Anti-war protestor uses House editions cleverly

Mar 21, 2022

Posted by: Amanda Kirk

Books, Fan Activism, News

Her green hair and shoes may say Slytherin, but we think Yulia Zhivtsova dwells with the brave at heart.

Russians who say anything against Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine risk arrest, imprisonment, loss of their jobs, expulsion from school, and more. News organisations have had to stop reporting from Russia or risk their staff being imprisoned under new laws that criminalise any deviation from the official state lies, including calling Russia’s invasion and war on Ukraine what it is. Remember when Voldemort was controlling the Ministry of Magic? Yeah, like that. Remember the Snatchers and the secret radio broadcasts? The students kidnapped from the Hogwarts Express? The resistors hiding in the Room of Requirement? That may be fiction but it provides a grim sense of the climate of fear in Russia and the courage it takes to resist the state propaganda and defy its edicts.

Despite the risk of arrest, protestors have gathered in public squares in Russia to object to Putin’s war. Some Russians believe the official lies but many are horrified, embarrassed, and also afraid for their own future, fearing a new totalitarian crackdown reminiscent of the Soviet era. A few are leaving the country, if they can, getting out before a new Iron Curtain comes down. Others are speaking truth to power, marching in city streets and holding anti-war signs. Marina Ovsyannikova, a Russian state TV news editor, ran onto the set and held up a handwritten poster behind the newsreader stating that the news network was lying about the war. She was arrested, charged with “hooliganism,” and fined.

That was a brave protest. Oysannikova knew she would lose her job and be arrested immediately. Journalists and others who speak truth about Putin’s regime have been imprisoned for lengthy sentences in the 21st century equivalent of Siberian gulags, tortured, and poisoned. Other protestors have used whatever means are available to them to register their objection to Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine–including Harry Potter books.

Ms Zhivtsova’s unique form of protest occurred on the first day of the invasion. She told NPR:

I did not have any posters or anything like that. Usually if you have a poster you get arrested right away, even if it’s just a blank piece of paper. So what I did was I got two Harry Potter books. One is from Hufflepuff, which is yellow, and another one from Ravenclaw, which is blue. So the yellow and blue editions. And I was just reading those two books at Pushkin Square. So it looked like the Ukrainian flag. … So for about an hour, the police did not know what to do with me because it was quite unusual. But then yeah, they decided to just take me to the police station.

I was just reading about the Dark Lord ascending. And I think it’s quite well, funny. If we may call anything funny these days.

She said that there are people who do not support the war but are keeping their views quiet:

They don’t want to get arrested. They don’t want to lose their jobs…

But on the other hand, there are still very many people who do believe all in all the propaganda nonsense, and well unfortunately, there are also quite many of them. I mean, even my dad is quite pro-Putin these days. And he says he’s ashamed of me or something like that.

Most of my friends, … most of the people I know, do not support the war. But still there are people who believe it’s a good cause, or whatever they were told from TV. And this is very sad. It’s very annoying, especially if it is somebody from your family.

Keeping quiet is no guarantee of safety under the current totalitarian regime, however:

you can’t say that you are safe if you don’t speak out. Unfortunately, now, it’s kind of a lottery. And you can get detained somewhere near the protests if you’re not participating in them for real. …

There are many stories about different bloggers getting arrested, even being put into jail for some stupid things that they did many years ago, before some law even existed. …So when people see that, they realize how crazy it all is now. So there’s no point. So if I keep silent, I’m still not safe. …And more and more people are realizing now that keeping silent doesn’t actually help.

But she is under no illusion that the protests will stop Putin. It is more that one has to do it for the sake of integrity:

Because I don’t think the usual people, the usual protesters, can actually do anything in this case. When I go and protest, it’s not because I think Putin will look down at me and say, “Oh, there are too many people, I’ll stop.” Well, that’s nonsense. We won’t have enough people because everybody’s too afraid. So it’s more for the future generations like, “You see? I was out there. I was protesting. I was against this.”

We hope that Julia Zhivtsova will not be punished by the regime for her courage in protesting its barbarism. Join us in raising our wands to her and others who dare speak the truth in a dystopian nightmare of egregious lies.

Harry Potter fans have a history of effective activism. What can we do to help the people of Ukraine? Tell us your ideas!

The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.