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Plush power? Russian cartoon for kids is coming to meddle with YOUR national songbook

Plush power? Russian cartoon for kids is coming to meddle with YOUR national songbook
‘Masha and the Bear,’ the Russian cartoon with an immense following across the world, is expanding its reach. Now, its tiny protagonist is going to teach your kids to sing your country's favorite song… with a Russian twist.

If you are only expecting Russians to breach your borders, hack your democracy and set your neighbors against each other, you are not vigilant enough. Your own children could be the Kremlin’s next sleeper agents – beware ‘Masha and the Bear,’ a kids’ cartoon the London Times deems worthy of being called "propaganda for Putin" is launching its latest season – and it’s coming for your songs.

The mischievous little girl Masha and her blatantly Russian BFF Bear are coming to a screen near YOU in more ways than one: this fourth season is themed around travel, so in every episode Masha “will perform a fun song to a tune of a well-known national melody,” the show’s creator says. Good luck getting your kid to memorize the proper lyrics to ‘Hey Jude’ or ‘Greensleeves.’

The season’s first episode is already out on YouTube (for now in Russian only), where the ‘toon’s channel has over 22 million subscribers. It takes the protagonists to Italy and includes a food-themed re-imagining of opera classic ‘La Donna e Mobile’ and ‘Santa Lucia.’ Enjoy.

Even more insidious (at least in the eyes of the Times' Russophobe ‘experts’) is that Masha and the Bear are staging an all-out global offensive: not only is it on YouTube and Netflix (where it reaches another 20+ million subscribers), the season will air on Italian TV, and thematic events will take place in shopping malls in Spain and across the Middle East.

The subtle infiltrators are already on Amazon, with thematic merchandise of all shapes and sizes available in the US since April. The British and German branches of Amazon have likewise “submitted” to Russian influence. India and Latin America are next in line, with brand online shops slated to open later in 2019.

With short episodes, bright visuals and a “feisty, but also plucky” (as the professor cited by the Times put it) protagonist and an educational premise, it’s easy to see how ‘Masha and the Bear’ became the go-to toddler fodder for Russian parents. What’s more inexplicable (and worrying, if you’re prone to seeing Moscow’s subversive efforts around every corner) is its popularity abroad.

Also on rt.com ‘All out of anti-Russian stories?’ Times gets grilled for calling ‘Masha and the Bear’ propaganda

Launched in Russia a decade ago, the cartoon has recently captivated audiences in Europe and the US, as well as in Asia and South America. In 2016, a single episode of the series became one of the first videos to top a billion views on YouTube. It still remains among the top five most watched YouTube videos of all time, and the only one on the list that is not a music video by a famous artist.

So, next time you leave your kids in front of a screen, be prepared to hear your favorite national tune with a Russian accent. And once that happens, it’s too late to resist. Submit and buy that Bear plushie.

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