Monday, August 5, 2019

‘Three Billboards Outside of Plesetsk, Russia’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 2 – In a distant echo of the 2017 American film, “Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri,” an activist in Plesetsk who supports the anti-trash protests in Shiyes has put up three signs in support of his efforts to hold demonstrations in support of that movement and in opposition to the actions of the authorities.

            And just as in the US film, Aleksandr Mironov’s clever use of signs has highlighted the absurdity of the position of the Russian authorities, called more attention to the cause he supports than any demonstrations could have, and opened the way for him to overcome five moves by the authorities to stop his activism.

            This wonderful and most instructive case is reported in full, with pictures, in Moscow’s Novaya gazeta by journalist Tatyana Britskaya, whose words may very well inspire others to take similar actions elsewhere (

            The story takes place in Mirny, a closed city next to the Russian cosmodrome at Plesetsk, where Mironov has defeated the authorities five times out of five in his pursuit of the right to demonstrate in support of the Shiyes anti-trash movement.  He says his district has only “four active people” – himself, his wife, and two others. But they have come out the winners.

            He says he learned about Shiyes via the Internet and understand that what is happening in that northern rail head is “only the beginning. If a dump is constructed there, one will appear with us too.”  Apparently, the journalist implies, he also learned about the American film via the same channels.

            In the course of his travails with officialdom which used all the usual tactics Russian leaders have against protesters, Mironov came n contact with a local woman who owns three billboards and who offered them to him to display three banners he had come up with: “Stop Shiyes,” “We Demand The Project Be Stopped,” and “Freedom to Activists.”

            “Three billboards (almost like in the film),” Britskaya says, “have been put up in Plesetsk, Severoonezhk, and Savinsk.” As a result, “three settlements, depressed and forgotten by God and man suddenly have turned out to be leaders of revolutionary creativity.”

            And they have lasted longer than the 22 hours that a banner put up opposite the Arkhangelsk FSB offices did earlier this year.  The three billboards have been up already for a month. They have been damaged, but Mironov decided not to repair them but to leave them in that condition to highlight the nature of the struggle.

            Officials wanted all three to come down, and then they asked that at least Mironov take down the “Freedom for Activists” banner. But he refused. All the signs are still up, and he says that “three billboards on the edge of the settlements will stand until victory.” 

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