Over 100 Russian officials fall for Nazi poetry prank pulled by anti-war activists — Novaya Gazeta Europe
NewsPolitics

Over 100 Russian officials fall for Nazi poetry prank pulled by anti-war activists

The AI-generated image used as a profile picture for non-existent poet Gennady Rakitin. Photo: Andrey Zakharov

The AI-generated image used as a profile picture for non-existent poet Gennady Rakitin. Photo: Andrey Zakharov

Over 100 officials from Russia’s State Duma and Federation Council became social media “friends” with a non-existent poet whose verses praising Russia’s war in Ukraine turned out to be translations of poetry written in Nazi-era Germany, Russian journalist Andrey Zakharov revealed on Friday.

Posing as a 49-year-old teacher and “Z poet” named Gennady Rakitin and using an AI-generated profile picture, a group of activists began posting Russian translations of poems by Nazi writers on the VK social network as an experiment in summer 2023, Zakharov said.

Replacing the original poems’ references to Germany and Nazi soldiers with mention of Russia and Wagner Group fighters, those behind the Rakitin character aimed to highlight the absurdity of Russian government notions of patriotism in what Zakharov called a “work of conceptual anti-war art”.

By the time of Zakharov’s post revealing the true nature of the poems, over 2,200 people had become “friends” with Rakitin on VK, including former Roscosmos space agency head Dmitry Rogozin, senator Andrey Klishas and presidential culture advisor Yelena Yampolskaya.

The VK page created for Gennady Rakitin. Photo: Andrey Zakharov

The VK page created for Gennady Rakitin. Photo: Andrey Zakharov

The poems published on Rakitin’s page were also lauded in literary circles, with one reaching the semi-finals of a “patriotic poetry” competition in the Kaluga region and another published in a “patriotic free verse” competition in a Moscow literary magazine.

When questioned by news outlet Podyom why he was among Rakitin’s “friends” on VK, State Duma Deputy Vladimir Koshelev said he would “smack him in the face” if he ever met the non-existent poet.

According to an article in Russia’s Criminal Code, “rehabilitating Nazism” is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. On Friday, Moscow’s City Prosecutor’s Office opened a criminal case against historian and blogger Tamara Eidelman under that exact article for a video on her YouTube channel that it alleged “insulted the memory” of Russian servicemen.

Having posted some 17 Nazi poems since his page was created, “Rakitin” published his 18th and final verse on Friday, which read:

Long had Gennady derided

Z poetry on his Wall,

His true message, he decided, was:

‘Fuck the war’.

pdfshareprint
Editor in chief — Kirill Martynov. Terms of use. Privacy policy.