'Is the friendly bear from the children's show a Putin stooge?' wondered The Daily Mail
A bizarre, year-old report that described cartoon ‘Masha and the Bear’ as Kremlin propaganda for kids has been revived in The Times, prompting commenters to wonder if the publication had run out of ideas for its usual Russophobia.
The adventures of pesky little Masha, who befriends a bear and other animals in the style of Tiny Toon’s Elmyra, has been enjoyed by children and parents worldwide. The Russian-made cartoon then came to Netflix, whose Russian- and English-language services jointly reach over 21 million subscribers. What could possibly be sinister?
“Children’s show is propaganda for Putin, say critics” – reads the headline on a weekend edition of The Times.
UK journalists have dug up a report from Finland’s Helsingin Sanomat paper, which was based on an interview with an Estonian professor who claimed that ‘Masha and the Bear’ was intended to create a positive image of Russia in children’s minds and was a danger to Estonian national security.
The Times said that similar concerns were expressed in neighboring Lithuania and cited University of Buckingham Professor Anthony Glees, who believes that: “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.”
Some internet users, even those with anti-Kremlin views, saw the story as a new low in anti-Russian hysteria.
Russia expert Mark Galeotti said on his website that The Times had reached a “peak” with its article, which he blasted as “cliché Russophobia.”
Mark Galeotti also argued that it was “pretty damn far-fetched” to suggest that the Kremlin would want President Putin to be perceived as “a little girl who cries when she doesn’t get what she wants and gets her pig to dress up like a baby.”
The Russian Embassy in London also joined the conversation, suggesting that the UK should inlclude all Russian cartoons should in the sanctions introduced against Moscow after the Skripal poisoning.
Other Twitter users hurried to share the made-up consequences of the cartoon’s harmful influence on their kids and themselves.