Now that I live in the sleeping districts rather than a cosmopolitan street in the city center, I get to experience a whole other side of St. Petersburg, and not the nicest one either. Aside from the soul-crushing ugliness of Soviet high-rise apartment buildings, there’s the graffiti. Racist graffiti.

If you’re a Russophile, you’ve certainly read about the hate crime epidemic in St. Petersburg. On average, one non-white person gets killed by skinheads every month in this city, and several others get assaulted.

Last week, a swastika appeared on the building across from ours, and another on a nearby fence. Needless to say, having to pass by a big red swastika several times day made me pretty fucking upset. Although there are some antifascist graffiti artists around here as well, several days went by and the swastika was untouched.

The evils of racism and fascism aside, I can’t believe the stupidity and irony of putting up a swastika the week before Victory Day, the biggest patriotic holiday of the year, a celebration of the Allies’ defeat of the Nazis. How ignorant do you have to be of history to be an ultra-nationalist who paints the symbol of a regime responsible for the deaths of millions of your “own” people?

I decided we had to respond somehow. But Kostia was opposed to battling graffiti with graffiti. So, we settled on gluing over the swastika a reproduction of a Soviet wartime poster which read: “The fascists’ legs won’t carry them – we’ll find them in their foxhole!”

The poster stayed intact for three and a half days. It got half-torn off the night of Victory Day, and when I saw it the next morning, I was really bummed. But I was a bit cheered when I came home that evening and saw that someone had scribbled over the visible bits of the swastika with gold spray paint, and painted a flower next to it.

So there are other people who care in this neighborhood! Like the people who edited another bit of graffiti, which read: “Russia for Russians”. Someone crossed out “Russians” and wrote “Everybody”. Then somebody crossed out “Russia”. Not sure what that’s supposed to mean, but it’s better than the original, anyway.

Happy Victory Day! С Днём Победы!

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