Why not try doing things this way, Glavplakat?

July 22, 2015

Who’s behind Glavplakat? Is it hard to hang up a banner in the centre of town, and who’s funding it all?

Matvei Krylov unravelled the meaning of “propaganda 2.0”, and made his own poster – a riposte to the agitprop of jubilant new-format gopniks.

Pro-Kremlin politicians often accuse the opposition of lacking the requisite seriousness and sobriety in its approach to political conflict: “So they’ve organised a poorly attended picket, or left a few placards dangling from roofs, or started collecting signatures online, or whatever – what’s the point of it all?” A world of difference, of course, from their many-thousands-strong marches through the city centre, with The Surgeon leading the way, or Vika Tsiganova’s concerts on Red Square.

But the list of activist practices isn’t huge, and the authorities themselves are forced to resort to the methods of street politics. The Nashi (Ours) movement has picketed the embassy and opposition conferences, while Young Russia has held unauthorised rallies and organised flash mobs.

The new passion of the presidential administration is the Glavplakat project. Once a month, the centre of Moscow becomes dotted with banners hurling a slew of accusations at the heroes of the protest movement, who are denounced for their involvement with the “Washington regional committee”, reproached for being lacklustre patriots and Nazi sympathisers, and blamed for the collapse of “patriarchal” Russian culture.

Open Russia has prepared its own riposte to the Kremlin’s agitprop.

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Glavplakat is hatred and lies.
Ayder Muzhdabaev, journalist: “They incite hatred at our expense”
Aleksandr Ryklyn, journalist: “One more drop in the ocean of totalitarian lies”
Mikhail Kozyrev, TV presenter: “Being scoundrels is their job”
Dmitry Gudkov, member of the State Duma: “The main argument in their fight with the opposition is lies”
Ilya Yashin, politician: “More Them and Us – the aggressive unacceptance of others’ point of view”
Bozena Rynska, journalist: “The evil side has poor propagandists. They don’t have talented people”
Mikhail Bogomolov, pensioner: “They instigate civil war, and ruin the country”

When the first poster appeared, no one was in any doubt that the driving force behind the so-called anonymous artists had actually come from Novaya Square curators.  How else could you explain the fact that someone managed, with no trouble at all, to put up a banner on a federal highway used by government members and the president himself, when even Alexei Navalny’s paid-for billboards are removed from the highways no more than a couple of hours after they appear?

April 29, 2015,  Pokrovka st.
Parnas Open Russia Navalny Others- PORNO stars of the opposition

Any opposition activist who’s taken part in even a single “poster” rally will be able to confirm that, if they don’t catch you immediately, they’ll almost certainly track you down within a couple of days. When it comes to Glavplakat, though, not only are the police and security services failing to look for these neo-Red Guards, they’re actually helping them out.

“Such acts of hooliganism poison relations within the country,” asserts political analyst Gleb Pavlovsky. “Their purpose is to hamper interaction between the regime and any responsible political circles. A deliberately befouled space is being established between the regime and the dissenters; hooligans are running amok in that space, which completely eliminates the possibility of dialogue.”

According to an investigation by Novaya Gazeta, Glavplakat is the new brainchild of former Young Guard Andrei Tatarinov, who has headed the Centre for Current Politics, one of the presidential administration’s puppet political institutions, since the entire system of pro-Kremlin youth politics collapsed with the departure of Vasily Yakemenko.

The Glavplakat and CCP websites have the same IP address. Meanwhile, Andrei Tatarinov is among the first to upload photos of freshly hung posters to his social media pages. He’s never publicly admitted to having any links with the street activists, however.

The patriotic artist Sergei Bugaev, known by the nickname Afrika, has been named by certain sources as one of the project’s “curators”. Bugaev became a confidant of Vladimir Putin’s back in 2012 and travelled to the Seliger youth camp. It was Bugaev and Tatarinov who organised the “Anti-Devils” performance in St. Petersburg: on December 5, 2011, while anti-electoral-fraud activists were protesting the result of the Duma election at Chistye Prudy in Moscow, they put an 8-meter-long banner on display at St. Isaac’s Square in support of the government and as a riposte to the opposition. Appropriating a Russian folk proverb, the banner read “Stomp your feet, devils, but not in our forest!”

Journalist Yulia Latynina hypothesises that Glavplakat may be funded by one of the most mysterious businessmen in Putin’s entourage – Evgeny Prigozhin. Known first and foremost as “Putin’s chef”, Prigozhin was one of the people behind NTV’s film The Anatomy of Protest, and part-owns a Kremlin troll factory.

As pointed out by journalist Oleg Kashin, Glavplakat’s website gives you no opportunity to donate funds to the fight against the “fifth column”. “All this is undoubtedly being done at the government’s expense,” conjectures Viktor Shenderovich. “Behind all this is a government that has effectively declared civil war on us, dubbing all dissenters the enemies of Russia.”

The majority of the posters hung up by the activists consist either of self-conscious lies or factual distortions. The most brazen lie pedalled by Glavplak concerns a mythical meeting between the Russian opposition and Angela Merkel. “The Germans will help them,” proclaim the poster’s authors, painting the faces of their ideological opponents in Germany’s national colours. The story of the meeting was concocted from beginning to end by the imagination of the Kremlin’s PR machine.

May 7, 2015, Zubovsky Blvd.
The Germans will help them

In some cases (as was the case with actor Maxim Vitorgan, for instance), the people featured on the posters are denounced for “liking” something on Facebook or reposting a status deemed insufficiently patriotic by the patriots of Glavplakat. Pensioner Mikhail Bogomolov was called a TV producer by the agitprop authors, even though, as Bogomolov himself informed us, he’s spent his entire life working in a library, has never worked in TV, and did not write the text quoted on the poster.

On his Facebook page, Dmitry Bykov describes Glavplakat as “a deeply conspiratorial organization of anonymous patriots – like a modern version of Alcoholics Anonymous, but worse”

Glavplakat essentially takes famous people’s pronouncements out of context before tarring them with label of “fifth columnists”. Only the posters’ protagonists do not hide their faces and openly express their positions. As for the honour of Glavplakat’s anonymous activists, there’s none to speak of – they’re afraid to talk about themselves.

April 11, 2014, Novy Arbat st.
The fifth column. Aliens among us.

From an artistic point of view, the posters represent “postcards” from the Soviet past, when agitprop served to frighten the public with images of the enemy of the people. In those days, however, the regime enjoyed the services of talented artists whose posters are now museum pieces exhibited throughout the world. The same cannot be said of today’s propaganda. Then again, that’s not what the Kremlin is seeking to achieve: the entire project entails nothing more than the creation of new forms of squealing and denunciation.

Thus far, only one of the people featured on Glavplakat’s banners – pensioner Mikhail Bogomolov – has filed a complaint to the prosecutor’s office regarding the defamation of his honour and dignity. Though it would doubtless be worth going one step further and demanding that criminal proceedings for slander and incitement of hatred be launched against Glavplakat.

Doing so is also imperative because even mediocre propaganda affects people’s ability to think critically, dragging them back, if not into the Middle Ages, then at least to the 1930s. People may start to believe that such treatment of one’s political opponents is now permissible and even essential.

As Sergei Dovlatov once wrote, “We’re endlessly berating comrade Stalin, and, of course, with good reason. And yet I want to ask, who wrote four million denunciations?”

 

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