More proof that kiddy creative types should never be allowed out on the internet without parental supervision.

In Russia the Great Patriotic War – that’s World War Two to you – is still a very big deal. Sixty-five years on, the history – and myths – of the defeat of Nazi Germany are deeply ingrained in the national psyche and culture. On any day throughout the year there is almost certain to be at least one item concerning the conflict on television. Bookshops overflow with magazines, histories and novels from the war. The country is littered with memorials and military statues.

In other words, it’s a hard thing to miss.

Festivities peak in early May, with parades, concerts and the entire country plastered with posters commemorating the Victory of the Motherland. Somebody has to design and print all this stuff, and in Perm, a million strong industrial city in central Russia, the job this year – although probably not next – went to the Perm Book Publishing House.

Their clients, the snappily named Perm Region Veterans’ Committee, supplied the advertising team with pictures for the posters. Unfortunately the images supplied by the veterans – people who had actually fought in the war and therefore have some idea of what it looked like – were deemed unsuitable by the young creatives. “Pale and unemotional” was the creative verdict: not edgy enough for the post Soviet youth. And so, searching for something “more exciting”, the designers turned to that ever-reliable source of free imagery, the internet.

The web is of course awash with WW2 imagery; and for obvious health and safety reasons Soviet and Nazi forces generally wore different uniforms so that they could be easily identified. But not easily enough for the creative team, who managed to choose German rather than Russian soldiers for the posters: of the six images they downloaded, four were of Nazis. One showed a grizzled Wermacht soldier; another – a bit of a giveaway this – was of a German bearing an SS propaganda poster.

Distribution was going well until the posters were delivered to a local school and a teacher – presumably of history – noticed the mistake, and pointed out that in Perm at least, the wrong side seemed to have won. Not surprisingly veterans of the conflict – final score some 26 million Russian dead – were furious. “This is simply blasphemy,” fumed veterans’ leader Alexander Sergeyev on Russian television.

In an apparent admission that no grown-ups were involved in production of the posters, the designers opted for the “we’re young and dumb” defence. “We are young and we didn’t see the war. We don’t know what fascist soldiers looked like,” Svetlana Somova, a senior manager at the publishing house, told Russia’s NTV television.

There’s no word on how old or awake one has to be to work at the Perm Book Publishing House, but Svetlana, we’re eager to help. Below are two pictures showing Nazi and Soviet WW2 uniforms: see if you can spot the difference. There’s no rush: you’ve got nearly a year to figure it out before you tender for the 2011 poster campaign.

Russian in Nazi uniform and Victor Day parade
Photos © Jeremy Nicholl 2008. All Rights Reserved.
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One Response to “Soviet? Nazi? Whatever, Dude…”

  1. Pete Jenkins Pete Jenkins says:

    It is great to know that this kind of incompetence is world wide, and not just the bright young things over here. Having said all that some one somewhere must surely have approved the campaign before it got to the distribution stage?

    And another thing, young creatives? What exactly did these pretty young things create? They are not creators merely incompetent users (exploiters), those who took the pics are the creatives. 🙂

    It frustrates the very essence of my soul to see poorly researched imagery, used badly, and chosen for price over accuracy and quality. When will these people learn?

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