Yana Zhdanova

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Iana Aleksandrovna Zhdanova
Яна Александровна Жданова
Zhdanova, Kiev.jpg
Zhdanova at the Maidan Square in Kiev, on the first of August 2013.
Born (1988-02-28) 28 February 1988 (age 31)
Makiivka, Ukrainian Former Republic of USSR.
Alma materUniversity of Culture and Arts, Kiev, Ukraine.
OccupationFeminist, social activist.
Years active2009–present

Iana (Yana) Zhdanova (Ukrainian: Яна Жданова), born on (1988-02-28)February 28, 1988 is a Ukrainian feminist and social activist who since the 2000s has been a leading member of the feminist protest group FEMEN. The movement became known for organizing controversial bare-breasted protests against inequality between men and women, prostitution, sex industry, dictatorship, homophobia and other political and social problems.

Early life[edit]

Zhdanova was born in Makiivka, at that time under Soviet rule. After attending schools in Makiivka and Donetsk, she attended the Kyiv National University of Culture and Arts in Kiev. She graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor's degree, and in 2010 received a Master's degree in History of Culture. From 2009 to 2012 she worked as a dancer in small theatres and nightclubs in Kiev, while art, like literature and architecture, remains a precious component of her life.[1]


In 2008 Zhdanova was working as a correspondent for the daily national Ukrainian newspaper Life. At that time she started participating in feminist activism with Alexandra Shevchenko. Zhdanova's first public protest with Femen took place on 22 March 2009 targeting Ukrainian writer Oles Buzina, due to conflict of opinion on his 2009 book publication in fiction category.[2] The author is asserting in this book that women's real place is in a harem, like in old times.

Zhdanova between Oksana Shachko (left) and Sasha Shevchenko at the Courthouse of Kiev on 28 July 2013.

On 23 May 2009 Zhdanova, along with Alexandra (Sasha) Shevchenko, Oksana Shachko and Inna Shevchenko, took part in a protest in Kiev with the slogan "Ukraine is not a brothel" because according to their perception an increasing number of young Ukrainian women were earning money through sex tourism and prostitution.

On 8 March 2012 she participated in a protest in Istanbul, Turkey, during the International Women's Day with the slogan "Stop domestic violence". After being arrested by the Turkish police, the next day she was expelled from the country.

In March 2012 she protested in Kiev on the top of office building of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine for the Makar case which garnered extensive massive media coverage inside and outside Ukraine: three young Ukrainians who had raped, strangled, set alight, and left to die Makar aged 18, were released by the police, waiting for their trial.[3] The slogan of the protest was "Oksana still alive".

In April 2012 she participated in an action by climbing up on the bell tower of the Saint-Sophia church in Kiev, and by ringing the bells, as a protest against a law project on prohibiting abortion. The slogan was "Give birth, [it is] not for you".

On the first of July 2012 she protested in front of the Kiev Olympic Stadium against the arrival of the president of Belarus Lukashenko with the slogan "Respect, KGB, UEFA".

In April 2013 she participated in a protest in front of the Kiev mosque for Amina Tyler with the slogan "Free Amina". A. Tyler is a young Tunisian who was put in jail in her country because she uploaded topless photos of hers on the internet. At the same time a fatwa was issued by an imam against her to be stoned to death.

On 18 June 2013 she protested in Kiev during the visit of Alexander Lukashenko, from 1994 president of Belarus which has been labeled "Europe's last dictatorship" by some Western journalists, on account of Lukashenko's self-described authoritarian style of government.[4] The slogan of the Femen protest was "Stop Dictator".

Zhdanova protesting against Lukashenko in Kiev on the first of July 2012.

On 27 July 2013 Zhdanova along with Sasha Shevchenko, Oksana Shachko, and the photographer Dmitry Kostyukov were arrested in Kiev before starting their protest against the 1,025th anniversary of Orthodox Christianism in Kievan Rus'. The group was kept in prison for one day and fined. Femen claimed that the organization was assaulted and wrongfully charged.[5][6]

The Femen activists decided to close their office in Kiev, however on 27 August 2013 the Ukrainian police slipped into the office, presented a gun and a grenade that the police said they were hidden there by the Femen group, and arrested Zhdanova, S. Shevchenko and Anna Hutsol.[7] They were released on 29 August,[8] with the obligation to come back to the police station two days later. During these two days of freedom, Yana Zhdanova, Sasha Shevchenko, and Oksana Shachko decided to leave Ukraine and go to France asking for asylum as political refugees.[9] They arrived in Paris on 30 August 2013.

On 26 September 2013 Zhdanova protested on the podium during a Nina Ricci's fashion show in Paris against the fashion industry. The slogans were "Model, don't go to brothel" and "Fashion dictaterror".[10]

On the first of December 2013 she participated in a protest in front of the Ukrainian embassy in Paris by urinating on photo portraits of Victor Yanukovych, president of Ukraine until February 2014, for his policy regarding other Ukrainian political parties. The slogan was "Yanukovych piss off".[11]

On 21 December 2013 she protested in front of the European Parliament in Brussels against Putin who was in Brussels for the summit between European Union and Russia. The slogan was "Putin is the killer of democracy".

On 25 February 2014 she participated in a protest at the Trocadero square in Paris against the policy of Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukrainian former Prime Minister. The slogan was "Putin's new puppet".[12]

On 12 September 2014 she protested in front of a Mistral-type helicopter carrier at the port of Saint-Nazaire, France, that was about to be delivered to Russia. The slogan was "Fuck you Putin! No Mistrals for you!"[13]

On 6 October 2014 she climbed up on the roof of Moulin Rouge cabaret in Paris celebrating its 125th anniversary to protest against the image cabarets give of women's body. The slogan was "Red is the colour of revolution".[14]

Political refugee[edit]

On 12 February 2014 the French government granted to Yana Zdhanova asylum as political refugee. Except the activism along with other members of the Femen group, she has also protested alone in the name of the same principles for equality between men and women. These protests are the following:

On 24 May 2012 she grabbed the trophy of the Euro 2012 football championship in the Ukrainian town of Lviv before being arrested by the guards. The slogan was "Fuck Euro" and the protest was against a sporting event to come the following month the Femen movement stated that it would become the cause of sexual tourism. Zhdanova was put in jail for 5 days in Kiev.[15]

Zhdanova at the Olympiyskaïa Square in Kiev on the first of July 2012.

On 26 July 2012 she attacked at the airport of Boryspil, near Kiev, the patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia, just arrived for a religious commemoration.[16] The slogan was "Kill Kirill" against the activity of the Eastern Orthodox Church involved into politics.[17] She was arrested and had a 15-days-time spent in prison. It was emphasized that "protesting powerful people was nothing new, but physically confronting them was: Zhdanova's <Kill Kirill> was the first FEMEN's sextremist assault on a powerful man."[18]

On 7 June 2013 she protested near the Russian embassy in Kiev by creating a choreography as a caricature on Putin's private life.[19]

On 29 November 2013 she protested in Vilnius, capital of Lithuania, during the summit on the cooperation between the European Union and six other countries, former members of the Soviet Union. The president of Ukraine Victor Yanukovych was the only one from the six leaders who did not sign the treaty of cooperation. The slogan of the protest was "Ukraine to EU".[20] She was arrested and kept one day in prison.

On 5 June 2014 she destroyed the Putin's wax statue at the Grevin museum in Paris as a protest for the arrival of the president of Russia the same day in Paris. The slogan was "Kill Putin".[21] The museum sued Zhdanova[22] through a Court proceeding that will become for her a mean for struggling against the law on sexual exhibition.[23]

On 25 December 2014 she took away from the nativity scene the statue of baby Jesus at the square of Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City with the slogan "God is woman".[24] The Vatican had the choice of trying Zhdanova in a Vatican court or having her expelled to be tried in an Italian court, but it has been decided to do neither.[25] She spent three days and two nights in the Vatican prison before she was expelled.[26]

On 17 February 2015 she protested in Budapest against Putin's visit to Hungary. The slogan was "Putin go home".[27]

The law on sexual exhibition[edit]

The consequence of Zhdanova's assault on the Putin's wax statue at the Grevin museum in Paris on 5 June 2014 was that she has been convicted on 15 October 2014 to a 1,500 euros fine[28] for destruction[29] and sexual exhibition,[30] as well as 3,000 euros for material prejudice and 1,000 euros for moral prejudice to be paid to the museum.[31] The defender appealed the decision of the Court[32] and the case was presented before the Court of Appeal on 27 October and 17 November 2016. On 12 January 2017 the Court declared Zhdanova not guilty for sexual exhibition, and she was convicted to a 600 euros fine for court charges, and 3,000 euros for the statue and 1,000 euros for moral damage to be paid to the Grévin museum.[33]

Zhdanova at the Court of Appeal in Paris on 27 October 2016.

Zhdanova's another feminist cause is to abolish the law on sexual exhibition. The article 222-32 of the French Penal Code stipulates that showing a half-nude or nude body in public is a penal offense because it is a deliberated act of sexual exhibition. Marie Dosé, Zhdanova's lawyer in this case, points out that this law has no ground to stand on because if a bare female breast during a political manifestation is an act of sexual exhibition, then a bare male breast in a similar case should be considered the same way, following the principle of equality between men and women.[34] Furthermore, the purpose of a naked breast for Zhdanova's activism, as she declared, is not to provoke sexually the public but to draw public attention to political and social problems.[35] The verdict of the Court of Appeal on 12 January 2017 is the first decision in France on an Appeal level which declared not guilty a person, in this case Zhdanova, already convicted for sexual exhibition.[36]


Yana Zhdanova is the co-founder and co-president, along with Sasha Shevchenko, of the non-profit association FEMEN, created on 7 April 2016. The principles of the association, according to its statutes, are to raise the level of feminism in the actual society and to contribute to equality between women and men in a practical way. The documents of the association were submitted to the Police Prefecture in Paris on 2 May 2016 and they were recognized and published in the Official Journal of French Republic on 14 May 2016.[37]


Ukraine is Not a Brothel, running time 78 minutes, by the Australian Kitty Green, world premiere on 4 September 2013 at the 70th Venice International Film Festival. From 4 to 7 September 2013 Zhdanova was invited to the 70th Venice International Film Festival for the world premiere of the movie.[38]


  1. ^ Tayler, Jeffrey (18 Dec 2013). Topless Jihadis - Inside Femen, the World's Most Provocative Activist Group. p. 23, 61. ISBN 9780988783164.
  2. ^ Главными врагами геев названы писатель Бузина и депутат Григорович, главным другом... [Buzina named among the main enemies of gays, and deputy Grigorovich named among the primarily enemies of gays, and the friends of gays...] (in Russian). v-n-zb.livejournal.com. 24 May 2011. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  3. ^ "Ukraine rape scandal victim Oksana Makar dies". BBC. 29 March 2012. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  4. ^ "Profile: Alexander Lukashenko". BBC. 9 January 2007. Retrieved 30 October 2016. "...an authoritarian ruling style is characteristic of me [Lukashenko]"
  5. ^ "Ukraine: qu'est-il réellement arrivé aux Femen? [Ukraine: What really happened to Femen?]". (in French) Elle. 28 July 2013. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  6. ^ "Ukrainian Court Fines Feminist Protesters". The New York Times. 28 Jul 2013. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  7. ^ "La police ukrainienne aurait trouvé des armes chez les Femen [The Ukrainian police allegedly found guns at Femen's]". (in French) Le Monde. 27 August 2013. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  8. ^ "Paris: Begegnung mit den Femen [Meeting with the Femen]". (in German) Emma. 31 October 2013. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
  9. ^ "Trois fondatrices de Femen quittent l'Ukraine [Three founding Femen members leave Ukraine]". (in French) Le Monde. 31 August 2013. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  10. ^ "Les Femen protestent chez Nina Ricci [The Femen are protesting at Nina Ricci's]". (in French) Le Nouvel Observateur. 26 September 2013. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  11. ^ "A Paris, des Femen urinent sur la photo du président ukrainien [In Paris, the Femen are urinating on a photo of the Ukrainian president]". (in French) Libération. 1 December 2013. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  12. ^ "Les Femen accusent Timochenko d'être "la nouvelle marionnette" de Poutine [The Femen are accusing Timochenko to be "the new puppet" of Putin]". (in French) The Huffington Post. 25 February 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  13. ^ "Saint-Nazaire: seins nus, des Femen manifestent devant le Mistral "Vladivostok" [Saint-Nazaire: Topless Femen are protesting in front of the Mistral "Vladivostok"]". (in French) Le Nouvel Observateur. 12 September 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  14. ^ "Des Femen à l'assaut du Moulin Rouge [Femen attacking the Moulin Rouge]". (in French) Dailymotion. 7 October 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  15. ^ "Topless protester attempts to snatch Euro 2012 trophy in Ukraine". The Telegraph. 24 May 2012. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  16. ^ "Ukraine:Protester Accosts Patriarch". The New York Times. 27 July 2012. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  17. ^ "Femen, Ukraine's Topless Warriors". The Atlantic. 28 November 2012. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  18. ^ Tayler, Jeffrey, op. cit., p. 24.
  19. ^ "Femen отметили развод Путина [Femen celebrates Putin's divorce]". (in Russian) Comments Ukraine. 7 June 2013. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  20. ^ "Une Femen manifeste pour un accord entre l'Ukraine et l'Europe à Vilnius [A Femen is protesting in Vilnius in favour of a treaty between Ukraine and Europe]". (in French) France TV. 29 November 2013. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  21. ^ "La Femen fatale du musée Grévin [The Femen fatale of the Grevin museum]". (in French) Libération. 16 September 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  22. ^ "FEMEN found guilty over topless attack on Putin waxwork". Youtube. 15 October 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  23. ^ "Iana Jdanova-Femen- condamnée pour la destruction de la statue de Poutine et exhibition sexuelle [Iana Jdanova-Femen- convicted for destroying Putin wax figure and for sexual exhibition]". (in French) Agence Info Libre. 15 October 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  24. ^ "Vatican releases Femen activist who took St Peter's Square Jesus statue". The Guardian. 27 December 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  25. ^ "Vatican releases Femen activist who stole Baby Jesus while topless on Christmas Day". Christian Today. 30 December 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  26. ^ "Vatican Frees Activist Who Stole Baby Jesus Statue While Topless". Time magazine. 27 December 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  27. ^ "Prime Minister and Protesters welcome Putin to Hungary". Newsweek magazine. 17 February 2015. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  28. ^ "Cop tries to tackle FEMEN protester, falls into a wall". Daily Dot. 27 October 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  29. ^ "Femen Activist Fined For Topless Attack On Putin Wax Figure". The Huffington Post. 15 October 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  30. ^ "Topless activist fined for exhibitionism in attack on Putin wax figure". Reuters. 15 October 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  31. ^ "La Femen ayant attaqué la statue de cire de Poutine condamnée [The Femen who attacked the Putin wax figure is convicted]". (in French) Le Monde. 15 October 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  32. ^ "Les Femen peuvent-elles militer seins nus? [Can Femen protest topless?]". (in French) Le Parisien. 22 March 2016. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  33. ^ "La première Femen condamnée pour "exhibition sexuelle" relaxée en appel [The first Femen convicted for "sexual exhibition" declared not guilty by the Court of Appeal]". (in French) Le Monde. 12 January 2017. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  34. ^ "Les FEMEN pratiquent-elles des exhibitions à caractère sexuel? [Do FEMEN make exhibitions of a sexual nature?]". (in French) France Inter Radio. 25 March 2016. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  35. ^ "Femen fights for right to protest topless in France". The Local. 22 March 2016. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  36. ^ "La première Femen condamnée pour "exhibition sexuelle" relaxée en appel [The first Femen convicted for "sexual exhibition" declared not guilty by the Court of Appeal]". (in French) Le Monde. 12 January 2017. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  37. ^ "Annonce n° 794-page 50" (PDF). Journal Officiel de la République Française. 14 May 2016. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  38. ^ "Venice Film Review: "Ukraine Is Not a Brothel"". Variety. 12 September 2013. Retrieved 31 August 2016.