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Constantin von Hoffmeister draws connections between the current tensions between the United States and Russia and the world of zombie movies, highlighting the danger of nuclear annihilation and how it resembles the threat of the undead.

The article was originally published here.

In a world shrouded by the morbid darkness of the living dead, where survivors desperately cling to life in a grim underground bunker, Russia directs a funereal warning to President Joe Biden and the United States. This warning, corresponding to the ghastly sight of reanimated corpses closing in on their prey, portends the ever-growing risk of nuclear devastation. The bitter feud over strife-ridden Ukraine ensnares the two nations, mirroring tensions between desperate survivors besieged by the unfaltering undead as they huddle together in a makeshift laboratory, conducting horrific experiments on captured ghouls.

In this hideous landscape where the living dead prey upon the remnants of mankind, a revelation emerges, reminiscent of tortured secrets encrusted within the souls of tormented characters. The United States resolves to cease the exchange of crucial knowledge regarding its nuclear arsenal with the Russian government. This decision follows Russia’s own refusal to divulge such arcane information, in response to their cessation of involvement in the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty). The chilling silence that falls upon the brutal carnage echoes in this somber revelation, much like the high-strung moments before the undead breach the sanctuary, revealing the betrayal of one of their own.

Vladimir Yermakov, an enigmatic figure of foreboding authority within the Department for Nonproliferation and Arms Control of Russia’s Foreign Ministry, speaks with a tone steeped in melancholy. He cautions that the fate of the START may be as irrevocably sealed as the wretched destiny that befalls the hapless protagonists in a dreadful tale of the undead should the United States remain unwavering in its adversarial posture towards Russia. Amidst the watchful gaze of the ravenous undead, Yermakov alludes to the most pressing peril of the present – a nuclear escalation born from the direct military clash between nuclear-armed adversaries. With a mournful finality evocative of the heartrending scene when the undead overrun the bunker, he expresses his profound lament for the unstoppable growth of these ominous threats.

The START serves as a cryptic compact between the United States and Russia, an accord that binds them to constrain their respective nuclear arsenals, evocative of the tenuous alliances forged among the imperiled survivors in a harrowing zombie film. Initialed in the year 2010 and enacted in 2011, this treaty supplanted the lapsed START I, restricting each nation to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed delivery systems. Encompassed by the desolation wrought by the undead and the incessant hammering upon the barricades of mankind’s final sanctuary, this delicate agreement teeters on the precipice of annihilation, much like the wavering hope amidst the gruesome scenes when the survivors realize there is no escape from their subterranean prison.

Yermakov, exuding an aura of portent that pervades the prose of a heroic age, insinuates that the potential entanglement of the West in the worldwide expansion of the US anti-missile system could imperil the fragile strategic equilibrium maintained with both Moscow and Beijing. Initially devised to counter missile onslaughts from North Korea, Russia has expressed apprehension that this system could be redirected to assail its own nuclear arsenal. Amid the grotesque terrors of the living dead, allegiances are tried and the fibers of fidelity unravel, reflecting the strains that beset the characters in a chilling narrative of the undead as the pressure boils over, resulting in deadly infighting among the survivors.

The entente between Russia and China evokes a malevolent alliance, wrought in the penumbra, one that has intensified its clasp in recent years, akin to the unyielding grasp of the undead. Conjoined in their resistance to the US-dominated global order, these formidable forces endeavor to counterpoise American sway. As the ravenous undead relentlessly lay waste to the world, their collaboration burgeons across diverse domains, such as energy, defense, and technology, much like the inexorable advance of the living dead, which forces the survivors to band together, despite their differences and dwindling hope.

In latter years, these two sovereignties have wrought more profound martial bonds through collaborative exercises and armament trade, mirroring the desperate stratagems employed by the survivors in a terrifying chronicle of the walking dead. Economic collaboration has flourished, with Russia provisioning China with essential natural endowments, whilst China heavily underwrites Russian infrastructure and technological prowess. Meanwhile, the living dead stand as mute witnesses to a realm tottering on the brink of catastrophe, conjuring the sensation of imminent calamity that suffuses the desperate scenes when the beleaguered survivors must traverse a zombie-infested cavern in search of an escape route.

The recent remonstrations proffered by Russia manifest as a morose memento of the deepening discord between the United States and Russia, a predicament that has rankled since the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. This dissonance reflects the putrefaction that corrupts the living dead. Both titanic nations are embroiled in a renewed arms rivalry, devising novel armaments and conveyance apparatuses, whilst the world surrounding them capitulates to the inexorable assault of the undead, similar to the horrifying scenes when the tide of reanimated corpses floods the survivors’ last bastion of hope.

As the circumstances further descend into pandemonium, the United States and Russia, custodians of the world’s most potent nuclear stockpiles, balance on the verge of a confrontation that could precipitate apocalyptic repercussions for the entirety of mankind. Amid the rot and despondency of a realm swarming with bloated vermin, the living are compelled to confront the horrid specter of nuclear annihilation, as well as the insatiable undead that already stalk the earth, much like the chilling scene when the unrelenting forces of the reanimated converge upon the survivors, leaving them with a harrowing choice: to confront their fate or to embrace oblivion.

Slavoj Žižek, in his tome Living in the End Times, delves into the morbid subject of how the ascendancy of zombie cinema doth mirror the dark apprehensions and forebodings of our times, wrought by the blight of global capitalism and the impending disintegration of our social fabric. The zombie, according to Žižek, embodies our collective terror of the loathsome excesses of capitalism and represents the ultimate manifestation of our postmodern phobias. In his discourse “Zombies as a Metaphor for Politics,” Brian Anse Patrick expounds upon the notion that the vogue of zombies in motion pictures and televisual presentations reflects the profound disquiet of our society concerning political correctness, globalism, and the fracturing of long-standing societal norms. He postulates that zombies epitomize a nondescript force of mayhem that portends to unsettle the established status quo, and that our infatuation with such frightful manifestations divulges our terror of the enigmatic and our yearning for stability in a world replete with uncertainty.

In the midst of the scarlet turmoil and the foul odor of death, the ultimate scene of the cursed saga unfolds like a nightmare dredged from the depths of the Stygian abyss. The quartet of survivors, besieged by the unyielding zombie throngs, takes refuge in a chopper as it ascends into the overcast heavens above the desolate city. Gazing down upon the doomed ruins of civilization, their eyes behold a grisly vista of destruction and decay, a vast expanse of wretched terror and impenetrable hopelessness. And in that instant, as the dementia of the living dead threatens to engulf them all, they are left with the daunting realization that the apocalypse is not a mere occurrence but a maleficent entity that will forever torment the shattered remnants of mankind.

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Constantin von Hoffmeister

Constantin von Hoffmeister studied English Literature and Political Science in New Orleans. He has worked as an author, journalist, translator, editor and business trainer in India, Uzbekistan and Russia. You can subscribe to his newsletter here:

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25 days ago

Great to see Zizek make it into the discussion. I am left wondering are these the slow moving Romero Zombies or the quick ones of 28 Days? I think fast since they seem to be pushing ideological change at a rate that hurts the liberal project more than helps it.

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