‘Painted over’: Russian village artist finds peace artwork unwelcome

Retired engineer Vladimir Ovchinnikov has spent a long time portray murals in his small city south of Moscow however finds a few of his artwork shouldn’t be welcome after Russia’s battle with Ukraine. “They’ve painted over it,” Ovchinnikov, 84, mentioned throughout a current cease at an deserted store in a village discipline close to Borovsk, his city of about 10,000 folks two hours’ drive from the Russian capital.

Ovchinnikov had painted a blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag on one facet of the constructing, however it had been coated over in white paint. Shifting briskly, he pulled out a black pencil and started to attract a dove over the whitewash, till one other native man approached and threatened to name the police. However Ovchinnikov insisted he had no fears about persevering with his efforts.

“At my age, I’m not afraid of something,” he mentioned in an interview at his residence. “If there are any complaints in opposition to me, nobody will undergo.” Since Russia despatched troops into Ukraine on February 24, authorities have moved in opposition to any indicators of opposition to what Moscow calls a “particular army operation” within the pro-Western nation. 1000’s of protesters have been detained, impartial media have been shut down and several other folks have been convicted and fined underneath a regulation that makes it against the law to “discredit” the Russian armed forces.

A girl walks previous by a graffiti made by the artist Vladimir Ovchinnikov in Borovsk.

‘Friendship destroyed’

Ovchinnikov is considered one of them. The silver-haired and bearded pensioner was fined 35,000 rubles (about $430, 400 euros) after he a drew a bit of lady sporting the colours of the Ukrainian flag with three bombs hanging over her head on a constructing in Borovsk. It too was whitewashed and Ovchinnikov painted a dove as an alternative. He obtained greater than 150 donations to assist pay the effective.

Ovchinnikov is well-known for his artwork in and round Borovsk, and considered one of his drawings devoted to the city’s liberation from Nazi troops in 1942 adorns the partitions of the city’s conscription workplace. One in all his current murals-of two girls holding palms with ribbons matching the colours of the Russian and Ukrainian flags of their hair-has to this point been left untouched.

“This friendship has been destroyed, we are able to solely be nostalgic,” Ovchinnikov mentioned, including that the drawing was a duplicate of a Soviet-era poster. His artwork has lengthy had a political edge. In 2003, Ovchinnikov got here throughout a guide with the names of victims of Soviet repression within the Kaluga region-where Borovsk is located-listing who have been both shot or despatched to the Gulag. “It made my hair stand on finish,” he mentioned. He launched campaigns to have lots of the victims rehabilitated-a authorized course of the place they’re posthumously acquitted of any crimes-but confronted quite a few rejections.

Artist Vladimir Ovchinnikov walks in Borovsk.

Father despatched to camps

In 2015 and 2016, Ovchinnikov painted the portraits of victims of repression on the partitions of Borovsk, every time seeing the drawings eliminated or vandalized. Their tales hit near home-his father Alexander was sentenced in 1937 to 10 years in a labor camp for selling “monarchist and Trotskyist” views. He served time within the infamous Kolyma camps in Russia’s Far East earlier than resettling in Borovsk in 1956. Ovchinnikov worries that Russian society is being torn aside by a brand new “schism” and fears the nation might head “in a really dangerous course”.

He mentioned he would proceed his work, believing within the energy of artwork to advertise peace. “It says it proper to your face. Bombs are falling on a toddler. Every part is evident,” Ovchinnikov mentioned. “I draw to point out how I perceive issues… and possibly to have an affect on others,” he mentioned. “It’s for individuals who aren’t curious about politics… who know nothing and simply sit in entrance of the tv.” – AFP

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