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  • Rashid

Oops: When the regime comes after your ass

Updated: Mar 30

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Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine revealed the true nature of the country's artists. Some denounced the war and left the country. Others took a careful approach of silence and business as usual. And then there were passionate supporters of the regime and its "special military operation" - the so-called Z-artists. There was also a group that initially criticised the state, but then apologized and joined the Z-artists, fearing cancellation. Even the old-school rock artists who were vocal critics of the Soviet state back in the day now turned into loyal supporters of the regime that resembles the darkest periods of the USSR.

Artists are useful for the regime, as they normalize the war. On the one hand, they can distract audiences, following the Kemlin's "nothing is happening" mantra. On the other hand, they are informal leaders with vast influences on public opinion. When the nation's favourite artists support the war en mass, it masks the horrors and the unacceptability of state decisions.

For nearly two years now, the dynamic seemed to be working out both for the regime and for the artists. The state benefited from distraction and normalization, the artists continued generating vast incomes. However, a few days ago both parties faced a turning point. A popular influencer Anastasia Ivleeva organised a semi-naked party in one of Moscow's nightclubs. The event attracted the crème de la crème of artists. The entrance tickets to the party cost around 11,000 USD and the artists came in a variety of outfits from a mere sock to jewellery worth 250,000 USD (worn by Iveleeva). The reaction to this "feast in times of plague" came quickly. Artists who attended the party were criticized for living in a parallel reality, for not mourning for the dead soldiers, and for being immoral. The person who showed up wearing just a sock on his penis was accused of spreading LGBTQ propaganda and detained. Everything that the regime praised and that the loyal artists supported came crashing straight into these very artists. Now, amid cancellations and criticism, the artists are publishing apologetic videos.

This event constitutes a turning point in many ways. Any scandal of this magnitude is an opportunity to re-negotiate the terms of engagement and the rules of what's allowed and not. On the other hand, now is the opportunity for these "flexible" artists to change their narratives once again and turn against the regime. A super unlikely scenario, though. What will happen now is a pure return to the USSR. The artists who hoped to continue business as usual no longer enjoy immunity. The regime now comes after their (naked) asses.

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