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Russian Artist Creates Envelopes Specially Designed for Bribes

Laser inkjet labels

In offices and homes around the world, envelopes and cheap bubble mailers are a common item used to ship a variety of items. Many people simply buy wholesale bubble mailers and never think twice about it. In Russia, however, an artist is using this popular object to make both a political statement and a living: he recently sold out of envelopes created specially for bribes after the designs went viral in his homeland.

On Tuesday, April 21, Siberian artist Vasily Slonov posted photos of a new project on his Facebook page: envelopes decorated with the text from the Russian criminal code article that deals with bribery. “Friends, let’s make life beautiful,” Slonov joked on the website. “Let’s improve the culture of giving bribes.” He invited bureaucrats, government officials and businessman to join in on the project, even highlighting parts of the envelopes that could feature advertisements. He specifically suggested that the Krasnoyarsk city government and Krasnoyarsk lawyer’s chamber advertise on the envelopes, two groups who have been suspected of corruption in the past.

Within a week, Slonov said he had run out of his original stock of 100 envelopes, which he had been selling for 100 rubles apiece. While many of his customers were fellow citizens who found humor in his satirical idea, the artist reported that some of the corrupt bureaucrats themselves had bought envelopes as well. In light of his success, he is printing another order, some of which will be sold at the Winzavod Contemporary Art Center in Moscow.

Over the past few years, Slonov has made something of a name for himself due to his acidic, satirical humor. In 2013, he created welcome posters for the Sochi Olympics that featured the Olympic rings made out of barbed wire and nooses, a pedestal with a vodka bottle in first place, and other designs. The posters caused a small stir before the Winter Olympic Games: an exhibit in Perm was closed down after it displayed them, and a Siberian politician called them Russophobic. In the past few months, he also created a mural of President Vladimir Putin out of U.S. Dollars and Russian and Soviet rubles.

Asked about the inspiration for his latest project, Slonov called bribes an intrinsic part of Russian culture and government. He refused to say whether he had ever given a bribe himself.

While the inspiration and message of the design on his cheap mailers is clearly Russian, it would be interesting to see a similar project on American wholesale bubble mailers. Similar projects from TV shows like Last Week Tonight have actually created printable sticker labels to place on questionable or unethical products, but wholesale bubble mailers would be another matter entirely. Would you print out laser labels or use envelopes to share your political beliefs? Tell us why or why not in the comments below.

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