In a lawsuit brought by Alexey Navalny’s presidential campaign in Izhevsk, state officials have submitted evidence arguing that the yellow ducky — shorthand among Navalny’s supporters for corruption linked to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev — is actually a symbol for an international protest movement.
In response to the Navalny campaign’s claims that Izhevsk illegally refused to issue it a demonstration permit, city officials submitted a “study” written by Oksana Sazonova, published this March on the website News Front, titled, “The Opposition’s Unoriginal ‘Invention’: What Does the Yellow Ducky Mean in Protests in Russia and Beyond?” One of the article's sections is called “The Role of Waterfowl in World Globalism.”
In her text, Sazonova explains that the yellow ducky has emerged as a protest symbol at mass demonstrations in Serbia and Brazil, and points out that Chinese Internet users spread a meme involving a yellow duck in 2013. The meme, if you missed it, is a parody of the famous “Tank Man” photograph from the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, where the unknown protester faces off against a convoy of rubber ducks, instead of tanks.
According to Sazonova, the yellow duck is a “symbol of revolution and the illegal overthrow of the state.” She says it was created by Western intelligence centers.
In Russia, the rubber duck refers to Navalny’s 2016 investigation claiming that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev frequents a luxurious summer mansion that includes a special building for the ducks that live in a pond on the property. Among Navalny’s supporters, rubber ducks have since become a symbol for corruption in the Russian government, as well as an inside joke among demonstrators.