‘Like Something Out of Mad Max’: The Brutal Weapons of the Ukrainian Revolution

Pic: Tom Jamieson (C)

Pic: Tom Jamieson (C)

Photographer Tom Jamieson snapped a series of photos depicting the brutal DIY weapons wielded by Ukrainian protesters. Forget speaking truth to power. These guys are taking nail-studded clubs to power’s head. Fearsome stuff. WIRED has the scoop.


The protesters who filled Maidan Square to battle the Ukrainian army and topple President Yanukovych often fought with little more than sticks, bats and sledgehammers. Their nasty homemade weapons are the subject of a series of portraits by photographer Tom Jamieson, and show how determined protesters were to either damage or defend against government security forces, depending on your politics.

While other photographers scrambled to shoot the epic scenes playing out at the front line, Jamieson wandered the occupied zone asking to see what protesters were packing.

“Every single person without fail had a club or a bat or something like that,” says Jamieson. “You couldn’t help but notice the DIY nature of the whole thing, from the barricades themselves to the totally inadequate body armor that people were wearing, and the weapons as well. It looked like something out of Mad Max, it was crazy.”

The weapons are shown in the hands of their owners against a black backdrop. Jamieson and his assistant wandered the occupied zone, lugging a black background cloth that they would set up when they found a protester carrying an interesting-looking implement. They shot outside in the square, in occupied buildings, near the protesters’ tents, usually in the early morning or twilight hours to keep lighting consistent.

Some weapons are marked with the names of their home towns or messages for their intended targets — others are decorated with religious symbols, or cartoons like one depicting Yanukovych behind bars. Each is single-minded in its design — clubs and maces for bashing, slingshots and stones for hurling, and forked pikes for ripping the shields out of the hands of police. These personalized tools of revolution were a source of pride among their owners, and the details of each tells its own story.

“Quite a few of them are taped together on the handles,” Jamieson says. “I’d ask people about that and they’d be grinning ear to ear and say, ‘I smashed a policeman over the head with this and it’s broken now.’”


24 Comments on "‘Like Something Out of Mad Max’: The Brutal Weapons of the Ukrainian Revolution"

  1. There’s a flail, but sadly no swords.

    • Calypso_1 | Mar 12, 2014 at 6:36 pm |

      In that environment against tac armor, without some specialized training, I’d go for the bludgeons.

      • I am clearly showing my lack of experience with weaponry. I was thinking more about aesthetics. I defer to your judgement. In that case the club (pictured) may be an excellent choice. Although weighing it down would be a good plan, perhaps melting down lead sinkers. Carefully of course. One would do best to keep from getting lead poisoning.

      • Eric_D_Read | Mar 12, 2014 at 9:09 pm |

        Maybe a short ax or tomahawk, I think I even saw a pic or two of protesters carrying them, but swords are definitely not for amateurs.

      • Rhoid Rager | Mar 12, 2014 at 9:59 pm |

        ye ol’ cue ball in tube sock

  2. Calypso_1 | Mar 12, 2014 at 6:32 pm |

    anyone who has studied that melee arts is well versed in future of popular resistance.

    • . . in countries with strict gun control.

      • emperorreagan | Mar 14, 2014 at 8:55 am |

        Gunfire will draw attention and the quickest response, though.

        I think if one were looking to attack riot cops, a strategy of trying to isolate/separate and bludgeoning them may work – particularly where they may not spend much time drilling and maintaining discipline to move in their formations.

        • That’s one reason I love my .22 can and subsonic ammo. Sounds like someone snapping their fingers.

          • emperorreagan | Mar 17, 2014 at 10:06 am |

            Yeah, that’s a different matter.

            I don’t get the survival mentality you mention in your other post. If you’re going to stockpile weapons/ammo, it only makes sense if you’re planning to network and arm other resistors. Of the couple serious stockpilers I’ve met, though, the plan seems to be more some fantasy where they’re going to be Rambo.

      • Calypso_1 | Mar 16, 2014 at 4:13 pm |

        Not at all.
        I’ve participated in simunition exercises in SCA melee environments. Guns are just another tool. Once ammo is gone it’s just another bludgeon. When you are in an extremely dynamic crowd with mixed forces the tunnel vision focus best suited to small arms tactics becomes a liability. The history of firearms in combat are rife with transitions to tooth & nail.

        • True. My outlook is probably tainted by myself and other people I hang around who each have enough guns and ammo to supply small armies. One dude has over 1M rounds of .223 alone. But it always makes me laugh that so many survivalists and self-defense types (I’m neither) are in bad physical shape. You only truly own what you can carry. I also like the part in “I Am Cuba” where the guy joins up with the revolutionaries and asks for his gun. They tell him he needs to take one from a soldier, like they all did.

        • emperorreagan | Mar 17, 2014 at 10:03 am |

          Is that common in SCA?

          I’ve only seen one battle/scenario and it wasn’t particularly interesting. If people are playing with scenarios like that, I’d be much more interested.

          • Calypso_1 | Mar 17, 2014 at 11:02 pm |

            I don’t know, I’ve not really been involved with them. This was a specially arranged training exercise through another entity.

          • emperorreagan | Mar 18, 2014 at 4:25 pm |

            Shame. That sounded like a fun exercise.

  3. Cortacespedes | Mar 12, 2014 at 6:36 pm |

    We used to make stuff like this all the time in Jr. High woodshop.

    • I have a feeling that doing such these days, would get a student expelled.

      • Cortacespedes | Mar 13, 2014 at 12:25 am |

        Nah man, you just have to be discreet. You’re not really making a battle club, you’re finely turning a “cricket bat”.

        Those “step stool” legs you are working on the lathe; once you get them home, add some hardware, voila, nunchuks.

        Extra points for lead “corking”.

        • I wouldn’t doubt that these schools today have eliminated any chance of making anything remotely threatening. I read an article the other day about a kid that got expelled for making a gun gesture with his fingers. I am exaggerating of course. We made pipes and incense burners in shop class though. It was all about getting stoned in my group of friends.

  4. Thurlow Weed | Mar 13, 2014 at 4:42 am |

    I also liked the photos of police riot shields that were liberated and repainted, long drapes turned into capes, and other household materials used to create body armor. Riots incited by by the political elites of the East and West are the greatest for stuff like this.

  5. Matt Staggs | Mar 13, 2014 at 10:03 am |

    I have to be very careful about copyrighted material. If I didn’t then this site would look extremely different, trust me. Just click over to WIRED to look at them.

  6. jasonpaulhayes | Mar 13, 2014 at 4:03 pm |

    I had the privilege of holding Maasai blade yesterday. It was just scrap metal and hardwood but beautiful in its simplicity and craftsmanship.

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