The military occupation of Ukrainian city Crimea by Vladimir Putin’s russian forces has caused unrest and tension between russian supporters and ukrainian loyalists. The conflict in Ukraine began in 2014 with the decline of an economic deal proposed by the European Union and has since escalated into military intervention.
Depicted in this contemporary political cartoon is a man being threatened by a tank. The man being confronted by the tank is old and dressed in casual clothes with a cap that looks European (for lack of a better term). The man is labeled Crimea and he has his arms raised above his head in surrender and looks alarmed. The man inside the tank is labeled Putin and looks down at the Crimean man threateningly, saying “All those in favor of joining Russia, raise their hands…”.
The beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict started with a proposed economic deal from the European Union. Ukrainians desired involvement with the stronger economies of Western Europe and the European Union wanted connections with more Eastern European economies. However, despite the benefits to both sides, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych started to express his doubts about the agreement. The Ukrainian people saw this hesitation as a sign that the president was giving in to President Vladimir Putin of Russia’s pressure to decline the EU’s deal, which he eventually did, accepting a different economic deal from Russia in it’s place.
This angered the people of Ukraine for two reasons: first, the majority of the population wanted to ally themselves with the more productive western economies, and second, the new agreement showed a strengthened alignment with Russia. Protests broke out in the capital city of Kiev, which was met with harsh retaliation from the Ukrainian government who sent in riot police and armed guards. Conflict between the the Pro-Russian groups and the Anti-Russian groups steadily increased. On April 15, 2014, Crimea, a center of Pro-Russian sentiment in Ukraine, was declared to be a territory under provisional occupation by the Russian military. This military occupation has continued into the present day of 2016. Currently the United Nations has condemned this occupation on the grounds that the condition of human rights has deteriorated in Crimea since the military forces took over.
The humor of this cartoon comes in the irony of Putin’s words. He is talking about Crimea joining Russia as if it was up to them, telling them to raise their hands if they agree. Judging just from his words, it sounds fair and democratic. However, the Crimean man is raising his hands out of fear and surrender, face to face with the gun part of the tank. There is brute force juxtaposed with the seemingly innocuous suggestion Putin makes. Putin offers a choice, but in reality there is no choice; the Crimean man must raise his hands or face possible death. The shock of the threat the tank poses elicits a humorous response from the reader, since it is incongruous with the compromising nature of Putin’s words.
Some elements that enhance the meaning of this cartoon include the clothes of Putin and the Crimean man, as well as their positions and the background of the illustration. Putin wears a black suit, appropriate for the office he holds, that gives off the suggestion of power and competence. This is contrasted with the simple clothes of the Crimean man, who wears a cap that is reminiscent of a stereotypical Eastern European peasant’s hat. He is lower class than Putin, and does not hold nearly the same amount of power. The simplicity of his attire suggests vulnerability. The background is filled with a smokey gray haze, creating an atmosphere of fear and dismay that reflects the attitude of the Crimean man. Putin’s thinly veiled demand for his country to join Russia does not bode well.
“Ukraine: Everything You Need to Know about How We Got Here.” CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
News, BBC. “Why Crimea Is so Dangerous.” BBC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
“UN Committee Condemns Russian Occupation of Crimea.” VOA. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
Curran, John. “Russian-Ukrainian Conflict Explained.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.