The Ruble May Be Falling, But Russian Memes Are Soaring

Vladimir Putin makes the most of the ruble's depreciation on currency exchange markets. Image shared widely and anonymously online.

Vladimir Putin makes the most of the ruble's depreciation on currency exchange markets. Image shared widely and anonymously online.

It takes almost twice as many rubles to buy a single dollar today than it did a year ago. The ruble-to-dollar exchange rate was 32.5 in January 2014. Today, it is 58.5. The fall of the ruble is perhaps the biggest news story in Russia now, as the country looks ahead to a looming financial recession and several more months at least of heavy Western economic sanctions, not to mention Moscow's retaliatory boycott against many Western imports.

In a speech last week about the state of the nation, President Putin launched a campaign against currency speculators, raising concerns that Russia will introduce new capital controls, further alarming investors and upsetting the value of Russia’s currency. This week, Russia’s chief federal investigator signaled that police might begin treating certain kinds of currency speculation as a criminal offense.

Amid growing anxiety about Russia’s currency and economy, RuNet Echo has collected several of the most popular and amusing examples of “ruble memes” on Russian Twitter.

Russian designer and animator Yegor Zhgun created a cartoon comparing the ruble’s fall to the death of Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in the 1997 film “Titanic,” suggesting that Russia’s currency owes its collapse to the declining value of oil.

Rustem Adagamov is a prominent Russian photographer now living in exile in Prague, after facing bizarre, still unsubstantiated statutory rape allegations almost two years ago. Back in Russia, however, he remains an intensely popular blogger.

Bang bang.

When the ruble-to-dollar exchange rate reached 50, the popular parody Twitter account KermlinRussia made this joke about the 100-ruble bill:

They say the two-dollar bill is a rarity. I don’t know about that. I see more every day…

When the teaser trailer for the seventh installment in “Star Wars” dropped in late November, Russian Internet users joined the international frenzy about the return of Jedi knights and Stormtroopers. The new lightsaber depicted in the trailer, whose controversial design has launched countless “debates,” has also proven to be fodder for jokes about the ruble.

The falling value of the ruble is fueling a panic throughout Russia about the general state of the national economy. Most Russians today live with the memory of two previous financial crises: the moderately bad recession of 2008-2009, under President Dmitri Medvedev, and a devastating collapse in 1998, under President Boris Yeltsin.

For some people, it’s become difficult to take their eyes off the market.

Russian polling agency VTsIOM reports a sharp increase in the number of divorces… #Oil #TheRuble

Others joke that the country just needs to find a way to wait out the troubles ahead.

Knock knock! The #crisis is here to see you! #TheRuble #Oil [Caption reads, “He’s gonna be a while.”]

Others on the RuNet seem to think no amount of hibernation can spare the ruble.

Earlier this month, activists in St. Petersburg donned masks, dressing as high-ranking Russian officials, and carried to the Neva River a large effigy of the ruble on a funeral raft, which they released into the water, where it “free-floated.” (Police arrested three participants in this act.)

The ruble is now free-floating in St. Petersburg.

When it comes to humor about the currency collapse, Internet users have also widely shared work by prominent political cartoonists, particularly Sergei Yelkin.

Closer. Come closer…

Back in Septemer, when the ruble-to-dollar exchange rate was still under 40, Yelkin produced this comic:

Let’s try for forty!

When it comes to commentary about the ruble, work by many other cartoonists has also appeared on Russian Twitter. In the comic below, the artist adapts a scene from the film “300,” where the narrator explains ancient Sparta’s policy of casting weak infants off a cliff, to purify the city’s genetic pool.

Traditionally, the weak and useless currencies were thrown into the abyss…

Much of the Internet’s conversation about Russia’s currency woes is speculation about when the crisis will “bottom out.”

The old bottom: remembering the ruble’s exchange rates. #money #economy #business #TheRuble [Caption reads, “There it is! The bottom!!”]

No matter how desperate Russia’s currency situation becomes, however, we can be certain that Internet users will forever look for solace in the personality cult of Vladimir Putin, whose reputation for “lifting Russia from its knees,” while riding horses and baring his chest, must now be a great balm for the nation’s troubled spirits.


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