Bonfire of the sanities
Russia’s Beer Nativism

aa5ed876-4a8a-11e5-_963842cNationalist activists are showing their love for Mother Russia by destroying foreign beer as a way to promote domestic food products in the wake of the self-harming food import ban that the Kremlin introduced as a counter to Western sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine. The London Times reports:

A group of ultra-conservative Cossacks, spearheaded by a rock star, have marched into a supermarket and ripped apart cans of “unpatriotic” booze.

In an apparent response to western sanctions, Stas Baretsky, 43, a former vocalist with the Moscow-based band Leningrad, joined the Orthodox Union of Cossacks in their campaign of destruction in St Petersburg.

As a crowd of onlookers gathered, he ripped apart a can of Danish lager with his teeth, spraying foam everywhere. “Don’t we have our own beer?” he asked. “Have all our beer factories been closed down?” […]

Mr Baretsky joined the Cossacks in their search for American and European Union produce to destroy. He said that he had been named “minister of culture” for the Cossack group. “We are in a state of Cold War with the European Union,” Andrei Polyakov, the Cossack leader, said. “Europe causes us trouble, and we have to feed it by buying its goods?”

Earlier in August, Moscow tightened the terms of the ban by ordering any that any contraband comestibles be destroyed. That’s been followed by the public crushing and burning of a many picnics’-worth of such foreign products as Dutch flowers, Spanish Ham, and French cheese. Strangely enough, beer isn’t even on the list of prohibited products.

At the end of the 1400’s in Florence, the social pendulum swung wildly and frequently between moralizing conservatism and orgiastic, opulent hedonism. It was there that Dominican priest Girolamo Savonarola and his followers rose up at the end of a particularly decadent period and ransacked the city’s homes for sinful objects like games for gambling on, fancy clothing, expensive non-religious artwork, and, most famously, mirrors. They burned the loot in the town square—the so-called bonfire of the vanities.

Just like in Florence (and hopefully not like that other great historical incident of burning cultural objects), the Russian protests are a jarring demonstration of how much and how quickly cultural moods can change. The relationship between Russia and the West has deteriorated further and faster than almost anyone had imagined it might. It’s been less than two years since the invasion of Crimea. Remember the reset?

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