‘Information Turned Entertainment’: Images of the Enemy and Conspicuous Patriotic Consumption in Russia

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The Russian-Ukrainian conflict [2014-] and concomitant Russian and
Ukrainian information wars have given rise to new propaganda languages and images. This paper is an ethnographic exploration of the permutations of images of the enemy and the ways in which they are deployed and consumed in the overlapping
realms of Russian social media, fashion and pop art. Alongside top-down propaganda,
a number of folk terms and memes has emerged to designate and stereotype
the enemy. One of the key terms and memes is vatnik (a traditional Russian padded
cotton jacket of Chinese origin), which was initially used to designate a xenophobic
Russian patriot easily brainwashed by the state propaganda. With time, vatnik has
become a playground for ironic appropriations that create political commodity
brands as well as signal a range of diverse political allegiances present in Russian society.
Drawing on the anthropological notion of the assemblage, the paper traces how
patriotic branding and the entertainment of stereotyping the enemy unsettle and ‘jam’
patriotic consumption and identification. Here, vatnik has become a good example of
conspicuous patriotic consumption, indicating not only ‘expensive wastefulness’, but
more importantly, the excess of signification attached to this commodity qua brand.
The paper argues that while excessive commodification and branding of patriotic images
(e.g. leaders, heroes, places, etc.) for mass consumption is indeed very common
worldwide, the Russian ironic genre of stiob often appears to be an important technology
of (non)patriotic consumption in Russia.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDigital Icons Studies in Russian, Eurasian and Central European New Media
Pages (from-to)9-29
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2017

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Humanities - Russia, vatnik, enemy stereotype, irony, patriotic branding, fashion, pop art, stiob

ID: 177297223