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What Went Into Making Russia's Most Viral Dash Cam Video Ever?

The SpongeBobcalypse. Edited by Kevin Rothrock.

The SpongeBobcalypse. Edited by Kevin Rothrock.

A cartoonishly violent viral video is sweeping the Russian Internet this week. The YouTube clip, which has attracted over 1.3 million views in less than 16 hours, is the latest hit in Russia’s always popular “dashcam” phenomenon, which amused millions worldwide in the aftermath of the Chelyabinsk meteor crash in February 2013, when dozens of Russian drivers captured live amateur footage of a 13 ton rock blazing across the morning sky.

Coincidentally, the new dashcam video published on September 2 was also shot in Chelyabinsk. In the video, four men wearing cartoon-character costumes attack another man in the road, after some kind of traffic incident. The assault itself was recorded by men inside a third car, who can be heard laughing hysterically, as SpongeBob SquarePants, Mickey Mouse, Scrat (from Ice Age), and Luntik (the only Russian character) tackle an unidentified man and kick him while on the ground. No doubt because of the violence depicted in the video, YouTube has “age-restricted” access to the clip.

No sooner than the video went viral did RuNet users begin saying it is a fake. Many in forums and comments on news articles have drawn attention to the dialogue at the beginning of the clip, when the men in the car discuss in suspiciously stilted language that Russia’s nationwide local elections will take place on September 14. “[My friend says he] can’t go out that Sunday,” the passenger complains to his friend, “because everyone is going to the elections.”

The YouTube account responsible for posting the video, curiously named “EGoZa AS,” was created more than three years ago, but this is the first and only video published on that channel. In the video, there is a vehicle registration number visible on the back of assault victim’s truck (“Х490УМ”). According to at least one report in a Russian online car forum, however, this license number belongs to an entirely different make and model car. Moreover, the first instance of anyone posting a link to the YouTube video on Twitter belongs to a Chelyabinsk resident who used an election-themed hashtag:

Tough Disney, Chelyabinsk-style. #EveryoneHeadToTheElections

We don’t know if someone staged the attack by Mickey Mouse and his gang to raise awareness about Russia’s upcoming elections. Whatever the truth of the street fight, we can say confidently that the RuNet is no stranger to violent outbursts from men wearing cartoon-character costumes.

Some who doubt that the new video is genuine point to a YouTube clip from 2007, when someone recorded more than seven men dressed in animal outfits attacking two men on the ground at a City Day festival in Stavropol. “The author of the [Mickey] video was obviously inspired by this old video about warrior puppets,” one commenter on TJournal.ru guessed, pointing out that the men filmed in Chelyabinsk last week, when compared to the 2007 brawl, don't appear to kick the victim very hard.

Another altercation involving men in animal-costumes was caught on film in April 2012, when three hooligans took it upon themselves to harass a man dressed as Zhorik the Tiger, who was handing out flyers on a pedestrian street in Chelyabinsk. Zhorik the Tiger, it turns out, is the mascot of the European Judo Championship. The man inside the costume was a trained martial artist. In the video, one of the hooligans poses with Zhorik, even pulling the costume’s tail at one moment, as Zhorik tries to walk away. When escape proves too difficult, the man in the Zhorik suit suddenly turns and slams his assailant to the ground, putting an end to the harassment. This video has over 2.1 million views.

The confluence of cartoon characters, unexpected violence, and voyeurism is a powerful mix. In particular, the good people of Chelyabinsk—a city whose toughness is legendary in Russian popular culture—have become some of the world’s biggest producers of candid-camera cartoon mayhem. One wonders what they’ll cook up next.

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