German chancellor Angela Merkel joined Instagram on June 2. The first photo shared by the verified account @bundeskanzlerin—meaning female chancellor—features Merkel at a 2013 EU summit in Brussels.
Merkel—or, more likely, her social media manager(s)—has shared 45 photos in the past two days. Her list of followers, numbering 32,ooo as of this morning, is still relatively small for a public figure, but the Moscow Times reports that by other measures things have “escalated quickly.” Every photo in her feed has received a barrage of comments from Russians, many of them hostile to Merkel and in praise of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The emojis depicting the Russian national flag need no translation—nor does the message “Glory and praise to Putin!!!”
A photo of Merkel talking to Ukrainian president Petro Poroschenko garnered more than 200 politicized comments, with some users joking about Poroschenko going into hiding in Argentina. Many are laced with expletives, and one offered the caption “American [door]mat and Ukrainian nazi.”
Some other selected comments, translated into English: “Glory to Soviet soldiers!” “The Russians do not surrender,” “Putin is great!” and “Russia wins.”
It is not clear whether the comments were the result of an organized campaign, but as the New York Times Magazine reported this week, the Russian government is known to employ “thousands” of people on “troll farms” to flood the internet with its political agenda. But Instagram is popular in Russia anyway, as a “preferred means of public communication” for social and political activism. So the fact that hordes of opinionated, Russian-speaking Instagram users descending on Merkel’s account and dispensing vitriol to their country’s age-old antagonist may not be that surprising.