In the beginning of april 2015 the Roskomnadzor, Russia’s state media regulator, issued a statement on the popular Russian social network Vkontakte on internet memes in Russia. This statement was seen as an all-out ban on internet memes in Russia and included a reminder that the Russian law prohibits “using a photo of a public figure to embody a particular internet meme which has nothing to do with thecelebrity’s personality”. Although this law was offcially issued to protect public figures in Russia, it does give the Russian state legislative support in censorship of internet memes. (BBC Trending, (2015))
This case illustrates internet memes have some significance in Russia’s modern society. But what is the role of memes in a society the government tries to mold as much as possible? The memes have a part to play as the means for enhancing the idea’s of the Kremlin in modern Russian society, especially in gloryfying at least carefully selected episodes of the past (Makhortykh (2015), Denisova (2015)) , yet it also generates a political engagement in the Russian people (Denisova (2015)). Making it somewhat of a double-edged blade. in this blog i wil try to explain why the memes are a double-edged blade to the Kremlin.
First of all I would like to discuss the positive effect that may occur due to memes. These good memes lead to ideas being accepted in the society that may sometimes be controversial. An example of these accepting memes is the memes in Russia that tend to the world war II memory of Russia: Due to many popular media world war II in Russia has been glorified as the great justified war. This war was for the Russians complety justified as it was the Germans who tried to invade Russia and Russia only fought back the threat. Memes such as Rainbow Stalin made the Russian population adore Stalin as the great hero of the second world war. Partly due to these memes the Russian populatoins accepted this goryfication of Stalin as the great hero of the second world war, despite his many crimes and terror regime.(Rutten (2015) & Makhortykh (2015)). This acceptance of national pride in the Russian population was a great success for the Kremlin politicians as they were activly trying to forge Russian patriotism to ensure a strong and collective Russia. These memes were one of the more convincing ways to achieve this goal. (Rutten (2015) & Makhortykh (2015)). This examples clearly shows the benfits of these memes for the Kremlin.
On the other hand allowing memes is playing with fire for strict regimes like the Kremlin: memes can spread revolutionairy ideas in a enjoyable and easely accessable way (Denisova (2015)). In Russia memes led to a carefree dialogue on the subject of political freedom, generating the means to political engagement in a carefree environment: The Kremlin could be rediculed in an intelligent way. This political engagement and the fact that teh Kremlin could be openly ridiculed made the totalitarian regime of the Kremlin lose some of their credibilty as an authority and gave the Russian people the chance to doubt the political leaders (Denisova 2015).
In summary, memes in Russia are both benificial and dangerous to the Kremlin. I can understand why the Kremlin wanted to limit the possibilities for memes to shift the balance in memes to the beneficial side of the scale to protect the authority of the Kremlin. Concluding it is clear the memes are a double edged blade and the Kremlin has been trying to dull on side of the blade. to what extent these efforts bears fruits, is something only time can tell.
- BBC Trending (2015), Russia’s (non) war on memes?, [Online] Available from: http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-32302645, Accessed: 23 September 2015.
- Makhortykh, M. (2015), Everything for the Lulz: Historical Memes and World War II Memory on Lurkomo’e, Digital Icons: Studies in Russian, Eurasian and Central European New Media,Vol.13, pp 63-90.
- Denisova, A., (2015), Russian Digital Protest: Online Memes as the Means of Carnivalesque Resistance in Social Networks. Presented at Connected_Life_2015: our Digital Society. University of Oxford, 6 june 2015, [Online] Available at http://connectedlife.oii.ox.ac.uk/russian-digital-protest-online-memes-as-the-means-of-carnivalesque-resistance-in-social-networks/. Accessed: 23 September 2015
- . Rutten, E., (2015) Geschiedpolitiek, Module: 5512RUSS6Y at the university of Amsterdam, Lecture presented at 08-09-2015.