The latest victim of Gen Z’s humor: The Russia-Ukraine conflict


Nitish Gupta via Pixabay

TikTok, a popular social media platform among Gen Zers, has enabled a generation of teens to create a joke out of a conflict that very well may result in a violent war.

Allisa Pandit, Innovation Manager

As the first generation to have grown up with easy access to the internet, Gen Zers have undoubtedly made it a point to communicate with one another – whether that be on a national or international level. Social media platforms, such as TikTok, have enabled the youth to learn about current events on a global scale. Starting in February of 2014, the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War has fallen victim to Gen Z’s jest.

Time and time again, Gen Z has upheld its reputation as the generation of immature, jaded teens. For the rest of the world, turning a conflict labeled the “potential WWIII” into a meme validated the generation’s notoriety. 

Millions of posts and comments by teens begin to beg the question: Does Gen Z even know what the Russia-Ukraine conflict is about?

Sophomore Maddie Figanbaum shared her opinion that until there is violence, jokes about the conflict are justified. “I just feel like if you make a joke also make sure you’re educated on everything,” she said. “I know I’ve made draft jokes, but all I know is that Russia is threatening to invade Ukraine because they wanted to join NATO.”

According to Reuters, in common Gen Z fashion, comments saying “Vladdy daddy please no war” and “Mercurys in retrograde Vladdy this isn’t you” flooded an unofficial Instagram page for Russian President Vladimir Putin. With little knowledge of a conflict between the two nations, Gen Z fails to understand the diplomacy and severity of this global issue.

The start of Russian aggression against Ukraine began in 2014 when, according to Putin, ethnic Russians residing in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region were against Ukraine’s pro-Western government. Although Putin shifted the blame on ethnic Russians in the Donbas region, Putin and his country have both benefited from the 2014 violence, claimed BBC News.

CBS News shared, “But Putin used the invasion to very literally claim part of Ukraine for Russia, unilaterally annexing the Crimean Peninsula. The annexation is not recognized by the international community, but Russia has indisputably controlled the territory since 2014.” 

Succeeding the annexation, the violence between the two nations boiled down, still maintaining some forms of violence in the region. The Ukrainian government revealed that nearly 14,000 people have died throughout the duration of the Russo-Ukrainian War. 

Since the last pro-Russia president of Ukraine was ousted in 2014, Ukrainians have only elected pro-Western candidates since. CBS News reports that Putin’s primary fear is that if Ukraine joins NATO, the country will maintain a functioning democracy. He believes if Russians see prosperity in a successful Ukrainian democracy under NATO, Putin’s authoritarian rule will be threatened in Russia. 

Government and history teacher Joe Youngbauer commented on Putin’s concerns with NATO and Ukraine’s relationship with the West. “It really is fascinating diplomacy to look at Putin and question: What is your motivation? Are you really going to invade [Ukraine]? How did you really think the West was going to respond in terms of some of the sanctions and things that the West is claiming to use against Russia if they do invade?” he shared.

Youngbauer added that the United States works to build alliances with some of the Western European countries – defensive fronts seem to build some sort of unification between the United States and Western European countries. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I think it’ll certainly be interesting politics for sure,” he said.

For a generation known for accusing other people of not educating themselves on political subjects, Gen Z has failed to learn the framework of the current Russia-Ukraine conflict. Yet, for many Gen Zers, jokes seem to be their only outlet. “It’s mostly because most of Gen Z can’t really do anything about the conflict. The best thing we can do is raise awareness,” added Figanbaum.

Whether the hundreds of thousands of Russian troops surrounding Ukraine decide to attack or not, Gen Zers are being called to understand the potential outcomes of another world war. War or no war, many believe Gen Z may have taken the jokes a bit too far this time.