Home » today » World » Daria Apakhonchich: A Russian teacher as an enemy of the state | Culture | DW

Daria Apakhonchich: A Russian teacher as an enemy of the state | Culture | DW

January 31, 2021, a Sunday, began for Daria Apakhonchich at five in the morning with a loud thunder at her door. “The cops kick in the door,” the Petersburg Russian teacher and artist wrote down quicklyFacebook.

Then she opened it because she wanted to prevent her old wooden door from being slit open with a circular saw. Their early morning guests from the police had one of these with them. As Daria learned during the subsequent interrogation, the reason for this visit was the fact that “public traffic areas” were entered during the protests against the arrest of Alexei Navalny on January 23 in Saint Petersburg. Daria had been there and was now being interrogated as a witness – for the time being. The police turned the whole apartment upside down, and all devices such as PCs, notebooks and cell phones were taken, Daria reports the next day – also on Facebook.

Artist as “agent”

She provides her mail with the intro: “This message was provided and (or) distributed by a foreign mass medium that represents foreign interests, and (or) by a Russian legal entity that represents foreign interests.”

Socially active in her free time: Daria Apakhonchich in Saint Petersburg

Daria Apakhonchich has been obliged to label the articles she has written since December 28, 2020. On that day, the Russian Ministry of Justice published a list on which, for the first time in recent Russian history, physical persons were declared “foreign agents”.

Previously, according to the “Agents Act”, which was passed in 2012 and amended several times, only “legal entities”, especially NGOs and mass media, were included in the index. But now for the first time “lone perpetrators” were there – three journalists, a human rights activist and Daria Apakhonchich. Daria lives in Saint Petersburg and earns her living as a Russian teacher. When she is not teaching, she takes part in art events on the feminist scene. She is not a great celebrity.

An unexpected “honor”

Shortly before the New Year celebrations, Daria heard about the “honor” she had been given from friends and couldn’t believe her ears. Because in detail their activity as “mass medium” is incriminated.

But Daria is not a mass medium, nor is it a journalist. Her activity as a “medium” is limited to posts on her Facebook account, where she currently has just 1589 friends. Clearly too little to be considered a mass medium. Her topics are, in addition to funny observations from the lives of her children, above all domestic violence and violence against women and men in Russia in general.

Land of Foreigners: Daria Apakhonchich's artistic commentary on the current strategy of the Putin government

“Land of Strangers”: Daria Apakhonchich’s artistic commentary on the current strategy of the Putin government

However, Daria writes quite bluntly and in good Russian what she thinks, for example: “Every time an absurd law is passed in our country (whether via propaganda, demonstrations or slander), I hear the sentence: ‘According to this Law can put anyone in jail! ‘ Yes, you can, but those in power don’t do that, because if you persecute many innocent people according to the same paragraph, then people show solidarity. But you don’t want unity in the scene that sees power as a threat to itself. “

That is why, according to Daria’s conclusion on Facebook, people are given as many “labels” as possible: one is a thief, the other a propagandist of extremist views, still other foreign agents and so on and so forth. And in case of doubt, you can always accuse someone of “violating Corona rules” or “unauthorized entry on public traffic routes”. “The power wants to alienate each other. Like an octopus, it sprays ever new clouds of ink of laws and accusations so that it remains invisible in our waters.”

Women are fed up.  Freedom for Yulia Tsvetkova (see text) is written on the poster

Women are fed up. Freedom for Yulia Tsvetkova (see text)” says the poster

“Set an example”

On Wednesday, January 27th, we have an appointment with Daria Apakhonchich for a Skype interview. Just in time, your old laptop has not yet been confiscated. But how did it come about that she became one of the first “single agents” in Russia?

Daria goes far: she grew up as the daughter of a volcanologist in Kamchatka and in Siberia. “Volcanologists are brave people.” Then she studied philology and literature on the Neva and taught Russian – also as a foreign language for migrants.

In the protest years 2011-2012 she worked as an election observer, that was her birth as a political person. “After the suppression of the anti-fraud protests, the feeling was suffocated that there was no longer any room for expression of opinion.” It was rather by chance that she discovered the instrument of political action art for herself.

Refugees from domestic violence countries - let them into your hearts.  is on the poster

“Refugees from the countries of domestic violence – let them into your hearts” is written on the poster

Together with a couple of friends she founded the art group “Rodina” (“Heimat”), which targeted a number of social grievances. Domestic violence against women became a central issue for Daria. “Russia is one of the few countries where there is no law against domestic violence. Femicide remains a taboo word in Russia. Thousands of women are victims of domestic tyrants every year,” Daria told DW. Daria stood up against it – with posters, books, attempts to educate people.

Don’t give up

2020 was a year of struggle for them, and not just because of Corona. She is particularly proud of one action: together with the American performance artist Nicole Garneau, she designed a kind of ritualized lamentation for Anastassia Jeschenko, a 24-year-old scientist who was brutally murdered in 2019 by her doctoral supervisor, a professor at St. Petersburg University . The man tried to sink the girl’s body in the river next to his house. The crime attracted much attention, with the majority of society blaming the victim. “Unfortunately, a woman’s life in Russia doesn’t count for much,” Daria told DW. “We symbolically buried Anastassia’s soul to give her back her dignity …”

Have no regrets: Daria Apakhonchich

Have no regrets: Daria Apakhonchich

But does all of this make Daria Apakhonchich a first-rate enemy of the state? “I think they just didn’t know what to do with me,” says Daria. “But somehow they wanted to make an example of me. So that the next time you would think three times about expressing your own opinion. Even if only on your own Facebook page.”

Now Daria Apakhonchich is tidying up her devastated apartment and is trying to encourage herself: “My face is looking a bit tired, but my mind is clear and strong,” the young woman told the author of this article on Monday, February 1st. From a friend’s cell phone.

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