Masha, Bear, and Propaganda


„Masha and the Bear “ is a well-known cartoon. It is a 3D animation, where a girl named Masha is engaged in various activities with a big bear, who helps and takes care of the girl. Characters are gripping and amusing, and they regularly find themselves in funny situations. Propastop noticed a frame from one episode, where Masha wears a distinct NKVD uniform cap. NKVD or The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs, lead Stalin’s secret police organisation in the Soviet Union from 1934 to 1946. It is known for its brutal political repression. After noticing this, Propastop did some research on what is known about the popular cartoon.

It was discovered, that this cartoon is successfully used for ridiculing propaganda analysts, security figures or higher politicians. Pro-Kremlin news channels also use this tool.

Lithuanian politician Laurynas Kasčiūnas has stated in his analysis, that „Masha and the Bear” is one tool from Russia’s soft power toolkit. When the cartoon is examined, then one can find individual elements of the Soviet Union. This story was also covered by RT, previously known as Russia Today. Similar positions are also held by Lithuanian State Security Department chief Darius Jauniškis and Lithuanian president. They find that it is a part of „a coded political message“. These arguments are also spread an independent news portal Fort Russ, and German socialistic daily Neues Deutschland.

Journalist Anna Zafesova from the Italian daily writes that this cartoon is like a Kremlin Trojan horse, and claims the Putin’s tanks are hidden in Masha’s backpack. He also states that the prohibition of this series has been discussed in Poland, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan.

There have also been other propaganda accusations, that at first glance might seem absurd. For example, Masha’s hyperactivity is said to be a manifestation of post-traumatic stress. The success of the series is also claimed to be due to viewers wish to identify themselves as unpunishable sadists, as is Masha.

Estonian media expert Priit Hõbemägi has claimed in Estonian weekly Eesti Ekspress, that Masha and the Bear are representatives of Russia’s soft power. It is a hybrid version of ideology diversion: little green men without five-pointed stars or red flags.

The cartoon was created in 2009, and today it is viewed in more than 120 countries. On Youtube, it is globally rated as top 10 most viewed tv-shows. Moscow-based production company Animaccord produces the show, and its sales profits are 4,3 million dollars. It has various by-products, and the success of Masha seems to be ever growing.

Propastop takes the position that many NKVD and other Soviet symbols are unfamiliar to people, who’s countries have no experience with Kremlin propaganda. Understandably all these symbols have very different connotations in post-soviet states.

Photo: screenshot from episode nr 12 (4:17), from web page