The Russian-Ukrainian conflict [2014-] and concomitant Russian and Ukrainian information wars have given rise to new propaganda languages and images. This paper is an ethnographic exploration of the permutations of images of the enemy and the ways in which they are deployed and consumed in the overlapping realms of Russian social media, fashion and pop art. Alongside top-down propaganda, a number of folk terms and memes has emerged to designate and stereotype the enemy. One of the key terms and memes is vatnik (a traditional Russian padded cotton jacket of Chinese origin), which was initially used to designate a xenophobic Russian patriot easily brainwashed by the state propaganda. With time, vatnik has become a playground for ironic appropriations that create political commodity brands as well as signal a range of diverse political allegiances present in Russian society. Drawing on the anthropological notion of the assemblage, the paper traces how patriotic branding and the entertainment of stereotyping the enemy unsettle and ‘jam’ patriotic consumption and identification. Here, vatnik has become a good example of conspicuous patriotic consumption, indicating not only ‘expensive wastefulness’, but more importantly, the excess of signification attached to this commodity qua brand. The paper argues that while excessive commodification and branding of patriotic images (e.g. leaders, heroes, places, etc.) for mass consumption is indeed very common worldwide, the Russian ironic genre of stiob often appears to be an important technology of (non)patriotic consumption in Russia.


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