In Russia, this symbol could save you
from prison. It’s found its way from the front pages of newspapers to placards at
protests and on to social media. People are using the symbol to rally behind
protesters who’ve been arrested for taking part in anti-government demonstrations,
to support victims of domestic abuse, and also to support climate activists Greta
Thunberg. Using this symbol has been so successful and so powerful that it’s
actually meant some people have been released from police custody. They’ve
been arrested by the Russian government, who we often refer to as the Kremlin. So
what does this symbol mean? The phrase is pronounced in Russian as Ya-Mbi, and it
literally means “I, we” but the actual meaning of the phrase is “it’s all of us”.
In a country where media is largely controlled by the state, it is very
interesting to see that a symbol like that of solidarity and unity, really
could unite people and it is a very rare thing, because we all heard about the
Me Too movement and the hashtag #jesuischarlie
But in Russia, although there are loads of viral hashtags, you don’t really get
that kind of solidarity that often. So where did this symbol come from? It was first used to rally behind Russian journalists Ivan Golunov. He was
arrested on drug dealing charges back in June 2019 however he ended up being
released after mass and very unusual public outcry. They violate our rights, the freedom of
expression, the freedom to demonstrate. His lawyer said that the drugs had been
planted to silence the investigative reporter. Some Russian newspapers that
would usually support the state came out fighting for the journalist. They
created this symbol and placed it all over their front pages and then
protested with placards. And celebrities on Instagram started using the symbol
too. “We are all Ivan Golunov.” That includes 24 year old Russian journalist Anna Luganskaya. She wore a t-shirt with the symbol on it at an award ceremony at the
Kremlin amidst a crackdown on protesters supporting Ivan Golunov.
I didn’t want to just sit around the people who are responsible for it. The symbol for me is
about people’s solidarity, like fighting for people, for their freedom, for
innocent people thrown in jails. In response Russia’s Interior Minister
launched an internal inquiry. Now a number of officers who arrested the
journalist have been charged with abuse of power. The release of the journalist
was just the start. The symbol was then used to campaign for protesters who were arrested in these anti-government demonstrations in the summer and some
protesters successfully avoided going to jail. It’s also been used to fight for
victims of domestic abuse because activists want the law to change in
Russia at the moment. Some domestic abuse is considered an administrative rather
than a criminal offense. So that means abusers are fined rather
than sent to prison. But the symbol has also been used by government supporters
who want to mock the movement. It looks like there’ll be lots going on
in Russia in the year ahead. President Putin, who remains very popular, has
shaken up the government and he’s got an increasingly vocal group of people on
his hands who are more willing than ever to speak out about issues they care
about. It looks like this catchphrase has found its way into the lives of Russians
and won’t be going anywhere in 2020.