“Our Tanya Cries Loudly” Art Exhibition as a Manifesto of Russian Mystical Feminism

A. A. Burganov

“Our Tanya Cries Loudly” Art Exhibition as a Manifesto of Russian Mystical Feminism

‘Birch’ by Maria Filimonova

“Our Tanya Cries Loudly” curated by the Fetchish Magazine team took place at “Kommunalka” – a Moscow venue on the third floor of an old building ten minutes away from the Kremlin. The exhibition featured works by ten artists from London and Moscow, art performances and DJ sets. So many people came to the opening that it had to be interrupted due to safety concerns. The wooden floors of the old building on a February evening could not sustain the amount of visitors.

Who is Tanya? The title refers us back to two literary sources: “Eugene Onegin” by Alexander Pushkin and Agnia Barto's children's verse about a girl, Tanya, who has lost her ball (Tanya is a nickname for the full name Tatiana). Tatiana from “Onegin” is one of the greatest female characters in Russian literature. She is an image of perseverance and intelligence, the first Russian prototype of an independent woman who makes decisions on her own, violates conventions and follows her own principles. “She was endowed // With such a rashness in surrender, // With such a lively mind and will, // And with a spirit never still” – author’s description of his heroine [1].

Works by Liza Sterligova-Diederich

Tanya from the second literary source is a different sort of character altogether. She is an explosive display of sincere negative emotions that reason and practicality cannot tame. The influence of these two images is significant: every Russian girl knows Barto’s nursery rhyme and Tatiana’s letter to Onegin since childhood. Pushkin’s verse novel plays a crucial role in constructing gender identities. So does Barto’s poem, albeit it is less nuanced; but it does come at an earlier age. Both heroines rebel against masculine rationality that dominates their society, but they do so in completely different ways. Tatiana is feminism-resilience [2], while Tanya is feminism-explosion.

Works by Sonya Bleiph and Zlata Mechetina

The first work the audience sees is a small piece by Zlata Mechetina that contains Orthodox references, Japanese anime pictures, and elements of teenage girlhood. The next essential point is a film reinterpretation of “Alice Through the Looking-Glass” (OUROBOROS by Sonia Bleiph). An immersive performance of Tarot fortune telling (by Nadia Kim) is taking place in the far corner of the hall – a reference to another classical Russian poem by Vasiliy Zhukovsky. A ritual knife shaped like a cross, covered with a pink plush cloth, is hanging near the fortune-teller (by Natasha Perova). Intentionally misused Orthodox icons (Icons by Sabina Fakhrutdinova) and a piece of video art “lucid” by Dasha Kushnerenko portraying a sea of blood can be found in the next room.

Works by Natasha Perova and Alexander Tito

As the audience waits for the theatre performance – “Tatyana’s Dream” – to begin, they remember Pushkin’s lines: "Tanya believed in every tale, // The simple lore of bygone days; // What dreams or cards portend, grew pale // At the moon’s meaning, each chill phase; // Trembled at omens, anxiously; // All objects spoke mysteriously, // Warning her of this and that.” [3] The event has a distinctly magical atmosphere. One of the central pieces of the exhibition is “goodbye love / in the fullness of the unity” by Farhad-Israilli German: a broken mirror with Christian symbols. It serves as the entrance into the space and every audience member is forced to face their distorted reflection.

Works by Sabina Fakhrutdinova and Egor Logic

The archetype of the mystical double is imposed on the main female image of Russian poetry – Tatiana is viewed through a feminist lens. The party, like a magical ritual with its dances, fortune telling, and visions lifts the veil off the looking glass. As a result, Tatyana Larina and her alter ego Tanya switch places like Golyadkins in Fedor Dostoevsky, Major Kovalyov and his Nose in Nikolai Gogol or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in Robert Stevenson [4].

Feminism has dozens of branches: fourth-wave feminism, eco-feminism, cyber-feminism, etc. [5] A glitch-feminism manifesto was published last year [6]. Every local cultural community or intellectual movement provides a new branch to the intersectional rhizome of critical theory. This diversifies and strengthens cultural movements and contemporary ethics. What might Russian classical culture and folk culture contribute to world feminism? “Our Tanya Cries Loudly” offers a hypothesis: “Russian mystical feminism”. It draws its strength from folklore, popular consciousness and deep layers of Russian history. Of course, we cannot be sure that mysticism is the best tool for solving the problem of social injustice. But perhaps, myth, folklore, and ritual are exactly what contemporary gender theory could use to overcome the vacuum between intellectual and activist communities. Russian mystical feminism has the potential to become an organic component of a truly national Russian culture.

‘goodbye love / in the fullness of the unity’ by Farhad-Israilli German and ‘lucid’ by Dasha Kushnerenko


[1] Pushkin A. Eugene Onegin: A Novel in Verse. – Dog Ear Publishing, 2008. P. 67.

[2] Dadaeva T. A. Tat'yana Larina – pervaya feministka russkoj literatury. – Kul'turny centry «Moskvorech'e», 2018 (web source, access via the link: https://dk-moskvor.ru/tatyana-larina- pervaya-feministka-russkoj-literatury/)

[3] Pushkin A. Eugene Onegin: A Novel in Verse. – Dog Ear Publishing, 2008. P. 107.

[4] Kantor V. K. Lyubov' k dvojniku. Dvojnichestvo – mif i real'nost' russkoj kul'tury // Filosofskij zhurnal. – 2013. – No. 2 (11).

[5] Winslow B. Feminist movements: gender and sexual equality // A Companion to Global Gender History. – 2020. Pp.186-205

[6] Russell L. Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto. – 2020.