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Russia, Ukraine, And Belarus Want To 'Be Like Bill'

  • Anna Shamanska

One of the first such images to emerge in the Russian-language Twittersphere was that of Peter the Great.

One of the first such images to emerge in the Russian-language Twittersphere was that of Peter the Great.

Be Like Bill has made its way to Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus -- albeit in adapted form.

The viral meme, typically a black-and-white image of a stick figure named Bill that features a piece of advice, has been characterized by Time magazine as "a way for people to passive-aggressively call out social media behaviors that annoy them."

But one of the first such images to emerge in the Russian-language Twittersphere was that of Peter the Great.

The tsar, who ruled Russia in the 17th and 18th centuries, is known for his forceful -- and sometimes brutal -- adoption of European customs and traditions in Russia.

This meme attempts to compare Peter's appreciation of the West with Russia's current attitude toward Europe.
"This is Peter," reads the caption. "He didn't consider Europe to be a region of Sodom, but went there to learn how to build boats and cities, invited German and Dutch engineers to improve Russia. Peter is smart. Be like Peter."

In Belarus, the meme was deployed to support Paval Dabravolski, a journalist who this week was beaten by police in a Minsk court where he was covering a trial of opposition activists.

The meme features Dabravolski's photograph and reads: "This is Paval. Paval knows that it is dangerous to work as a journalist in Belarus. But he follows the activists and films everything, because a journalist must show the truth. Paval is brave. Be like Paval."

In Ukraine, political parties have embraced the Be Like Bill meme. Fatherland, the party headed by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, used an altered version of the image to push its agenda: "This is Yulia. Yulia understands that this government is leading Ukraine to catastrophe. Yulia demands the resignation of the Cabinet of Ministers. Yulia is smart. Be like Yulia."

At the same time, Ukraine's General Staff appropriated the meme to fight the spread of fake information online.
"This is Mykola," reads the caption. "Mykola read about another betrayal on the Internet. Mykola doesn't repost. He sees that the source is dubious, the information can't be confirmed, and the website isn't well-known. Mykola knows about the information war. Mykola is smart. Be like Mykola."

Another Be Like Bill meme is a sarcastic tribute to Anatoliy Vasserman, a controversial pro-Russian journalist from Ukraine who received Russian citizenship from President Vladimir Putin on January 27.
"This is Anatoliy," the caption reads. "Anatoliy doesn't like Ukraine and considers it to be a misunderstanding. Anatoliy doesn't want to live in Gayrope [a derogatory reference to support for gay rights in Europe] with the junta. Anatoliy likes the Russian world. Anatoliy didn't invite Putin to Ukraine, but moved to Russia and received citizenship. Anatoliy is smart. Be like Anatoliy."

About This Blog

Using regional media and the reporting of Current Time TV's wide network of correspondents, Anna Shamanska will tell stories about people and society you are unlikely to read anywhere else.

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