Ira Solomatina is a writer and researcher based between Berlin and Amsterdam. She is currently finishing her PhD research at the University of Amsterdam, where she interrogates politics in contemporary fashion media. A regular contributor to Vestoj, she is particularly interested in manifestations of popular feminism and neoliberalism in fashion and popular culture.

On the 9th of March 2022, Vogue Russia published an announcement on its social media channels and website, reading: "Dear friends, we are suspending all kinds of broadcasts until further notice. All previously published pieces are still available on" On Instagram, the announcement was accompanied by a caption, expressing the hope that this was "not a farewell, just a brief pause."

The “pause” – which can hardly be considered "brief," in retrospect  – was induced by a slate of laws hastily implemented by the Russian state in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and intended to stop expressions of anti-war sentiment across Russian media. This prohibition of anti-war rhetoric further curtailed Russian media's freedom. [1] It also coincided with an imposition of sanctions by Western states and withdrawal of international companies from Russia – a number of fashion labels, e-commerce companies, and publishing houses among them. [2]

The political discourses in the Russian fashion media changed enormously after the Russian state began a full-blown assault on Ukraine. The landscape of lifestyle and fashion media in the country has been upended and changed due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the subsequent sanctions, introduced by the international community in response to Russia's aggression, and the legislation enacted by the Russian state to curb criticisms of the war inside the country. Fashion and lifestyle media are socio-political agents promoting politicized and political values, opinions, and views.

@voguerussia Instagram screenshot
I would like to note that, while I am foregrounding the state of fashion media in Russia, I in no way intend to downplay the tragic, painful, and devastating experiences of Ukrainian people whose lives have been affected and – in many cases – untimely ended by Russia's military aggression. Rather, I attempt a glimpse inside contemporary Russia, seeking to add to the current understanding of its politics, values, and culture. In focusing on the state of fashion media, we can see deep-seated conflicts within Russia that, having been brewing for decades, have created a cultural and ideological basis for the February invasion, among other things.

This article draws on my ongoing PhD research that looks at the politics of fashion and lifestyle media across the globe. Mainly, it is informed by textual and image analysis of three Russian fashion publications – Vogue Russia, The Blueprint, and Marie Claire. A number of informal interviews and conversations with Russian fashion journalists and fashion professionals have helped contextualize and situate the current developments in fashion media in Russia for me.

The history of fashion media in Russia

The history of fashion media in Russia is perhaps best described as volatile. Changes in the state and character of Russian fashion media have reflected the changes that the country itself has undergone from the 19th century until the present. In her work on women's magazines, Olga Simonova writes about the profusion of women's magazines at the turn of the 20th century in Russia. Many were short-lived, some were narrowly specialized on fashion, some were focused on a feminist political agenda, and yet others attempted to combine the topics of fashion, beauty, and women's rights. Notably, the women's movement in imperial Russia was only marginally successful, and most of the women's publications were severely ridiculed by male critics. [3]

After the October Revolution and establishment of the Soviet Union, fashion magazines continued to exist throughout the 1920s but largely shut down as the Soviet style divorced itself from artistic, modernist, and Westernized fashion. Associations with Westernization, consumption, and capitalism became taboo during the Stalinist era, and the whole realm of fashion grew gradually marginalized. As Djurdja Bartlett points out, the Soviet fashion magazine of the 1930s "favored the scientific approach to the problems of industrial dress production, while ignoring fashionable and artistic" aspects of dress. [4] Tellingly, the major fashion magazine "Journal of Fashions" ("Zhournal mod" in Russian), launched after the Second World War, in 1945, was a professional publication, printed for designers, tailors, and seamstresses, and it was mainly disseminated among dressmakers.

Along with such specialized magazines, there existed women's magazines that somewhat concerned themselves with fashion – Krestyanka (“Peasant woman”) and Rabotnitsa (“Worker woman”) being probably the most influential of them. While the very titles point to the class and professional identities of their intended readers, the themes covered by these magazines ranged from household topics, interviews with celebrities, fashion, and beauty advice, culture, economic, and political developments within the Soviet Union, to the horrors of life under Western capitalism. [5]

@voguerussia Instagram screenshot

“Changes in the state and character of Russian fashion media have reflected the changes that the country itself has undergone from the 19th century until the present.”

Though after the revolution the Soviet woman was proclaimed emancipated, lives of Soviet women were shaped by the double burden of work and domesticity. [6, 7] Women's magazines from the Soviet Union are illustrative of the societal expectations that women were expected to fulfill as workers but also as wives and mothers. At the same time, the budding feminist movement never gained ground in the Soviet Union because of its Western-ness.

The paradigm of perfect femininity shifted yet again in post-Soviet Russia, when the sweeping economic and political changes introduced fresh ideas of self-realization and success for men and women. These were now rooted in career success and social influence (for men), and in femininity and glamor (for women). [8]  As the Condé Nast-published Vogue launched in Russia in 2007, it channeled images of wealth, excess, and glamor, seeking to educate readers on international trends and designs but also striving to appeal to the most affluent categories of Russian consumers. [9]

Throughout the 2000s, Russian consumers grew more sophisticated, and their consumption power increased due to higher global prices on oil and gas. At the same time, a new generation of Russians were coming of age who had grown up after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the newly democratized Russia and who envisioned themselves as Europeans. They formed a novel category of career-oriented, middle-class big-city dwellers, familiar with and aware of Western cultural trends. This post-Soviet generation is responsible for launching a number of lifestyle and fashion publications throughout the 2000s. Saara Ratilainen speaks about the rise of the urban lifestyle magazine as a localized digital outlet that focuses on culture, consumption, and aspirational use of urban space. Such magazines have circulated both in print and online, like the prominent Moscow-based publication Afisha. [10]

The lifestyle magazines of the 2010s were politically conscious, provocative and, sometimes, openly oppositional towards the state. A 2011 issue of Esquire Russia lambasted the ruling United Russia party as a party "of thieves and crooks," quoting the opposition leader Alexey Navalny; Wonderzine, The Blueprint and Vogue Russia extensively campaigned for a law against domestic violence, giving platform to some of the state's outspoken critics. [11-14]At the same time, the emergence of young middle classes, new media, and the dynamic cultural initiatives of the 2000s and 2010s coincided with the "evolution of [Putin’s] regime from soft to hard authoritarianism and a revanchist great power." [15] Vladimir Putin, who was the president of Russia between 2000 and 2008, started his third presidential term in 2012. His return was preceded by large-scale protests in Russia's largest cities, initiated and joined by representatives of the young urban classes. The protests failed and, from then on, liberal middle-class protesters have been targeted as the enemies of the regime, evoking hateful remarks from state officials and media. As a counterbalance to the Westernized outlooks of Russia's middle classes, the state has been promoting "traditional values," rooted in Orthodox Christianity, the gender binary, and patriarchy. [16]
Tellingly, the 2010s saw the infamous Pussy Riot affair, a banning of LGBTQIA+ "propaganda among minors," Crimea's annexation, and numerous fabricated and politically motivated prosecutions. Against the backdrop of a rapidly deteriorating democracy, fashion and lifestyle media continued to operate comparatively freely. Surely, the ban on LGBTQIA+ "propaganda" forced the magazines to mark LGBTQIA+-related coverage as inappropriate for readers younger than 18, but they continued to discuss politically relevant events, criticize Russian politicians and the state, cover protests, and feature oppositional politicians, offering a worldview that often differed from the restrictive ideology of the state.

Russian fashion magazines and the West

As this brief overview of the history of Russian fashion magazines suggests, both their evolution and content have been largely impacted by the Soviet Union's and, later, Russia's relationship with the West. Not only was fashion for a long time regarded as a capitalist (or Western) affair, but also the launch of fashion magazines in the 1990s – 2000s was largely a result of Russia's globalization and its tilt towards the West after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The discourse around Russia's relationship with the West has long been defined in terms  of difference and antagonism. Thus, Boris Groys points out that the nineteenth-century Russia-West discourse helped define the Russian identity – as everything that the West was not. [17] In the Russian philosophical tradition, the West has come across as purely rational, whereas the Russian identity has been imagined to surpass rationality – it is presented as mysterious, rich in contradiction, and spiritual.

Despite the fact that the "West," in the parlance of the Russian state, is elusive and ill-defined, it remains a staple of political rhetoric in Russia. Over the past 10 years, the Russian state's declarations on the "West" have been getting ever more hostile, reaching their 50 years' nadir during Russia's war in Ukraine. Russian state officials have repeatedly blamed "the collective West" for instigating the war and have spoken of the intense animosity that this ungodly "collective West" has towards Russia's values. [18]

These values, articulated in the state discourse as "traditional," are constructed in direct opposition to the principles of tolerance, feminism, equality, and diversity, which the West is claimed to be forcing upon nations. Russia's state officials have spoken out against the "Western ideologies" of being "childfree" or "radical feminism" that, allegedly, are seeping into Russia from the West to destroy it from within. [19] Tellingly, the pejorative neologism "gay-ropa" has been circulating in Russia's state media in a mocking reference to what they see as an ultra-tolerant Europe. In a rather surprising turn, as Putin proclaimed a partial mobilization in September 2022, and yet again blamed the "collective West" for "starting the war," he felt it necessary to reiterate that the Russian state only recognized two genders. The issue of gender has been troubling the president for a while – the postulate of the gender binary had also been included into the Russian constitution in 2020.
@emmieamerica Instagram screenshot

“Adapting to the political situation in Russia, those fashion magazines that still function in the country either avoid discussing politics or give rather cryptic responses to political events.”

In the magazines of the late 2010s to early 2020s, too, the West is a prominent presence. The magazines that I have analyzed in the course of my PhD research constantly allude to the West, they feature Western celebrities, Western culture and Western fashion. At the same time, while the West is omnipresent, it often appears as foreign and different. The magazines routinely refer to the "Western viewer," "Western reader," or "Western people," pointing to the differences in perception and attitudes between Russians and "Westerners."

The West at times comes across as aspirational and at other times as cold and spiritually inferior. The magazines' attitudes towards the West are helpful in understanding their politics. Loyalty to the Russian state coincides with anti-Western rhetoric, while liberal attitudes elicit a positive coverage of the West. Magazines like Vogue Russia, Harper's Bazaar, and the digital-only Wonderzine and The Blueprint speak of the West almost wistfully, portraying it as progressive and forward-thinking. Other publications, like Marie Claire or the website are oftentimes sardonic and derisive towards the West.

This latter category of publications also happens to uphold the "traditional values" narrative championed by the current government of Russia. The content of Marie Claire, which I write about in more detail in my PhD research, is heteronormative and anti-feminist, which becomes particularly noticeable in the relationship advice that the magazine offers. According to it, a "normal" relationship happens in a couple consisting of a man and a woman, preferably married, and such relationship depends on the emotional labor that the woman is obliged to provide. Evolving around the questions of what men expect from women and what women should be doing in order to stay in men's good graces, the magazine's relationship advice is strongly evocative of Rosalind Gill's analysis of postfeminist media and simultaneously sustains the state-endorsed discourse around compulsory heteronormativity. [20]

Similarly, the magazine forecloses any venue for critiquing the state, as it squarely puts the responsibility for happiness, success, and financial well-being on its readers, women. Its articles on saving and spending money, finding a good job, and achieving career success are oblivious to the dire socio-economic situation in Russia and, at the same time, are redolent of the neoliberal ethic of a resilient, self-sufficient subject. Tellingly, some of the publication’s articles are titled: “Why you attract stingy men,” “Fear of money: why you can’t get rich” (apparently, because you might have a deep-seated fear of becoming fabulously rich) and “Getting rich instantly: the twenty habits of millionaires that will help you get rich.” [21-23] Paradoxically, the publication’s approach corresponds with the rhetoric of the state officials, who, over the past few years, have been encouraging people to expect less from the state.

In contrast to Marie Claire, fashion magazines like The Blueprint or Vogue, the two titles I also analyze in my PhD research, are critical towards the state, condemning its bigotry, conservative understanding of gender and women's rights, and its repressive attitudes towards media and social discourses. Remarkably, Western-ness and Western cultural trends provide Russian fashion media with frameworks for both criticizing and reimagining Russian society. The magazines use comparisons with the Western stance on diversity, inclusivity, and equality to demonstrate how Russia lags behind in regards to human rights. References to the political situation in Russia often come up in the magazines' interviews with Western designers and celebrities. Thus, in an interview with designer Michaela Stark for Vogue Russia, the interviewer focuses on the perils of censorship. [24]

One of the most remarkable political discourses in Russia's contemporary fashion magazines has been that of the "new ethics" ("novaya etika" in Russian). The collocation "new ethics" is used only in Russia, where it refers to a rather disparate pot-pourri of (Western) initiatives and ideas, including sustainability, anti-racism, inclusivity, diversity, and #MeToo. [25] Whereas Russia's state media is rather dismissive of the "new ethics," I have found that some fashion magazines (the aforementioned Vogue and The Blueprint are two examples) portray them with appreciation and as a harbinger of positive change.

I believe that the discourse around the "new ethics" in fashion magazines allows them to signify that their values are aligned with those of diversity, inclusivity, feminism, human rights, and equality – all those ideas and values that the Russian state disdains. Through the discourse of the "new ethics," Russian fashion magazines signify solidarity with Western media and acknowledge that the fashion industry, globally, is growing more politicized. This acknowledgement legitimizes Russian magazines' wider engagement with the political and allows for a wider criticism of the situation in Russia – be it the absence of a law on domestic violence or the infamous ban on the LGBTQIA+ "propaganda."

Here, I would like to note, however, that the focus on the West, Western politics, and the discourse on the "new ethics" has also been criticized as escapist from within Russia. In a 2020 episode of a Russian-language fashion-themed podcast Antiglyanetz (which could be roughly translated as “anti-gloss”), a fashion editor remarked that Russian media seemed more concerned about the Black Lives Matter movement in the West than about the then-impending amendments to the Russian constitution.

Obviously, Russian fashion magazines' engagement with politics has always been limited and ambiguous. And yet, I am convinced that their interest in the West, Western politics, and culture harbors political potential, as it presents a decisive rejection of the state-induced politics and a desire for more openness to the world.

Russian fashion magazines after the beginning of the war in Ukraine

Even though the Russian state has been struggling to downplay the effects of its devastating invasion of Ukraine, the consequences of it, having reverberated across the globe, have radically altered Russian society. Over the months since the war started, the state's crackdown on the remaining clusters of free thinking in the country has been pernicious. Hypersensitive to the war-related information disseminated within Russia, the government insists that the war be called a "special military operation." [26] All references to it that suggest its actual gravity have been banned by the state. In fact, any attempts to shed light on Russia's atrocities in Ukraine and the nasty state of things on the front have been prohibited under the law on "fakes" about the Russian army, passed shortly after the war .

The state rhetoric and actions since the beginning of the war have left no doubt that Putin's regime sees the West as its ultimate nemesis and perceives Western-ness as a threat to its existence. While on the state level Putin has been referring to the necessity of confronting the West, on the level of culture, the gap between Russia and the West has widened. Russia has been either excluded from participating in Western cultural events, or decided to forgo participating in them.[27] A number of cultural critics, journalists, and writers have been declared "foreign agents" by the state, emphasizing that their liberal perspectives qualify as "anti-Russian" and underscoring their perceived connection to the West. At the same time, a number of Western companies have withdrawn from Russia, Western fashion brands, publishing houses, and advertising agencies among them. Then, in one ridiculous feat of spitefulness, the Russian government declared Facebook and Instagram extremist organizations. 

Consequently, Russian fashion media have faced closures and stricter censorship. Throughout the first months of the war, the international publishing house Condé Nast closed its Russian branch and publisher Hearst revoked its license agreement for the Russian editions of Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Harper's Bazaar, and Men's Health. [28, 29] Stricter censorship, imposed by the Russian state, has also significantly limited magazines' opportunity to speak on war-related topics or criticize the state.

 @voguerussia Instagram screenshot
Adapting to the political situation in Russia, those fashion magazines that still function in the country either avoid discussing politics or give rather cryptic responses to political events. Thus, The Blueprint reacted to the growing threat of a nuclear attack with a feature on nuclear war-themed movies. On another occasion, the publication compiled interviews with Russian cultural producers and artists, who discuss the art that helps them cope with difficult times. [28] Some digital publications have introduced the paywall for their content. After the closure of international fashion magazines, a number of fashion journalists and editors have left Russia, and some have launched their own blogs – operating on Telegram, these fragmented fashion media present a unique, albeit imperfect, format and oftentimes comment upon politics and the political. [29] [30]

Even though these examples demonstrate that some Russian fashion media continue to engage with socio-political themes, they also reveal such engagements to be increasingly limited. The effects of the war on Russian fashion media have been perilous, and the reason for this is not just the closure of fashion brands' branches and advertising agencies in Russia but also the enforced de-Westernization of Russia and de-politicization of its fashion media.

In the 1990s, the fashion magazine in Russia emerged as a symbol of openness to the world. With its interest in Western culture, politics, and fashion, it remained an emblem of post-Soviet Russia's quest for freedom and, under Putin, a less obvious site of political protest. But, as the country's political course banishes more and more realms of public and cultural life in Russia, the fashion media, too, are losing their symbolic and political currency. The Russian state renders liberalism, democracy, and democratic freedoms as Western and invasive, imposing its vision of Russian traditionalism upon cultural industries. What emerges as one result of this process is the new type of Russian fashion magazine – depoliticized, localized, and increasingly isolated.

Notes: The Last Days of Vogue

[1] Reuters, Russia fights back in information war with jail warning, March 4, 2022,

[2] The New York Times. Companies Are Getting Out of Russia, Sometimes at a Cost, October 14, 2022

[3] O. Simonova “Женские Журналы в Начале XX В. : Критика, Рецепция, Полемика.” Ženŝina v rossijskom obŝestve, no. 1 (2015): 24–32.

[4] Djurddja Bartlett, FashionEast : the Spectre That Haunted Socialism. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010)

[5] D. Meek,  “A Soviet Women’s Magazine.” Soviet studies 4 (1953)

[6] Mary Buckley,  Women and Ideology in the Soviet Union. (New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1989)

[7] Valerie Sperling,  Organizing Women in Contemporary Russia : Engendering Transition. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999)

[8] Kaarle Nordenstreng, Arja Rosenholm,  and Elena Trubina, Russian Mass Media and Changing Values. (New York: Routledge, 2010).

[9]  Djurdja Bartlett, “In Russia, At Last and Forever: The First Seven Years of Russian Vogue.” Fashion theory 10, no. 1-2 (2006): 175–204.

[10] Saara Ratilainen, “Digital Media and Cultural Institutions in Russia: Online Magazines as Aggregates of Cultural Services.” Cultural studies (London, England) 32, no. 5 (2018): 800–824.

[11] The Moscow Times. Navalny Must Pay for 'Crooks and Thieves' Comment, June 5, 2012

[12] Wonderzine. Видео дня: Интервью правозащитницы Мари Давтян на ютьюб-канале Катерины Гордеевой, May 24, 2022

[13] The Blueprint. Простить нельзя расстаться, 2021

[14] Vogue. Почему в России необходим закон о домашнем насилии, June 15, 2021.

[15] Taras Kuzio “Nationalism and Authoritarianism in Russia: Introduction to the Special Issue.” Communist and post-communist studies 49, no. 1 (2016): 1–11.

[16] Robert Horvath, “The Reinvention of ‘Traditional Values’: Nataliya Narochnitskaya and Russia’s Assault on Universal Human Rights.” Europe-Asia studies 68, no. 5 (2016): 868–892.

[17] Boris Groys,. “Russia and the West: The Quest for Russian National Identity.” Studies in Soviet Thought 43, no. 3 (1992): 185–198.

[18] ICDS. The collective Putin and the collective West, January 5, 2022,

[19] The Moscow Times, Russia Proposes ‘Extremist’ Label for LGBT, Feminist, Child-Free Movements, September 30, 2021

[20] Rosalind Gill, “Mediated Intimacy and Postfeminism: a Discourse Analytic Examination of Sex and Relationships Advice in a Women’s Magazine.” Discourse & communication 3, no. 4 (2009): 345–369.

[21] Marie Claire. Деньги придут сразу

[22] Marie Claire. Жалеют деньги: почему вы притягиваете жадных мужчин

[23] Marie Claire. Страх денег: почему вы не можете разбогатеть на самом деле

[24] Vogue Russia. March 2022. Я его слепила

[25] Jan Surman,  and Ella Rossman. “New Dissidence in Contemporary Russia: Students, Feminism and New Ethics.” New perspectives (Prague, Czech Republic) 30, no. 1 (2022): 27–46.

[26] Neil MacFarquhar, “Desperate for Recruits, Russia Launches a ‘Stealth Mobilization” The New York Times, July 10, 2022

[27] Eric Kohn, “Russia’s Oscar Boycott Proves the Academy’s International Film Rules Must Change”, IndieWire, September 27, 2022

[28] The Blueptint. Кино на конец света, October 10, 2022

[29] Maliha Shoaib, “Condé Nast closes Vogue Russia and terminates Russia publishing”, Vogue Business, April 19, 2022

[30] Kathryn Hopkins, “Hearst Magazines Cuts Ties With Russia”, WWD, March 9, 2022,

Issue 13 ︎︎︎ Fashion & Politics
Issue 12 ︎︎︎ Border Garments: Fashion, Feminisms, & Disobedience

Issue 11 ︎︎︎ Fashion & Digital Engagement
Issue 10 ︎︎︎ Fashion & Partnership

Issue 9 ︎︎︎ Fall 2021

Issue 8 ︎︎︎ Fashion & Mental Health

Issue 7 ︎︎︎ Fashion & Motherhood

Issue 6 ︎︎︎ Fall 2020

Issue 5 ︎︎︎ The Industry

Issue 4 ︎︎︎ Summer 2017

Issue 3 ︎︎︎ Spring 2017

Issue 2 ︎︎︎ Winter 2016

Issue 1 ︎︎︎ Fall 2016

Issue 13 ︎︎︎ Fashion & Politics

Issue 11 ︎︎︎ Fashion & Digital Engagement

Issue 10 ︎︎︎ Fashion & Partnership

Issue 9 ︎︎︎ Fall 2021

Issue 8 ︎︎︎ Fashion & Mental Health

Issue 7 ︎︎︎ Fashion & Motherhood

Issue 6 ︎︎︎ Fall 2020

Issue 5 ︎︎︎ The Industry

Issue 4 ︎︎︎ Summer 2017

Issue 3 ︎︎︎ Spring 2017

Issue 2 ︎︎︎ Winter 2016

Issue 1 ︎︎︎ Fall 2016