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Ukraine: “Stalin” Tea Sparks Controversy

According to a recent poll [uk], up to 46 percent of Ukrainians feel nostalgic for the USSR, most of them being pensioners, as well as residents of Eastern and Southern regions of the country. At the same time, only 18% of Western Ukrainians and 19 percent of young people share this sentiment.

Such blurred attitudes toward the recent communist past are being eagerly exploited by manufacturers, who have been using Soviet symbols to market their goods for years. Nevertheless, the recent promotion of a domestically-produced tea named after the notorious Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin has sparked a heated discussion among Ukrainian netizens, many of whom felt that this time marketers have overstepped the line.

In February, Dnipropetrovsk city Internet forum user Vtoroy shared several photos of a billboard advertising the “Stalin” tea. He wrote this [ru]:

Впервые вживую вижу наружную полиграфию с изображением Сталина.

This is the first time I see [outdoor advertisement] with a picture of Stalin in real life.

Some bloggers, however, pointed out that this brand has been on and off the market for the past three years. When seeing it for the first time in 2008, LJ user sparrow_hawk wrote this [uk]:

спосіб заварювання: на крові. і поміцніше

The way to brew it: on blood. And strong.

LJ user bulavec posted a photo of the “Stalin” tea on a store shelf in the Donetsk LJ community and noted [uk] that it was being sold in Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk back in 2009. Around that time, LJ user Tamila Tasheva (tamila_tasheva) from Crimea wrote [uk] that she’d seen the tea in her region as well.

Apparently, this year “Stalin” tea has made a comeback on the Ukrainian market. A few days ago, Facebook user Father Nikanor Skipin shared another photo of a tea-advertising billboard also taken recently in Dnipropetrovsk:

Advertisement of Stalin tea in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine. Photo by Nikanor Skipin

Under the photo, he has posted [uk] the following question:

ЯК ВАМ ПОДОБАЄТЬСЯ ТАКА ОСЬ ДУРНЯ ???

How do you like this piece of stupidity ???

User Tykholaz Igor agreed [uk]:

дурня…

nonsense…

User Vlad Pupych wrote [uk]:

боюсь, отруюсь.

[I’m] afraid I could get poisoned.

User Alina Lukashevich wrote [ru]:

хорошее чувство юмора у производителя))))))))))

The producer’s got good sense of humor))))

User Sergey Bacha also commented [ru]:

Этот чай судя по всему рассчитан на пожилых и очень пожилых людей, вот поэтому портрет Сталина взяли а основу. […]

This tea, by all means, is meant for the [elderly], that’s why they have taken Stalin’s portrait as a basis. […]

User Valeriy Kolosyuk replied [uk]:

Моїй бабці 89-ий рік. Не помічав у неї прихильності до Сталіна.

My grandmother is almost 89. I haven’t noticed her sympathizing with Stalin.

A Facebook user from Belarus, Ales Reznikov, wrote [be]:

беларусау гэтым ня здзiвiш

This would not surprise Belarusians

Sharing an example of Stalin being used for marketing purposes in another post-Soviet country, a Kyiv-based LJ user and photographer boga4 posted a 2010 photo of a bottle of wine taken in a souvenir store in Georgia [Joseph Stalin’s country of birth].

A bottle of Stalin wine at a souvenir store in Georgia. Photo by LJ user boga4

Although in 2007 the former Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko issued a decree banning all symbols and monuments to those responsible for the Holodomor (which would include Soviet leaders), it has hardly been carried through. The attitudes of the current authorities are made obvious by the fact that youth activists held guilty for destroying a monument to Stalin in Zaporizhzhya in 2010 have been prosecuted on charges of terrorism.

  • Ok i am afraid this is just a classical example of marketing going terribly wrong – Stalin tea has crossed all lines I could imagine. Of course, most of the the bad things seem brighter and get acceptable in the long run, but concerning the 20th century dictators, not enough time has passed yet.

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