— Чем преодолеть беды России? [How do we solve Russia's many problems?]
— It's the economy, stupid!
— Иконами так иконами! [Oh, with icons? All right, with icons then.]
by Mark Antololsky,
This joke is making rounds on Russian social networks. It is based on the near homophony between the English word 'economy' and the Russian plural instrumental of 'icons' — eekónami. With only a slight difference in pronunciation in the accented 'o' in Russian.
I can only explain the sudden burst in the joke's popularity as a public's reaction to the increasing number of 'Orthodox activists's' attacks on objects of secular art in Russia. In one recent incident in Petersburg a 'cossack' team smashed a bas-relief face depicting Mephistopheles on a 1910 art nouveau building. (story and image here)
Hundreds gathered today at the site to protest and a large poster with the image of the bas-relief was put up to cover the empty space on the wall.
Fyodor Shaliapin sings Mephistopheles's aria Le veau d'or from Charles Gounod's opera 'Faust'. It is this particular aria that made Mephistopheles into a popular icon in Russia: