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Preved Medved (ПРЕВЕД МЕДВЕД) is an exploitable image derived from a watercolor painting by American actor, musician, and painter John Lurie titled Bear Surprise combined with a Russian play on words. The original artwork depicts a wild bear suddenly ambushing a couple who are having sex in a meadow while yelling “SURPRISE.”
John Lurie completed his watercolor painting “Bear Surprise” (shown below, left) in early 2006. The painting gained its online notoriety in February 2008, when Russian internet user Roman Yatsenko uploaded an edited version (shown below, right) to Dirty.ru, replacing the English word “surprise” with “ПРЕВЕД” (Preved, meaning “Hello Bear”), a portmanteau term that combines a misspelling of the greeting “Privet” and “Medved,” which means bear in Russian. According to Russian wikipedia, the misspelled usage of “Privet” began two years prior with “prevet” in 2004.
Throughout 2006, the original picture became heavily circulated on the Russian internet via e-mail, blogs and numerous photoshopping and captioning contests on forums, where parodies and derivative images began to emerge. The online popularity of “Preved Medved” also led to the creation of a promotional poster for Russian edition of Newsweek magazine (shown below), in which the chief editor is shown yelling the iconic phrase while multiple bears fly in the background. In May 2006, the meme was reported in The Moscow Times by Victor Sonkin, who described it as having “gained vast popularity with the speed of an avalanche.”
The mainstream interest in “Preved Medved” reached a new height during Vladimir Putin’s online Q&A conference with Internet users in July 2006, when an anonymous post referencing the meme (“PREVED, Vladimir Vladimirovich! How do you regard MEDVED?”) was chosen as the most voted question with 28,424 votes. Putin or Kremlin did not provide a response to the question, but the Associated Press reportedly interpreted the question as a reference to then-vice-prime-minister Dmitry Medvedev.
Since its rise to popularity, Preved Medved has been also referenced in Russian TV shows, films and musical performances, most notably in the animated series UmaNetto, Moscow photographer Irina Nikishin’s 2008 film “Borovsk, hello!” and the concerts of Russian group DDT.
Usage in Slang
According to Russian Wikipedia, the meme has also led to the development of an argot known as “Preved,” which is identified by a specific pattern of alternate spelling which emerged from the word.
In this pattern, voiceless consonants are replaced with their voiced counterparts, and unstressed vowels are interchanged pair-wise – a and o stand in for each other, as do e and i.
In addition to “Preved,” the words уча́снег (a misspelling of участник, meaning “user” or “participant”) and кагдила (a misspelling of как дела, meaning “how are you”) also illustrate this pattern. Furthermore, the scene depicted in the original painting can be alternatively iterated in the form of ASCII. According to Russian Wikipedia:
In forums, blogs, chat rooms and other interactive means of communication, “Preved Medved” can be used as a widespread smiley in the form of the Latin letter «Y», showing the characteristic gesture of a bear, as well as "Gg ^ Y», denoting both a bear and a pair of lovers.
Search queries for “preved” (ПРЕВЕД) peaked in July 2006. Since then, it has been in slow decline but still shows interest. Most of the articles written on the image were published in between 2006 and 2007.