A bizarre, year-old report that described cartoon ‘Masha and the Bear’ as Kremlin propaganda for kids has been revived in The Times, prompting commenters to wonder if the publication had run out of ideas for its usual Russophobia.
The adventures of pesky little Masha, who befriends a bear and other animals in the style of Tiny Toon’s Elmyra, has been enjoyed by children and parents worldwide. The Russian-made cartoon then came to Netflix, whose Russian- and English-language services jointly reach over 21 million subscribers. What could possibly be sinister?
“Children’s show is propaganda for Putin, say critics” – reads the headline on a weekend edition of The Times.
UK journalists have dug up a report from Finland’s Helsingin Sanomat paper, which was based on an interview with an Estonian professor who claimed that ‘Masha and the Bear’ was intended to create a positive image of Russia in children’s minds and was a danger to Estonian national security.
The Times said that similar concerns were expressed in neighboring Lithuania and cited University of Buckingham Professor Anthony Glees, who believes that: “Masha is feisty, even rather nasty, but also plucky. She punches above her slight weight. It’s not far-fetched to see her as Putinesque.”
Some internet users, even those with anti-Kremlin views, saw the story as a new low in anti-Russian hysteria.
In my career as a journalist, I’ve got used to Russian Duma wackos claiming that Harry Potter or Teletubbies are part of a grand conspiracy to corrupt Russian children. Now that the Times is pushing same stuff, things must have gone really bad. https://t.co/9KOjU9AFLt
— Leonid Ragozin (@leonidragozin) November 17, 2018
Russia expert Mark Galeotti said on his website that The Times had reached a “peak” with its article, which he blasted as “cliché Russophobia.”
Masha and the Bear are not coming to invade your homeland
Today’s dumbest ‘everything is Russian hybrid war’ article got me venting my spleen…https://t.co/JAstzg0HPf
— Mark Galeotti (@MarkGaleotti) November 17, 2018
Mark Galeotti also argued that it was “pretty damn far-fetched” to suggest that the Kremlin would want President Putin to be perceived as “a little girl who cries when she doesn’t get what she wants and gets her pig to dress up like a baby.”
And this isn’t even a political wacko, but – supposedly – a serious newspaper. This is both hateful and beyond stupid…
— Litvine Nicolas (@NicoLtvin) November 17, 2018
The bear is Russian and bored shitless of the perpetual idiocy of Masha.
Masha? She’s got to be Western or specifically American to display that level of idiocy! 😂😂😂
— Rob Proud (@RobProud) November 17, 2018
The Russian Embassy in London also joined the conversation, suggesting that the UK should inlclude all Russian cartoons should in the sanctions introduced against Moscow after the Skripal poisoning.
An important issue raised by @thetimes today: How UK can find salvation from “Masha and the Bear”? Launch an Ant-Cartoon Excellence Centre somewhere in the Baltic? Place all cartoonists on EU sanction list? Clearly a decisive – and a very expensive – approach is needed! pic.twitter.com/a05fKE24Be
— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) November 17, 2018
Nonsense, I grew up watching the Hollywood cartoons and I’m not even close to be pro-Western.
— Serge Coushen (@SCoushen) November 17, 2018
Other Twitter users hurried to share the made-up consequences of the cartoon’s harmful influence on their kids and themselves.
TBH I thought it was a bit strange that my daughter would stand in attention when hearing “Farewell of Slavianka” and answered in class that she wanted to be a T-34 tank driver when she grew up.
— Frederico Muñoz (@fredericomunoz) November 17, 2018
Good advert to watch Masha and the Bear, watched at least 1yr, greatgrandchildren watch all the time, lovely beautiful presentaion absolute delight to watch.71yr old ex miner.
— Keithbritton (@Keithbritton11) November 17, 2018
This is insane! I usually show the kids Cheburashka, so they are properly manipulated – I saw Masha i Medved always as a decadent distraction from building a true lenininst spirit. And now this…it’s nationalist Russian propaganda! I am confused.
— David Berger (@BergerWthur) November 17, 2018
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