DISPERSE! Russian memes teach importance of social distancing using high art

While the international internet might be dominated by the English language, there is one area where anglophones have to yield: memes. There can be almost no doubt that the kings of this genre reside on the RuNet.

Making the best out of a bad situation seems to be a vital component of the Russian spirit, and it is, therefore, no surprise that coronavirus has spurred the creative juices of Russia’s finest online minds.

President Vladimir Putin’s appeal to Russians to “stay at home” led to another wave of memes flooding the internet – this time using some of Russia’s and the world’s most exceptional art. By superimposing an image of a person in a protective medical suit, RuNet geniuses have transformed highbrow art into something funny, yet instructive.

Perhaps the most shared image is that of a painting by Russian Viktor Vasnetsov, a co-founder of Russian folklorist art. This particular work, ‘Alyonushka’, is superimposed with the command “SIT THERE!”

Vasnetsov's original currently sits in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

Another of Vasnetsov’s most famous paintings ‘The Bogatyrs’ – also displayed in the Tretyakov – has become a meme bearing the words, “And where is everyone?” – “They’ve separated.”

Meanwhile Dutch master Hieronymus Bosch’s painting ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’, has been altered to include the word – DISPERSE!

“DISPERSE!” has become the most common phrase for these memes, and savvy Russian internet users have found famous paintings of assembled groups to embrace this with.

This 19th century painting, ‘The Appearance of Christ Before the People’, was painted by Alexander Ivanov. It is also currently in the Tretyakov.

Russian Realist Vasily Perov’s ‘Hunters at Rest’ were also told to disperse.

And finally, perhaps the most famous group painting in history – Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’. Even the son of god himself needs to respect social distancing!