Russian Women Adopt New Way to Protest War—One Putin Cannot Easily Block

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 21 Issue: 58


Executive Summary:

  • Russian women who oppose Putin’s war and want their men to come home have adopted a new tactic, wordlessly banging pots outside their homes to protest the war.
  • The movement has been gaining momentum, and the Kremlin has responded by increasing repression and detaining many who have taken part while shutting down reporting on the protests.
  • Overall, Russian women have been far more active in opposing Putin’s war than Russian men, taking steps to demand that the war end and their male relatives be allowed to return home.

Since the beginning of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s expanded invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, polls have consistently shown that Russian women are more likely to oppose the war than Russian men. Unsurprisingly, Russian women have taken more steps to oppose Putin’s war than their male counterparts (see EDM, November 27, December 7, 2023;, December 26, 2023). Some of these efforts have even been violent, with women forming a disproportionate share of those arrested for firebombing draft centers (, August 2, 2023). Most women have been quieter, organizing groups to denounce the war and demand that their male relatives be allowed to return home, holding one-person protests about these issues, helping Ukrainian refugees, attempting to meet or actually meeting with government officials and Duma deputies to press their case, and quietly putting up stickers or laying flowers at war memorials (Window on Eurasia, April 28, 2022;, November 7, 2023). The Kremlin has thrown a cone of silence over these activities lest they become more widely known and has harassed and even arrested those taking part. In at least a few cases, the Kremlin has threatened that if the women do not stop protesting, the Russian military will throw their men into the most dangerous and life-threatening portions of the frontlines in Ukraine (, December 19, 2023). Despite these actions, the Russian authorities have not succeeded in suppressing such “quiet” protests, and Russian women have taken advantage (The Insider, August 8, 2022; Window on Eurasia, September 4, 2022).

Russian women protesting Putin’s war have now adopted an imaginative new tactic that is bringing their concerns to a wider audience and gaining new allies for their cause. This method of protest seeks to destroy the illusion the Kremlin has sought to promote that its reactive actions are both normal and acceptable. Perhaps most importantly, these women are putting the Russian government in the difficult position of being unable to respond without helping spread the protesters’ message (Sever.Realii, April 14). For the past two Saturdays, April 6 and 13, thousands of Russian women in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Chelyabinsk, Novosibirsk, and other cities across the Russian Federation have opened the windows of their homes, gone out onto their balconies, and wordlessly banged pots and pans together in what they are calling “the march of empty pots.” These women say that they plan to continue until their goals are met and that their demonstration symbolizes the problems they have endured as their male relatives and friends have been forced to take part in Moscow’s war against Ukraine.

Organizers of these “marches” say “their goal is to draw attention to the problems of their families. Their male relatives have not been released from front-line service for 18 months or more, and no one knows when this will happen.” The women taking part are “tired of raising children alone and caring for elderly relatives.” This often occurs without any support from their husbands, fathers, and sons, despite talk from Putin and other regime officials that Moscow is now giving Russian women more opportunities to fill in for their male relatives fighting in Ukraine (Rossiyskaya gazeta, December 7, 2022). By acting in this way, these women are tapping into the sympathy of most Russians for female citizens and especially children. Some women evoked the same emotions last year when they used a similar method of protest to complain about high inflation. Thus, they are advancing their interests without any frontal attack on the war itself—something that would allow the Kremlin to exploit “military-patriotic” sentiments against them (, June 6, 2023).

Russian women have suffered even more than Russian men on the home front. The new tactic some have adopted will likely attract far more attention to their plight in Russia and the West.  Putin’s war has given rise to ever-more sexist and patriarchal comments and policies by Russian officials from Putin on down. They openly suggested that the primary duty of Russian women is to give birth and raise more children to be soldiers for the country’s next war. Such officially supported attitudes have reduced still further the possibilities women have to join the workforce and driven many into poverty. Such measures have also increased the amount of violence against women in Russia by their partners and family members, with legislatures and courts limiting their ability to defend themselves against such actions (Eurasianet, September 30, 2022; Riddle Russia, November 2, 2022;, April 5, 2023).

Unsurprisingly, the harm these developments have inflicted has contributed to the rise of an often radical feminism in Russia. In response, attacks by the Putin regime to delegitimize the movement as a Western import are also on the rise (, May 2, 2022; Window on Eurasia, September 11, 2022). Some of those involved in the “march of empty pots” spring from the most prominent organization of these new feminist movements, the Feminist Anti-War Resistance (FEM). As a result, the Putin regime is likely to expand its attacks on feminism and women’s rights yet again. At the same time, FEM’s involvement gives the new effort additional chances for success. Unlike many Russian organizations, FEM is a networked group without a hierarchy. Thus, suppressing it will be much more difficult (, April 19, 2022). 

An especially noteworthy element of these “marches” is that many women taking part do not have husbands, fathers, or sons in Ukraine. Instead, they have joined the effort because they believe their sisters have good grounds for protest and feel that this is their duty (Sever.Realii, April 14). Such additions will make it more difficult for the Kremlin to play up the idea that the women involved are selfish and only a narrow swath of the population. It will become increasingly obvious to more Russians that the problems of Russian women are the problems of Russian society as a whole under Putin. The sound of empty pots beating together from Russian windows may prove not to be a minor distraction but an alarm bell that will call Russians together—simultaneously undermining Putin and triggering demands for wider change.