Moscow’s Strelka Institute pauses operations, possibly permanently, Architect's Newspaper, Mar. 8, 2022.
On February 24, in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine that day, the Moscow-based Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture, and Design posted an image on Instagram and Facebook reading “NO TO WAR.” It published the same message—this time in Cyrillic—on the Russian social media site VKontakte. Four days later, as the war’s toll on Ukrainians worsened, the institute announced a pause in all its programming.
“We consider it impermissible to carry on business as usual in the present situation while lives in Ukraine are being lost,” reads a statement it issued. “Establishing dialogue and cessation of hostilities in Ukraine is the single most important goal right now. Strelka Institute stands in solidarity with everyone pleading for an immediate end to this armed conflict.”
According to Benjamin Bratton, Strelka’s graduate education director, the statement set off an immediate reaction within certain circles in Russia. Administrators found themselves the target of vitriolic personal attacks and even physical threats. The institute quickly shifted into crisis mode, helping on-site staff find safe passage out of the country. Those who participated in street protests have been arrested and subjected to steep fines. (On Friday, March 4, the prosecutor general’s office announced that antiwar protesters would be prosecuted as extremists, making antiwar speech equivalent to terrorism.)
The fallout, Bratton suggested, may very well put an end to Strelka’s project to reshape public space and imagine an alternative future for Russia itself. Neither Strelka Institute nor any of its directors in Moscow responded to multiple requests for comment.