Fearless Woman Warrior Stands Up to Putin’s Oppression

Fearless Woman Warrior Stands Up to Putin's Oppression by @andrewdkaufman #putin #women #warrior

On March 8, to mark International Women’s Day, Putin gave a speech extolling the virtues of women: “You cope with a great pile of problems and worries while all the while remaining charming and beautiful,” he gushed to his mostly female audience. “How can one not simply admire this?”

Promising government support to those who have at least three or more children, he reminded women of their most sacred task: “Today in Russia, the family – its interests and needs – is the focus of our attention, our absolute priority.”

The Tiny-Souled Tryant

At first, the speech sounded like the typical patriarchal blather one would expect of a Russian tyrant hell-bent on turning back the clock on social progress. Feminism has no place in Putin’s Russia. Nor do LGBTQ rights, freedom of speech, free elections, or people who criticize Putin’s war or challenge his rule.

If Putin cared about women, he wouldn’t have made so many of them widows and orphans by sending their husbands and fathers to die senselessly in Ukraine for his own imperial ambitions. The real reason he wants women to have more children is not because this philanderer, who divorced his wife of three decades, took a young mistress, and fathered multiple illegitimate children, cares about families.

It’s because he needs more healthy young bodies to feed into his war machine over the coming decades.

One woman recently widowed on Putin’s orders was Yulia Navalnaya, wife of Alexei Navalny, the Russian dictator’s greatest political rival. Even from prison, where Navalny was serving a nineteen-year sentence on sham charges, Navalny proved too much of a threat, so Putin had him eliminated.

As if the murder weren’t inhumane enough, Putin’s lackeys refused to release Navalny’s body to his elderly mother for two weeks, threatening to bury the man in the penal colony where he was murdered unless Mrs. Navalnaya agreed to hold a quiet, private funeral. Mrs. Navalnaya refused and took to social media, forcing Putin to back down ultimately, but not before he psychologically tortured the grieving mother and abused her dead son’s body.

Fearless Woman Warrior

The contrast between the tyrant’s tiny-souled cruelty and the elderly mother’s fierceness was a striking reminder that feminine courage is one of the few remaining oppositional forces to be reckoned with in today’s autocratic Russia.

This was made clear again a few days later when Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, spoke to the European Assembly. Dressed in a somber black and white dress, her eyes red and frequently welling up with tears, she stood tall as she boldly recounted for the vast hall how, on Putin’s orders, her husband “was tortured for three years. He was starved in a tiny stone cell, cut off from the outside world, and denied visits, phone calls, and then even letters. And then they killed him.”

But she didn’t come there just to speak about grave injustices. She came ready to lead others into battle. “If you really want to defeat Putin,” she told the European politicians in her accented English, “you have to become an innovator. You have to stop being boring. You cannot hurt Putin with another resolution or another set of sanctions. You are not dealing with a politician but with a bloody monster.”

The audience interrupted the speech several times with applause, and their expressions showed that they were as awe-struck as I was by this show of extraordinary strength on the part of a wife in mourning.

In her 11-minute speech, Navalnaya was a towering, tragic figure of Biblical proportions.

A week after giving that speech, Navalnaya recorded a video exhorting Russians to protest the upcoming sham presidential elections by tearing up their ticket inside the polling booth.

Fearless Woman Warrior Stands Up to Putin's Oppression by @andrewdkaufman #putin #women #warrior

Feminine Fierceness in Russian Culture

Such feminine moral fierceness has precedents in Russian culture. Ancient Russian mythology is full of examples of female warriors known as polyanitsas who defeated invading enemies through cleverness and physical prowess. In the early nineteenth century, the so-called Decembrist wives had joined their exiled husbands in Siberia, settled in the vicinity of the prison camps, and built entire towns that stand to this day.

I wrote a book about another extraordinary Russian woman, the wife of Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Through her singular combination of intelligence, patience, and sheer force of will, Anna Dostoyevskaya saved the writer’s life and career on multiple occasions and became Russia’s first solo female publisher and a pioneer in literary history. If not for Anna, the world would not have The Idiot, The Possessed, or The Brothers Karamazov.

Yulia Navalnaya comes from a long tradition of Russian women warriors.

Woman Warrior – Into Battle

“Putin must answer for what he has done with my country,” Navalnaya concluded her speech. “Putin must answer for what he has done to a neighboring country. And Putin must answer for everything he has done to Alexei. My husband will never see what the beautiful Russia of the future will look like. But we must see it. And I will do my best to make his dream come true. The evil will fall, and the beautiful future will come.”

If Russia is to ever emerge from this very dark period, it will be in no small measure because of the moral fortitude and fierceness of women like Yulia Navalnaya. After watching her speak, even I am inspired to follow her into battle.


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