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RUSSIANS RESPOND

A popular Russian rapper canceled shows and called for an antiwar movement

Russian rapper Oxxxymiron waits outside the building of a district court before the announcement of a verdict in case of protester Yegor Zhukov in 2019
Reuters/Maxim Shemetov
Oxxxymiron is one of Russia’s best known rappers.
  • Lila MacLellan
By Lila MacLellan

Quartz at Work senior reporter

Published Last updated

As Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, thousands of Russians took to the streets, risking arrest to protest their government’s aggression.

And several Russian celebrities took to social media to spread anti-war messages.

They include Oxxxymiron, a rapper from St. Petersburg who has a large online following. He called the invasion “a crime and a catastrophe.”

Oxxymiron, 37, filmed an Instagram message calling for mass protests. “I know that most people in Russia are against this war, and I am confident that the more people would talk about their real attitude to it, the faster we can stop this horror,” he said, according to the translation in the New York Times.

He said he planned to cancel upcoming shows in Moscow and St. Petersburg. “I cannot entertain you when Russian missiles are falling on Ukraine,” he said.

The rapper has 2.2 million followers on Instagram and another 1.3 million fans on Twitter. Within six hours, his Instagram message had attracted more than three million views.

That he was able to share a message of resistance with a global audience marks a significant difference between this crisis and those of the cold war, when outsiders had no direct channels to Russian citizens.

Who is the Russian rapper Oxxxymiron?

Oxxymiron, who was born Miron Yanovich Fyodorov in St. Petersburg (when it was still Leningrad), grew up in Germany and in the UK, according to the fashion and culture magazine Dazed. He studied English literature at Oxford University, began his rapping career in East London after graduation, and “soon started racking up millions of views on Russian hip hop websites thanks to his unconventional form, complex wordplay, and intellectual lyrics,” Dazed reports. Fyodorov moved to back to Russia, landing in Moscow, in 2012.

This is not the first time that Fyodorov has spoken out on a political issue. He showed public support for an opposition blogger on trial for extremism in Russia in 2019, Radio Free Europe recently noted. reports. In 2021, he was one of two rappers said to be targeted by the Russian Investigative Committee for some of his lyrics.

“I quote books and don’t shy away from being geeky—before me, that was pretty much non-existent in Russian rap. I guess I made it cool for the bookish kids to be a part of hip hop,” he told Dazed in 2016.

In his message about Ukraine, Fyodorov also referenced US protests against the Vietnam War as inspiration.

Russians are using social media to send messages of resistance and sympathy

The AP reports that at least 1,702 Russian citizens were detained in protests in 53 cities, about half of them in Moscow.

Meanwhile, Oxxxymiron was not the only prominent Russian to share a message of protest on social media. Dmitry Glukhovsky, a Russian writer, posted a blunt message on Facebook: “This is a fratricidal, predatory war, unleashed by an insane tyrant. We are sorry, Ukraine!”

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