Speech at the Anti-War Conference in Vilnius, March 5, 2022
Dear friends, colleagues, participants, and viewers of the conference. Many right words and offers have already been said today about what is happening at the moment and how the West and we can end war, dictatorship, and protect the values of the free world. The thoughts that I will voice today may seem to some of you out of touch with the current agenda, less global, maybe even naive, but in my opinion, now is the time to affirm the place of free Russians in the global anti-Putin anti-dictatorial movement, to clearly show that we exist and there are many of us. It’s time to adopt common symbols.
For a long time, there was no unity in the Russian opposition movement as to which flag to come out under. I was at almost all the protests in 2011-2012, I remember this colorful palette of party flags. There were many tricolors among them. However, a lot has changed since then. The flag that Peter I created in my hometown, Arkhangelsk, has lost its connection with honor, glory, and dignity. The flag, which was once a symbol of change and the struggle for freedom, was appropriated by officialdom and is methodically used as a cover for military gambles, has become a symbol of the irremovability of power and aggressive war. It, like the once harmless swastika, is stained with blood.
The white-blue-red banner causes shame in most of us and irritation in citizens of other countries. And we can understand these feelings. Now, when we, Russian political emigrants, and there are already many thousands of us in different parts of the world, go out to protest, we are simply not visible. In a sea of Ukrainian and Belarusian flags, one might get the impression that the Russians don’t care, that they are all obedient accomplices in Putin’s bloody atrocities. It cannot go on like this.
We want our protest against the war with Ukraine to be clear and visible to the entire world. We are Russians, but not supporters of this regime. We must find our banner, our unifying, symbolic, and non-contradictory assemblage point. And in the last week, in a number of communities of Russian emigrants, the idea of a new flag was born, which would become a unifying symbol of Russians who oppose bloodshed, who rally for a free Russia. This is a white-blue-white flag.
Why exactly that one? The tricolor is taken as its basis, but red is deliberately removed, as the color of the cult of blood, militarism, and red despotism. Many see it as a reference to Northern Russia, to free Novgorod, the veche proto-democratic Republic that challenged the Horde and Muscovites. Indeed, it was used as the flag of Novgorod in the 1990s and early 2000s, after which it was changed to something tasteless. The white-blue-white flag also refers to the flag of free Belarus – white-red-white. The white color instead of red symbolizes peace, purity, and prudence, the rejection of military expansions and territorial claims against other states. Among other things, it is beautiful.
An initiative that could have gone unnoticed, like many others, is already gaining momentum. Russian emigrants are already rallying under this flag: in Australia, Georgia, Cyprus, Canada, and Norway. Communities are being created in social networks, artists and designers have already begun to create various art, posters on the theme of the new flag. I myself have conducted several polls on social networks, and the vast majority of people of our views support this idea.
By the way, I want to remind you that a version of this flag was used to designate the conditional “enemy country” of Veishnoria during the military exercises of the Russian Federation and Belarus in 2017. And the pro-Kremlin telegram dumps have already begun hysteria about this initiative. And as Boris Nemtsov said, if they fight against you, then you are doing everything right. Perhaps it is not without reason that the imperial authorities sense something dangerous for themselves in this symbolism, dangerous for their existence and their power.
Why is the new symbol so important? It liberates Russians from the Kremlin, draws a clear line of demarcation, allows them to separate their own, independent institutions from the stinking simulacra of Putin’s dictatorship. Demonstrating this flag, we, as Russians, say no to war, no to dictatorship, no to slavery, and no to censorship. By this, we deny putinistas the right to speak on our behalf. The time has come to break with the slave imperial rut.
I’m not going to say whether this flag will be the new national flag after the fall of Putinism, although I personally like the idea very much. First, we need to win. I would like to emphasize that this is not a national flag project, but a symbol for uniting people. Let it be a supra-party, supra-factional symbol of the Russian anti-war and anti-dictatorial movement. I ask the Anti-War Committee to consider and support this idea.