Alexander Ivanov. Screenshot: @alexanderchachaivanov / Instagram
On April 15th, Alexander “Chacha” Ivanov, the frontman of one of Russia’s oldest punk bands, NAIVE, took the stage at a Moscow club wearing a shirt bearing the name of Masha Moskaleva. The schoolgirl’s father received two years in prison for “discrediting the army” after she drew an anti-war picture during art class. This turned out to be NAIVE’s last concert in Russia. Days later, Ivanov left the country. In a letter written on the road, he explains why showing solidarity with the Moskalevs was so important to him.
My name is Alexander Ivanov, also known by my stage name, Chacha. I am the lead singer of a Russian punk band called NAIVE (НАИВ). Recently, during a concert in Moscow, I shared the story of Masha Moskaleva, a sixth-grade girl from the town of Efremov. Masha was removed from her family for drawing an anti-war picture in her school art class!
That might have been my last show in Russia.
I am an anarchist. I question the necessity of a state—any state.
I am a pacifist. I reject violence, preferring open discussion and always relying solely on peaceful protest.
I am a feminist. I support women in their struggle for equality and respect in society as part of a broader liberation process to fight for equal rights for all the oppressed.
I am a punk rocker. Throughout its 35-year existence, NAIVE has performed and expressed anti-authoritarian, anti-fascist, anarchist, and pacifist views.
I am Russian—by culture, language, and ethnicity.
But perhaps, most importantly, I am a Christian! And as a Christian, I am supposed to show mercy.
First and foremost, I appeal to people of goodwill in Russia, especially Russian people and Russian-speaking people who consider Russian their native tongue and are influenced by Russian culture.
My second audience are people of goodwill around the globe who are ready to hear Masha’s story and realize that not all Russians support the current regime’s military actions, that there are many of us who oppose war, but we are so much afraid to raise our voices!
My third “target group” are fans of NAIVE, our many supporters and sympathizers across countries. Thanks to them, NAIVE continues to exist independently, succeed in the music industry, tour the world regularly, and release topical songs on current events.
Friends, I urge you to pay attention to Masha Moskaleva’s story and her family, and not to remain indifferent!
This year, our band celebrates its 35th anniversary! A massive Russian tour was planned for spring 2023, kicking off in Nizhny Novgorod, followed by Vladimir and other cities across Russia.
Unfortunately, our anniversary plans were derailed by a brutal smear campaign against me and my band in the so-called Russian “patriotic” media.
The primary accusation in these publications was that Chacha is a traitor to Russia!
I am not a traitor! I am not an enemy of the Russian people!
As soon as the tour began, concert venues and major summer festival organizers rushed to inform the band that all previously agreed-upon live show arrangements were canceled due to “insurmountable circumstances.”
In Yaroslavl, the “insurmountable circumstance” took the form of a city prosecutor’s office officially canceling a NAIVE concert. In other cities, the restrictions were unofficial, relying on old-fashioned administrative pressure from above on concert venues and promoters.
One by one, the cities on our anniversary tour began to “drop off,” and it quickly became clear that there would be no tour. Within days, NAIVE was also canceled for all the scheduled summer festivals, and the band’s logo disappeared from all advertisements.
Miraculously, the April 15, 2023 concert at the 1930 Moscow club remained on schedule. I understood that this might be my last show in Moscow, and perhaps even in Russia. Because of this, I wanted to say something important, something that would have real meaning and specifically help those who are in trouble!
So, on the eve of Orthodox Easter, during the NAIVE concert, I decided to publicly speak from the stage about Masha Moskaleva and her family, raising audience’s awareness about the humanitarian aspect of their case, and the disproportionality of the punishment.
My words about Masha struck a chord with the crowd, and a lively response ensued! People spontaneously began to chant the modern Russian anti-war slogan: “FUCK THE WAR!” and I joined them. I experienced both an extraordinary sense of unity with the audience and a “reverent awe” from realizing that my words had not only put myself but everyone present in danger!
But that’s not all I realized at that moment.
I also recognized that against all odds, not everything was lost for us, the Russian people! There, beside me, were several thousand people who shared my language, culture, and even subculture. Together, despite all restrictions and repression, they overcame their inner fear and expressed their clear and unequivocal opinion on this “special military operation.”
At that moment, I was overwhelmed with sadness that, throughout their existence, Russian authorities have consistently perceived grassroots organization of the masses as their main threat. For centuries, Russian authorities’ overriding concern has been to prevent people from uniting at any level, discredit or control any self-governed, public initiative that isn’t engineered by the state itself.
The Russian government has long worked to make the people feel alienated, and this process did not start recently or even 30 years ago. As I re-read Nikolai Gogol’s “The Government Inspector” with my daughter Aurora, I am reminded of this. Nothing else can explain the unparalleled level of alienation and “atomization” of Russian society (predominantly, the ethnic Russian part) that has been documented for decades in various sociological research. Due to mutual distrust and envy, Russians, even in our own lands, are the most alienated people of the world.
The story of Masha Moskaleva reflects Russian life, and both the private lives of this unfortunate Russian family and the fate of Russia as a whole depend on its outcome!
This is the last frontier that separates us, the Russian people, from an irreparable moral decline. It is a line we must not cross, where we must stumble, stop, and admit that we want to remain people of goodwill!
Russian society’s “atomization” and indifference to everything, including ourselves, has reached its ultimate level: we do not care about anyone outside our immediate circle—the family, at best! Lack of solidarity leads to people’s inability to unite for any reason or purpose. It cannot and should not be so!
Consider the case of Masha Moskaleva—who gets punished for her anti-war drawing? NATO? Western Europe? World government? No, a simple Russian family suffers... suffers because a teenage girl drew an anti-war picture in art class! For this, she was removed from her family and placed in an orphanage.
And her father, Alexei Moskalev (the man who was her only family), was sentenced to 2 years in prison on a controversial charge. Before his sentencing hearing, he escaped from house arrest (which aggravated his case), crossed the border with Belarus (which aggravated his case), where he was eventually detained and sent back to Moscow. Now, in addition to the previous sentence, Alexei Moskalev faces more serious charges!
We cannot and must not ignore this very public persecution of a Russian family, which has been taking place right before our eyes. This happened to ordinary Russian people living in provincial Russia. They are not foreigners, millionaires, pop stars, or famous artists: they lived their simple lives in a small town and did not bother anyone until their viewpoints clashed with those of the “majority.” But this right is guaranteed to all Russians by the recently updated Constitution of the Russian Federation.
The Moskalevs found themselves in a situation where, in the heat of the moment, they became the target of our “Benevolent State”! Now their lives are shattered and will never be the same again, under any circumstances, even the most favorable ones.
Of course, it’s good that the local authorities decided to drop the lawsuit that threatened to strip parental rights from Alexei Moskalev. This is thanks in large part to the contribution of all those who did not remain indifferent to this case and were vocal about it!
But we must understand - this is not the end of the story. It is imperative to return Alexei Moskalev home to his daughter. We all need to see to that! There are far too many questions regarding Alexei’s future.
Friends, it seems to me that this is our crucial chance to stand in solidarity with this family and see justice delivered. Perhaps this could become our first collective stepping stone to long-desired peace! Our support for Masha will be evidence that we can unite and find compassion in our hearts! For starters, at least in such an egregious case!
Do you recall how it plays out in Korney Chukovsky’s story “The Monster Cockroach”? After all, the animals didn’t let their children be eaten alive by the Cockroach, did they?
So shouldn’t we?
April 20–26, 2023
Moscow — Istanbul — Santa Barbara
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