April 11, 2024

The Mural Stronger than Buenos Aires Police


The Mural Stronger than Buenos Aires Police
Mural dedicated to Alexey Navalny in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Image by the author.

On March 31, after receiving multiple complaints, Argentinian police in Buenos Aires interrupted Russian artists painting a mural in honor of opposition leader Alexey Navalny. The mural is less than 20 meters from the Cathedral of The Most Holy Trinity, Argentina's oldest and most important Russian Orthodox Church. 

After Navalny died on February 16, members of the Russian diaspora in Argentina wanted to create a memorial for him. Yekaterina Bazanova, a Russian woman living in Buenos Aires for 10 years, told La Nación that her group originally planned to create a mural in the upscale neighborhood of Recoleta, near the Russian Embassy, but "that is almost impossible." Luckily, another option appeared: the corner of Brazil and Balcarce Street, not far from the landmark Russian Orthodox Church in Buenos Aires.

On Easter Sunday, artists Karina Solodina, Misha Petrov, and Katya Spleen arrived in the historic neighborhood of San Telmo. The wall the painters chose for their mural belongs to the national truck drivers' union, one of the most powerful voices in Argentinian politics. Solodina, Petrov, and Spleen began painting Navalny's face and date of birth and death on the side of the wall facing Balcarece Street. On the other side of the wall, the painters started writing "Love is stronger than death" in both Russian and Spanish. However, at 8 AM, 20 policemen showed up.

"Love Is Stronger Than Death" in Russian and Spanish in mural dedicated to Alexey Navalny in Buenos Aires, Argentina
"Love is stronger than death." | Image by the author

"Unfortunately," Solodina told La Nación, "the police received too many phone calls from pro-Putin Russians who didn't want the mural to exist (...) As it turns out, one can't write the word 'love' if the Russian government doesn't like it." Police confiscated the artists' paint and brushes and prohibited them from finishing the mural. 

According to the Ministry of Security of Buenos Aires, the artists were not authorized to paint in this location. Petrov, Solodina, and Spleen claimed to have received the go-ahead from the Cathedral of The Most Holy Trinity. The church's priest, Father Alejandro Leasewicz, translated between the police and the three painters, since they don't speak Spanish. Ukrainian attorney Liliana Borisiuk mediated with authorities to prevent the painters from being arrested.

The mural was later completed and unveiled. Over 100 members of the Russian community, along with Borisiuk, were present at the ceremony. The truck drivers union has not commented on the mural.

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