“Apologize”: Russia’s propensity for offensive videos

A number of well-known Russians released recordings at the close of the previous year expressing regret for showing up practically nude at an invitation-only event. Despite the fact that their recordings were replete with regret, they were denounced for being unpatriotic in the context of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. They had also become part of the quickly growing trend of apologetic movies, which have proliferated since the full-scale invasion over two years ago. However, a large number of the recordings are police-released and include individuals who have faced far greater pressure than the powerful members of Russia’s pop culture.

Rather than being for anything specific, some of the forced apologies were for supposed offenses against the official philosophy of the Kremlin. These movies have two purposes, as Russian human rights attorney Dmitry Zakhvatov explains. He told the Kavkaz Realii website that his goals were to “intimidate those who do not support the war but have so far not summoned the courage to say so in public” and to embarrass opponents of the war with Ukraine. When apology videos began to surface on social media or regional state TV in the Russian republic of Chechnya, located in the North Caucasus, in 2015, the trend first gained notice.

The majority of the films were people apologizing for criticizing Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman leader of Chechnya. In one, a man expressed regret for being gay. An other showed a man without pants criticizing the Chechen leader for singing a song titled “President Putin is my best friend”. The movies quickly became popular throughout the North Caucasus, and several police publications released them. In one from the Karachay-Cherkessia interior ministry, a guy apologized for skiing down a mountainside while wearing only a thong, akin to the comedic persona Borat’s outfit.

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