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Russian Nationalists Find Themselves a “Saint”

RuNet Echo This post is part of RuNet Echo, a Global Voices project to interpret the Russian language internet. All Posts · Learn more
An Andy Warhol version of the young gunman. Anonymous image distributed online

An Andy Warhol version of a young Moscow Metro gunman. Anonymous image distributed online.

A November 23, 2013 shooting that took place in a Moscow Metro train has spawned a new meme for Russia's radical nationalist and anti-migrant movement. The incident was caught on the train's CCTV camera. On the video a man is seen approaching two seated passengers and after after a brief exchange, one of these men stands up, takes out an air or gas powered rubber-bullet pistol and shoots the first man in the face at point-blank range. His companion, a younger man, also pulls out a gun and keeps it trained on the injured man, as the two exit the carriage. The video [ru] was acquired by the tabloid LifeNews, and has since spread widely on the RuNet.

The shooting victim was Hashim Latipov, a Dagestani, while the two men that shot him, seemingly for no reason, looked to be ethnic Russians. And although Latipov says that the altercation was unprovoked from his side, the fact of his ethnicity was enough for Russian nationalists to assume that the two Russian men were acting in self-defense. Not only that, but their actions are valorized by nationalist online communities — there the two men are portrayed as vigilantes meting out harsh justice to outsiders.

The vigilante crime-fighter angle (never mind that it has no basis) is being actively promoted by images like the one below, where the two shooters have been photoshopped into a poster of the movie “Boondock Saints.”

Anonymous image with the heads of the metro shooters pasted onto the Boondock Saints movie poster. Caption on bottom reads "Whacha looking at?"

Anonymous image with the heads of the metro shooters pasted onto the Boondock Saints movie poster. Caption on bottom reads “Whacha looking at?”

A similar angle of portraying the shooters as “cool” is captured by another meme — this one with the heads of characters from Quentin Tarantino's cult movie Pulp Fiction photoshopped into a screenshot of the CCTV video:

Pulp Fiction's Vincent and Jules on the Moscow metro. Anonymous image distributed online.

Pulp Fiction's Vincent and Jules on the Moscow metro. Anonymous image distributed online.

But another screenshot from the same video is apparently iconic enough not to need any photoshopping — it has been turned into stencils and pop-art type cutouts (see top of post):

Stencil of the two shooters. The man on the left is particularly photogenic. The text reads "It's time to be harsh." Anonymous image distributed online.

Stencil of the two shooters. The man on the left is particularly photogenic. The text reads “It's time to be harsh.” Anonymous image distributed online.

Someone even painted one of the shooters in the style of an Orthodox icon, complete with golden nimbus, perhaps playing off of the Boondock Saints comparison:

One of the shooters given a religious treatment in a painting by an unknown author.

One of the shooters given a religious treatment in a painting by an unknown author.

The image led one VKontakte blogger to react [ru]:

Такой воодушевленной “народной канонизации” не было уже очень давно… да чего там давно — вообще ничего подобного на своем веку не припомню, если честно.

There hasn't been such an inspired “popular canonization” for quite some time… not even quite some time — I haven't every seen anything like this in all my life.

Whatever the case may be, memes like this nicely illustrate the Russia's ever-growing ethnic tensions.

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