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Ukraine at War: Reflections on Popular Culture as a Geopolitical Battlespace


Drawing on my previous work on how Western cultural producers have constructed the post-Soviet realm, as well as the feedback loop of popular culture wherein the region’s (non-)state actors mould their images for consumption abroad, this article reflects on popular culture as mechanism of the Ukraine-Russia War (2022-present). The specific focus is on how the Russia’s full-scale invasion and Ukrainian defence of its territory exemplifies the current state of popular culture as a geopolitical battlespace. Following a brief overview of popular culture-world politics continuum, I delineate the pivotal role that social media memes play in the current military conflict via a case study of the Twitter/X feed of Ukrainian Memes Forces (UMF), which employs various forms of youth-oriented visual intertextuality and comedic pastiche to establish Ukraine as a ‘cool’ adaptable, non-ideological agent against an ‘uncool’ hidebound, ideological foe (Russia-Putin-USSR).


ukraine, russia, popular geopolitics, memes, strategic narrative

Research Article (PDF)

Author Biography

Robert Saunders

Robert A. Saunders holds the rank of Distinguished Professor in the Department of History, Politics, and Geography at Farmingdale State College, a campus of the State University of New York (SUNY). His research explores various intersections of geopolitics, national identity, and popular culture. Professor Saunders’ scholarship has appeared in Political Geography, Geopolitics, Nations and Nationalism, Europe-Asia Studies, and Slavic Review, among other journals. He is the author of five monographs, including Popular Geopolitics and Nation Branding in the Post-Soviet Realm (Routledge, 2017) and Geopolitics, Northern Europe, and Nordic Noir: What Television Series Tell Us About World Politics (Routledge, 2021).