Like St. Javelin and the Ghost of Kyiv before it, the humble tractor has become a symbol of Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s invasion. Videos and pictures of tractors hauling away Russian armor have gone viral on social media. Though none have been verified, there’s half a dozen or so clips making the rounds and as they’re shared, they’re eventually turned into memes, posters, and T-Shirts. A tractor hauling away Russian armor is now as ubiquitous a symbol as the Javelin or Molotov Cocktail.
The first video appears to have surfaced online on February 28, just four days after the war started. In the video, a tractor is shown hauling away a Russian tank while someone runs alongside, desperately trying to catch up. “Ukrainian farmer steals Russian tank from right under the nose of the Russians who occupied it,” a subtitle says.
The footage spread far and wide and soon it was matched with other, similar videos and photos. A green John Deere hauled a Russian tank through a snowy street. Two tractors hauled a piece of Russian armor through a muddy field…the veracity of tractors hauling tanks doesn’t matter to people sharing the footage and transforming it into memes. It’s a powerful symbol that bolsters twin narratives about the war: Russia’s military hardware was not prepared for this war and everyone in Ukraine is ready to fight back against Russia, including farmers.
On March 1, Kyiv also announced it won’t be charging taxes on Russian assets captured by Ukrainian citizens. “Have you captured a Russian tank or armored personnel carrier and are worried about how to declare it? Keep calm and continue to defend the Motherland! There is no need to declare the captured Russian tanks and other equipment,” read the announcement.
For me, that’s the best endorsement of the reality of farmers rolling away with Russian armored vehicles hooked up to their tractors. Letting folks know in advance they won’t be taxed on their spoils of war is an absolute hoot – and spot on!
Doesn’t do the US connection any harm, either, to see how many of those tractors are John Deere Green.