It did not take Nostradamus to predict the general direction of a former KGB officer–cum-president of the Russian Federation. Nonetheless, when the SVA exhibition Russia Rising: Votes for Freedom opened in 2012, few, if any, of its organizers would have predicted Putin’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine or the 2022 invasion of the sovereign nation.
The internal disturbance in Russia was bad enough. As my co-curator of the exhibition, Misha Beletsky, said at the time: “The current regime is openly disdainful of its constituents, and while it generally does not threaten their lives, it does assault their human dignity and their basic freedoms. Our hope is to help lend a well-pitched voice to the outcry.”
The original protest posters featured in the show were created in support of the popular Russian movement for democracy that emerged at the third-term election of Vladimir Putin. Participating artists included R. O. Blechman, The Bukheyevs (S. Bulkin & E. Mikheyeva), Savas Cekic, Cybersect, Maxim Derevyankin, Eugeny Dobrovinsky, Lex Drewinski, Stasys Eidrigevicius, Alexander Faldin, Kevin Finn, Emily Firebaugh, Robert Grossman, Hilppa Hyrkäs, Allison Hefely, Viktor Koen, Boris Kulikov, Yossi Lemel, Alain Le Quernec, Uwe Loesch, Alexandria Lopresti, Alexey Lysogorov, Ilya Pereverzentsev, Kari Piippo, Woody Pirtle, Joe Scorsone and Alice Drueding, Eugeniusz Skorwider, Lanny Sommese, Alexander Umyarov, Kevin Vander Griend and Dimon Zakharov.
Much in the world has changed since 2012, but the nefarious ambitions of Vladimir Putin have remained consistent—consistently outrageous, dangerous and fatal.