Editor’s Note: We saw this on Twitter by Sergej Sumlenny(@sumlenny) and found it a fascinating take on how Russia uses graphic novels to demonize Ukraine and create a parallel historical universe where the Soviet Union allied with the Nazis to defeat the US and Great Britain in WWII. Sergej is Berlin-based and is an expert in Eastern Europe with 10 years of experience in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.
THREAD Let’s start a long thread about how Russian book market prepared Russians for a full-scale war against Ukraine, NATO, the West, and promoted Stalinism and Nazism, and how this was ignored by the West. Keep seat belts fasten, you will see a lot of nasty things here.
One of the first indicators of Russia preparing for a full-scale turn to dictatorship and a global war was the mass production of books about cool sides of Stalin and Stalinism and about upcoming war against the West. These books appeared on Russian bookshelves in early 2010
The appearance was so massive that it could not be a coincidence on a book market which was under a strict control of secret police FSB. “Be proud, not sorry! Truth about Stalin Age” “Stalinist’s Handbook”, “Stalin’s Repressions: A Great Lie” and “Beria: Best XX Cent Manager”
The wave of Stalinist books was so massive, that in 2011 a grass-root initiative “Stop Publishing Stalinists Books” emerged with a call for publishing houses to stop. It was ignored of course.
The idea to create authoritarian and militarist mood through bookstores was brilliant. In 2015, I visited Moscow’s central bookstore “Biblio-Globus”, and that what were the goods welcoming you just after the doors: military uniforms, accessories, and books about Stalin and war.
This was the prelude. Soon after, Kremlin has started to publish what they called “battle fantastic”. Mass-produced low-quality books about Russian military superiority in all possible conflicts. The whole book series appeared. Here: “Battlefield Ukraine series” “Ukraine on Fire”
The whole series is playing with the same idea: Ukrainian “nazis” need to be destroyed. Covers were like created on drugs. Here: “Wild Field: On Ukraine’s Ruins” – a “DNR” tank smashes what can be identified as “Ukrainian Azov Nationalist Mercedes SUV”.
“Ukraine in Blood: Banderite Genocide” (the cover pictures Maidan in Kyiv, note the “Azov” connection of the “Nazi”)
“Ukrainian Hell: It is our War!” (A Russian soldiers captures a US pilot)
“Ukrainian Front: Red Stars over Maidan” (US planes got destroyed)
What is inside? Here is a typical description: “WW3 starts on Kyiv Maidan! With Nato “Peacekeepers” start Baderites genocide of Russians, wiping out the whole cities. Polava does not exist anymore. Novorossiya fights back, Russia helps! We take Kyiv! This is our final battle!”
As you see, most of these books have the same narrative: bad Ukrainians act as marionettes of the West, the US want to destroy Russia, but Russians go into a full-scale war because they are not afraid and are mighty. Same books were published about Georgia, but not so many.
Now let’s dig deeper to the next level of Russian propaganda (I told you, this thread will deal with nasty and scary things). What are these books about? Revanchism. What is the ultimate form of revanchism? History re-writing. Well, Russians created a book genre for this.
Russian history-rewriting genre of “Battle Fantastic” has its name, “Popadantsy” (Time-travellers, literally: “appearers”). Inspired by the Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee” and Harrison’s “The Ethical Engineer”, Russians opened a golden mine of stories how to make Russia GREAT,
The basic Russian trauma is that RU was treated unfairly and taken its power and place as the only world superpower. This is what you learn at school. Russians were conquered by Mongols and lost 300 years of development. Queen Elisabeth denied marriage to Ivan the Terrible.
Look at this final scene of a cult Russian movie “Forward, Gardemarines!” Brave Russian officers know, that the battle at Groß-Jägersdorf (1757) is won by the Russians, they can capture Friedrich of Prussia and win the war. But a stupid general orders retreat.
This is the culmination of the 1995 movie, which was one of the most popular in Russia back then. The narrator’s voice says the victory was “stolen”, and even though Russians took Berlin later, that victory “was stolen again”. Effectively, this was one of the “back-stab-theory” movies.
There are tons of myths of “stolen victories” and “betrayed Russia”. My school teacher told us, Alaska was not sold to the US but rented out for 100 yrs, and the US broke the contract. Nazis in the 1920s told about one “betrayal” in 1914, and Russians were fed with tons of such lies.
So, back to the case of our books. How do you want to serve this fundamental hate towards the treacherous West, and help Russia win? Easy! Send your patriots to the past to correct it and to win the future! Yes, in Russia they have this book genre, and it goes very good: “Popadantsy”
Let us start with easy reading “Tsar from the future”: a guy wakes up in the body of Russian Nicolas II emperor, prevents the Russian revolution, defeats Great Britain, and conquers Istanbul with modern weapons. “Russia Arise!” Popadantsy in the bodies of Nicolas II and Alexander III.
While digging into this genre, we see one interesting pattern. The biggest enemy is the UK (and a lesser one the US) Compare: “The Guard of Popadantsy: Sink the Britanny!” “London must be destroyed! Russian landing in England” (Note Russian SpecOps storming the Nelson’s ship)
Compare further: “Russian America Corporation”. A guy jumps into 18th century, conquers the American colonies, destroys British empire “and stops genocide of Indians” (so sweet). But you ask maybe: and what is with Germany and Nazis? Just wait…
One of the greatest Western misunderstandings about Russia is that the West believes, Russia is anti-German-Nazis. Russia is not. Russia’s trauma is that Hitler had broken Stalin-Hitler alliance and started to kill Soviets, instead of to kill other nations with the Soviets.
Enjoy Russian dream. “Comrade Hitler. Execute Churchill!” Description: “Popadanets gets into Adolf Hitler’ body. Will he manage to execute Churchill for war crimes, create an alliance with the USSR? Will comrades Hitler and Stalin defeat the US and get a nuke before the US?”
The “Comrade Hitler” is the 2nd book by the same author, after his “Comrade Führer. Blitzkrieg Triumph”. Info: “It hits all records of political un-correctness! Will (Hitler) crash Britain with successful landing operation? Will Führer prevent fratricide war against the USSR?”
Or look here: “Assault for the Future!” (note burning London + US tank on the cover). Info:”(Nazi)Germany joins Eurasian Union. Atlantic Democratic Union starts WW3. USSR is against the HELL! Russian-German brotherhood against the star-striped plague and for world liberation!
I promised you nasty staff? “The Son of the Reich”. Info: “The USSR must again defeat a treacherous attack by The Entente. Red Army and Wehrmacht fight together against the New World Order. British pilots bomb cities and refugees”. Well, this is not quite Popadantsy but tasty.
One cannot mention even 1% of all these books, so many were published. Sometimes they mixed genres: like here: a “Novorossiya pilot” awakes in a body of Josef Stalin’s son Vassily, a war pilot, and wins the war, revealing a Western agent Khrushchov, saving Stalinism.
Or here: “Lieutenant from the Future: GRU against Banderites”, a Popadanets with a face of RU MoD Shoigu burns down Lwiw and arrests Ukrainian politicians Turchinov and Yatseniuk. Or “For Motherland! For Putin!” – Russian modern tanks storm Berlin in 1945.
Effectively, each of these books is about revanchism wet dreams. Like this “Medal for the City named Washington”. It is actually an interesting title. Those who are not familiar with Soviet and Russian revanchism, will not identify it, but it is a great story, read further
In 1945-46, Soviet composer Blanter and poet Isakovsky wrote a song “Enemies have burnt down his hut”, describing a terror of a Soviet soldier who has lost his family, and his medal “For taking Budapest” cannot help him in his suffering.
The song was semi-banned because of its anti-war narrative and later known under “Medal for Budapest” name, but in the later Soviet Union it was transformed in a revanchist song “Medal for Washington”, praising future defeat of the US, and it suited Putin
The latest version was modified with verses of humiliation of Barack and Michele Obama, and ended with the words “Now we need to go to liberate Alaska”. Note the picture from the US produced computer game World in Conflict, Russians love so much.