Following an executive order by Vladimir Putin, Russia has embarked on a campaign of destroying any boycotted foods confiscated on its territory. The bulldozing, incineration, and burial of tons of illegal edibles is taking place in front of cameras, as a spectacle apparently meant to convey Moscow's commitment to punishing foreign food manufacturers for the West's sanctions against Russia, and as a show of strength that the country doesn't need imports from Europe and North America. RuNet Echo collects some of the most poignant jokes and statements from Russian-language Twitter about this new war on banned food.
Many of the jokes surrounding the eradication of confiscated food imports play with Russia's sacred World War II iconography, which the Kremlin has intentionally cultivated in recent years, in its confrontation with the West over the future of Ukraine. The destruction of edible food has been the subject of mockery (Internet users have replaced Soviet heroes with blocks of cheese), and a cause for anger (as the idea of wasting food in a country with a living memory of famine is insulting to many people).
While many of the Russian government's policies seem coordinated to leverage the memory of the Second World War, inciting patriotism as a way of rallying the country to accept certain sacrifices, Putin's decision to burn, crush, and bury hundreds of tons of good food has been an awkward fit with the usual reverence for memories of the war. Indeed, reviewing the popular tweets about Russia's new food policy, it is remarkable how little the Kremlin's supporters have said about it in the past week. So far, it's the critics who seem to enjoy a near monopoly on this conversation, at least on Twitter.
World War III: the battle against cheeses, and such
This image re-appropriates a famous painting of Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, the celebrated Soviet heroine, executed by the Nazis:
Допрос пармезана. Холст, масло. Москва, 2015 год. pic.twitter.com/R4PsA1bJXg
— Вязаный Твитер (@twitted_knitter) August 7, 2015
Interrogating a parmesan [wordplay on “partisan”—the irregular Russian militants who resisted Nazi occupation]. Canvas, oil. Moscow, 2015.
Alexey Venediktov, the chief editor of Echo of Moscow, Russia's embattled, longest-standing independent radio station, expressed disbelief that Russia's WWII veterans are tolerating the government's new food-eradication policy. Venediktov compares the relative silence about the destruction of food imports today to a scandal in January 2014 that nearly killed the independent television station TV Rain, when it asked viewers if Leningrad should have been surrendered to the Nazis, rather than subjected to a siege that killed hundreds of thousands of people, due to famine.
Ветеранов, которых возмутил вопрос о блокаде, не возмущает уничтожение продуктов. Это что?
— Alexey Venediktov (@aavst) August 6, 2015
The veterans who were so disturbed by [TV Rain's] question about the [Leningrad] blockade aren't bothered by the destruction of [food] imports. What's that about?
Generally pro-Kremlin media personality Vladimir Soloviev, who sometimes ventures to criticize the government (he recently suggested that officials who deny Russia's economic crisis are “incompetent”), expressed shock similar to Venediktov's:
1.Я не понимаю как в стране пережившей страшный голод войны и жуткие послереволюционные годы можно уничтожать продукты питания.
— Vladimir Soloviev (@VRSoloviev) August 3, 2015
I don't understand how, in a country that survived the terrible famine of war and the horrible years of the post-revolutionary period, we could be destroying food.
The political cartoonist Sergey Elkin has had some fun, too, with the military angle of Russia's expanded “war” on boycotted food:
— Sergey Elkin (@Sergey_Elkin) August 3, 2015
Others have shared personal memories of relatives who fought in the war, and how it shaped their attitudes about food:
Меня прадед, когда я всего лишь играл едой за столом, бил ложкой по голове. Представляю, как бы он отхуярил сейчас Путина.
— Дядюшка Шу (@Shulz) August 6, 2015
My great grandfather used to hit me in the head with a spoon, if I played with my food for only a second at the dinner table. I can only imagine how badly he'd fuck up Putin now.
Just say no (to illicit dairy imports)
On what is perhaps a lighter note (or maybe not), many online have joked that Russia's approach to illegally imported food seems to be harsher than its methods of combatting illegal drugs:
Любопытно, что установить оборудование для сжигания контрабандных наркотиков раньше никому в голову не приходило. Сыр – вот настоящее зло.
— Уголок циника (@cynicarea) August 2, 2015
It's curious that nobody ever thought to set up equipment to incinerate contraband narcotics. But cheese—now there's the real evil.
Кстати, наркотики в нашей стране публично не сжигают и бульдозерами не давят.
— Vasily Goncharov (@VS_Oblomov) August 6, 2015
Incidentally, nobody in our country publicly incinerates narcotics or bulldozes them into landfills.
Как узнать, что ваш ребёнок употребляет пармезан.
— Рязанский пармезан (@Judge_Syrova_Ya) August 6, 2015
How to know if your child is on parmesan.
Many Russian Internet users drawing attention to the food-destruction campaign express shame that their country is ruining a vast amount of edible food simply for political reasons. An earlier plan to feed the confiscated food to cattle, rather than destroy it, produced a similar effect:
“Россельхознадзор намерен кормить санкционными продуктами скот” Это, собственно, всё, что нужно знать о современном российском государстве
— Рустем Адагамов (@adagamov) August 3, 2015
Russia's Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance is planning to feed sanctioned foods to livestock. That's pretty much all you need to know about the modern-day Russian state.
Совсем ебнулась страна, конечно. Жаль. pic.twitter.com/iB0kWCQiOm
— Рустем Адагамов (@adagamov) August 5, 2015
The country has completely lost its fucking mind, sadly. [Headline: “A Rich Harvest—Our Answer to the West?”]
Boston Tea Party, meet Texas Tea
As food prices rise in Russia and an economic recession promises to last several more months, at the very least, many online seem to believe that the country is in no position to bulldoze or set fire to food that many in the country are finding harder and harder to buy. The popular satirical Twitter personality “KermlinRussia” joked that Russians could be in for a truly rude surprise, if the government's reserves (set up to balance the budget when oil is cheap) become further depleted:
Сейчас люди отойдут от событий с едой и спросят: А где баксы и евро из стабфонда? И Путин такой: А я их тоже сжег.
— Пeрзидент Роисси (@KermlinRussia) August 8, 2015
Now people are going to take a step back from all this news about food [imports] and ask, “But where are all the dollars and euros from the Stabilization Fund?” And Putin will be like, “Oh, I incinerated those, too.”
Others have joked that domestic producers of food (in this case, cheese) must be celebrating the crackdown on foreign imports, which eliminates European competition that presumably allows Russians to observe relatively lax health-and-safety standards:
Омские сыроделы радуются уничтожению нормального сыра и передают вам всем привет прямо из чана. pic.twitter.com/8CCvflHRwI
— Vasily Goncharov (@VS_Oblomov) August 6, 2015
Cheesemakers in Omsk welcome the destruction of perfectly good cheese and pass along a big hello straight from the milk vat.
A nation of ascetics
Some allusions to history are more recent than Russia's experiences in World War II. Mikhail Gorbachev's famously failed effort to bring down the consumption of alcohol has inspired some quips about Putin's apparent effort to suppress the consumption of food:
Страна прошла большой путь: от “НЕ ПИТЬ” — при раннем Горбачеве до “НЕ ЕСТЬ” — при позднем Путине.
— Роза Моисеевна (@ANAKOYHER) August 8, 2015
The country has really come a long way. From “DON'T DRINK” under early Gorbachev to “DON'T EAT” under late Putin.
You're going down, cheese
Other jokes have parodied Russia's recent political rhetoric, which is strongly anti-Western, often on moral grounds. The satirical account “Everything Is Bad” caricatured what an angry Russian patriot might have to say to all the European cheese now crushed and burned in landfills across the country:
НУ ЧТО СЫР ЕБАНЫЙ ПОЛУЧИЛ СВОЕ, ПРОКЛЯТЫЙ ГЕЙСКИЙ СЫР ИЗ ПОДПИНДОСНОЙ ЕВРОПЫ, ГОРИ В АДУ СЫР
— Все Плохо (@sranysovok) August 6, 2015
NOW WHAT, YOU FUCKING CHEESE. YOU GOT YOURS, YOU DAMNED, GAY CHEESE FROM YANKEELAND EUROPE. BURN IN HELL, CHEESE.
Eat the rich
In a mix of World-War-II memory and criticism of Russia's modern-day elite (known to fulminate against European decadence, but also send their children to study and live in the West), KermlinRussia joked that these youngsters might finally be put to the nation's use abroad:
Россия создаст диверсионные группы из детей депутатов и чиновников, которые займутся уничтожением санкционных продуктов на территории врага.
— Пeрзидент Роисси (@KermlinRussia) August 5, 2015
Russia is creating guerrilla groups made up of the children of Duma deputies and other bureaucrats who will go about destroying the sanctioned Western products on the enemy's own territory.
The bulldozing and burial of tons of food has reminded some Twitter users of the Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine and carted back to their hometowns in Russia. The secrecy that shrouds these deaths was the subject of research Boris Nemtsov was conducting, before his assassination. A report based on his findings was later released posthumously.
Россия – это такая страна, где солдат хоронят тайком и со стыдом, а сыр – демонстративно и с гордостью. pic.twitter.com/uLUVuKbOeX
— Уголок циника (@cynicarea) August 6, 2015
Russia is the kind of country where they bury soldiers secretly and shamefully, but cheese they destroy defiantly and proudly.
Like an illicit advertisement scrawled on a bathroom stall (“for a good time”), or a musician-for-hire looking to attract business, some enterprising cheese venders (or, more likely, some clever jokesters) are already looking to exploit the black market for forbidden European foods:
Ждал когда появится такая реклама, и вот… pic.twitter.com/xjhsj3kxAH
— Evgeny Kozlov (@ekozlov) August 4, 2015
I've been waiting for when advertisements like this would start appearing. And here we go…