Donetsk’s Rebel Leader Is Now an Unsexy Erotic Fiction Character
Is this fan fiction or counter-propaganda?
Originally published on Aug. 24, 2014.
He has carefully crafted his personae by changing his name, writing an embellished memoir and promoting himself via social media. Recent reports indicate he might be dead or badly wounded—a rumor Russian news agencies deny.
When it comes to Strelkov, it’s hard to tell what is real, and what is myth.
We do know this for sure: Igor Strelkov is the star of homoerotic slash fiction. It’s called Sucking Strelkov. You can buy it on Amazon for two bucks. It also could very well be an act of propaganda.
Slash fiction is the steamy sub-genre of fan fiction. Slash stories typically involve strange combinations of pop culture icons falling in love or doing the nasty. For example, Harry Potter might woo Bruce Wayne while Superman watches.
Fans write and share these stories with millions of readers across the Internet, and the stories have great cultural influence. The smash hit Fifty Shades of Grey started out as serialized Twilight slash fiction.
Most works of slash fiction are fun and dirty, but ultimately born out of love for their subjects. Sucking Strelkov is definitely not. It’s a hit piece, an obvious attempt to deflate the rebel leader. The story isn’t meant to turn readers on. It’s meant to mock Strelkov.
But then who wrote it? The author is the pseudonym I. Van der Woude—a reference to a developmental disorder. The story is the sole work of fiction to the author’s credit.
The tale focuses on a European camera crew traveling through Crimea in June of 2014. “We were there to shoot porn movies … [featuring] active-duty soldiers,” the unnamed female narrator says.
Unable to find filmable soldiers in Crimea, the group sneaks into Ukraine where they run afoul of a local fixer. The group agrees to transport pornography to troops in Donetsk in order to make nice. They don’t make it past the first rebel-held checkpoint.
The rebels capture and interrogate the group. Stelkov leads the interrogation. The narrator describes him as old, short, chubby and “with a very round face and a short little mustache that made him look like a cross between a pig and Adolf Hitler.”
To prove the film crew aren’t spies, the “mustached little freak” forces the male cameraman to perform a sex act on a guard. The team’s porn credentials settled, the crew attempts to negotiate the filming of an orgy.
But the fictional Strelkov and his team demure. “Is no good,” they say. “Gay sex is very legal in Ukraine right now. But in Russia … is very very forbidden. When peace come and rule of law restored, is no good having video evidence for sale all over Internet. Blackmailers, da?”
No deal struck, the rebels decide to let them go. But first, “Colonel Strelkov [will] administer punishment personally.” Strelkov then rapes the team’s cameraman. The narrator emphasizes the diminutive nature of Strelkov’s tools.
Strelkov satisfied, the group collect their passports and flee back into Europe. Now safe, the cameraman reveals he contracted HIV several years ago. “Colonel Igor Strelkov’s days are numbered,” the narrator concludes.
Sucking Strelkov is not sexy. It’s not supposed to be. Woude’s obvious goal is character assassination. This kind of a propaganda trick is as powerful as it is ancient. Dante populated Inferno with his political enemies. Some scholars believe Machiavelli’s The Prince is a sarcastic parody meant to aggravate Cesare Borgia.
Woude is using the Internet to do the same thing as Dante and Machiavelli. Though the story’s literary merit falls well below the works of the two Italian masters, to say the least, it still works as a piece of propaganda.
The conflict in Ukraine is a war of stories as well as a war on the ground. Russian state television has spun the conflict to incredulity as an ethnic Russian uprising against fascism. The Kremlin’s media machine has powerful influence over the region, and Kiev is always looking for new ways to fight back.
We don’t know who I. Van der Woude is, or what his or her motivations might be, beyond mocking Strelkov. It’s possible this is another—albeit bizarre and ugly—part of an elaborate propaganda war.
At top — Igor Strelkov, a pro-Russian separatist commander, left, arrives for the wedding of platoon commander Arsen Pavlov and Elena Kolenkina in the city of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine on July 11, 2014. AP/Dmitry Lovetsky photo