Thursday, August 25, 2016


Russian Trolls' Vast Library Of Insulting Images

Russia -- screen grab of Russian troll graphic database вштабе.рф
Russia -- screen grab of Russian troll graphic database вштабе.рф

Ever wonder where the droves of Russian-language Internet trolls get those satirical graphics they deploy to smear Western and Ukrainian leaders? Turns out there's a website with a vast archive of images helping them pepper their posts with visual invective.

Britain's Guardian newspaper reported on April 2 that the website with the Cyrillic address вштабе.рф ("в штабе" translates from Russian as "in the headquarters") hosts thousands of these ready-made images for use by hundreds of paid trolls working for a secretive organization in St. Petersburg.

The images -- mainly crude mash-ups or regular photographs touched up with sarcastic and juvenile captions -- are largely aimed at heaping abuse on Western and Ukrainian officials or portraying Russian President Vladimir Putin as a suave alpha male of the international scene.

Many have racist overtones, like those that portray U.S. President Barack Obama as a monkey (bananas are a consistent motif in these images). Others show Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko dressed in women's clothing or wielding sex toys.

One image uploaded on April 2 shows Poroshenko dressed in women's lingerie and sitting in front of a computer monitor beaming Obama's image, suggesting an erotic video chat.

"Video Conference About Receiving New Loans For Ukraine," the caption reads.

Guardian journalist Shaun Walker linked the website to the St. Petersburg troll factory based on an interview with a man identified as Marat, who says he worked there for two months before leaving what he described as demeaning working conditions, including fines for tardiness or veering from the pro-Kremlin and anti-West messaging dictated by the bosses.

In an interview with RFE/RL last month, Marat alluded to the role that these satirical graphics -- known as demotivators -- play in the St. Petersburg troll farm. "There's a LiveJournal department, a news department, a department where they create all sorts of images and demotivators," he said.

The website вштабе.рф was registered in Russia, though there are no public records linking it to a specific organization other than a Russia-based website registrar.

One online database, however, shows that it was registered on March 29, 2014, less than two weeks after Russia's takeover of Ukraine's Crimea territory triggered U.S. and EU sanctions targeting the Kremlin.

Marat told RFE/RL that the bosses and workers at the St. Petersburg troll farm "throw everything they've got at Ukraine."

"Guardian" cartoon of Putin and Obama from troll factory"Guardian" cartoon of Putin and Obama from troll factory
"Guardian" cartoon of Putin and Obama from troll factory
"Guardian" cartoon of Putin and Obama from troll factory

Marat is one of several alumni of this troll farm who have leaked details of the St. Petersburg operation to the media, including to RFE/RL. Several say they became disillusioned with the cynical politics of the job.

The folks at вштабе.рф didn't waste time after Walker's article appeared in The Guardian. Within hours, the site featured an image showing Putin and Obama's heads photoshopped onto two the bodies of two actors reading newspapers.

"The Guardian writes here that your trolls published cartoons about me. Aren't you ashamed?" Obama is shown saying.

Putin replies, "Only for you, Barack."

-- Carl Schreck

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
April 04, 2015 14:19

amazing how Westerners are able to believe their hypothesis
In Response

by: BJ
April 05, 2015 15:44
Talk about being absurdly paranoid.

RT pays poop and often times zilch to its regular contributors. We're now supposed to believe the above piece.

by: Lukasz from: Sochaczew, Poland
April 04, 2015 16:38
Russian trolls are quite well prepared racists
In Response

by: BJ
April 05, 2015 15:43
Racist anti-Russian trolls seem quite prepared.

Are you one of them?
In Response

by: Asehpe from: The Netherlands
April 05, 2015 20:23
Haven't seen any. Are you one of these racist Anti-Russian trolls,BJ?

It's funny how Russians are always ready to believe the worst. Of course. Racist, anti-Russian... Yeah, yeah, of course. Но не забудь попить своё лекарство...
In Response

by: BJ
April 07, 2015 11:34
Asephe, I was referring to Lukasz.

Actually it's the likes of him and quite likely yourself who erroneously believe the worst.

by: Paul Rogers from: New Orlean LA
April 04, 2015 17:19
perhaps you guys at Radio Free Europe could hire anonymous to bombard Russia with the same kind of junk
In Response

by: Phil from: Quebec
April 05, 2015 07:55
Paul... If you can't understand the difference btw the "west" and Putin's Russia... perhaps I reply to a troll?
In Response

by: BJ
April 05, 2015 15:42
Perhaps they or some other flack outfit already do.
In Response

by: Asehpe from: The Netherlands
April 05, 2015 20:27
I wouldn't like that. Why stoop to their level? What's to be gained? Russians won't believe anything that doesn't have Pu's seal of approval anyway...

I'm thinking of writing the screenplay for a movie about the life of a paid troll -- but one who is actually a human being, not just an automatic typist. Something like von Donnersmarck's "Das Leben der Anderen", but about Russia and the PuTrolls rather than Germany and the Stasi.

by: Paul Rogers from: NOLa
April 05, 2015 23:37
Au contraire; viva la difference! But if they think such trolling is effective perhaps we should retaliate in kind!
In Response

by: sandy miller from: USA
April 07, 2015 21:09
Ukraine simply needs more people telling the truth about Ukraine. Most people do not know much about this country I try to educate as often as I can. I even try to teach the trolls with hopes that some of them will figure out what they are doing is so wrong.

by: Linda Glocke
April 06, 2015 18:35
Russia is the worst country on Earth.
In Response

by: Dmitry from: Russia
April 07, 2015 06:53
Linda Glocke is the worst woman in the world! It is the same.
In Response

by: BJ
April 07, 2015 11:35
Kiev regime controlled Ukraine and a good number of others out-rank Russia in that category Linda.

by: Roberto from: Rome
April 07, 2015 06:52
I was in Russia two weeks ago. I think this country is best in the world. I visited a lot of countries like german, usa, france, e t.c, but i like most Russians people, russian nature, russian traditions. They really look at ukrainian like at their brothers and sisters. A lot of ukrainian citizens work in Russia and russians give respects them. I like this country

by: jjt from: Poland
April 07, 2015 07:23

by: John Pacella from: Pittsburgh Pa
April 08, 2015 14:21
Enough of these barbarians at the gates of civilization.

It is time to fully arm Ukraine, reinforce NATO border countries with permanent bases and kick Russia out of SWIFT specifically and out of any association with the West generally. Let them dominate what remains of their vaunted Warsaw Pact, whichever of them hasn’t fled and joined NATO, that is.

And then....walk away from Russia utterly and completely....for at least two generations. If this last year has proved anything it is that there is NO COMMON GROUND between Russian and the civilized world. Their enemies are our friends....perhaps we should send arms to Chechnya as well....

If Western business interests want to risk involvement, as they inevitably will, they are on their own. Reminds me of something an infamous Russian once said, "When the last helicopter carrier has been sunk, another capitalist country will spring up to sell us another.” Or words to that effect...

Whatever small contribution Russia infrequently makes to the international community, it is FAR outweighed by their frequent destabilizations and invasions of neighboring European countries. To say nothing of its nauseating record of absurd lies ...not to mention its tally of horrific political assassinations...both within Russia and within neighboring, sovereign countries.

The first rule of negotiating with Putler don’t negotiate with Putler.

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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