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“Masha and the Bear”, Kremlin’s soft propaganda tool

Millions of children around the world love watching the adventures of a feisty 3-year-old girl and her ursine friend. But some believe the Russian animated series has a more sinister purpose.

“Masha and the Bear” is an animated children’s series about a little girl living in the Russian countryside. Her best friend is the Bear, a giant, yet gentle, former circus animal, who tries to keep the hyperactive 3-year-old out of too much trouble. Masha, the Bear, and their animal friends experience a string of zany adventures over the span of the show’s five seasons. The show has become internationally popular, with millions of kids around the world watching it.

A premise innocuous enough, it seems, but the series also has its critics, who see the series as Kremlin’s “soft propaganda” tool. The charges have been levelled mostly by media from countries neighbouring Russia, such as Finland, Estonia, and Latvia. Back in 2017, a group of Ukrainian MPs went so far as to demand “Masha and the Bear” be banned from broadcast in the country.

An interesting assessment was made by Professor Anthony Glees, an intelligence expert at the University of Buckingham. Prof. Glees said: “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.”

In Russia, such an interpretation of the show is considered an example of “pathological Russophobia”. Animakkord, the Moscow-based studio that produces the show, deny that their project is in any way supported by state structures.

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