Tag Archives: Lenin

Eating the Soviet Union

13 Jan

With nostalgia for the Soviet Union peaking as fascists and speculators are once again perceived to be threatening the gates of Moscow, Anya von Bremzen’s timely memoir of the USSR, Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing, provides interesting food for thought about the crazed experiment that attempted to construct a communistic paradise on earth.

Von Bremzen’s epic tale of her family’s trials and travails through the Soviet Union, charted via the medium of food, takes the reader on a journey from the excesses of the period running up to the October Revolution to the post-Soviet era of oligarchs and mafiosi and their own extravagant lifestyles.

Von Bremzen spent the first 10 years of her life in the USSR before emigrating to the USA in 1974 with her mother. The book harks back to her time living in a flat near Moscow’s Arbat and her adventures cadging juicy fruit chewing gum from diplomats for trading with her schoolmates. But its her family and the profound effect that the Soviet Union had on their lives that are the real stars of this tale.

Von Bremzen and her mother’s journey through the culinary world of the land of the Soviets begins with a multi-layered kulebiaka pie and travels via the leaner times of Lenin on into the manufactured famines of the 1920s and early 1930s.

By the end of the 30s Stalin’s land of socialist plenty was being imagined with kotleti, the Soviet take on the hamburger, emerging as the food of the masses. Then came the war years with rationing and starvation just around the corner before the tide was turned.

Von Bremzen’s work draws heavily on the Book of Tasty and Healthy Food: Iconic Cookbook of the Soviet Union, the USSR’s premier guide to the art of proletarian cookery curated by the USSR Ministry of Food and by the people’s commissar Anastas Mikoyan. First published in 1939, subsequent editions set the standard for the Soviet table.

The stagnant years with Brezhnev at the helm of the Union were remembered as a time of the ubiquitous Salat Olivier, a melange of boiled carrots, potatoes, pickled cucumbers, boiled egg and whatever protein was to hand all smothered in the ever-available mayonnaise.

The chaotic Yeltsin-years of the 1990s are marked by the arrival of plov, the Central Asian rice-based dish spiked with lamb, cumin, raisins and chick peas became a firm favourite with the post-Soviet generation.

In her foodie odyssey through the Soviet Union, von Bremzen has found a darkly humorous and compelling way to bring to life the years of the Soviet Union and tell its history. One wonders how the food of Putin’s Russia will be remembered with the rouble tanking and sanctions against imports beginning to bite.

Kazakhstan: Nauryz Under Threat?

21 Mar

As Kazakhstan prepares to celebrate Nauryz, fears are growing  that this year could be the last time that the festival is celebrated as more details of Project Verny, the sinister plot to annex the country, are revealed.

A spokesperson for Project Verny told kazaxia that “Nauryz does not conform to the cultures and traditions of ethnic Russians living in Central Asia. When the region is incorporated into the Central Asian Federal District, the festival will be replaced by  a more Russia-focused celebration”.

Nauryz, the spring equinox celebration in Kazakhstan, is celebrated on March 22 and marks the start of the new year. The holiday was banned in Soviet times and was only revived in the 1990s after the Soviet yoke was thrown off.

After the annexation of Crimea by a Russian-backed goblin army, Kazakhstan could be next on the list. Following annexation, nauryz could be replaced with an Easter-themed holiday for this Muslim-majority region, a celebration of Lenin’s birth or a commemoration of the day Vladimir Zhirinovsky became a member of the komsomol in his native Alma-ata, present-day Almaty.

[Editor’s note: Zhirinovsky is being mooted as the de-facto leader of the proposed Central Asian Federal District. The capital of the region will be Almaty, reverting to its one-time name of Verny].

Kazakhstan: Project Verny Unmasked

10 Mar

Project Verny, the sinister operation that may see Kazakhstan and other Central Asian states being annexed by the Russian Federation, is gaining momentum after secret meetings in Moscow last week.

Russian nationalist troublemaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky started the Project Verny ball rolling on February 23 when he called for called for the establishment of Russia’s “Central Asian Federal Region,” with “Verny” – the Russian Tsarist-colonial era name of Almaty, as its capital.

Following Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea, a part of the sovereign territory of Ukraine, the initiative has picked up speed with incumbent Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev summoned to the Kremlin on March 5 to discuss the project with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

It is believed that President Nazarbayev will be allowed to stay on as a figurehead president, with Zhirinovsky, who was born and raised in Alma-ata, the Soviet-colonial era name of Almaty, pulling the strings. This role is a reward for Zhirinovsky’s decades-long service as a faithful lackey to the Kremlin.

Karaganda in central Kazakhstan could be used as the transit point for Russia’s bully boys. Local self defence units and whip-toting Cossack thugs can be flown into the city via a recently-initiated Aeroflot flight from Moscow. Karaganda has a sizeable Russian-speaking population and is just three-hours journey for Kazakhstan’s capital Astana.

The catalyst for flying in local self-defence forces could come from a bizarre incident involving a pensioner and a lift in Astana. Olga Matvienko, a 74 year-old from Astana, told kazaxia that she was left befuddled after riding in a Kazakh-speaking lift recently.

The lift’s automated voice read out numbers such as “bir,” “tort” and “besh”, leaving the life-long resident of Kazakhstan, who has no knowledge of the Kazakh language, stranded as she tried to find the third floor.

“This voice kept on saying “tort” [cake in Russian] and I was very confused,” Matvienko told kazaxia. “I implore Vladimir Ilyich to protect my rights as a Russian-speaker in Tselinograd.”

[Editor’s note: the pensioner seems to have muddled up her Vladimirs; she probably means Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] here rather than Vladimir Ilyich [Lenin]. Also, no-one appears to have informed her that Tselinograd – the Soviet-colonial era name – is now known as Astana].

Could this strange case be the casus belli that Vladimir Vladimirovich and Vladimir Wolfovich [Zhirinovsky] have been waiting for to grab  land in what they see as their Central Asian backyard?