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How the John Deere Tractor Became the Symbol of Ukrainian Resistance

Mamerto Adan is a feature writer who is back in college once again. Science is one of his favorite topics.

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In these darkened times, we could all use a humor. But sometime, the jokes could be as dark as the situation we are in. Nevertheless, humors are humors. And if it relieves tensions, then so be it. I mean during the Battle of Lepanto, an awkward moment of laughter broke, when the Janissaries ran out of munitions and started throwing fruits instead. Back in the Second World War, the Allies amassed some odd jokes, like this English joke from North Africa. You know, when the clock goes forward, it goes “tic-tac.” But when Rommel goes backwards, it’s “tactic.” Even the soldiers deployed in Afghanistan found time to laugh with jokes of their own.

Then, there is the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

What makes this war truly ugly is the global repercussions it caused. Some people often frown at the fact that nations hyped up this war, while ignoring other conflicts like the Iraq or Syrian War. At some point, such notion is being use by Russia as propaganda material. Yet, the rising fuel cost and other crisis are the least our worries. This war just triggered the fear of nuclear holocaust, with Russia brandishing their nukes and threatening to use it. It’s a potential horror that hits the modern world since the rise and fall of ISIS. But amidst the darkened prospect, hope suddenly came crawling out from an unlikeliest of sources.

From a humble farming tractor.

Tanks Being Towed Away

The tractor seems to have a smug look.

The tractor seems to have a smug look.

The military planners of Russia thought it will be a lightning war. They thought that a blitzkrieg, combined with the use of special forces would decapitate Ukraine, and occupation would only take days (even hours). Russia began to flex its muscle as the day of the planned invasion closes, with display of intimidating military buildup. Eventually, the fateful day came, but the result was never expected. The world held its breath, but Russian helicopters went down, as tanks got blown. Casualties on both sides mounted, with Russia leading the way.

And we see abandoned Russian armored vehicles being towed away, by Ukrainian tractors.

The story goes like this. Russian soldiers tend to abandon their fully intact and undamaged vehicles for some reason (to be discussed below). And an unclaimed tank being left in the open makes for a tempting loot for farmers. Hence, they boarded their tractors and towed the prize away.

Videos like this began to surface in late February 2022. With the internet crawling with fake news and propaganda related misinformation, we were skeptical at first if those were real. Eventually as the war progressed, it was confirmed that those videos are indeed real, and farmers have discovered a new hobby of collecting Russian armor. The videos themselves became viral, both for dark humor and what it means to the Ukrainian resistance. People even joked that tanks being collected by farmers is the first in the history of warfare.

The John Deere Tractor

The 8R 8295R model, the new king of ground war.

The 8R 8295R model, the new king of ground war.

Russia was developing advanced tank technology long before its invasion of Ukraine. The British Challenger and the U.S. Abram were proven game changer, while Russia still clings to its Cold War era armors. The Armata is Russia’s answer to western tanks, but it was not being seen in the invasion of Ukraine. So far, all we see are modernized versions of Soviet era tanks, like the T-72.

But people joked that it met its match in Ukraine.

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Meet the John Deere tractor. An agricultural equipment produced by the U.S. based Deere & Company. The tractors are recognizable through its signature bright green color. And as what the videos showed, the 8R 8295R are one of the models being used (the one with a seemingly angry looking headlights). And thanks to the viral stunts of the Ukrainian farmers, the said tractor just gained notoriety. In fact, one could say that slowly, the John Deere tractor is becoming an icon and symbol of Ukrainian resistance. But there is a story behind the hilarious viral videos.

The Messed-up Ground War

Damaged Russian tank.

Damaged Russian tank.

To begin with, the Russian invasion of Ukraine just went down in history as among the sloppiest. During the beginning of the war, we saw blown-up tanks and grounded chopper, though some people expected those as the usual casualties of war in its beginning phase. There were those that even suggested that Russia was resorting to its old Soviet tactics. The conscripts and old equipment will go first as cannon fodders, to wear the enemy before the elite marches in. But as days turned to weeks, and weeks become a month, it became clear that the Russian army had no idea what it was doing.

Literally.

Captured Russian conscripts, mostly under the age of twenty with hardly any combat experiences often speak of how they are tricked into going to war, that they were told that it was just a military exercise and not a full-scale invasion. Some were also fed with wrong information, like how they will liberate a country from the so-called “Nazis” and open arms of grateful Ukrainians will come and greet them. But instead of various thank you, the young soldiers encountered gun fire and anti-tank missiles from angry, and well trained Ukranian defenders.

Having less knowledge of what you are fighting for is bad enough for the morale. Running low on supplies is even worse.

Before he got killed in Ukraine, Lt Gen Yakov Rezantsev boasted that the war will only last a few hours. Maybe that’s the reason why Russia hasn’t paid much attention to supplying their troops. Russia chose a complicated multi-pronged assault with little emphasis on logistics. The result was their supply line failing to catch up, with most falling to Ukranian raids. This left the troops with little supplies and fuel and the armored convoy stalling.

Left with no resources, not to mention with dry fuel tanks, the demoralized soldiers simply walked away and abandoning their still intact vehicles either to surrender, or return to the border.

And a passing farmer in his John Deere is ready to take the fresh loot away.

Significance and Meaning

A from Reddt.

A from Reddt.

Eventually, the image of a Ukranian tractor dragging an invading Russian tank seems to take a deeper symbolism. A farming equipment capturing a fully armed weapons of war mirrors how Ukraine, a smaller country is able to challenge a much larger Russian forces, even inflicting heavy losses. And the fact that the captured Russian vehicle is fully functional, albeit with an empty fuel tank says a lot about the blunders of the Russian military. We could say that the tractor towing a tank is the Ukrainian war in a nutshell. But one might wonder what the farmers did their loot.

Some suggest that they will keep it as trophies, or be sold. But in recent reports, the Ukraine has more tanks that it did before the war. Meaning the farmers turned the war loot to the army.

References

1. Gault, Matthew (16 March, 2022). "The Tractor Has Become a Symbol of Ukrainian Resistance". Vice.

2. Brown, Chris (18 March, 2022). "Famous for towing captured Russian tanks, Ukrainian farmers step up for war effort". CBC.

3. Cole, Brendan (01 March, 2022). "Russian Forces Abandoning Their Vehicles and Surrendering, Videos Show". Newsweek.

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