What We Are Seeing …. In Russia/On Facebook

There is a likely chance that you will see the following photo on social media tomorrow… and why that is tragic for our future.

The Ghost of Revolutions Past indubitably haunts the Russians. Original photo by Vitaly Armand

Here at the Iconic Photos, I am often being accused of focussing exorbitantly on Russia, and of being anti-Russian. I plead guilty to the first change — after all, the USSR held the world enthralled for 70 odd years as a hegemonic superpower — but I seriously don’t know where the second charge comes from. In the past, I have definitely chronicled the past and the present Russian leaders’ hilarious attempts to make themselves look macho and good, and to make their enemies look bad, or worse, disappear (literally and on photo negatives).

I have stumbled upon the picture above, with the caption: “Moscow, on February, 4th, 2012. Temperature in the street a minus of 18-20 degrees of Celsius” Among some 800 shares the photo got on Facebook (via the new sharing mechanism which always spams me and causes me to stop using Facebook these days) are three of my friends (each of whom said “wow”, or words of similar brevity and eloquence) which made me really concerned.

The photo was indeed taken in Moscow — but on March 10th 1991 when 500,000 people showed up on the Manezh Square to put one of the final nails onto the USSR’s coffin. Last few months protests, while notable in proving that the Russian middle-class is no longer a silent, complacent and apolitical entity, were attended by around 100,000 people.

I, being the pedant that I am, tried to correct my friends, but I myself noticed this falsity only because I myself have seen the photo before (I worked under a framed version of that photo for three months). This does not bode well for the future historians. True they will have more sources than ever before, but they will also have a great difficulty in differentiating where is what, what is when, what is true, and what is trivial in that deluge of often-well-intentioned-but-false, often-deliberately-misleading information — and social media is not helping.

So my advice is trust but verify everything you share on social networks, even if it comes from a seemingly authoritative source. Your grandkids will thank you for it.

On the other hand, if you are a sucker for my inanities and thoughts no one care, here is my Twitter.

15 thoughts on “What We Are Seeing …. In Russia/On Facebook

  1. THANK YOU for sending this out!

    If I happen to run across this photo, I will most definitely correct them with your factual information!

  2. Wow! I never saw that much people gathered in one place at a same time. Security must have been tight for such a gathering.

  3. As of putting a nail in a coffin of anything, note that a clear majority of Russians actually voted for the continuation of the USSR that same month (most took part in the referendum and most of them voted “yes”, as did people in most of the Soviet republics, except of the likes of the practically already-independent Baltic States or Georgia).

    I don’t think even the mass resistance of Moscow people against the military coup later in 1991 was really anti-Soviet, after all it was in defense of the existing government, against the idea that some people in uniform can take their newfound freedoms by moving tanks in the streets. Yeltsin’s subsequent move to disband the USSR was part of his personal struggle against Gorbachev, his own coup that went clearly against the will of the people as voiced in the referendum. And yes, the people of Moscow did rebel against him, in 1993. But this time the tanks opened fire and the White House turned black.

  4. In my experience, most historians are already quite cavalier in their use of photographs, They will spend a great deal of time and effort footnoting everything in the text but when it comes to the photographs they are quite happy to cut corners because, hey, its only a picture…….

  5. This picture is a great picture but, doesn’t present much of a instance itself, instead presents a message of the future events that happened after March 10th 1991, where people were in the times of communism, and the political factors were effecting the people, this pictures shows a need for something politically big to happen in the next 7 days on March 17th 1991 a union-wide referendum, presenting the question

    “Do you consider necessary the preservation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as a renewed federation of equal sovereign republics in which the rights and freedom of an individual of any nationality will be fully guaranteed?”

    The majority of each state said “yes”, this was meant for people to, essentially, ride the country of communism and the Soviet Union. This information is shown on the following link, if anyone is interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_Union_referendum,_1991#cite_note-N1-0

    But this this picture presents and example of future events to come to fruition, it may be a small, yet very significant event, presenting the last image of the USSR and the Soviet Union

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