The art of the selfie photo has become a controversial pastime in Russia, especially after being branded “dangerous” by police, who have called for taking fewer risks and advocated for “safe selfies” with a special campaign. But Russians love their selfies and they keep taking them.
Now Russian Communists are getting in on the action and proposing to hold a federal “Selfie With Lenin” flashmob—a move they say would be a “cheap and effective way to popularize the image of the leader of the world's proletariat among the youth.” In an appeal to Gennady Zyuganov, head of the Russian Communist Party, the Lenin Communist youth union of Russia's Komi republic also stressed the flashmob would help take stock of all the Lenin statues scattered throughout the country. The Komi activists have already tested the idea on a regional level in April 2015.
Zyuganov told Izvestia he would be happy to support the initiative.
Идея очень правильная, тем более что благодаря ей мы сможем увидеть, в каком состоянии находятся памятники Ленину. Непременно поддержим. Думаю, Владимир Ильич будет благодарен.
The idea has merit, especially since it would allow us to see what the state of the Lenin monuments is like. We'll definitely support it. I think Vladimir Ilyich [Lenin] will be thankful.
Reacting to the news of the proposed campaign, Nikita Petrov of Memorial, a Russian non-profit historical and civil rights society, called it “domesticating the tyrant” and “an attempt to slide Lenin into the mainstream,” and said it was a desperate move that wouldn't do much for the “Communist regime.”
Lenin selfies are quite a common occurrence on the RuNet already, although most of the photos seem to be taken ironically rather than in honest adoration of Lenin's figure. In June, Russian media reported on a hilarious incident in the town of Prokopyevsk in Kemerovo region, where a drunk resident broke apart a statue of Lenin while trying to pose for a selfie with it.
TJournal trawled Russians’ selfie photos on Instagram and found quite an impressive sampling of selfies with various Lenin statues around the country, usually with the hashtag #селфислениным (#selfiewithlenin).
Photo by bird_sandra: #selfiewithlenin
Photo by andrsonl: My name is Bond. Vova Bond. Vova Ilyich Bond.
Photo by murzique: #selfiewithlenin #grutoparkas #uncleleninsaidishouldobeymymom
Photo by moonlighttdz: First kiss.
The RuNet, as it is wont to do, took the joke and ran with it. Users immediately suggested that a selfie campaign was just the first step, and that other possible uses for Lenin and his famous image could include renting him out for parties and weddings, and using the “brand” to further Russia's image abroad (not that it isn't already).
ИЛЬИЧ ТЕРПЕЛ И НАМ ВЕЛЕЛ. pic.twitter.com/Zc82Rlx8hU
— Dmitry Veselov (@grayraw) July 30, 2015
Ilyich bore this patiently and bid us to do the same.
Other commenters pointed out that the campaign was ridiculous and wondered if it was possible to collect all symbols of communism into an amusement park of sorts, in order to remove the offending statues and street signs from everyday life.
Russia currently boasts over 6 thousand Lenin monuments around the country, and other post-Soviet states have their share as well. Notably, Ukraine has seen a number of Lenin statues toppled during the Euromaidan protests and later during the armed conflict with Russian proxies in eastern Ukraine, a phenomenon dubbed Ленинопад (Leninfall). Russia has also seen some toppling attempts: a Lenin statue at St. Petersburg's Finlyandsky train station was left with a large hole through its lower back as the result of an explosion on April Fool's Day in 2009.