Stas Baretsky is a large, red-coated man who’s recently been in the news because he likes biting into cans of beer. When he performs this stunt, the beer explodes forwards, showering the ground below in fizz and foam. Once upon a time, from 2005 to 2008, Baretsky was a member of the famous Russian music group Leningrad. This summer, thanks to his unusual size and talent for tearing apart aluminum with his teeth, Baretsky has rebranded himself as crusader against Western imports.
This week, he unveiled the latest chapter in his assault on things not Russian, when he burned up, chewed up, stomped on, and then sprayed with beer a stack of dollars and euros. Baretsky said the money added up to about $20,000—his supposed life savings. Before setting the cash ablaze, he addressed “all the businessmen of Russia,” calling on them to follow his lead and free themselves from bedeviled foreign currencies. “We need to use our own rubles,” he yelled, and then he tore into the “foreign papers.” (The money Baretsky burned, it turns out, was fake.)
After some trouble getting the “money” to catch fire, Baretsky stuffed the wad into his mouth and posed for videos and photographs. Bystanders ran up and recorded him with their iPhones and Samsung Galaxies—an ironic twist, given that Baretsky’s previous stunt involved an attack on foreign gadgets in an electronics store on August 27. For his next stunt, he’s suggested that he plans to set his BMW on fire and upload the video to the Web.
Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its continued intervention in eastern Ukraine, Moscow has pursued an expanding “import-substitution” policy that involves replacing foreign goods with products made in Russia. The movement is such a phenomenon of Russian political life today that Vladimir Putin was recently compelled to deny publicly that it has become “a kind of fetish.”