The war in Ukraine and the ambivalent figure of ‘Babushka’: Intersectional nation-building and the delegitimisation/legitimisation of war on YouTube

Marja Lönnroth-Olin*, Satu Venäläinen, Rusten Menard, Teemu Pauha, Inga Jasinskaja-Lahti

*Corresponding author for this work

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In this article, we demonstrate how international social-media discussions offer a platform for taking a stance on the war in Ukraine, redrawing national boundaries and legitimising their defence. We do so by analysing data that consist of comments triggered by a viral YouTube video depicting an encounter between an ageing civilian woman, labelled ‘Babushka Z’, and a Ukrainian soldier. Using a critical discursive psychological framework, we identify five interpretative repertoires: vulnerability, incapacity, national continuity, masculinised warriorship and righteousness. Our analysis illuminates how these repertoires draw on and reproduce intersecting categorisations based on gender, age and ethnic heritage. With the help of these categorisations, the repertoires build competing images of the actions of the figures in the video, which come to symbolise in various ways both patriotism and treason, heroism and cowardice. By aligning with competing historical-national narratives, the commentors use these images to (de)legitimise the war and its actors.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNations and Nationalism
Early online date6 Nov 2023
Publication statusEarly online - 6 Nov 2023


  • critical discursive psychology
  • intersectionality
  • nationhood
  • Ukraine
  • war

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