By Florian Coppenrath, 21 April 2020
In times of lockup, humour is an important part of collective strategies in dealing with the coronavirus crisis. Memes with their strong intertextuality allow building “interpretative communities” of people going through the same experience and sharing the same cultural points of reference, even more so as a great part of public life has shifted online (also including cultural events, such as life-streamed concerts or films made accessible for free on the internet).
In Kyrgyzstan’s online sphere, the social media page “omks” (standing for “One Million Kyrgyz Stories”) is particularly outstanding. It was founded at the end of 2014 on the social media platform VKontakte as an anonymous account publishing short stories and anecdotes sent in by the users. In an interview in October 2015, the founder called it “a reflection of youth and of the Kyrgyz people as a whole”, a “place uniting all our co-citizens in one whole” and even a “state in the state”, since it reflects “the true thoughts of youth in a sincere form”. Starting from several dozen thousand followers at that time, the platform has grown up to 840 thousand followers as of today on Instagram, which is also the most important social media in Kyrgyzstan.
Besides short anecdotes and remarks in Russian and Kyrgyz (or in a mixture of both), the page also features advertisement, thereby working as a so-called public-page (pablika) partly monetising its audience. There are several posts a day, which regularly gather more than 20.000 “likes” and several hundred comments. And starting from 11th March 2020, most of the posts on the page deal with the Coronavirus-Crisis and the lockdown imposed in Kyrgyzstan after the appearance of the first cases in the country, on 18th March.
The site’s administrators have also slightly changed the logotype of the page, reminding people of the pandemic: Starting from 19th March, the smiling man with a Kyrgyz “ak-kalpak” hat is wearing a facemask. After that, the posts are a mixture of injunctions, jokes and references to global or local social media trends, giving a good reflection of the perception of the crisis among Kyrgyzstani youth.
To begin with, after the pandemic also reached Kyrgyzstan, several posts call for the audience to stay at home, respect hygiene rules and generally to prevent the spread of the virus. Some of them have a creative local touch, such as a reference to a quote by Soviet Kyrgyz politician Iskhak Razzakov often printed in public places throughout Kyrgyzstan. The young girl with her appeal, in her turn, is a variation of the “I stay at work for you, you stay at home for us”, which can be found in many countries: