We recently read an intriguing piece on the Guardian website, entitled Toys cannot hold protest because they are not citizens of Russia, officials rule. A protest by dozens of toys standing out in the snowy streets of the Siberian city of Barnaul to highlight corruption in the Russian government has sparked a spin-off protest movement with 100 Kinder Surprise toys, 100 Lego people, 20 model soldiers, 15 soft toys and 10 toy cars petitioning to hold another protest. A call that has been rejected by Russian authorities. ‘As you understand, toys, especially imported toys, are not only not citizens of Russia but they are not even people,’ Andrei Lyapunov, a spokesman for Barnaul, told local media at the time of the protest.
Toy protest in Barnaul. Photograph: Sergey Teplyakov/Vkontakte
We were reminded immediately of the eternal enslavement of the shabtis in China Miéville’s 2010 novel KRAKEN and their afterlife revolution. May the Kinder Surprise figurines of Siberia take heart from China’s brave miniatures and keep fighting for their worthy cause!
Here’s a quick extract from KRAKEN to show you life imitating art:
‘They were made to do it. Created for those specifics. Little figures in
clay or wax, stone, bronze, crude glass, or the glazed earthware faience,
dusted with oxide. Shaped at first in imitation of their overlords like
tiny dead in funeral wrappings, later without that coy dissembling,
made instead holding adzes, hoes and baskets, integral tools cut or
cast as part of their mineral serf bodies.
The hosts of figurines grew more numerous over centuries, until
there was one to work each day of the year. Servants of, workers for the
rich dead, rendered to render, to perform what had to be done in that
posthumous mode of production, to work the fields for the blessed
Each was inscribed at its making with the sixth chapter of the Book
of the Dead. Oh shabti, allotted me, their skins read. If I be summoned
or decreed to do any work which must be done in the place of the dead,
remove all obstacles that stand in the way, detail yourself to me to
plough the fields, to flood the banks, to carry sand from east to west.
“Here I am”, you shall say. “I shall do it.”
Their purpose was written on the body. Here I am. I shall do it.’
For more China Miéville extracts, videos and features, see www.panmacmillan.com/author/chinamieville