As Ukrainian society faced the shock of Russia’s seizure of Crimea in March 2014, separatist protests coordinated by Russian intelligence services in Donetsk and Luhansk generated mockery across much of Ukrainian social media. With every escalation of tensions around the Donbas region in the months that followed, demands from Russian President Vladimir Putin for a so-called federalization of Ukraine triggered a torrent of angry memes from Ukrainian social media users satirizing proposals that would have meant the de facto partition of the Ukrainian state.
One such image was a map proposing the partition of Russia into a dozen self-governing regions that applied Putin’s demands for Ukraine’s federalization to Russia. As a meme, this map was shared so extensively on Facebook that in spring 2014 it was even used by the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to mock Russia’s claims.
Eight years later, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, similar imaginary maps of a post-Russia world have returned as memes, but this time in social media posts across Europe, reflecting an anger with the Putin regime that is now continent-wide. What was once an expression of Ukrainian frustration at Kremlin doublespeak has become a widely circulated fantasy of revenge against a Russian state that has brazenly undermined the territorial integrity of states on its borders.