This Stalin-Mask Selfie App Is Trending on Russian Instagram

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Russia’s hottest new selfie video app, MSQRD (pronounced “masquerade”), has taken Instagram by storm this year, the Moscow Times reports. The app lets you put on all kinds of virtual “masks” and watch them move as you move your face. There are bunny ears, exaggerated tears, KISS makeup, and the faces of a tiger, bear, or gorilla. And, strangest and best of all, there’s Joseph Stalin.

And the Stalin mask isn’t just an option in MSQRD — it’s the default option. The first time you start up the app, you’ll see the mustachioed face of a brutal Soviet dictator staring back at you. It’s both jarring and strangely hilarious, and Russian Instagrammers love it.

An important message from Joseph Stalin #msqrd #josephstalin

A video posted by @mixedvegetables on


#josephstalin #msqrdme #funtime #funtimewithjosephstalin #goodapplication

A photo posted by Valeron (@valeron.mezentsev) on

But what’s the source of the Stalingram’s appeal? Its absurdity is an obvious selling point, and there’s got to be some ironic appreciation in the mix, too. But the Moscow Times, while offering a wag of the finger to those who think “it’s fun to turn themselves into a dictator whose reign saw millions of people persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and killed,” suggests that attitudes toward Stalin have softened in Russia over the 60 years since his death.

His legacy is being revised, with some calling for a return to the policies Stalin implemented to “bring order” to Russia. Cultural institutions are celebrating him, and his poll numbers are up.

So, that’s one theory, as sideways as it sounds: Through the lens of history, millennial Russian selfie-takers might actually view Stalin as … cool?

Here’s another, maybe more plausible: It’s that mustache. Stalin may have killed millions as he forced the Soviet Union through industrialization, but his contribution to the digital age is one funny-ass face.

Try putting it on. It’s shocking at first, but seconds later, you just have to laugh. Sure, this futuristic facial-recognition app could be celebrating the merciless past, but it’s more likely it’s just laughing at it.