanied by a translation made by some of the best translators and modern American poets. Well-known San Franciscan poets and actors will read the English translation. Literary work will be accompanied by live music. The evening will also include an exhibit of paintings by a San Francisco-based artist, Oksana Johnson.

We hope that the art event will unite immigration and American people in our resistance. By sharing poems read in all three languages through the Internet we will show solidarity and support for the protesters in Russia. We feel that the courageous few who dare to protest there despite of the physical threat of being imprisoned or killed need the world support.

The reading was dedicated to the victims of Putin’s regime.

On May 29th, 2015, in Oakland, we had our second event: The Arts Resistance for the Right to Love: In Support of LGBT community in Russia

At this event The Arts Resistance will feature a local artist Stella Kisstiger, a rock band Wyatt Act, as well as local poets and writers, such as Neeli Cherkovski and more.


There are many ways to be involved. You can become a contributing artist or participate in one of our future events, you can attend, help with logistics, or establish Internet presence only if needed. The Arts Resistance is open to all forms of working together. Feel free to contact us via my email: Join us on Facebook: Check out our webiste at

*All facts and photos are in public domain and available through Google. Links to the original sources are included.

** Click and hold the clapping hands on the left bottom corner so more Medium users can read it. The longer you hold it, the more claps the article gets and more people will be able to find out this article. Share on the social media: we need independent research.

Zarina Zabrisky is the author of IRON and CUTE TOMBSTONE, EXPLOSION, a poetry book GREEN LIONS, and a novel WE, MONSTERS. More at

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store