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The League of Ordinary "Gentlemen"

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Photo: What could be more ridiculous and absurd than Russians attempting to create "their answer to Tesla" or "their answer to iPhone"? Only Russians trying to establish "their answer to Marvel, DC, and Walt Disney", Source: Collage The Gaze \ by Leonid Lukashenko
Photo: What could be more ridiculous and absurd than Russians attempting to create "their answer to Tesla" or "their answer to iPhone"? Only Russians trying to establish "their answer to Marvel, DC, and Walt Disney", Source: Collage The Gaze \ by Leonid Lukashenko

What could be more ridiculous and absurd than Russians attempting to create "their answer to Tesla" or "their answer to iPhone"? Only Russians trying to establish "their answer to Marvel, DC, and Walt Disney". Perhaps it's all due to some ancient curse, as there's no other explanation for why any good endeavour by Russian craftsmen ends up creating either a Kalashnikov rifle, a Gulag, or, as in this case, yet another grim propaganda piece that's often dull even to the most loyal Putin regime supporters.

As part of import substitution and the fight against ideologically foreign Western products, totalitarian Putin's Russia is confidently moving beyond the bounds described in pre-war dystopian science fiction. The absurdity accompanying this movement matches the propaganda endlessly pouring from central Russian television channels. And if, for example, the replacement of the McDonald's restaurant chain with the domestic fast-food chain "Vkusno i Tochka" might cause food poisoning, then the creation of a Russian pantheon (more precisely, bestiary) of patriotic superheroes poisons not the stomach, but the mind.

Most likely, this is the outcome "Soyuzmultfilm" (the Russian, and previously Soviet, film studio that was practically a monopolist in animation film production during the USSR) seeks, having announced the creation of a media franchise about Russian superheroes called "The Order of the Red Star". This so-called "Order" will include Russian and Soviet folklore and literary heroes such as Ichthyander (the hero of Alexander Belyaev's novel "Amphibian Man"), Engineer Garin and Aelita (heroes of Alexei Tolstoy's novels), Levsha, Vasilisa the Wise, and Mistress of the Copper Mountain (heroes of Russian fairy tales), and even Semyon Dezhnev (a Russian explorer of Siberia).

Doesn't this remind you of the 2004 film "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" by Stephen Norrington, based on the DC Comics series? Stealing someone else's idea – how typically Russian...

The fact that this media franchise is created solely for the purpose of promoting Russian neo-fascism, the ideas of the "special Russian path", radical Orthodoxy, and spirituality is confirmed by the project showrunners – science fiction writers Sergey Lukyanenko and Sergey Volkov. And if Volkov, the author of propagandist novels about time travellers, is likely the ghostwriter in this tandem, the personality of Sergey Lukyanenko speaks for itself. Once popular in the West for his fantasy cycle "Night Watch", Lukyanenko has, for almost two decades, been a staunch Russian ultra-patriot, chauvinist, and imperial fascist, confirming this stance with utterly barbaric statements in interviews and on social media.

For instance, on September 29, 2006, he wrote on the social network LiveJournal that he considered it necessary to "bomb Georgia back to the Stone Age. Bomb until the citizens themselves hand over Sukuashvili (then-president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili) to Russia". In 2022, Lukyanenko not only supported Russia's invasion of Ukraine, signing a pro-war appeal by Putin-loyal writers but also approved of massive strikes on the Ukrainian power grid. In the autumn of 2022, on the air of the propaganda channel Russia Today, the writer discussed with propagandist Anton Krasovsky the issue of re-educating Ukrainian nationalist children, suggesting "simply drowning them in the Tisza River" as one of the educational methods. Is it hard to imagine how toxic and misanthropic a product will come from the pen of such a "kind storyteller"? And by the way, here's an interesting point – who will play the role of antagonists to the heroes of "The Order of the Red Star"? Probably "Western agents", mythical "Ukrainian Nazis", and other imaginary enemies of the fascism-stricken Russian society.

This project is far from the first attempt to create "truly Russian" heroes, approved by "the party and the people". Systematic work in this direction was conducted even before the full-scale invasion and even before the annexation of Crimea and parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in 2014.

For example, among relatively recent propaganda projects, one can recall the absolutely atrocious in both content and execution, the 2016 propaganda cartoon "Kids Against the Sorcerers". The plot of this grotesque piece tells the story of two teenagers from the Suvorov Military School, who, on an FSB mission, are sent to a Scottish school of witchcraft to save Russian orphans from the hands of occultists and Satanists - a kind of "Russian Orthodox greeting" to J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter.

Also, in 2017, the "superhero" film "Guardians" was released, where a team of superheroes called "Patriots" consisted of a Siberian bear-man with a machine gun, a Kazakh samurai, an Armenian stone-thrower, and a Moscow circus performer. In 2021, a series of films about an ideologically correct St. Petersburg police officer, the immortal Major Grom, was launched.

But there are even earlier works in this genre, where the motifs of what would later be called "Russian victory obsession" were already being exploited. One immediately recalls the joint Russian-Japanese anime film "First Squad", in which, during the Second World War, Soviet pioneer heroes resurrected in secret NKVD laboratories fought with Teutonic knights-crusaders who had risen from hell.

The ideologically accurate reconstruction of Soviet military mythology and Soviet cinematic and literary archaism is a characteristic feature of modern Russian culture "for domestic consumption".

If you look through the list of premieres in Russian cinemas that took place after the full-scale invasion, you will notice a large number of remakes of Soviet classics - from "Cheburashka" to "Guest from the Future". However, as stated in the press release of "Soyuzmultfilm", "as a result of artistic rethinking, the images have been endowed with new characteristic features and meanings". Or, as the war criminals Putin, Shoigu, and Lavrov like to say, "taking into account modern geopolitical realities". Not only cinematic heroes of old films are being resurrected, but also deceased Soviet and Russian actors - with the help of Deep Fake technology.

The cult of the dead, revanchist victory obsession, and resentment, as well as artificially induced nostalgia for the "happy and carefree Soviet past", do not contribute to the mental health of society. And if you consider that a huge wave of this propaganda is primarily aimed at Russian children and teenagers, the future that Russia is heading towards looks increasingly bleak. The only thing that all countries unfortunate enough to share borders with Putin's aggressor state should do is to strengthen their defences and increase their combat readiness as much as possible.

Because the members of the "Order of the Red Star" will sooner or later deal with internal enemies and, according to the old Russian tradition, start looking for external ones.

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