Commentary, News, Political Satire

A Russian joke behind the Crimean joke about the American joke

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obama tweet as russian 2

Did the Russian intelligence promote Obama from lieutenant to colonel? “I wonder, after the successful campaign of handing over the Crimea, will Barack be promoted to a colonel?” That was the question Tweeted yesterday by the newly elected Prime Minister of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, shortly after the Russian-speaking residents of the disputed peninsula voted to leave Ukraine with the prospects of joining the Motherland. The Russian-language Tweet was accompanied by a Photoshopped picture of Barack Obama wearing a Russian uniform.

The Huffington Post, which first reported on this Tweet, quickly replaced it with a different article about Aksyonov – possibly after a scathing call from the White House – but not before The Washington Times and a few conservative blogs picked it up and ran with it, reposting the picture along with the awkward English translation made by the HuffPost using Google translator or a similar electronic service.

None of them, however, provided any background, or asked a relevant question: why would a previously obscure pro-Russian politician, whom Obama administration’s incompetence helped to become a Prime Minister, sarcastically imply that Obama is working for the Kremlin? This doesn’t seem to make any sense.

Such a jab could have easily come from conservative jokesters in the U.S., as a way to vent their bitterness over Obama’s inept handling of international affairs and squandering America’s standing in the world. It could have also come from those Russians and Ukrainians who are opposed to Putin’s imperial policies. But why would a pro-Russian separatist with a shady past, who is himself very likely working on orders from Moscow, out his alleged “colleague”?

As someone who frequents the Russian-language side of the blogosphere, let me explain.

The Crimean PM’s question wasn’t a standalone joke, but rather a punch line to an earlier anonymous joke with a Photoshopped picture of Barack Obama, seen on various Russian websites and forums since he first became president.

The picture was a mock-up of a KGB personnel file with a photo of Obama wearing the uniform of a KGB lieutenant with three stars on blue epaulettes. The name on the card is listed as Boris Huseinovich Obamov, a spy and saboteur, born in Uzbekistan and of Uzbek ethnicity, a member of United Russia Party, recruited by Vladimir Putin in 1981, currently without a permanent address and working undercover as the U.S. President. The agent’s listed code name, The White One, is likely funnier in Russia than it is in America, where it comes off as overtly racist.


The “updated” picture Tweeted by the Crimean PM clearly shows two stripes and two stars across the blue epaulettes, corresponding to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the same organization – one step away from colonel. The KGB has been since renamed into FSB, and those are also the letters on his shoulder patch with the Russian flag.

In summary, Aksyonov’s joke is hardly political satire or commentary on Obama’s specific actions, but rather blatant mockery in the general direction of the American President.

The Crimean PM is not alone, as mocking Obama by addressing him as a “comrade” seems to be the latest gag among Russian politicians today, who are treating their own communist past as a joke while trying to reconstitute the USSR minus the Marxist-Leninist ideology.

Thus, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin fired out a number of Tweets yesterday, openly mocking Obama for putting him on the list of Russian officials whose foreign-held assets will now be frozen as punishment for their participation in Crimea’s secession.

“Comrade Obama, what should those who have neither accounts nor property abroad do? Have you not thought about it?” Rogozin Tweeted, implying that the U.S. President is acting like an erstwhile Soviet apparatchik. “I think some prankster prepared the draft of this Act of the US President,” he added later, in both languages. “Here it finally came to me: the real world-wide acclaim)) I thank the Washington Obkom!” he fumed sarcastically eight minutes later, using the abbreviation for the Regional Committee of the Communist Party – a once-powerful organ run by bureaucratic despots in the Soviet provinces.

Next to these messages, Rogozin’s Twitter thread also contains jingoistic cheers congratulating fellow Russian patriots with a win in the Crimean referendum, which he called “a great day of victory of the national spirit” and “the first result of our struggle for national unity.” His other Tweets contained veiled threats towards Ukraine in the form of promises to set up training shooting galleries in the Crimea and to expand Russia’s military-industrial complex to its territory.

Apparently, the cruel world refuses to live up to Barack Obama’s idea of peace through appeasement. This must come as a surprise to the president, who had received his Nobel Peace Prize as a validation of his understanding that the only real threat to world peace was greedy American imperialism. The prize was given to him by enlightened Europeans as an advance on the promise he brought to the world: that the sky would clear up and rainbows would unite different continents once America abandons its “cowboy diplomacy,” disarms its military, and pushes a cartoonish “reset” button with misspelled Russian lettering.

As it turns out, the world is full of thugs waiting to take advantage of the others’ weaknesses. Acting as if it isn’t has turned American foreign policy and the very office of the U.S. President into a joke. As of now, this joke has been made official and certified by the esteemed “international community.”

In the meantime, a desperate governor of an eastern Ukrainian region, which recently saw violent clashes with nationalist intruders from Russia, has given orders to dig an eight-foot-deep trench on the Russian border, hoping that even if it doesn’t stop an invasion, it will at least make the ride less enjoyable.

This most recent picture from the new Russian-Ukrainian border shows a hastily painted Russian emblem with dripping red paint leaving symbolic blood stains on the border fence.

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About the author / 

Oleg Atbashian
Oleg Atbashian

Before moving to the U.S. in 1994, Oleg Atbashian lived in Ukraine where he sometimes worked as a propaganda artist for the old Soviet Union, creating agitprop posters for the local Party Committee in a small town. During that time, Oleg says he "witnessed the transition of Republics of the Soviet Union from corrupt socialism to corrupt kleptocracy." When he arrived in the U.S., Atbashian was puzzled by the "level of delusional affection for all things Left among the 'liberal' intellectual elites who take America's exclusive well-being for granted." At that time Oleg dismissed this "delusional affection" as silly and of little consequence. Then 9/11 happened. Oleg witnessed that day from the base of the Twin Towers. "I'm still haunted by the horror I came to be a witness of," says Atbashian. "The subsequent blame-America attitude among the intellectual trend-setters enraged me; 'liberalism' no longer seemed laughable. It was dangerous suicidal madness that had to be confronted. I took up political activism." Oleg's activism blossomed into the satirical street-theater group, "Communists for Kerry." Atbashian says that, "Communists for Kerry was started in July, 2004 as a six-member satirical group with the stated goals of helping George W. Bush get re-elected and having a lot of fun in the process. I was the group's writer, graphic artist, and webmaster. The project exceeded our expectations. Our last street theater event on Union Square in New York featured over 30 volunteers in communist costumes; many more people joined us online from all over the USA. We even had a sister group in Australia, and people wearing CFK shirts at a rally in Paris, France." With The People’s Cube, Oleg is hoping to turn it into a nation-wide community web portal of spontaneous political humor and parody for conservatives, libertarians, objectivists, and anyone who supports and celebrates America's freedoms, individual rights, and capitalism." He currently writes for The People's Cube under the pseudonym "Red Square."

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