By Paul Goble
The spread of the Pokemon Go phenomenon into Russia has provoked official comment by Putin’s press secretary and calls by some to ban this threat to Russian culture, an indicator one commentator suggests shows that this new game for mobile telephones is “not simply a game but an event of geopolitical or multi-cultural dimensions.”
A Polit.ru commentary notes that Pokemon Go, a game based on finding and training invented personalities and having them fight with others, has not yet been officially introduced in Russia, but savvy Russians have found a way around that and have begun to play it with as much enthusiasm as anyone else (polit.ru/article/2016/07/14/pokemon/).
Already last week, Russian “Life” reported that it had found Pokemons in the Kremlin, the Pushkin Museum and the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. It also noted that they had appeared alongside the Bolshoy Theater and in the Moscow metro. And others found Pokemons fighting in the Mariinsky Theater and at the Cathedral of Kazan.
Yesterday, Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, said searching for Pokemons was not a good reason for anyone to visit the Kremlin, a cultural treasure and the residence of the chief of state. He also expressed doubts that Pokemons had appeared anywhere in Moscow, adding he had read about such things but wasn’t a player himself.
Other Russian figures wers, hospitals, e more outraged about this trend and more insistent that it be resisted and repelled. Dmitry Enteo, a radical Orthodox activist, said on twitter that Pokemons were “’Japanese devils’” and that those who played with them were “’zombies with i-phones.’” They must be kept out of all churches and religious places, he said.
Archpriest Dmitry Smirnov who speaks often for the Moscow Patriarchate added that Pokemons and i-phones must be kept out not only of churches but of cemeteries, hospitals, militia stations, and prisons. Playing such games, he continued, reduced people to the level of children (kp.ru/daily/26554/3571044/).
And most insistently, the leadership of the Cossack movement in St. Petersburg demanded that the government ban Pokemons and the search from them in all religious spaes, cultural institutions, and places where there are children (nazaccent.ru/content/21317-kazaki-sankt-peterburga-trebuyut-zapretit-ohotu-na.html and baltika.fm/news/97419).
But not everyone in in the former Soviet space is reacting that way. And in an indication of just how different Ukraine is from Russia, the Pokemon craze there has generated a lot of jokes including one that says Crimea experienced “Pokemon hunts” well before anyone else in the world.
According to one Ukrainian anecdote, there was only one difference between the Ukrainian experience and the one offered by Pokemon Go hunts now. In 2014, such creatures were called “the polite people,” a reference to the Russian forces which occupied the Ukrainian peninsula in 2014 (http://apostrophe.com.ua/article/society/2016-07-14/jiteley-kryima-obyyavili-pionerami-pokemon-go-novaya-igra-vyizvala-shkval-shutok-v-sotssetyah/6164).