Kultrab is an art collective that promotes activism within Russia through fashion and art. Their mission is to advocate for political freedoms and equality and develop a strong foundation of political awareness among Russia’s youth. The collective addresses pressing issues through socially conscious campaigns and art projects where they collaborate and share their skills alongside other NGOs, independent artists, musicians, and directors. They use art and streetwear fashion as a medium that is highly visible and attractive to Generation Z, but at the same time is under the radar of state censorship. Kultrab is registered as a sole proprietorship business of one of the founders, which allows the collective to pursue entrepreneurial activities and the individual to receive donations for the collective’s work. Campaigns are primarily self-funded through merchandise and clothing sales and events. Kultrab started taking donations during the pandemic when they were unable to implement offline campaigns and events. Supporters can provide recurring donations, receiving in return discounts in the clothing shop. In April 2021, Kultrab launched an NFT, which went up for online auction. Profits from Kultrab’s campaigns are divided between paying the young emerging artists who participate in each project and donating to the causes the projects support. In addition, Kultrab relies on pro-bono services from established professionals who express motivation in particular causes.
Theory of Change
The use of fashion and art as a platform for political activism attracts a younger generation to learn about important issues and empowers them to express their political voice through creative media.
Kultrab focuses each one of their projects on a different topic or issue within Russian culture and society. In Kultrab’s first ever campaign - entitled ‘It will get worse’ - they designed a line of clothing that was sold to help crowdfund for MediaZona, an independent media outlet that focuses on police brutality and injustice. In another project, Kultrab created a partnership with the Andrey Rylkov Foundation, which promotes humane drug policy in Russia, and released a clothing collection, as well as held a large event with organized lectures and open discussions. The event generated awareness around the country’s highly controversial narcotic criminal law and its use by the state to lock away activists and journalists. Other projects tackled LGBTQ+ rights and environmental degradation in Russia. Kultrab was also highly involved throughout the protests that took place in Russia in Spring 2021, following the arrest of opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Through their Instagram feed, Kultrab offered information on available legal, mental health, and other support resources.
Kultrab’s campaigns have generated awareness around social issues, controversial legislation and politically sensitive topics. The success of their projects has signaled a generational shift amongst a younger population, who are growing increasingly discontent with the repressive aspects of the country’s sociopolitical climate. Kultrab’s campaign around Russia’s drug policy saw their event draw a crowd of over 3,000 people. The related t-shirts collection completely sold out and was widely shared on social media. In another project, Kultrab created a documentary about a 14-year-old boy who spent a year in detention for having anarchist beliefs - the resulting coverage of the story led to protestors attending his court hearings, and their activism contributed to substitution of detention with home arrest. Their recent campaign addressing police brutality and the related clothing collection has been featured in a high-profile luxury streetwear magazine. Further, Kultrab participated in publicizing a petition regarding arrested protesters’ right to defense, which has received close to 150,000 signatures. Kultrab’s Instagram account has 24,000+ followers and their recently-launched NFT listed a reserve price of over $2,600 in an online auction.