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‘Relax, this is Russia!’ Meduza looks back on the RuNet’s golden age of Dmitry Medvedev memes

Source: Meduza

At a United Russia congress ten years ago, on September 24, 2011, it was announced that Vladimir Putin — after four years as prime minister — would be running for president once again. As for then-President Dmitry Medvedev, he would be heading up the ruling party’s list for the State Duma elections. This switch was quickly termed “castling” — as in the eponymous chess move, the country’s two top dogs would simply swap places. Since then, Dmitry Medvedev and his political influence have faded into the shadows. This has been a great loss for the RuNet. Indeed, there was once a time when Dmitry Medvedev’s antics dominated Russian meme culture. Meduza takes a nostalgic look back at this golden age. 

2007

The history of Dmitry Medvedev in memes begins with his presidential nomination. It was 2007, and a meme dubbed Medved (a misspelling of the Russian word for bear) was dominating the RuNet. On LiveJournal, bloggers came up with limericks about the soon-to-be president — whose last name is also derived from the Russian word for bear — and users of Dirty.ru (one of the first collaborative blogs on the RuNet) replied to every post about his candidacy with the phrase “And yet, Medved.” On one occasion, the Associated Press famously misinterpreted a question about the meme as referring to Medvedev himself (the question was submitted to an online conference with Vladimir Putin, but he didn’t answer it).

A bear saying “Dimon!” (a nickname for Dmitry) and Medvedev replying “Bear!”
2009

The headline in the photo says “Medvedev raised the child disability benefit to 604 rubles.” At the time, this was the equivalent of about $19.50 (these benefits are paid monthly). The caption reads, “Say, Medved, how much does your lunch cost?”

Medvedev was president so long ago that he wasn’t just a hit on LiveJournal — he was also the star of many Demotivational Posters! References to the Medved meme popped up in “Demotivators” too; memes had a longer lifespan in those days. 

2010

“In Russia we had a president who understood gadgets and the Internet, and met with [Steve] Jobs himself. And where is he now? Jobs is dead, Medvedev is banished.”

Medvedev always did his best to keep up with the times. During a visit to the U.S. in 2010, he even met with Apple’s Steve Jobs, who gifted him an iPhone 4 the day before the smartphone’s worldwide release. 

2011

Igor Tol

“No one will ever return to 2007,” Medvedev once proclaimed. The then-president meant that Russia would continue on its path towards economic modernization. Naturally, the RuNet’s meme-makers ran with it, turning Medvedev’s statement into a symbol of longing for the Emo era. 

2011

apsnyge

Many remember Medvedev for love of badminton — he even posted a video of a match he played with Putin on his blog. But let’s not forget his other great love, dance! In the video above, Medvedev can be seen getting his groove on to “American Boy” by the Russian pop band Kombinatsiya, a song that will forever be associated with his dancing. 

2012

Even during his tenure as president Medvedev was inseparable from Vladimir Putin. Before the infamous “castling,” the two worked together so closely that their joint leadership style was dubbed “tandem rule.” Back then, jokes about the fact that Medvedev had been keeping Putin’s seat warm for four years weren’t just all over the RuNet, they could also be heard on state television

2012

“Regarding the cat. From sources close to Dorofei it became known that he didn’t go anywhere. Thank you all for your concern! 
Dmitry Medvedev

Medvedev loves to tweet — he even visited Twitter’s headquarters so he could write his first post from their office. In 2012, Medvedev authored a tweet that turned rumors about his “lost cat” into a meme. This came after the media reported that Medevdev’s cat, Dorofei, had escaped from the presidential residence. When Medvedev heard the news, he decided to crack a joke. As it turned out, the cat never actually went missing. Later that year, Medvedev’s presidency ended and he went back to working as prime minister and chairman of United Russia. Ironically, Medvedev himself “went missing” in 2018, but this went unnoticed for more than a week. In fact, no one was even looking for him. (As it turns out, he disappeared from the public eye for about two weeks because he had sustained a sports injury). 

2014

“The Russian Prime Minister on the mass arrests in Moscow”

Years went by and Dorofei was all but forgotten. But many still remember when Medvedev’s Twitter got hacked for the first time. And for the second time. There’s still debate over what was funnier — when hackers tweeted “I’m resigning” from Medvedev’s account or when they used it to post gibberish replies. 

2014

Medvedev was always sure to have the latest iPhone. But he didn’t just use it to scroll through Twitter. Sometimes, he took elevator selfies that even inspired Photoshop battles — the classic image of Medvedev in the Matrix (pictured above) was the product of one such showdown. 

2014

“The bears are sleeping”

Medvedev’s proclivity for napping also spawned many memes over the years. This meme genre came into being after he took a snooze during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. Medvedev has been caught falling asleep at a number of public meetings and events since then. 

2014

Medvedev had a knack for luling people into complacency — especially in memes. Perhaps the most famous example of this is the popular photo of him with a cup of a coffee and the phrase “Relax, this is Russia.”

2016

“There’s no money”

Today, we can safely say that the meme “There’s no money, but you hang in there” has stood the test of time. Medvedev spoke these famous words during a meeting with pensioners in Crimea in 2016: “There’s simply no money right now. We’ll find the money, we’ll do indexation. You hang in there, all the best.” Eventually, his statement was shortened to the catch phrase “There’s no money, but you hang in there,” which went on to become one of the most prominent RuNet memes of the last decade. 

2016

“In the morning I drank a Rusiano, ate turnips, put on my valenki [felt boots], fed the bear, started up the tank, and went to work at the nuclear power plant for the glory of the Motherland.”

Medvedev can’t “hang in there” without his coffee. Perhaps this is why he suggested giving the espresso-based drink known as an “Americano” a new name — “Rusiano.”

2017

“Don’t Call Him Timon” 

In 2017, Alexey Navalny’s bombshell investigation into the Russian prime minister’s alleged ties to corruption launched what was perhaps the most important era of Medvedev-inspired memes. The investigation, titled “Don't Call Him Dimon,” is still the most popular video on Navalny’s YouTube channel, after the “Putin’s Palace” investigation. The video’s cover photo also inspired hundreds of parodies. The one pictured above is our personal favourite.

2017

“Why, Mr. Anderson? Why? Why? Why do you do it? Why, why get up? Why keep fighting?”

Later in 2017, Medvedev was turned into a meme once again after he was photographed while standing in the pouring rain, looking extremely perturbed. But as Medvedev’s political influence declined, so did the number of noteworthy memes made in his image. 

“Dimon, fix your face!” 
2020 to Present

Dmitry Medvedev with Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin (right). The caption says, “And here we have the exit.”

In 2020, Mikhail Mishustin replaced Dmitry Medvedev as prime minister and Medvedev became the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council. In the summer of 2021, reports emerged that Medvedev, United Russia’s chairman, was absent from the party’s list of candidates for the State Duma elections. Generally speaking, Medvedev has made fewer and fewer public appearances and hardly provided any meme-able moments. That said, he’s still active on Twitter. In February 2021, he complained to journalists that the social network keeps suggesting that he follow Alexey Navalny. And apparently, this is still really bothering him: “When I looked at the Twitter recommendations […] the first person I was recommended to follow was Navalny, who is serving a criminal sentence. Well, isn’t this interference in the affairs of another country? [It’s] interference, pure and simple,” he said in an interview just yesterday.

We won’t give up Because you’re with us

Story by Evgeny Kuzmin

Abridged Translation by Eilish Hart

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