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Russia rolls out Boaty McBoatface–style online naming contest for new nuclear weapons

One of the first suggestions was “Volodya,” a Russian diminutive of Vladimir.

In his state of the union speech earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin proudly unveiled his new “invincible” nuclear weapons alongside an animation of warheads raining down on Florida. Hours later his government lightened the mood by rolling out an online naming contest for the shiny new weapons of mass destruction.

One of the first suggestions: “Volodya,” a Russian diminutive of Vladimir. That sycophantic offering came from the head of Russia’s state-controlled RT network, Margarita Simonyan.


The military version of Britain’s Boaty McBoatface contest launched by Russia’s Defense Ministry Thursday opens a portal where seemingly anyone with an email address can submit names for three advanced new weapons: an unlimited-range, low-flying, nuclear-powered cruise missile; a long-distance nuclear torpedo-drone; and a high-powered laser gun.

Read: No need to be scared of Putin’s new nukes (any more than the old ones)

Proposals immediately began pouring in to the Russian defense ministry’s Twitter and Facebook feeds. The Russian embassy in the United States even seemingly invited Americans to participate in what it called Putin’s “name-that-weapon” contest.

One Russian user wrote the long-range nuclear torpedo-drone should be called “The Kraken.”

Another referenced a Soviet pop song to propose the missile should be dubbed “Goodbye America.”

The laser could be called “Cyclops,” or “The Eye,” wrote one user, and the missile should be “The Anglo-Saxons’ Nightmare,” suggested another.

Other ideas dripped with scorn — like “boomerang.” Someone proposed naming the missile “The Nemtsov,” after slain Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, who was gunned down steps from the Kremlin. The new nuclear sub could be called “Liberals’ Tears.”

Western observers were quick to seize on a parallel with the early-2016 contest to name a research vessel held by Britain’s Natural Environment Research Council. In that poll, “Boaty McBoatface” became the runaway favorite. In the end, however, the public was overruled, and the ship was named the “RRS Sir David Attenborough.”


“Rocket McRocketface,” one Western Ph.D. student tweeted.

“Nukey McNukeface, Subby McSubface y Lasey McLaserface, obviously,” another replied to the Russian embassy.

The portal received 63,000 suggestions in the first 17 hours, Russian outlet RBC reported. One out of 10 ideas came from outside the borders of the former Soviet Union.

The naming contest seems to have the same goals as Putin’s combative speech: whip up enthusiasm to ensure a high turnout ahead of Russia’s March 18 election, in which Putin’s a lock.

Cover image: Russian President Putin watches the launch of a missile during naval exercises in Russia's Arctic North on board the nuclear missile cruiser Pyotr Veliky. Russian President Vladimir Putin watches the launch of a missile during naval exercises in Russia's Arctic North on board the nuclear missile cruiser Pyotr Veliky (Peter the Great), August 17, 2005.