Vatnik (Russian: ‘cotton-padded jacket’), a derivative of and often shortened to ‘vata’ (Russian: ‘batting’), is a derogatory social slang neologisms in Russian and Ukrainian languages, and an internet meme used in reference to individuals with pro-Russian jingoist and chauvinist views. In the original meaning, ‘vatnik’ (also ‘telogreika’) is a cheap cotton-padded jacket.
The meme was created by Anton Chadskiy under the pseudonym ‘Jedem das Seine.’ His associated picture of an anthropomorphic square-shaped quilted jacket similar to the cartoon character ‘Spongebob Squarepants’ was first posted on Russian social network ‘VK’ September 9, 2011. The meme went viral in 2012, but became much more widespread in society after the Russian military intervention in Ukraine started in 2014. Chadskiy, claiming he feared political persecution, left Russia in late 2014.
Although the words ‘vatnik’ and ‘vata’ are widely used by Ukrainians and people sympathizing with them to offend Russians, they are sometimes used by Russians themselves. The word can be used by Russians both in negative manner – to describe those of Russians who show too jingoistic or foolish forms of patriotism, and sometimes in positive manner – to express speaker’s support for some aspects of Russian culture/values/politics.
Similar term ‘vyshyvatnik’/’vyshyvatnyk’ (junction of words ‘vyshyvanka’ – national Ukrainian wearing, and ‘vatnik’) appeared in Russian and Ukrainian languages to describe individuals with pro-Ukrainian jingoist views. As with ‘vatnik,’ the word can be used both by opponents of Ukrainians, and by Ukrainians themselves (e.g. to describe jingoism, laziness or other negative traits of some of Ukrainian patriots).