The self-proclaimed republic of the United States of Siberia has become the most ambitious and provocative artistic project on Russian territory. The Siberian separatist movement, though much discussed and fretted about by Russians when mentions of it appear on television, differs from other separatist movements (such as those in Catalonia, Scotland, Chechnya and Abkhazia) in a crucial way. It is entirely the invention of a group of artists: the Blue Noses group, Artem Loskutov, Vasily Slonov, and Damir Muratov. So in place of nationalist parties, referenda on independence, separatist governors – Siberian separatism has artists, exhibitions, funny performances, and other manifestations of Siberian humour.
Despite this, the Russian FSB (the Federal Security Bureau, the successor the KGB) has opened countless criminal investigations into the Siberian separatist movement. The artists are under full-time surveillance and curators exhibiting their art have been interrogated about the ownership of weapons maintained by any supporters of the United States of Siberia, the Island of Siberia Freedom, and the United Kingdom of Siberia.
It is worth mentioning that the above-mentioned artists do not group themselves together in the way that the members of Pussy Riot do. Each artist works independently and lives in a different city: Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Tomsk, Ekaterinburg, and Ufa, all of which are hundreds of miles away from each other. Thus the only mechanism these artists have to make themselves heard is to tap into and amplify (even if in the form of a caricature) the deep-set fears of ordinary citizens – which is likely why each of their performances is so violently opposed by the authorities.
For 13 years Artem Loskutov has been organising monstrations. The formal definition of a monstration resembles that of any political demonstration: a procession through the city centre, with the participants carrying political slogans. The reality better described as a Siberian version of a Brazilian carnival – costumes, fun, laughter. However, each time the authorities out up serious hurdles to the implementation of these monstrations. Artem Loskutov himself was imprisoned on account of the presence at one of the monstrations of the slogan “this is not Moscow for you.” (The “you” is in reference to the central government authorities in Moscow.) As such Loskutov’s monstrations have came to symbolise the negative attitudes of the Russian heartland and the Russian provinces towards Moscow.