Russia Wants Its Citizens to Take Safer Selfies. It’s Not Going Well.

The latest victim of Russia's reckless selfie-takers is a Siberian Lenin statue.


The Russian government’s campaign to get its citizenry to take safer selfies is off to a rocky start. On Monday, Agence France-Presse reported that a man in Siberia climbed a statue of Lenin while drunk in an attempt to get a photo with the famed revolutionary. When he lost his balance, the man clung to Lenin’s torso, breaking the statue and leaving only its legs upright.

It’s been a rough few months for that Lenin statue in the village of Moryakovsky: In May, a drunk man attacked the statue with a hammer, leaving it headless. Now the statue, with only its legs remaining, will be disassembled after the recent incident that left the photographer with broken bones in his leg and wrist.

The fall of this particular Lenin comes after Russian authorities rolled out a campaign last week to encourage its population to take fewer risks while snapping selfies. In rolling out the effort, Russian cops said they’ve seen hundreds of selfie-related injuries and dozens of deaths. In May, a woman was severely wounded after taking a selfie with a gun pressed to her head. In June, two fishermen were hospitalized after snapping selfies with a poisonous snake that ended up biting both men. Earlier this month, a 21-year-old woman in Moscow fell off a bridge and died while trying to take a selfie when the support she was leaning against gave way.

And nowhere are Lenin statues safe from drunk selfie-takers. Last month, a drunk 30-year-old tried to capture a selfie while hanging from the arm of a gilded Lenin statue in the Kemerovo region when the monument collapsed.

The phenomenon of dangerous selfies is by no means limited to Russia. Late last month, Disney announced that it would ban selfie sticks in all of its amusement parks, citing safety concerns.

So it’s in this context that Russian police have distributed this pamphlet detailing scenarios in which one might want to think twice before brandishing one’s phone in search of the perfect self-portrait. Butterflies are ok; trains and tigers, not so much.

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Amid this glut of selfie mishaps, the New York Times has stepped in to provide an essential piece of sociological analysis to explain how we find ourselves in this world of risk-seeking photography. “From posing naked at Machu Picchu to filming their dives from hotel balconies into courtyard swimming pools, travelers across the world have been indulging in what officials and travel experts describe as an epidemic of narcissism and recklessness, as they try to turn vacation hubs and historic sites into their personal video and photography props,” the article finds.

Because what better selfie is there than one with a headless Lenin?

Photo credit: OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images

Elias Groll is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @EliasGroll

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