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Ice Bucket Challenge, Meet Ukraine's ‘Blood Bucket’ Challenge

Categories: Eastern & Central Europe, Russia, Ukraine, Citizen Media, Digital Activism, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, Politics, Protest, War & Conflict, RuNet Echo
Can this blood bucket challenge video make the Ukrainian cause go viral? Screenshot from YouTube.com.

Can this blood bucket challenge video make the Ukrainian cause go viral? Screenshot from YouTube.com.

A group of European youths are attempting to draw attention to the conflict in Ukraine by putting a gory twist on the infamous Ice Bucket Challenge. This time around, the buckets are filled with metaphorical blood.

The initial meme, #IceBucketChallenge, took Silicon Valley, the US, and the rest of the world by storm earlier this year, raising awareness about the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis [1] (ALS) and soliciting donations to research. There have since been many spinoffs [2] of the challenge for other causes, with various substances ending up in buckets: rice, rubble from destroyed buildings, bullets, and even potatoes [3].

A few days ago, the intrepid activists of the Ukrainian FEMEN movement staged [4] an anti-war performance at the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, an old Orthodox Christian monastery complex in the Ukrainian capital. In typical FEMEN fashion, a couple of topless female activists with “Stop Putin's War” written on their bodies faced the cameras, as a bucket of red liquid was poured over their heads. The bucket was inscribed with “Blood of Ukraine,” FEMEN made a scene, and ended up on the nightly news. The video made it to social networks, but did not cause much of a stir, as Ukrainians have seemingly become immune to the mostly naked activists’ stunts.

A FEMEN activist protesting against war in Ukraine. Screenshot courtesy of tsn.ua.

A FEMEN activist protesting against war in Ukraine. Screenshot courtesy of tsn.ua.

The idea of a “Blood Bucket” Challenge as a means of drawing the world's eyes to Ukraine must have appealed to some netizens, since a few days later a group of students from Vilnius, Lithuania, posted a group video [5] of people pouring buckets of red over themselves, interspersed with short messages drawing attention to the cost of the conflict in Ukraine. The video, shot in an abandoned factory [6] in Vilnius, features over 20 people. The description under the video speaks for itself:

We have made a short clip “The Blood Challenge”, calling the Europe not to stay indifferent about war in Ukraine. With a people from Portugal, France, Ukraine, Romania etc.

Comments on the YouTube video page range from the obligatory name-calling between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian users to placing the blame for the bloody conflict (on Putin, Obama, and everyone in between). As user FdGod32 points [7] out, the imagery in the video leaves much room for interpretation:

Русские думают что это против Украины, Украинцы думают что это против Русских, гениально. А на самом деле то что?

Russians think this is against Ukraine, Ukrainians think this is against Russians, genius. What is it about, really?

The term “blood bucket” challenge, used by the authors of the video, is not new, and has been used previously by activists in the US drawing attention [8] to indiscriminate shootings of Black teens and by an Ohio University student voicing [9] criticism of Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip. The Twitter hashtag #bloodbucketchallenge [10] was also adopted for the pro-Ukraine video and has enjoyed moderate popularity so far, with dozens of Twitter users sharing the video and its message.

The video itself has over 60,000 views on YouTube, but it is far from the millions of views some of the original Ice Bucket challenge videos boast. It seems even FEMEN's initial provocative stunt has not managed to make the idea of buckets full of fake blood appealing to Ukraine's supporters online. Ukrainians themselves, meanwhile, have probably seen more than enough real blood of those whose lives have been lost in the conflict to be enchanted by the metaphor.