With broadcast and print media largely under state control, the Russian Internet has been a key platform for opposition activism. Ahead of antigovernment protests on February 4, there has been a flowering of visual art largely spread through social networks. Slickly produced animations parody the country's leadership and mashed-up digital images give a contemporary spin to Russia's authoritarian history. There has been a circular and reciprocal relationship between online and offline activism: slogans might start on the Internet, appear on protesters' signs, get snapped by smartphone cameras, and make their way back to the Internet again to be remixed into new digital creations. Here are some of the best examples we've come across.
Real audio from Putin's "meet-the-nation" call-in program, but with Lego figures taking the starring roles.
'Elections 2132: I Will Lift Russia Off Its Knees'
Putin And The Paratroopers
Since going online on January 26 it has received nearly 800,000 views. With sharp lyrics, the song claims that Putin has destroyed the armed forces. The song certainly pulls no punches: "We won’t let you keep lying, we won’t let you keep stealing. We’re liberated troops who defended the motherland." The paratroopers have reportedly agreed to perform at the February 4 antigovernment rally.
'Grandpa With The Condom Tattoo'
An atmospheric pastiche of the movie poster
for "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," "Grandpa With The Condom Tattoo,"
borrows the tagline, "What is hidden in snow, comes forth in the thaw" and features a glassy-eyed, down-and-out Putin. Lurking in the background there is a shadowy figure, representing Central Election Commission Chairman Vladimir Churov, who has been vilified by the opposition as a puppet master or sorcerer. The text at the bottom of the poster reads: "Famous columnist Vladimir Putin and heterosexual hacker Vladimir Churov are not investigating the disappearance of [opposition politician] Grigory Yavlinsky from the list of Russian presidential candidates and have discovered that the recent crime is linked to a series of ritual killings."
'Putin -- Our President'
The Ruling Tandem On Board The Titanic
Putin and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as captains on a sinking ship. The closing titles read "Don’t let yourself be betrayed. Say 'No' to the Popular Front," a reference to the broad coalition of pro-Kremlin groupings.
Anarchist collective Voina has taken their visual art to the streets, most notoriously by painting a 65-meter penis on a raised drawbridge facing the St. Petersburg headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB). Banksy was impressed.
'No! Honor Among Officers'
Rally For Putin
...with the word "Putin" photoshopped in.
And From The Kremlin...
Opposition activists aren't alone in their use of the Internet and digital tools for campaigning. Pro-Kremlin groups have also produced a slew of campaign virals.
Russia's Opposition Praying To The U.S. Embassy
World Of Warcraft Kremlin Style
Tapping into the huge popularity of "World of Warcraft," a multiplayer, online role-playing game, Medvedev the "orc" battles it out against Putin the troll. The cartoonist, Sergey Kalenik, told state-sponsored TV station RT: “The personalities of the two leaders excellently match their Warcraft characters. Putin is tough and aggressive. Medvedev is calm, quiet, and clever. He is brutal although he looks very much like an intellectual."
The apparent message is that the best way to celebrate the stability brought by Putin (and to ensure its continuation) is to use Apple products and take off your clothes. (Its antithesis is no doubt this perfomance by the all-girl punk group Pussy Riot
in front of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.)
Thanks to @PowerVertical
for their help putting this together. Seen any more good ones? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter, @lukeallnutt