Olga Misik is an activist who was arrested in Russia after she read the Russian constitution to riot police during a protest. A 2019 photo of the then-17-year-old girl has gone viral in 2022 amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Many Twitter users have circulated the photo assuming it is from recent protests against President Vladimir Putin and the Ukrainian war, but the photo is actually three years old.
According to the Moscow Times, Misik was among protesters speaking out against the Russian government’s decision to prohibit allies of Kremlin foe Alexei Navalny from participating in Moscow city council elections. She and other protesters were among many arrested during Putin’s crackdown on dissent.
Misik and other protesters faced down a line of riot officers with armor and shields in July 2019. She was taken into custody and initially faced up to three years in prison. Photos and videos showed her reading from her country’s constitution, including showing specific passages to the riot police.
While Misik was released after the protest in 2019, she later found herself facing charges related to a protest in 2020. According to the Moscow Times, Misik and two friends were also accused of vandalism after police said they hung a banner supporting Navalny and other political prisoners on a government building and “splashed red paint on a security booth outside the Prosecutor General’s Office building in August 2020.” Misik wrote on social media that she was dragged out of her home by police after the 2020 protest.
The Moscow Times wrote, “For many in Russia’s opposition, Misik came to symbolize a new generation of Russians who are silenced by a repressive regime.” The newspaper wrote that Misik’s arrest came amid what, “activists call a widening clampdown by Russian authorities on the opposition, including recent expansions to the country’s ‘foreign agents’ law and an anticipated ruling to ban Navalny’s activist and political groups as ‘extremists.'”
She explained her protest to the BBC in 2019, “I read four sections. An article talking about the right to peacefully protest, an article saying that everyone can take part in elections, has the right to freedom of speech and that the people’s will and power are the most important thing for the country.”
Where is Russian teen protester Olga Misik now? Here’s what you need to know:
Olga Misik Was Sentenced to 2 Years of Curfew in 2021
According to the Moscow Times, Misik was sentenced on May 11, 2021, in connection to the vandalism accusations. She received two years and two months of “restricted liberty,” which amounted to home confinement, including a curfew that required her to be inside her house from 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Her two friends, Ivan Vorobyevsky and Igor Basharimov, both received similar sentences, the newspaper reported.
Prosecutors claimed Misik and her friends caused damage that amounted to 3,500 rubles to the building during the protest on August 8, 2020. “Defense attorneys say that the documents provided by prosecutors concerning the alleged damages were falsified and that no harm was caused by the water-soluble paint,” RadioFreeEurope wrote. Misik and her friends faced up to three years in prison.
Misik had been on house arrest prior to her sentencing. Misik was also detained in October 2019 when she held a one-person protest in Moscow’s Red Square, holding up a large piece of blank paper, RadioFreeEurope reported.
RadioFreeEurope added, “In February 2020, she was detained in Penza while organizing a demonstration of support for the accused in the so-called Network (‘Set’) case, which activists say was fabricated by the security forces.”
Misik who was deemed Russia’s “Tiananmen Teen,” in reference to the Tiananmen Square’s Tank Man, who stood in front of tanks in Beijing, China, in 1989, told the BBC in 2019, “The situation in Russia is currently extremely unstable. The authorities are clearly getting very scared if they are consolidating armed forces from different parts of the country to chase peaceful protesters. And people’s mentality has changed, as I can see.”
Misik Said on Twitter Her Apartment Was Vandalized in March 2022 by Supporters of Putin & the Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Misik revealed on Twitter in March 2022 that she had been targeted by pro-Putin supporters of the war in Ukraine. She posted photos of the door of her apartment, showing it had been vandalized with a “Z,” a symbol being used by those in favor of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Misik tweeted on March 16, “My apartment has undergone cosmetic procedures.”
According to The Daily Beast, Misik was among activists and journalists targeted by Putin supporters after Russia’s president gave a speech calling for a “self-cleansing of society” to remove “scum and traitors.” A fellow activist, Dmitry Ivanov, tweeted that his door had also been vandalized, writing, “This is the message left for me by anonymous ‘defenders of the homeland,'” according to The Daily Beast. A journalist said the words, “Don’t betray your country, b****,’ was scrawled on her door, the news site reported.
Days after Misik tweeted about the vandalism, she was surprised to find she had gained newfound support on Twitter. She tweeted, “what’s happening? what did I miss? why do I have 20 thousand more readers in a few hours than before?” The increase in followers came after the 2019 photos of her protest in front of Russian riot police went viral.
Misik, Whose Mother Is Battling Cancer, Was Studying Journalism at the University of Moscow
Misik was at one point studying journalism at the University of Moscow. It was not immediately clear if she was continuing her studies at the school amid her protests and activism. According to the BBC, Misik grew up in a Moscow suburb and became politically active when she was 16.
She told the BBC, “Not many young women in Russia are politically motivated – only really those who want to go into journalism. I am the exception, not the rule.” According to the BBC, Misik said Russian authorities tried to get her parents to intervene and stop her from protesting. But she said her family supported her, despite being worried about her.
Misik recently wrote on Twitter that her mother is battling cancer. She wrote in January 2022 that her mother had been receiving treatment and was responding well to it. Misik had asked for donations to help with the costs of her mother’s treatment.
Misik Wrote in 2021, ‘I Have Never Been Afraid … ‘If I Was Being Threatened With Execution, I Would Do It Again’
During her 2021 statement to the court prior to her sentencing, Misik wrote, according to a translation from Rights in Russia, “I’m often asked, aren’t I afraid … I was never afraid. I felt despair, helplessness, desperation, frustration, alarm, disappointment, and burnout, but neither politics nor activism ever infected me with fear. I wasn’t afraid when armed bandits burst in that night and threatened me with prison. They wanted to scare me, but I wasn’t afraid. I joked and laughed because I knew the minute I stopped smiling I’d lose.”
She wrote, “I remember well travelling to that protest, promising myself it would be the last in my activist career, that I was taking political retirement and would go back to my studies. I was anxious and worried about how it would all go, but I wasn’t afraid. Even studying the criminal and administrative codes and all the precedents for similar actions, I wasn’t afraid. It was a beautiful night, and I realized it might be my last night of freedom, but that didn’t scare me. … Some say you can’t be afraid when you know you’re right. But Russia teaches us to be afraid constantly. A country that tries to kill us every day. And if you’re outside the system, you’re as good as dead.”
She added, “Of course I was at that protest. I don’t regret that and, moreover, I’m proud of what I did. In fact, I had no choice, and I had to do everything in my power, so I don’t have the right to regret it. And if I had the chance to return to the past, I would do it all over again. If I were threatened with the death penalty, I would do it all over again. I would do it over again and again, time after time, until there was nothing left to affect. People say that repeating the same actions in anticipation of a different result is insanity. Turns out, hope is insanity. But ceasing actions you consider correct when everyone around you considers them useless is learned helplessness. I’d rather be insane in your eyes than helpless in my own.”
Misik wrote, “My lawyer was talking about Sophie Scholl today, and her story bears striking resemblance to mine. She was tried for fliers and graffiti; I was tried for posters and paint. I am essentially on trial for thought crimes, as she once was. My trial is very similar to hers, and Russia today is very similar to fascist Germany. Sophie never abandoned her convictions, even before the guillotine. Her example inspired me to not agree to the charges being dropped. Sophie Scholl embodied youth, sincerity, and freedom, and I hope that in this way, too, she and I are similar.”
“The fascist regime in Germany ultimately fell, as will the fascist regime in Russia. I don’t know when this will happen — maybe in a week, maybe in a year, maybe in a decade — but I know that someday we will be victorious, because love and youth always prevail,” Misik said.