A poster stuck to the wall of a Moscow metro car shows a silhouette of a woman looking at decomposed corpses. They lie in a row on the ground. The row starts with what used to be a man a skull, a rib and a backbone. It still has a boot and a piece of cloth, which used to be a pair of pants, on a bone that used to be a leg. The row never ends. The poster's words say: "War in Chechnya: the shame of my country. Take a card from us and send it to the president!" And it gives a Web address: www.Radikaly.ru.
The anti-military Radical Party of Russia (Radikaly) has been papering its 20,000 anti-Chechen-war stickers in Moscow metro wagons since December 2000. The party's efforts have often been poorly received, and many of the activists have been beaten. Police, too, according to Radikaly members, have confiscated some 500 of the stickers. Radikaly members have also been detained for several hours, said Anna Zaitseva, the head of the organization's Moscow office, in a phone interview.
By Radikaly's estimates, the postcard drive has been discouraging in two years, only 761 have been sent. The organization is able to keep track of this figure because the postcards go simultaneously to the Kremlin and Radikaly. The response via the Internet, where activists can sign a Web postcard, is a more discouraging 67.
Added to this are the five or seven daily obscene and threatening phone calls the organization receives, said Zaitseva.
Zaitseva said they were hoping the results in a country where grassroots movements are rare enough would be different.
"We hoped to get responses from at least 20-30 percent of the those we targeted," the tens of thousands of people who use Moscow's metro daily, Zaitseva said.
"We got feedback from only five percent."
Radikaly is Russia's 200 person-strong branch of Italian politician Marco Pannell's Transnational Radical Party, an international, non-governmental organization that disdains military action and supports a number of other causes, such as the legalization of marijuana, abolition of the death penalty and the creation of an international criminal court to judge crimes against humanities. Radikaly also fiercely opposes the war in Chechnya and the Chinese occupation of Tibet.
"Some people think that, if their children were killed in Chechnya or they themselves took part in it, then the war is one of liberation [of Russian territory from bandits]," said Zaitseva.
With only 100 stickers left, Radikaly's members spend their days trying to fight what they say is the government's PR campaign to present the war in Chechnya as a "war against terror," she added.
"We have realized what a brainwashing effect the Russian media's coverage is having," she said. "Besides, people have become frightened to voice their opinion."
Radikaly, however, refuses to give up. No matter how poor the results of the sticker campaign, Zaitseva said that "drop by drop" they will focus the public's attention on the problem as they did earlier with a proposal for alternatives to military service, an issue Duma is currently tackling with a new legislation proposal.
Radikaly has met with government resistance. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, just last Friday demanded that the organization's Russian branch be shut down. But this hardly flusters Zaitseva.
"It means they know who we are," she said.