Russia's Naked Public Space

Those who lived in Moscow in the late 1990's frequently encountered odd - and mostly incomprehensible - billboards. The first such billboard showed a young woman's face, but no bar of soap or bottle of perfume. No brand name, either. A short line said simply "I love you." Who loved this woman and why did he want everyone to know of his passion? Rumors had it that one of Russia's richest men wanted to impress his sweetheart.

Next came a billboard showing a man's face, with foreign coins flowing down upon it. The line read, "Roma takes care of the Family, the Family takes care of Roma. Congratulations! Roma found a classy place for himself."

There was never any public explanation for this message, either, just rumors - that "Roma" was Roman Abramovich (this was long before the tycoon bought the Chelsea football team, becoming a world celebrity), and that he had close ties with then President Boris Yeltsin's inner circle, known as "the Family." Even the few who claimed knowledge about Roma were unsure about who commissioned the billboard. It was simply taken for granted that what is supposed to be public space - the streets of Moscow - was appropriated for a vaguely menacing private message.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To access our archive, please log in or register now and read two articles from our archive every month for free. For unlimited access to our archive, as well as to the unrivaled analysis of PS On Point, subscribe now.


By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.