Yuma, Mila, Barcelona (The VkusVill Refugees)

Yuma’s Instagram “postcard” from Barcelona: “We are safe, we are resting. We cannot hide our happiness at being a family. Many THANKS to those who supported us, to those who dared to make themselves visible and express their support to us, and to those who supported us in person! Thanks to you, we have not given up! It was a difficult ordeal for all of us, we are all in rough psychological shape. But the sea, the sun and kindness are healing [us]) And we are still with you) and are ready to communicate. We are ready to tell you how it happened, what happened, and why) #wearenotamistake #vkusvill #familyequality

“We were left without work and without a home”: The young women from the deleted VkusVill ad have left Russia

ACCORDING TO ROSKOMNADZOR, UTOPIA IS A PROJECT OF THE NASILIU.NET [“NO TO VIOLENCE”] CENTER WHICH, ACCORDING TO THE JUSTICE MINISTRY, PERFORMS THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT

Why is this not the case?

Women featured in an ad for the VkusVill supermarket chain, which was removed due to homophobic threats, have left Russia for Spain. Yuma, the head of the family, has written about this on Instagram.

“We are safe, we are resting. We cannot hide our happiness at being a family. […] It was a difficult ordeal for all of us, we are all in rough psychological shape. But the sea, the sun and kindness are healing [us],” she wrote.

Yuma’s daughter Mila has asked [her Instagram] followers for help in finding a job. She writes that she can only work remotely, and receive a salary in euros. “Unfortunately, due to this difficult situation with VkusVill, we were left without work and without a home. […] Now my family and I really need to get settled in Barcelona, we are having a difficult time and we need friends, and maybe your friends’ friends or their friends will help us start a new life in Barcelona,” the post says.

Mila’s Instagram appeal for help finding a job

In late June, the supermarket chain VkusVill published photos of families who are their customers and their favorite products on its website and social networks. Among the photos was a family consisting of a mother, two daughters, and the wife of one of them. After the photos were published on Instagram, users divided into two camps: some called for a boycott of the store and threatened the company and the women with violence, while others supported the campaign.

Four days later, VkusVill deleted the photos, and an apology appeared in their place: “This page contained an article that has hurt the feelings of a large number of our customers, employees, partners and suppliers. We regret that this happened, and we consider this publication our mistake, which manifested the unprofessionalism of individual employees.” The apology was signed by Andrey Krivenko, the chain’s founder, and eleven top managers.

VkusVill’s Instagram apology, along with their image of a “proper” Russian family

The removal of the ad caused an even more violent reaction — users most often called it a “disgrace” and “support for homophobia.” Utopia published different opinions on the incident.

Source: Utopia, 3 August 2021. Thanks to Maria Mila for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

I’ll Let the Robots at Yandex Get This One

TASS ✔
Sergei Lavrov said that on the eve of the parliamentary elections in the Russian Federation, new attempts by Western countries to “shake up the situation” and “provoke protest demonstrations” are possible.

“It can be assumed that on the eve of the elections to the State Duma there will be new attempts to undermine, destabilize the situation, provoke protest demonstrations, preferably violent, as the West likes to do. Probably, then a campaign will be launched to not recognize our elections — there are such plans, we are aware of them, but we will focus primarily on the position and opinion of our people, who themselves are able to assess the actions of the authorities and speak out about how they want to further develop their country,” he said.

Translated by Yandex Translate. Source: Telegram

Yandex.Rover, a driverless robot for delivering hot restaurant meals, is seen in a business district in Moscow, Russia, December 10, 2020. Photo: Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

Russia’s Yandex driverless robots to deliver food at U.S. colleges with GrubHub
Reuters
July 6, 2021

Driverless robots will soon deliver food to students on college campuses in the United States after Russian tech giant Yandex (YNDX.O) and online food-ordering company GrubHub (GRUB.VI) agreed a multi-year partnership, Yandex said on Tuesday.

Sometimes described as Russia’s Google, Yandex offers a raft of services, from advertising and search to ride-hailing and food delivery. It began testing autonomous delivery robots in 2019 and already operates at some locations in central Moscow and in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Yandex did not disclose the financial terms of the partnership.

“We are delighted to deploy dozens of our rovers, taking the next step in actively commercializing our self-driving technology in different markets across the globe,” said Dmitry Polishchuk, CEO of Yandex Self-Driving Group.

Yandex’s delivery robots will join GrubHub’s platform, with the service to be made available at select college campuses this autumn. GrubHub partners with more than 250 college campuses across the United States.

“While college campuses are notoriously difficult for cars to navigate, specifically as it relates to food delivery, Yandex robots easily access parts of campuses that vehicles cannot — effectively removing a major hurdle universities face when implementing new technology,” said Brian Madigan, vice president of corporate and campus partners at GrubHub.

The technology behind Yandex’s delivery robots is the same that powers its self-driving cars.

Mark Teeter: When Is a Club Sandwich Not a Club Sandwich?


Mark H. Teeter
Facebook
July 3, 2021

CULTURAL “TRANSITIONS” THAT SHOULD BE DEEMED ILLEGAL.

Or: When is a club sandwich DECIDEDLY NOT a club sandwich? When it’s a клаб-сэндвич, that’s when!

I was wandering through our local Perekrestok supermarket today when I happened to notice the packaged sandwich below: a ham & cheese on white. Ho-hum; there probably isn’t anything more run-o’-the-mill in the sandwich world, and I would’ve walked peacefully on by if my eye hadn’t caught the sandwich’s package label — which proclaimed it a club sandwich (WTH?!?) — and a “DOUBLE” at that!!! (Клаб-сэндвич двойной с ветчиной и сыром. Шеф Перекресток, ₽149.00)

There’s a great deal of corruption in this country, as the whole world knows; but y’axe, it’s hard to think of anything corrupter than calling a measly ham & cheese on white a double club sandwich. Where’d the rest of the ingredients go?!? To the Kremlin Commissary?!?

If you’ve never had an actual club sandwich, see the standard example above. Whoa! Kinda makes you want to find a lawyer and sue whoever is responsible for “borrowing” such a time-honored and respectable name for the Russian version. That thing on the left is a legitimate club sandwich the same way Medieval Kleptocratic Thugocracy is a legitimate form of governance — and our diminutive President for Life is a legitimate head of state.

Hmm, there’s a thought: maybe somebody can start a movement tp rename this sandwich-poseur the Kлаб-сэндвич им. В.В. Путина — the Putin Club Sandwich (additional assembly required).

++++++++++++++++

Oh, and arrest the guy who made up this description for the item:

“Slices of ham and cheese, along with a slightly spicy sauce, on toast. A classic combination of ingredients and great taste! Ideal!”

“На пшеничных тостах расположились ломтики ветчины и сыра, а также слегка пикантный соус. Классическое сочетание ингредиентов и отличный вкус! Идеально!”

Call me a Menshivizing idealist (I’ve heard worse!), but the slapdash thing below and an ideal club sandwich are, in my sandwich-eatin’ view, utterly incompatible concepts. So idealize this, Perekrestok!

Thanks to Mark Teeter for permission to reprint this here and for keeping an eye on things in the Motherland for those of us who can’t be there at the moment. ||| TRR

Recipes for Domestic Bliss

VkusVill removes ad featuring queer family, apologizing to customers and suppliers for “hurt feelings”
Takie Dela
July 4, 2021

The retail chain VkusVill has apologized for an advertisement featuring a queer family. The company’s press release notes that the deleted piece “hurt the feelings of a large number of our customers, employees, partners and suppliers.” In the release, which was signed by company’s founder and its regional managers, the advertisement was dubbed a “mistake that manifested the unprofessionalism of individual employees.”

On June 30, VkusVill published on its website the story of a family consisting of a mother and two daughters [sic], one of whom is engaged to a young woman [sic]. In addition, the “Consumer School” section contained stories from other customers of the store: a woman who lives with a dog, a couple without children, a large family, and a single mother. They talked about themselves and their favorite VkusVill products.

After the advertisement was published, VkusVill and the queer heroines of the article began to receive threats.

Roman Polyakov, the manager of the store’s content factory, told Takie Dela that the store’s employees regularly touch on hot-button topics, including the problems of refugees, people with autism, and people with Down syndrome, and the topic of garbage recycling. He told Takie Dela that VkusVill valued examining issues from different sides.

He added that “it would be untrue” to say that there are no such families among VkusVill’s clients, so he had decided to include [the queer family] in the feature.

According to Polyakov, employees of the content factory consulted with lawyers on how to correctly submit information about LGBT people from the legal point of view, and also discussed with smm specialists and hotline employees how to react to customer dissatisfaction.

Translated by the Russian Reader

_________

A screenshot of the page containing VkusVill’s abject apology to violent Russian homophobes for their queer-positive ad. The page is entitled “Recipes for Domestic Bliss.”

This page contained an article that has hurt the feelings of a large number of our customers, employees, partners and suppliers.

We regret that this happened, and we consider this publication our mistake, which manifested the unprofessionalism of individual employees.

Our company’s goal is to enable our customers to receive fresh and delicious products every day, not to publish articles that reflect political or social views. In no way did we want to become a source of discord and hatred.

We sincerely apologize to all our customers, employees, partners and suppliers.

Respectfully,

Andrey Krivenko, Founder
Valera Razgulyaev, Information Manager
Alyona Nesiforova, Unified Concept Manager
Yevgeny Kurvyakov, Development Manager
Yevgeny Rimsky, Quality and Procurement Manager
Tatyana Berestova, Regional Manager
Lyubov Frolova, Regional Manager
Renata Yurash, Regional Manager
Svetlana Lopatina, Regional Manager
Larisa Romanovskaya, E-Commerce Manager
Kirill Shcherbakov, Micromarket Department Director
Maxim Fedorov, Order Manager

Source: VkusVill website. Translated by the Russian Reader

_________

VkusVill’s ad spotlights a “matriarch,” her partner and two daughters who practice ethical veganism, support fair trade and provide shelter to LGBT people in need. Image: VkusVill Natural Products/Facebook/Moscow Times

Russian Food Retailer Defies ‘Gay Propaganda’ Law With LGBT Family-Featuring Ad
Moscow Times
July 2, 2021

Russian organic food retailer VkusVill has featured an LGBT family in its new promotional material this week, defying the country’s law against “gay propaganda toward minors.”

As part of a series of health-conscious families, VkusVill spotlights a “matriarch” Yuma, her partner Zhenya and two daughters Mila and Alina, who practice ethical veganism, support fair trade and provide shelter to LGBT people struggling to find acceptance in their own families.

“We believe not featuring the families of our real customers would be hypocritical,” VkusVill said, warning readers to “weigh all the pros and cons” before continuing further.

The popular retail chain marked its June 30 promotional piece with an “18+” label to comply with the anti-LGBT propaganda law.

“Family is blood ties or a stamp in a passport. Let’s rethink this. In the 21st century, it’s primarily people who love us, those who will always shield us, people with whom we go through life together,” the promotion says.

Law enforcement authorities, who usually file misdemeanor charges against violators — the most recent of which were the authors of a Dolce & Gabbana Instagram ad showing kissing same-sex couples — have not yet commented on VkusVill’s publication.

Notorious anti-gay St. Petersburg lawmaker Vitaly Milonov took to social media to condemn the “pagan” ad.

Other social media users — which the MBKh Media news website reported swarmed VkusVill’s social media after a notorious anti-LGBT hate group reposted the article — posted threats against the chain.

Western countries and human rights activists have criticized Russia’s 2013 “gay propaganda” law as well as 2020 constitutional changes that contain a clause defining marriage as between a man and a woman only.

_________

yumalevel
Perhaps the most important thing to our family is care and acceptance. And we also fiercely protect each other and all support each other as much as possible. And we also try to help others. And today @vkusvill_ru posted a piece featuring us, and I’m amazed at how much support I saw there!!! “Others” are not so different at all))) it turns out that we are all our kind!!!

I love you! Kind, caring, accepting, gutsy, brave, making the world a world)
💞 💞 💞 💞 💞 💞 💞

Source: Instagram/Moscow Times. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Joy of Plov

“Buy plov. It’s 249 rubles. It won’t betray you. It won’t deceive you. It will love you. Happiness doesn’t cost that much.”

George Zotov
Facebook
June 24, 2021

To the point of tears, you can say.

Moreover, plov is suitable for both men and women.

You can add that plov never smokes in bed.

Plov’s parents never come for visits.

Plov won’t object if you put exactly the kind of meat that you like in it.

Plov doesn’t have social network account.

For 249 rubles, you can do whatever comes to mind with plov. There is no one in the world authorized to protect the rights of plov.

Plov is never interviewed in the media.

However, in our country it is not customary to make your relationship with plov official: no one will register your marriage.

You can take two different portions of plov at the same time, one hot, the other cold. No one’s going to judge you.

Plov may treat you coldly, but it’s easy to warm up.

If you’re in a bad mood you can call plov a soulless bastard, and it will be true. It won’t object to being called a bastard, and British scientists have not announced the discovery of plov’s “soul.”

The statement that plov will always love you is controversial because we rarely love those who devour us. On the other hand, no one has asked Pilaf’s opinion on the matter.

No, George hasn’t not been smoking something. It’s the end of the week and the fucking heat is killing him, just like everybody else.

© Zотов

Thanks to Sergey Abashin for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

__________________

__________________

At Tashkent Supermarket in Brighton Beach, where the screech of the elevated subway echoes through the aisles, one will encounter what might be the city’s longest and largest buffet, a collection of prepared foods fit for an oligarch’s wedding. Sauteed Russian potatoes smell of garlic. Georgian peppers glisten in their Twizzlers-red sheen. Samsa pastries hide fistfuls of lamb beneath their oven-burnished exteriors. And bright red oil pools around ropy strands of Lagman noodles.

All this food sits and steams in over 200 self-serve trays, each located on one of two separate islands, the longer of which spans more than 50 feet. These aren’t so much food buffets as gastronomic yachts. The two structures hold more than 36 salads, even more meat dishes, fried whole fish, fried calamari, grilled salmon, cans of Pringles, sesame chicken, lots of things with lots of mayonnaise, and something extraordinarily purple called “fantasy salad.” What’s a fantasy salad? A terrine of chicken, mayo, and beets, all hidden underneath a bedazzled roof of pomegranate seeds. The tiny berries glow with the force of a Times Square billboard.

Such sensory pleasures are par for course here at Tashkent, a sprawling, late-night ode to the multi-ethnic splendor of Central Asia — and the city’s substantial Uzbek population. The owners shelled out $18 million this spring for a larger location in Bensonhurst, the Commercial Observer reported in April, and a general manager tells me at least four other Tashkent outposts will debut in the coming months. In the meantime, one will continue to encounter serious crowds at the flagship on Brighton Beach Avenue.

Source: Ryan Sutton, “Tashkent Supermarket Is Home to One of NYC’s Greatest Hot Buffets,” Eater, June 10, 2021. Thanks to Sergey Abashin, again, for the heads-up.

Chipsoyed (Crispovore)

Nastya Ivleeva’s popularity almost guarantees trial purchases by loyal followers and innovative consumers. Photo: instagram.com/_agentgirl_/

Nastya Ivleeva to release chips under brand name Easy Peasy
As well as an energy drink and a chocolate bar
Timur Bordyug
Vedomosti
April 19, 2021

“Everyone knows me as a chip-eater [chipsoyed] – chips are my favorite snack. Producing my own chips is a natural decision for me, ” Nastya Ivleeva told Vedomosti. The launch and development of her brands will be handled by Bee’s Knees LLC, which Ivleeva and her partners registered in February 2021, Vitalius Paulus, one of the project’s co-founders, told Vedomosti. According to SPARK-Interfax, 45% of the LLC belongs to Anastasia Uzenyuk (this is Ivleeva’s married name; her husband is the [rapper] Alexei Uzenyuk aka Allj). Paulus and another co-founder of the project, Alexei Klochkov, each own 27.5% of the company.

Ivleeva’s partners are experienced marketers who have worked in senior positions at Procter & Gamble. Paulus was also the general director of alcohol distributor Bacardi Rus and vice president of marketing at Danone Russia, while Klochkov has held top management positions in the Pyaterochka and Dixie grocery chains. They were prompted to join the project by the fact that “Ivleeva is a source of traffic for grocery chains,” says Paulus. “Her image was successfully used to promote the special lines of Lay’s and Pepsi products manufactured for the Magnit grocery chain 2020, and this year the campaign was re-launched,” he said. Paulus believes that young people from Ivleeva’s more than twenty-million-strong audience are interesting to FMCG producers nowadays.

In the coming days, LLC Bee’s Knees will submit for registration with Rospatent [the Russian federal patents office) the trademarks Easy Peasy for chips and Chicha Boom for an energy drink. (Vedomosti has seen a copy of the application.) In addition, a chocolate bar brand will be registered (its name has not yet been disclosed), said Paulus. Thirty to sixty million rubles will be spent on launching the entire line of brands, and ten to twenty million rubles will be invested in each product, Klochkov said. According to him, the partners will invest money in proportion to the percentage of shares they own in LLC Bee’s Knees. They expect that in the near future their brands will occupy shares in their market segments “measuring in the billions of rubles.” For the launch of Ivleeva’s products, three “product categories with a turnover of several tens of billions of rubles, where several major players have 75% of the market” have been chosen, Paulus notes. “They are dominated by western brands, whose marketing and value agenda are shaped at global headquarters and are increasingly at odds with what Russian consumers think and feel,” he says.

____________

Source of popularity
Ivleeva is one of the most popular Russian internet bloggers. She has two Instagram accounts (with over eighteen million and seven million followers, respectively), a TikTok account (with over six million followers), and a YouTube channel (with over four million subscribers). In August 2020, Forbes ranked Ivleeva sixth in its ranking of the top fifteen bloggers by earnings on Instagram, estimating her income at $610,000 a year. (Placing a promo post featuring a photo on Ivleeva’s Instagram page costs 1.8 million rubles [approx. $24,000], a video, from three million rubles, and a “story,” 850,000 rubles.) According to Brand Analytics, in March 2021 Ivleeva took first place in popularity in the Russian segment of Instagram, ahead of blogger and TV presenter Olga Buzova (second place) and mixed martial arts fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov (third place).

Ivleeva was born in the village of Razmetelevo near St. Petersburg. In an interview with Yuri Dud, she said that in the 2000s she worked as a manicurist in the town of Koltushi, and then moved to St. Petersburg, where she worked as a nightclub hostess in a nightclub. She has lived in Moscow since 2015. In 2016, she was invited to host the show “Everything Is Possible” on the TV channel Yu, followed by the program “Heads and Tails” on the TV channel Pyatnitsa. In 2018-2019, Ivleeva played the main role in the TV series “Tourist Police,” which was broadcast on Pyatnitsa. On YouTube, Ivleeva launched two of her own shows – “Agent Show” and “Z.B.S.”

Yuri Dud interviewed Nastya Ivleeva in 2018

____________

According to a NielsenIQ retail audit, sales for 2020 in the product category “chips” amounted to about thirty-six billion rubles, “energy drinks,” to thirty-six billion rubles, and “chocolate bars,” to about 100 billion rubles. In the chips category, the top four manufacturers were Frito Lay, Kellogg’s, Lorenz Snack World, and Russkart, which occupy about 85% of the market in monetary terms, according to Gfk (a survey of 20,000 households in Russia, based on purchases tracked with scanners and mobile apps).

“Our business model is based on a natural extension of Ivleeva’s image, beloved by a multi-million audience, into the brands she sells,” Klochkov says. “It’s a fun and cheeky image, not snobbish or fake.” The products will be focused on the middle price segment. According to Klochkov, the key will be vivid, eye-catching packaging, “constituting a kind of pop art”. In promoting the brands, the partners intend to “rely on the powerful media resources” of Ivleeva, who will also serve as “a supporting figure in creating and producing the creative approach” [sic]. Ivleeva herself says that she plans to involve her company Ivleeva Production in promoting the new line.

Olga Andrushevich, marketing manager in the salty snacks category at Kellogg Rus (manufacturer of Pringles chips), admits that, strategically, Ivleeva and her partners have made the correct choice: the Bee’s Knees team has picked large segments that have been growing faster, on average, than the grocery sector for high-demand goods. At the same time, Ivleeva’s target audiences and the selected categories obviously overlap. According to Igor Pletnev, ex-CEO of the Dixie retail chain, the project optimally combines “Ivleeva’s media power” and “the professional baggage of Klochkov and Paulus, who are capable of attractively packaging a new image for consumers and the retail trade.” Unsuccessful launches by stars of their own brands are most often due to a lack of professional support.

However, Alexei Andreev, managing partner of the Depot branding agency, believes that the connection of brands with Ivleeva will be an argument in favor of buying a product only for her loyal fans, because putting a real person behind a brand usually hinders promoting it to wide audience. In his opinion, personifying a brand immediately makes a product a niche product. The blogger’s popularity almost guarantees trial purchases by loyal subscribers and innovative consumers, agrees Albina Iskakova, commercial director of the Belaya Dolina food holding. But, she said, she has “not seen successful examples,” in the medium and long term, of stars who launched their products and were able to compete on an equal footing with major industry players.

Andreev recalls that many manufacturers today consider the chips and energy drinks segments “toxic”: the authorities have repeatedly discussed restrictions on advertising products whose health benefits are dubious. According to Andrushevich, many major brands are beginning to retool recipes and packaging, making them healthier for consumers and the environment, as consumers have become more attentive to the quality of products, their ingredients, and the environmental friendliness of packaging. “It will be very interesting to look at the ingredient list in the new products from Ivleeva,” she says.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Gunda

gundaGunda and piglet. Photo courtesy of Radio Svoboda

“I Ask Animals for Forgiveness”: The Life of a Remarkable Pig
Dmitry Volchek
Radio Svoboda
March 4, 2020

Not a single human being appears on screen. We see only animals whose lives are run by people: a one-legged chicken, bulls, cows, and, as the main character, a sow named Gunda (more accurately, Günda, as her name is spelled in Norway, where she lives).

“The Russian-born director Victor Kossakovsky offers us not simply a film, but a stunning experience of life.” “A simple yet absolutely astonishing documentary picture.” “An unusual film, and a captivating poetic work of art.” That is how American and European film critics rated Victor Kossakovsky’s documentary film Gunda, which premiered at the 70th Berlin Film Festival.

One of the film’s producers was Joaquin Phoenix, who dedicated his acceptance speech at the Oscars, where he won the Best Actor prize for his role in the film Joker, to animal rights. Like Victor Kossakovsky, Phoenix sticks to a vegan diet. But Gunda isn’t simply activist cinema, urging that slaughtering animals and consuming their corpses is disgusting. Just like Kossakovsky’s previous work, Aquarela, Gunda is an innovative and impeccably made film: every frame resembles a Dürer etching.

After the film’s Berlin premiere, Victor Kossakovsky answered Radio Svoboda’s questions.

Is Gunda still alive?

— I know that art cannot save the world, unfortunately, but we did manage to save one pig.  She has become famous, and her owner said, “Now, of course, I won’t be able to kill her. Let her live as long as she’s supposed to.” Piglets live, on average, four to six months, while sows live two to three years. But now Gunda will live twenty-five to thirty years. My film saved one pig.

How did you meet her?

— That was very simple. We’d planned on about half a year for casting the animals, but I found her on the very first day, in the first minute. I arrived in Norway, dropped by my first farm, opened the door, and caught sight of Gunda. I said to the producer, “We’ve found our Meryl Streep — there she is!” The producer was in shock: “You’re probably joking. No doubt she is just a candidate.” I said, “No, we’ve found her. End of story.” It had dawned on me that I could look at her endlessly: she really was like Meryl Streep. I should say that for twenty years I could not find money for this film. In 1997, I showed my film Wednesday at the Berlinale. When I was awarded the International Federation of Film Critics Prize, a small press conference was organized for me. I was asked, “What will your next film be? What film do you dream of making?” I said, “I’d like to make a film about a pig, a cow, and a chicken.” From that time on, however, I was unable to find anyone who would agree to produce it, neither in Russia nor in any other country, until I found a Norwegian woman who took the risk. I lucked out: at last I’ve made the film that I’d wanted to make my whole life.

You mentioned Meryl Streep, but it seemed to me that, at the end, Gunda was transformed into Anna Magnani in the film Mamma Roma.

— Oh, how brilliant you are! That’s really the case. There is, of course, a turnaround at the end of the film, where she is Anna Magnani, an allusion to the film Mamma Roma. Thank you for noticing. Of course, in every film there’s a first plane, second plane, thirteenth plane — there are things that not everyone sees.

You filmed not only in Norway, but in England as well. Am I right that the cows live in different places?

— Yes, we filmed the cows in two places. The episode when they stand head to tail and help one another swat away flies with their tails we filmed in Spain, on the border with France. We filmed the main episode with cows in England, and the chickens were filmed in Wales. In England and Spain, compassionate people buy cows, chickens, and pigs from farmers who are taking the animals to the slaughterhouse and give them a second chance. Ordinary private citizens living in country homes buy cows and say, “There’s grass all around, live here as long as you like.” For that reason, those animals are so friendly: they weren’t afraid of the camera. A huge two-meter-high bull allowed us to walk right up to him. The chickens had never been outside: they’d been born and had stood, twenty to a cage, their whole lives. We found people who bought those cages and let out the chickens. It turned out that when the door was opened, the chickens would not come out for an entire hour. They didn’t know that it was possible to go out: they’d lived their whole lives in a cage, cramped, never once in their lives spreading their wings, never once in their lives catching sight of the sky. When they came out, they were even afraid of stepping on the grass, as if it were boiling water. They lifted their feet off the grass as if they’d been scalded. And those cows had never been outdoors. They didn’t even know that they should eat the grass: they went out and just sniffed it The bull walked up to a tree and only sniffed the leaves. How intoxicatingly beautiful it was when those cows began to dance and jump! Those chickens were shocked by their freedom: they looked around, not understanding where they were, and reacting to every sound. They opened their wings for the first time in their lives and then looked at themselves: how could this be?

I know that cinema won’t change the world, but I made a movie in order to say to animals, “Forgive me for not being able to do anything.” At least we saved one sow from being consumed. In my movie, for example, there’s a cow who is twenty-two years old. Have you ever seen a twenty-two-year-old cow? Cows are killed as soon as they stop producing enough milk. But in my film the cow lives. You look at her face, and you can see fate in her eyes. She’s a grandmother of sorts, even a great-grandmother. We permit ourselves not to think about the fact that we’re murderers. We allow ourselves to forget it.

_______________________

Victor Kossakovsky

The filmmaker Victor Kossakovsky was born in Leningrad in 1961. He lives in Berlin. His documentary films include Losev (1989), Wednesday 7/19/61 (1997), Quiet! (2002), and Long Live the Antipodes! (2011). He is a winner of the Triumph (1997) and Nika (1998) Russian film prizes, and of numerous international film festival awards. In 2019, his film Aquarela was shortlisted along with fourteen other films for the Academy Award for Documentary Feature.

“As a documentary filmmaker, I probably bear some responsibility for not shooting something about Russia, but it seems to me that there are more problems on earth. Because the very fact that there is Putin, the very fact that there is war, speaks to the point that something about us as biological creatures is not right. If Russians are fighting Ukrainians, something about us, not about Russians and Ukrainians, but about humankind, is wrong. So, I want to understand what this creature — man — is, and what his place on earth is.”

Source: Interview with Radio Liberty (2018)

_______________________

The festival catalogue said that everyone who saw your film would stop eating meat.

— Even the smartest people, even the most distinguished artists who’ve seen the picture, hugged me afterward while ordering hamburgers and citing the notion that, all the same, everything in nature is founded on the struggle for survival. We’ve been living for several centuries in the era of humanism. Many things helped us get rid of slavery, racism, and cannibalism. Now we’re starting to recognize the rights of people with untraditional sexual orientations.

It wasn’t so long ago, after all, that suffragettes were thrown in prison for demanding that women be given the right to vote.

— In my country, there was serfdom 150 years ago. Seventy years ago here, in Germany, and in my country, millions of people were murdered. We are unbelievably aggressive, we have to admit that. Our awareness lags behind our intellect. We’re capable of inventing cars, computers, cinema, rockets, Novichok, and atom bombs, and yet we’re incapable of understanding that killing is wrong. Killing not only people, but killing per se is wrong. But we’ve learned to block that out. Every one of us knows that at dinner, breakfast and supper, we’re consuming the meat of murdered creatures, but we allow ourselves not to think about that, we simply block it out. We know that murder exists, but we’ve come to an agreement that is doesn’t exist. Basically, murder is bad, but in the given instance, as far as dinner goes, it’s okay. That is, we split our intellect and our awareness. So, I wanted to title this film “My Apology.” I’m making an apology to animals for not being able to change the world. I can’t even convince my closest friends that this is crazy. Even the most distinguished cultural figures say to me, “It’s the law of nature.” Even they live with blinders on. They don’t really know the laws of nature: they’ve been told that predators are aggressive. They don’t know that animals are capable of self-sacrifice, love, and mutual aid. They don’t know that, but I do know it. I’ve seen it.

People live inside myths and justify their own ugliness and irrationality. Their hardheartedness is justified by the claim that supposed laws of nature exist allowing the strongest to kill the weak. They don’t exist — it’s a myth. In nature, there’s so much beauty that we’ve never even dreamed of. Every animal is capable of decency. It’s time for us, too, to remember it. Everyone knows that dogs and cats are intelligent animals. Everyone knows that your dog loves you. Everyone knows that it shares your emotions with you, that it’s ready to help you when you’re feeling bad. The same is true of cows, chickens, and pigs. They also have feelings, they are also intelligent, and they also have compassion. They’re ready to sacrifice themselves. But here we have the British Parliament, under pressure from farmers, passing a law that it’s supposedly okay to kill animals because they don’t feel pain. It’s not only our government of imbeciles. No, the willfully unseeing are everywhere.

_______________________

Joaquin Phoenix on Gunda:

“Gunda is a mesmerizing perspective on sentience within animal species, normally — and perhaps purposely — hidden from our view. Displays of pride and reverence, amusement and bliss at a pig’s inquisitive young; her panic, despair and utter defeat in the face of cruel trickery, are validations of just how similarly all species react and cope with events in our respective lives. Victor Kossakovsky has crafted a visceral meditation on existence that transcends the normal barriers that separate species. It is a film of profound importance and artistry.”

_______________________

— At a meeting with young filmmakers, you spoke about the fact that you’re outraged by Putin’s decision to sign the law on hunting captive animals.

— Yes, he has legalized the very basest thing that man can do. I would recommend that all of our women living with men who go and hunt captive animals refuse to have sex with them. They’ll come home from hunting animals in captivity and show photographs of how they killed a bear, and their wives will say to them, “Pardon me, dear, go live with the bears.” That’s the most shameful thing one can do — chase animals into an enclosure and shoot them dead point-blank using a carbine with an optical sight. Leonardo da Vinci said five hundred years ago that killing a human and killing an animal were one and the same thing. A hundred years ago, Tolstoy urged us to come to our senses, but we sign a law on hunting captive animals! Where are we headed, friends, where is our country being dragged? It’s being dragged into an ignorant, loathsome past, a vulgarian past armed with a carbine.

— In your movie there’s not a single human word, but the grunting of Gunda and her piglets seems like speech, music even.

— We recorded several times more quickly than usual, and then we looked at the diagram. We laid out these sounds and found that the cows have approximately 270 words, while the pigs have about 300 different words. They pronounce 300 words! That’s only what we managed to do with our technology. That’s not just one “moo”: our ears can’t perceive them in any other way, but these are various “moos.” An animal’s children react differently to her voice. We are blind and deaf. We simply don’t want to know that they suffer. Think for yourself. We live on this planet together. There are now twenty billion chickens on earth. We kill fifty billion animals a year.

— Then the other half are discarded because they weren’t eaten.

— There are one billion pigs on the planet right now, and we will kill them. They can live up to twenty years. There are one and a half billion cows, and we will kill one third of them this year. We’ll kill all of them, freeze them, and transport them on ships from Argentina, from Brazil. On average, each person eats 100 kilograms of meat [a year] – in Europe slightly less, in America slightly more. Look at what’s happening: there are seven billion of us, and each of us eats 100 kilograms of meat [a year]. Just think about the kinds of numbers I’m talking about. It’s a killing machine. You also have to have slaughterhouses and processing plants. You have to get rid of the waste. You have to freeze, transport, saw up, chop up, freeze, pack up, and sell the meat.

— Industrial animal husbandry is the same kind of system as the Gulag.

— And it’s causing huge pollution to the planet. Why do we think that they’re made differently from us, that we’re so privileged? To save our hearts we use pig organs. And yet we think that we suffer more than they do.

— There’s not a single human being in your film. Only in the final shot do humans appear, in the shape of a beastly iron machine.  Why did you exclude all people from the picture?

— Many films have been made on this topic. Many attempts have been made to capture the slaughterhouse, the blood. It doesn’t work. There’s a good documentary film on the subject, Our Daily Bread. There have been several artistically serious films, but they changed nothing about people’s lives. I thought that I needed to come at it from another direction completely. I tried to do it in such a way that people would see animals as they are, and not as we perceive them. I filmed them at such a distance in order to give them full freedom. And it’s not me who approached Gunda, but she who approached me. That’s a very important point. When they took her children away from her, she came up to me and looked right into my eyes, because there was no one else for her to talk to. She was left alone, suffered for fifteen minutes, and in the end came up to me. Basically, she said to me, “What are you all doing to me?” Then she turned away, glancing at me from afar: “What’s the point in talking to you?” And she walked away. That’s how empty we people are — even a pig could say that to us.

— How did you arrive at veganism?

— It was simple. At the age of four years, I found myself by chance in a small village where there was a pig. It was a cold winter. The pig was left alone, but its two-week-old piglet was brought into the house, and a little pen was made for him. When everyone left for work, he and I ran would run around the house, and afterward we would put things back together: I took the floor rug by one end, and he took the other with his teeth, and we straightened it out. He was the dearest creature to me: he loved me, and I loved him. He understood me and didn’t just run after me. He played with me, and I played with him. I worried about him, and he worried about me. When they slaughtered him, it was the end of the world for me. I couldn’t understand how my relatives could kill my best friend.

My mother later said, “Where does all this come from in you? What is this nonsense in your head? That’s the way the world is made, that one eats another.” I said, “Mama, you taught me this yourself.” One of my earliest memories from childhood was the two us walking down the street. It was a beautiful summer, and I tore a leaf off a bush. I looked at the light, at the setting sun. And I said to my mother, “Look, what a beautiful leaf.” She said, “Tear out one of your own tiny hairs. Does it hurt?” – “It hurts.” – “That’s how the bush hurt, too, when you tore off this leaf.” My mom had given me this immunity. Remember what Dostoevsky said: “I cannot understand how it’s possible to pass by a tree, see it, and not be happy, not feel happiness.” How is it possible not to be happy, seeing this improbably beautiful world? How is it possible to build bombs and frighten other people, instead of thanking your lucky stars that you were born? How is it possible to cut down trees instead of planting them? How is it possible to kill animals instead of giving them freedom and leaving them alone? We should just forget about them, leave them alone and not kill them. After all, they don’t take our children from us. They don’t put us in cages. Look, my pig spends most of its time digging in the dirt. But in point of fact, ninety-nine percent of pigs are born in small cages set on cement floors, and are never able, during their short lives, to root around in the dirt.

What do we do? We only yell: hey, people, what about human rights? Fine, human rights we’ve already grasped. What’s next? There’s no slavery. What’s next? We’re not murdering millions. What’s next? We recognize [the rights of] gays. What’s next? The next step is recognizing that animals have the same rights as we do to live in this world. The next step is admitting that we can choose not to kill.

— And we can get by perfectly well without meat.

— Look at the horse: it’s stronger than you are.

— Look at the elephant!

— The elephant is a hundred times stronger than you are, and it’s a vegetarian. My friends, what are these idiotic ideas you tell me, that, in order for me to work in a slaughterhouse, I need to eat a pig? You don’t need to eat a pig. I can only repeat what Tolstoy said: “Killing a human or killing an animal: it’s the same act of murder.” We live as creatures who allow themselves to kill — that’s the main thing. And we won’t budge forward an inch until we understand that.

Thanks to Dmitry Kalugin and Alexander Markov for the heads-up. Translated by Mary Rees

Tushonka

In 1941, before the United States officially joined the Allied war effort, the Lend-Lease Act passed by Congress offered assistance to any nation fighting aggression (which effectively meant any nation but Germany and Japan) and pushed for the rapid expansion of meat production. The government called on the nation’s meatpackers to provide 4 million, then 8 million, then 15 million cans of tinned meat weekly for shipment abroad. The John Morrell and Company plant in Sioux Falls—drawing much of its meat supply from southwestern Minnesota farms—specialized in tushonka, or canned pork with onions and spices [sic], for the Russians.
—Annette Atkins, Creating Minnesota: A History from the Inside Out (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2007), pp. 193–194

Navy-Style Pasta with Tushonka

Ingredients
Pasta – 250-500 g
Tushonka – 1 can (500 g)
Onion – 1
Vegetable oil – 2-3 tbsp
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
Sugar – 1 tsp
Red wine vinegar – 1 tbsp
Garlic – 2 cloves
Tomato paste – 2 tbsp
Spices to taste
Water (from cooking pasta) – 100-300 ml
Fresh herbs – 4-5 sprigs (optional)

 

Prepare the ingredients.

Bring the water to a boil, season generously with salt and add the pasta.

Mix thoroughly and cook until tender, following the instructions on the package. During the cooking process, periodically try the pasta to prevent it from overcooking.

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over high heat in a frying pan. Add the chopped onion, a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of sugar. Stir-fry the onion for about 5 minutes, until golden brown.

Meanwhile, mash the tushonka until it is almost a homogeneous mush.

Peel and chop 1-2 cloves of garlic. Add the garlic to the sauteed onion, stir and fry for another 1-2 minutes.

Pour in 1 tbsp red wine vinegar. In the hot pan, the vinegar will immediately evaporate, but the fried vegetables will have a pleasant sweet and sour taste.

Add the tomato paste to the fried garlic and onion. Stir-fry the tomato paste for about 1-2 minutes.

Then add the tushonka, stir and bring to a boil over low heat.

When the pasta is ready, do not rush to drain all the water. Pour off about 1 cup of water and save it for making a sauce.

Drain the remaining water. Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil (to prevent the pasta from sticking together) and mix thoroughly.

Add spices to the boiling sauce. I add some Mediterranean herbs, paprika, ground coriander and also salt and ground black pepper.

Gradually pour in the water left over from cooking the pasta until the sauce is the desired thickness. Bring the sauce to a boil and simmer for another 3-4 minutes.

Add the pasta and mix thoroughly. Turn off the heat, add some herbs, cover the pan with a lid and let the dish stand for a few minutes.

Sprinkle a portion of navy-style pasta with a pinch of fresh herbs and serve.

mak po flot s tush

Translated by the Russian Reader

The Birthday Party

OVD Info
Facebook
October 8, 2020

On October 7, protests took place in various cities in honor [sic] of President Vladimir Putin’s birthday. Police reacted differently in each case.

📍 In Moscow, members of Pussy Riot held an anti-homophobic protest by hanging rainbow flags on various government buildings. Police detained a journalist during the protest, and two participants later that evening. They were charged the rules for holding a public event. Today, police continued visiting the homes of the activists.

Left Bloc activists left bottles of PVA glue and swimming fins outside the office of the presidential administration. [This was an allusion to the Russian prison slang expression “to glue the fins” (skleit’ lasty), meaning “to die.”] Police detained a journalist who wanted to see how officials reacted to the installation. He was charged with violating the rules for holding a public event and has his electronic devices confiscated.

📍 In Kurgan, supporters of Alexei Navalny held solo pickets, wishing the president a speedy retirement. Afterwards, Center “E” officers attempted to enter the local Navalny headquarters, but were not allowed to enter.

📍 In Novokuibyshevsk (Samara Region), opposition activists picketed on the city’s central square. Police officers took them to the police station, where they questioned them, scolded them for violating social distancing rules, and released them without charge.

📍 In Petersburg, several people in Putin masks staged a protest outside Gostiny Dvor. Six people were detained and taken to three different police stations. They were charged with violating the self-isolation regime.

Activists of the Vesna Movement arranged a birthday spread outside the house where Vladimir Putin lived as a young man. After drinking tea, they pretended to be dead. The police are looking for the people involved in the protest at their actual and registered places of residence.

Photos by David Frenkel. Courtesy of OVD Info and Vesna. Translated by the Russian Reader

Alexander Brazhko, School Meals Activist, Beaten in Moscow

Alexander Brazhko, Quality School Meals Activist, Beaten in Moscow
Lydia Kadashova
Activatica
September 23, 2020

On the evening of September 22, an unknown person attacked lawyer Alexander Brazhko, coordinator of the Honest Products project. His injuries were very serious, including head trauma, cuts to the face, and severe bleeding.

According to Brazhko, an unknown person, without concealing himself, walked up to him and slashed his face, presumably with brass knuckles worn under a glove. Brazhko was able to get a glimpse of the assailant and gave a description to the police. One explanation for the attack could be Brazkho’s many years of combating counterfeit food products and working to improve school meals in Moscow and other regions of Russia.

Activatica contacted Brazho to find out the particulars of the incident and discuss possible motives for the attack.

Photo of Alexander Brazhko after the attack

Photo of Alexander Brazhko after his wounds were treated in the emergency room

I was returning home and not far from my house when I was attacked by an unknown person, who struck me on the head, on the face. In my opinion, the presence of [other] people probably scared the villain off.

It wasn’t a fight, it was an attack that probably didn’t last more than a minute. And, after I reacted and people took notice, the criminal ran away. I couldn’t quite make out his features, but if I see him, I could identify him. Of course, I needed both too chase down the villain and document my injuries. I think it was brass knuckles. Given the injuries that were inflicted on me, it seems [the assailant was wearing] gloves that were weighted with something.

I have one explanation [for what happened] and it is quite simple. It is no secret that there are a lot of low-quality food products in this country. Along with other social activists, I have been involved in protecting the rights of consumers. It is clear that our interests and the interests of citizens clash with the interests of people with “reduced social accountability,” with those engaged in deception, falsification, and imitation.

I have been working in this area for several years, and I have not received any threats, but I feel that the situation is tense. This incident is an attempt to show civil society that it is defenseless. It is civil society that protects itself, but right here in Russia it is unprotected. Why? This incident occurred in the center of the country, in the capital region, not somewhere in a restricted area, but openly, publicly, in order to provoke a broad public reaction.

Of course, they want to intimidate us, the activists of the region: today they warn us, tomorrow they beat us, and the day after tomorrow they  kill us. But society cannot ignore these threats. At the same time, it must accept the challenge. Unlike market professionals, civil society has no for-profit social institutions. We have the police, the prosecutor’s office, etc., but these are oversight bodies that enforce the law and protect absolutely everyone. And if such things occur, it means that criminals feel they can get away with them. They foster an illusion of impunity when they repeatedly avoid prosecution. Manufacturers of fake products have upped the ante, so they are already beginning to deal with activists in this way.

I have been working on school meals for several years, and my colleagues and I have been raising the issue quite actively. We have helped the authorities, schools, and parent committees to implement the procedure that is prescribed in the law on education and came into force on September 1.

Of course, there are quite a lot of conflicting points on this issue. The schools should be in charge of feeding children. We understand that cooks should be employed by educational institutions themselves. But not every school has its own cooks. Many schools use an outsourcing system and purchase this service. But this is an absolutely opaque procedure for parents. The cooks are not responsible to either the parents or the schools. They are responsible to their employers, and these are mostly commercial organizations. They are interested in making a profit, which does not match up in any way with the interests of parents, who want their children to be fed tasty, high-quality food.

The second question that we have is the timetable. The President spoke clearly about introducing free breakfasts. All children should have full stomachs during their first class of the day. But what has really been happening? The first free breakfast is served after the second or third lesson. Headmasters avert their eyes and say that parents feed their kids at home. If the law [on education] says that grades 1-4 should receive free, hot meals, then breakfast should be served before the start of the school day. This is a serious matter.

The third controversial issue is the operators involved in the school meals market. In my opinion, the efforts stipulated by the law [on education] are powered by parents’ money. If your child did not eat breakfast, then you do not need to pay for it. But what do I hear? “It doesn’t matter whether s/he ate or not. The plate was on the table, so you need to pay.” There is no such model anywhere else in the world. When we come to the store, we don’t have to pay for what is on the shelf, we only pay for what is in our basket.

The fourth question is choice. You can’t plan ahead what you’re going to eat next Tuesday. But parents are told by schools that on a specific Wednesday their children will eat porridge. Why porridge? Why can’t children choose what they want? When school ends, we assume that these people will make their own decisions. There’s a glitch here. I am told that neither children nor parents can make the decision: the schools must set the menu for them and they should eat what they are given. But, my argument is, Why don’t you provide meals on Saturday and Sunday, or during the holidays? These questions remain unanswered.

One of the reasons for the attack may be the active stance taken by me and my colleagues in the regions on restoring order when it comes to school meals. But the specific reason for the attack can only be established by a police investigation. The investigation is underway. In my opinion, the culprit will be identified. It may take more than a week, but we shall learn from the mouths of both the assailant and the people who paid him how I get on their bad side, where I crossed them.

Photos and video courtesy of Activatica. Translated by the Russian Reader

______________________________________

If you imagine that what happened to grassroots activist Alexander Brazhko has nothing to with the “big” news that “really” matters, think again. The parallels between his story and Alexei Navalny’s much better-known conflict with Yevgeny Prigozhin (aka “Putin’s chef”) are too obvious to ignore. The emphasis in the following article is mine. || TRR

Russia Seizes Kremlin Critic Navalny’s Apartment
Moscow Times
September 24, 2020

Russian authorities have seized Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s apartment days after he was discharged from German hospital where he was being treated for poisoning by Novichok, his spokeswoman said Thursday.

Kira Yarmysh said court marshals came after Navalny’s three-bedroom apartment in southeastern Moscow to enforce a $1-million court ruling in favor of catering magnate Yevgeny Prigozhin. The businessman has earned the nickname “Putin’s chef” from his close ties to President Vladimir Putin.

Prigozhin last year won 88 million rubles ($1.1 million) in damages against Navalny and his close associate, who blamed Prigozhin for a dysentery outbreak among Moscow schoolchildren linked to contaminated lunches.

Prigozhin previously vowed to “ruin” Navalny if he survives the poisoning.

“Instead of siding with the affected children, the court sided with Prigozhin,” Yarmysh said in a video on Twitter.

“As a result, they seized the assets and the apartment of a person who was in a coma,” she said.

Navalny came out of a coma two weeks ago after falling violently ill on a flight in Siberia on Aug. 20. Germany, where the fierce Putin critic was flown two days later, said it had unequivocal proof that he was poisoned with a nerve agent from the Novichok family.

The court marshals’ seizure bans Navalny from selling, renting out or leaving the apartment in a will but does not mean he can no longer live there, Yarmysh said.

The 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner is undergoing rehab in Germany after his release from hospital. Yarmysh has said Navalny plans to return to Russia as soon as he recovers from the poisoning.

Meanwhile on Thursday, the Federal Security Service (FSB) rejected a request to investigate reports that security agents tailed Navalny throughout his trip to Siberia during which he fell ill.

Russia denies that Navalny was poisoned and complains that Germany is not sharing its findings in order for authorities to launch an investigation at home.