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How Russians Learned to Laugh About the End of Money

There's no money, but if there were money, maybe it would look like this. Image by Kevin Rothrock.

There's no money, but if there were money, maybe it would look like this. Image by Kevin Rothrock.

Late last month, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev—Russia’s forgotten third president—had a memorable run-in with a local woman in Crimea, who confronted him about the apparently low pensions paid to retired persons in Russia. Spontaneous encounters with ordinary citizens are always difficult for politicians, and Medvedev—a man whose greatest political asset in Russia has been his absence of charisma—handled the incident as awkwardly as you might expect.

“We are being mistreated,” the woman told the prime minister. “What is 8,000 rubles [$120]? It's nothing!” In what has become one of the most popular memes of the year, Medvedev answered, “But there’s just no money. We’ll find the money, and then we’ll readjust pensions. You hang in there! I wish you well and good health!”

Dmitry Medvedev meets the people in Crimea. May 23, 2016.

There are now multiple parties vying for patents based on excerpts from Medvedev’s response. According to reports, a lawyer in St. Petersburg applied to Russia’s Federal Service for Intellectual Property, commonly known as “Rospatent,” for the rights to the slogan “You hang in there!” The lawyer, a man named Viktor Pasternak, reportedly thinks he’ll be able to resell the patent rights to businesses working in banking and food service. (The company “Apex Group” has apparently filed a separate application for a patent on the slogan “There’s just no money, but you hang in there.”)

Jokes about Medvedev’s unfortunate remarks in Crimea have been popping up regularly in Russia for the past several weeks. On June 9, the telecommunications operator Tele2 fired its Russian advertiser for launching a billboard campaign that adapted Medvedev’s comments to promote Tele2. Banners displayed throughout Moscow read, “Competitors, but you hang in there! Wishing you well and good health!” (The ad campaign was dedicated to a recent study by the Russian government that found the operator’s mobile Internet speeds to be the fastest in the city.)

In late May, the employees at Alfa-Bank also published a joke on the company's social media accounts lampooning Medvedev’s comments. (An Internet hoax later claimed that Alfa-Bank replaced the language displayed on its ATMs with excerpts from Medvedev’s remarks.)

Earlier this week, on June 6, the Russian comedian Semen Slepakov released a satirical song on YouTube using excerpts from Medvedev’s comments. The song is composed as an address by the prime minister to the Russian people. Each verse ends with the phrase “But there is no money.”

See below for a (loose) rhyming translation of Slepakov’s lyrics:

Здравствуйте все российские люди, я ваш премьер.
Чтобы жили вы лучше, мы приняли ряд эффективных мер.
Круглосуточно, не смыкая глаз, мы работали,
занимались мы вашими нуждами и заботами.
И я рад сообщить вам итоги работы последних лет:
Результаты есть, просто денег нет…..

Хорошего вам настроения
Хорошего вам настроения
Хорошего вам настроения
Вы держитесь здесь, просто денег нет

Всё рассчитано, всё работает как часы у нас:
Продаётся лес, продаётся нефть, продаётся газ,
Заключаются сделки крупные с иностранцами,
И текут отовсюду большие потоки финансов к нам.
Такого подъёма страна не видела много лет,
Чем гордиться – есть, просто денег нет.

Хорошего вам настроения (держитесь там)
Хорошего вам настроения (просто денег нет)
Хорошего вам настроения Вы держитесь здесь, просто денег нет

В общем, такие у нас хорошие новости,
В отпуск уходим мы радостно, с чистой совестью,
В награду за то, что работали мы, не смыкая глаз,
Ждут роскошные яхты и самолёты нас.
Ждут Мальдивы, Монте-Карло, Лондон и Пхукет.
Мы бы взяли вас, просто денег нет.

Хорошего вам настроения (держитесь там)
Хорошего вам настроения (просто денег нет)
Хорошего вам настроения Вы держитесь здесь, просто денег нет

Greetings, people of Russia. I’m your prime minister.
To improve your lives, there’s a lot to do and administer.
Around the clock, not a wink of sleep, we’ve slaved
To meet your needs, and keep the roads well paved.
And I’m pleased to report, but you know it’s kinda funny…
We’ve got results, but it’s just: there is no money.

Best of luck to you!
Best of luck to you!
Best of luck to you!
You hang in there. There’s just no money.

Everything’s set. Our stuff you can’t outclass.
We’re selling oil, we’re selling lumber, we’re selling gas.
We’re closing big deals with all the foreigners.
The sanctions are dead—you can call the coroners.
The country hasn’t boomed like this for many years.
There’s reason for pride, there’s just no money. Cheers!

Best of luck to you! (You hang in there!)
Best of luck to you! (There’s just no money.)
Best of luck to you!
You hang in there. There’s just no money.

Generally speaking, the news these days is great.
We’re off on holiday, our spirits you can’t deflate.
We got awards for working all through the nights.
Now awaiting us are yachts and planes and sights.
In London and Monte Carlo, in lands of milk and honey.
We’d take you with us, but it’s just: there is no money.

Best of luck to you! (You hang in there!)
Best of luck to you! (There’s just no money.)
Best of luck to you!
You hang in there. There’s just no money.

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