Introducing Vladislava
Showcasing the Unheard

I think that we will definitely cope with climate change, simply because we have no other choice.

Meet Vlada, an 18 years old activist from St. Petersburg, Russia. Vlada coordinates Fridays for Future Russia and is especially interested in the melting of permafrost in Russia, the fate of indigenous peoples, ecofeminism, food security, and a just transition. She studies ecology at a Russian state university and dreams of doing a master’s degree in climate change in Europe, as this subject is not available anywhere in Russia.

Vlada started to learn about the problem of climate change at the age of 16 and soon after started her digital climate action campaigns. Inspired by Greta Thunberg, she understood the importance of this topic. As an activist in Russia, however, there are serious security concerns, which is why she was reluctant to start big activism at first. But then Vlada got to know Arshak Makichyan and other climate activists in Russia, whose examples inspired her to not be afraid and fight for our planet and future. The example of Arshak’s action, who organised a school strike for the climate every Friday for more than 40 weeks, as well as that of other activists shows how great a role young climate activists play in Russia. Unfortunately, they have to reckon with the consequences of their actions, which can even lead to them being sent to prison, as happened to Arshak, who ended up there for a few days.

Another main problem Vlada is faced with in her activism is the negative propaganda against FFF from Russia.

“People believe in propaganda that often insults us or writes pseudo-scientific articles, and many people are skeptical of us.”

The amount of hate, these obstacles and difficulties led to a lot of people leaving the Fridays For Future movement – they are burnt out and lack the energy to continue fighting. And the pandemic has not helped: since 2020, campaigning has become even more difficult. Unapproved protests of more than one person are generally forbidden, as are most forms of protest before the age of 18.
Vlada told us: “Even a single picket is illegal. We live in the absence of freedom of speech, and some activists of our movement have already been repressed. Therefore, each of our actions must be carefully considered and all consequences calculated, which is why our work is now almost paralyzed.”

A key aspect of Vlada’s activism is related to information sharing, as she believes that the things she reads and learns should also be shared with others. Especially in Russia, where people do not know much about climate change because there is barely any education about it in schools, this is crucial. At FFF, she reports that a multitude of topics has been discussed in the past, but she wants to shift focus to local topics in Russia now.

The topics she thinks are especially relevant are the consequences of Russian colonialism, how fossil fuel companies are destroying indigenous lands, and how the very existence of these peoples is threatened due to climate change. She hopes that by focusing on topics close to their hearts, more Russians will get involved and overcome their fears of acting.

“(…) in my opinion, it makes sense to talk more about the problems and consequences of the climate crisis specifically for Russia – but this doesn’t mean that we will engage in isolationism and ignore world problems. It’s just that what is happening in Russia is more closely perceived by our citizens, and we need to use this fact.”

To achieve a better world, Vlada sees negotiation as a key step to be taken. 

“It's terrible that adults still resolve their conflicts with weapons and murder. It shouldn't be like this, we need solidarity and the ability to unite.”

Furthermore, she states the importance of not buying fossil fuels from autocracies and dictatorships. She says the price to pay for “cheap” fossil fuels has now become apparent and that renewable energy sources can be seen as a guarantee of peace and justice.

The ongoing war on Ukraine is a very important topic for Vlada and with its onset, she has shifted the focus of her activism to anti-war but was not able to tell us more about it due to security concerns.

Vlada told us how drastically the war has changed her perspective:
“In the past, I used to see it as my goal to do everything to accelerate Russia’s compliance with the terms of the Paris Agreement and climate adaptation. But now, after the start of the war, I don’t know what my future and the future of Russia will be like. I want the war to end as soon as possible. I want all those responsible to be punished. I want to live in peace and tranquility, not in fear of repression and default.”

Despite everything that is happening, Vlada continues to be optimistic. She says:
“I think that we will definitely cope with climate change, simply because we have no other choice. It will be a very difficult path, but in the end, goodness and freedom will win. There are a lot of brave, strong and honest people in the world who are ready to fight for our common future. And while they exist, I believe in victory over all problems. (..) You may experience pain and anxiety about everything that happens in the world, especially if your country is at war or repressions. But I know that while we fight, goodness will live at least in our hearts, and in the end we will be able to spread it to the whole world. Some situations may seem hopeless, but we are alive, and freedom is alive with us. I hug everyone who is feeling bad now, who has lost motivation to fight for our future. Goodness will win, and goodness is you.”

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