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Rybakov, Yuliyfree

Russian, 20th century, male.

Born 25 February 1946, in Mariinsk, Kemerovo region, Siberia.

Painter, sculptor, activist.

Yuliy Rybakov is an artist, politician, and human rights activist. Rybakov was born in 1946 in a prison camp. His father was placed in the camp for writing anti-Soviet literature and his mother was a nurse in the camp hospital. After their release from the prison camp, Rybakov and his family moved to Leningrad where they lived in poverty. He took courses in the Serov College of Art and the Art and Industrial College (now Tavricheskaya Art School) in Leningrad in 1974. From 1974 to 1976, he studied at the Ilya Repin Leningrad Institute for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (now the Russian Academy of Arts). A member of the nonconformist art movement of the 1970s, Rybakov participated in circulating unofficial writings as well as participating in underground exhibitions and concerts that critiqued Soviet authority. In August 1976, following the death of Evgeny Rukhin, a dissident artist who defied Soviet authority, Rybakov and fellow artists set out to send messages of protest through political performances throughout Leningrad. Rybakov, along with artist Oleg Volkov, wrote on the walls of Czars Peter and Paul Fortress along the Neva River in large, bold letters, ‘You may crucify freedom, but the human soul knows no shackles.’ The artist’s anti-communist statement led to a six-year sentence in a prison camp near Murmansk in northwestern Russia. Following his release from the prison camp, Rybakov joined the Association of Experimental Fine Arts (TEII). His work Today. . .Tomorrow. . .Never (1984) shows a young girl in a dark and desolate landscape. Rybakov’s sculpture Older Brother (2009) also presents a sinister and precarious assemblage of found objects including a pistol propped on a microscope stand. The weapon points directly onto an egg in a nest formed out of barbed wire. Rybakov pursued a career in politics and activism and served as a deputy in the State Duma from 1993 to 2003 and as the chairman of the Human Rights Subcommittee. Rybakov is also a curator, and founded an alternative studio and exhibition space for young and emerging artists in St Petersburg known as the Centre of Free Culture or more commonly as Pushkinskaya 10. The Centre is home to the Museum for Non-Conformist Art. Rybakov lives and works in St Petersburg.


  • Troncale, Joseph C./Orlov, Evgeny/Kovalsky, Sergei: The Space of Freedom: Apartment Exhibitions in Leningrad, 1964–1986, exhibition catalogue, University of Richmond Museums, Richmond, 2006.