How Ukraine is Like Star Wars and Other Russian Memes, Explained

On the other side of the world, an entirely different internet is taking place: Russian internet. Today, Natalie Shure takes us on a tour of the past week or so on the Russian web, from VKontakte to LiveJournal, from MH17 conspiracies to the toilet duckling meme.

Toilet Duckling

Ever wish you had a way to refer to the specific genre of duckface selfie set bathrooms? Russians did, and proceeded to be the change they wished to see in the world. Bathroom-staged duckface selfies are now known in Russia as "Toilet Duckling" shots ( tualyetni utyonok, if you're nasty,) borrowing their name from the Russian translation of the SC Johnson cleaning product.

The phrase was just added to Slovach, a crowdsourced dictionary of Russian social media lexicon curated by digital journalists. "Toilet Duckling" will take a seat of honor alongside other gendered gems like bakalyavra, a 'woman of loose behavior' who has an advanced degree, and styolknoveniye, a quarrel between two or more ladies.

The USSR Throwback Video Starring Your Parents

Рожденным в СССР посвящается - Фишки.нет

On the last day of school, the parents of a graduating class in an unnamed Russian town surprised their kids with this retro music video. They're convincingly decked out in Soviet-era school uniforms, right down to the frilly aprons, giant hair bows and bandanas of the Young Pioneers, a kiddie civics group somewhat akin to the Girl Scouts.

The parents merrily skip across a schoolyard and down dim, practical hallways that don't appear to have changed much since they were students. They're obviously having loads of fun reenacting scenarios typical of their childhoods. One mom writes "Vovka is a Goat" on the chalkboard, and one dad sneaks a peak at a refreshingly demure old-timey skin mag. The group even gets caught sneaking cigarettes behind the school by a gym teacher, and is punished by having to bury their contraband treasure while he watches like an anticlimactic version of "Holes."

Rewatching Star Wars

Here's a post currently making the rounds on Ya Plakal, a sort of Reddit and Upworthy Frankenstein whose name literally means "I cried."

How Ukraine is Like Star Wars and Other Russian Memes, Explained

"While I was re-watching Star Wars, I heard this dialog and immediately thought of Ukraine"

Padme Amidala: Have you ever considered that we may be on the wrong side?

Anakin Skywalker: What do you mean?

Padme Amidala: What if the democracy we thought we were serving no longer exists, and the Republic has become the very evil we've been fighting to destroy?

Anakin Skywalker: I don't believe that, and you sound like a separatist.

The post is implying that the pro-Russian rebels in the Donbass region are the good Jedi, while Anakin and the Dith support Kyiv. (One commenter in the thread even points out that the movie's Darth Vader also shares a disfigured face with his real-life Ukrainian counterpart—a jab about former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushenko's scars after surviving an attempted poisoning.)

But surprisingly, the message-board Star Wars analogy breaks down in the second photo, where Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia are outfitted in what are very obviously traditional Ukrainian costumes, contradicting the message that the pro-Russian side is good.

So who are the real Jedis here, anonymous Russian internet user?!?! Also, who would ever re-watch Revenge of the Sith?

...And Then There's All The Plane Stuff

State-friendly Russian media are in overwhelming agreement about one thing: Russia had nothing to do with the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. The least fringe-y position is that the tragedy was the work a Ukrainian fighter jet was circling the area at the very same time. Russian officials may have even swabbed Wikipedia to doctor a few details about the aircrafts that make this more plausible.

After the crash, RuNet agreed, the U.S. was all too happy to orchestrate a worldwide pile-on campaign to make Russia look bad. President Obama is so pro-Ukraine, it's a meme!

How Ukraine is Like Star Wars and Other Russian Memes, Explained

"The world's first Afro-Banderite: Barack Obamchenko" (Our anonymous macro creator could have just said the first "American Banderite." But then he would've missed out on a perfectly good racist dig.)

First off, someone obviously took meticulous care to create an American flag-like embroidery pattern in a style that would still be reminiscent of a traditional Ukrainian vuishivanka. Good work.

But! Pro-Russian thinkers do not call people "Banderites" affectionately. Stepan Bandera is one of the most controversial figures in Ukrainian history. He was the head of the pre-World War II Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, or OUN, which sought to free Ukraine from Poland and the USSR. In 1942. Bandera went on to form the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.

For many Western Ukrainians, he is a celebrated national hero who crusaded against two ruthless occupiers—The Third Reich and the USSR—to fight for an independent Ukraine. To many Eastern Ukrainians, he is a Nazi collaborationist who slaughtered his own countrymen. Pro-Russian rhetoric about the Ukraine has repeatedly invoked this history and labeled Ukrainian forces as "Banderites."

Obamchenko is just a very obvious Ukrainian ethnic surname suffix. So: One part racism, one part nationalism, and one part accusatory moral condemnations. In other words: Russian social media.

But don't take it from me! Take it from these babushkas fighting in a minibus.

Natalie Shure is a Russophone writer and comedian in New York.