Readers have been asking us about Asya Lisina’s “powerful” illustration, which graces the cover of the September/October issue of Russian Life. It shows seven “siloviki” enjoying a beautiful fall day in a Russian park. We asked Asya to offer some insight into her creative process…
The brief for designing the cover of this issue was to illustrate fall in Russia. This is a rather broad and rich theme that includes everything from the beauty of nature at this time of year to our national symbols: historical personalities, typical situations, cultural events, animals, babushkas. In general, given such broad parameters, there was plenty of room for fantasy.
What I really wanted to do was find a subject that presented a surprising contrast, and so I decided to create a pastoral image – something that might have been described by Bunin or Turgenev – and insert into it another popular symbol of our culture: Siloviki.
As it turns out, this creative decision coincided with events that were unfolding in Russia at the time I was working on the illustration: meetings, protests, the garish detention of a famous journalist, investigations of corruption, arrests of independent candidates for the Moscow Duma, and the endless stream of media reports about clashes between the public and representatives of the Powers that Be.
The Siloviki are often associated not so much with security, as with an inexorable threat. So I decided to use humor to lower my own anxiety level, in order to show that even the most ominous of individuals can be capable of tenderness. I am convinced that there can be people of wildly differing views and characters in any profession, quite independent of their political views.
Yet, in my opinion, I don’t feel I succeeded in debunking the stereotype of the typical Silovik. Because the policeman shedding a tear over the fate of Jane Eyre frightens me far more than if this fellow were in an environment where we are more accustomed to seeing him.
Here is Asya's Instagram post, that includes a super cool time lapse showing her work process:
Lisina will be designing the next cover of Russian Life as well. Her brief on that issue is no less broad: Winter.
There is no single English word that can be used to satisfactorily translate this word. Силовики refers to individuals who work in the “power” ministries: the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Internal Affairs, FSB, the prosecutor’s office, etc.
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