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Бавовна /bavóvna/ is a recently-introduced meme about the current russo-Ukrainian war (2014-current). It is, indeed, a linguistic phenomenon.

There are three factors at play here:

  1. Throughout recent years, russian propaganda uses various euphemisms and newspeak to diminish the importance of catastrophic events in its controlled territories: terms like "newly available manpower" for "rise in unemployment", "water-soaking" for "flood", "a negative rise of the economic growth" for "economic decline", etc. One of the most used terms is хлопо́к (/xlopók/ - clap, pop) for "explosion".
    The Ukrainian word for "clap" is also хлопо́к; note the stress on the 2nd syllable.

  2. The word хло́пок (/xlópok/ - cotton) has the same spelling, except it has stress on the 1st syllable.
    The Ukrainian word for "cotton" is бавовна.

  3. Like everywhere, russian Internet trolls continue the information war on Ukrainian social media. Most of them do not speak Ukrainian, but they pretend as Ukrainians in order to deceive Ukrainians. They use machine translation from russian to Ukrainian, which leads to the following kind of posts:

    bavovna

    Слышен мощный хлопок rus - a severe clap was heard;
    Чулася потужна бавовна ukr - a severe cotton was heard.

Once appeared, this word became a meme from there on and began its own evolution in Ukrainian social networks and on public news agencies to denote explosions on russian military bases and on the front line.

In her speech on Ukraine's Independence Day, British Ambassador to Ukraine Melinda Simmons appeared with a bouquet of sunflowers and bavovna flowers:

British Ambassador to Ukraine Melinda Simmons with a bouquet of bavovna flowers

Additionally, the visual appearance of a cotton flower resembles an explosion, so modern AI (Artificial Intellect) engines, when asked for бавовна на курорті (cotton on a beach), draw pictures like this:

a cotton on a beach 1 cotton on a beach 2


Sources:

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    Any chance there could be an older connection? Reason I am asking: In older German military slang there is a phrase of unknown origin: "Kattun kriegen" (to get Kattun) which means to come under heavy fire. Kattun is cognate with English "cotton" and refers to a kind of cotton fabric, I think calico. In an example sentence from E. M. Remarque's "All Quiet on the Western Front" (about WW1) is seems to refer specifically to intense artillery bombardment: "Kat horcht hinaus: »Diese Nacht gibt es Kattun.«". Personal speculation: phrase could have originated with use of guncotton in 19th cent.
    – njuffa
    Aug 15 at 8:41
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    @njuffa Combining de.wiktionary.org/wiki/Verzeichnis:Deutsch/Soldatensprache#K and de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_gefl%C3%BCgelter_Worte/…. (in both links, you need to search the page for Kattun): "Kattun" could refer to cleaning cloth of english origin, therefore "Kattun kriegen" could have started as an euphemism for "we'll be cleaned off by the tommies". But that's a question for the german SE, I notice that there's no search result there for "Kattun" yet ;-)
    – orithena
    Aug 15 at 11:31
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    And there was a huge rush with russian homonyms having different semantical equivalents in ukrainian - Підлога країни хоче змінити державний будуй, бо нема вже сечі терпіти ці борошна. That was an infallible sign of russians intended to mimic ukrainians by google translate.
    – Kondybas
    Aug 26 at 7:03
  • Я не можу не залишити це :)
    – improbable
    Aug 29 at 19:37

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