Crime or Punishment: Russian Narratives of Incarceration

Other Russias

Other Russias
Victoria Valentinovna Lomasko
Moscow, Russia

SUMMARY: Victoria Lomasko’s Other Russias is split into two parts. The first is called “Invisible.” In it, she documents people and places that have been forgotten by the government in Moscow. For example, she provides insights into the lives of juvenile prisoners, female sex workers in Nizhny Novgorod, students in a small village school, and women that were kept as slaves by a sadistic shop owner. Lomasko
believes these are all people who have been failed by the Russian government in one way or another, from villagers who do not receive proper medical care to women who do not get much support in their fight against their captors.

     The second part of the book is called “Angry.” In this section, Lomasko provides graphic reportage on some protests that have occurred in Russia over the past few years. Most notable is her coverage of the Pussy Riot trial in 2012. She provides snippets of both the pretrial hearing and the trial itself. However, Lomasko also reports on lesser-known protests in Russia. She details several grassroots protests that did not receive much media coverage neither in Russia nor internationally. For example, she depicts the long-haul trucker protest that occurred in 2016 to show how even those that do not typically engage in political activities can band together to enact change.

ANALYSIS: Victoria Lomasko’s work is a commentary on many people in Russia and the different forms of captivity they face. Of course there are the juvenile inmates and the members of Pussy Riot, who face a very literal form of captivity: incarceration. However, Lomasko also touches on more subtle types of captivity. For example, she depicts Russians that are trapped in their way of life. Those living in small villages do not have access to government goods and have virtually no opportunity for social or economic mobility. She spends time with sex workers who believe there is no other way for them to survive but to sell their bodies because they have fallen through the cracks of the system. There are also those trapped in their way of thinking and way of life. Lomasko illustrates the strong ties many Russians have to the Orthodox Church, as well as to ideas of antisemitism and homophobia.

     Lomasko also makes sure to portray those who resist the captivity that has been brought upon them. For example, the truck drivers that protested in 2016 felt like they had no other choice but to resist the Russian government’s policies. They would be put out of work if they did not. In a sense, the level of captivity they faced forced them to resist. Thus, men and women that had never participated in Russian politics started a movement that ultimately succeeded in its goals. Lomasko thus shows how even regular folks can mobilize when their livelihoods are at stake.


“Brothers and sisters, let us pray against the General Plan” (33).

“Where can I get hold of a machine gun to kill Putin?” (43).

“Indeed, so what? The residents of the capital are also largely uninterested in the life and death of lost villages like Nikolskoye” (76).

BIOGRAPHY: Victoria Lomasko was born in 1978 in the city of Serpukhov in Russia (Penguin Books). Since her father was an artist, her family pushed her to follow in his footsteps (Shayevich 44). In 2003, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in graphic art and book design from Moscow State University of Printing Arts (Shayevich 44). After that, she enrolled in a master’s program at the Institute of Contemporary Art. It was there that she discovered her interest in figurative drawing, which earned her criticism from her conceptualist professors and peers (Shayevich 44).

     Before 2012, Victoria Lomasko applied her artistic abilities to covering trials and working with marginalized groups in Russia. For example, in her work, A Chronicle of Resistance, Lomasko drew scenes from protests, rallies, and political trials, including the controversial trial of Pussy Riot. In addition, her series, The Girls of Nizhny Novgorod, documents the lives of sex workers in the industrial city of Nizhny Novgorod. Since then, Lomasko’s work has garnered international attention from artists and activists alike (Shayevich 47). She co-curated two activist exhibition projects: “Drawing the Court” and “The Feminist Pencil” (Pushkin House). Her book, Other Russias, which was published in 2017, won the Pushkin House Prize for the Best Book in Translation in  2018 (Pushkin House).


Shayevich, Bela. “Victoria Lomasko: Drawing in the Dark.” Harriman Magazine, 29 Nov. 2017, pp. 42–51.

“Victoria Lomasko.” Penguin Books UK, 2018,

“Victoria Lomasko.” Pushkin House,


Bernstein, Anya. “Caution, Religion! Iconoclasm, Secularism, and Ways of Seeing in Post-Soviet Art Wars.” Public Culture, vol. 26, no. 3, 2014, pp. 419–448.
In this article, Bernstein grapples with the recent trend in Russia to file lawsuits against artists for inciting religious hatred. She argues that the shift from supporting such artists in Soviet Russia to the lack thereof in contemporary Russia can be attributed to the fact that different sociohistorical conditions create differing scopic regimes that affect how people view artists and their art. 

Crowley, Stephen, and Irina Olimpieva. “Labor Protests and Their Consequences in Putin’s Russia.” Problems of Post-Communism, vol. 65, no. 5, 2017, pp. 344–358.
In this article, Crowley and Stephen analyze the changes in protests that Russia has seen throughout the years. Specifically, they focus on the trucker protest of the Platon road-tax system to show how even economic protests are becoming politicized in
today’s Russia. 

Gabowitsch, Mischa. “Pussy Riot and Beyond: Art, Religion and Gender Regimes in Russian Protest.” Protest in Putin’s Russia, Polity Press, 2017, pp. 160-220.
In this chapter, Gabowitsch discusses the artistic, religious, and gender contexts of the Pussy Riot demonstration in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. He argues that Pussy Riot was a “continuation of a vibrant strain of Russian performance art” that was a response to the ties between the church and state in Russia.

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