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Flower Power? Russian TV Puts Military Spin On Women's Day

"Maria, do you like wearing high heels?"
"No, I don't like high heels. They make your gait unsteady."
"Maria, do you like wearing high heels?" "No, I don't like high heels. They make your gait unsteady."

One of Russia's biggest national TV channels is marking International Women's Day with a campaign spotlighting heavy weaponry and antiriot equipment named after flowers.

The series of short promotional spots -- called Russian Spring, Russian Flowers -- identifies military tanks, artillery, and mace alongside images of their namesakes: Tulip, Carnation, and Bird Cherry.

It might seem an amusing choice to some Russians, given the annual event's roots in Russia, where it arose on the eve of World War I to promote the closely allied goals of peace and women's suffrage.

In a slightly longer REN-TV video released ahead of this year's International Women's Day, a young woman is seen answering routine questions until the disclosure that she is an antiriot officer casts a whole new light on her responses.

"Maria, do you like wearing high heels?"
"No, I don't like high heels. They make your gait unsteady."
"What's your favorite breed of dog?"
"I have a German shepherd, Mukhtar."
"What's your favorite place in Moscow?"
"Probably Bolotnaya Square."
"What's your favorite flower?"

"I like the bird cherry," the woman says as the camera zooms out, grabbing a can of pepper spray or mace (nicknamed "bird cherry" in Russian) from her belt and casually flipping it in the air. Maria is dressed in police riot gear and a German shepherd sits obediently at her side.

"Russian spring, Russian flowers," the voice behind the camera announces. "Happy 8th of March, Dear Women!"

Bolotnaya Square was a scene of major protests in 2012-13 that were some of the largest antigovernment demonstrations in modern Russian history. Around 400 protesters were arrested and some 80 more were injured, many of them after being tear-gassed.

The REN-TV bouquet of clips also features the self-propelled 230-millimeter 2S7M gun, known as the Peony; the self-propelled Tulip 2S4 mortar; and the self-propelled, 122-millimeter howitzer known as the Carnation.

REN-TV said the campaign was aimed at "returning to the original meaning of the Day of Strong Women."

'Bread And Peace'

But the history of International Women's Day in Russia belies any spurious equivalency to military prowess. The organizers of Russia's first International Women's Day marches, beginning in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) in 1913, adopted and adapted the Western event to promote a woman's right to vote and advocate for peace as Europe lumbered toward World War I.

A few years later in 1917, with the October Revolution around the corner, Russian women organized demonstrations on International Women's Day to rally for "Bread and Peace." It was one of the protests that led to the February Revolution and subsequent fall of the Tsar Nicholas II.

The United Nations has declared the theme for this year's International Women's Day as Planet 50-50 By 2030: Step It Up For Gender Equality.

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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