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Russian Lawmaker Wants To Curb Foreign Food In Cafes

  • Tom Balmforth

Dumplings could always be on the menu.

Dumplings could always be on the menu.

MOSCOW -- Ever find yourself hankering for dumplings covered in dill and other Russian delicacies, but fail to find a cafe that sells them? Have your quests to find herring in a fur coat or holodets meat jelly ever been foiled by a dearth of restaurants selling real Russian cuisine?

Worry not!

The Russian Communist Party is on the case.

Communist State Duma Deputy Vadim Solovyov is drafting legislation that would require at least half of eateries' menus to be made up of traditional Russian cuisine.

Solovyov told the Izvestia newspaper on July 28 that the preponderance of French, Italian, and Japanese cuisine on Russian menus "reflects badly on the country’s prestige."

He said the regulation would help halt the tidal wave of pizzas, sushi, and noodles that have become ubiquitous on the country’s menus.

"The lawmaker thinks this should lead to the rebirth and development of Russia’s gastronomic traditions and attract foreign tourists," the newspaper wrote.

Solovyov said restaurants and cafes built around a single foreign national cuisine would be exempt from the law.

The legislation must first pass through committee before it can be debated in the autumn session of the State Duma.

It seems unlikely there is political appetite for the proposal.

Since Izvestia changed hands in 2011 and fell under the media empire of pro-Kremlin tabloid king Aram Gabrelyanov, the newspaper has become a repository for barmy legislative proposals that never see the light of day.

Nonetheless, Solovyov's brand of food nationalism is very much in vogue.

As the Ukraine crisis has driven Russia's ties with the West to their lowest level since the Cold War, conservative Russian politicians have campaigned against Western fast-food joints, which are often seen as the culinary embodiment of Western moral decadence.

As the West imposed a volley of sanctions against Russia, Moscow responded with a trade embargo on foodstuffs from the European Union, United States, and a handful of other countries.

After it became clear that the embargo was being bypassed, President Vladimir Putin told authorities last week to intercept banned goods at the border.

The Russian Agriculture Ministry on July 29 finished drafting a government decree ordering that embargoed goods at the border be seized and destroyed, the Kommersant business daily reported.

Meanwhile, film directors Nikita Mikhalkov and Andrei Konchalovsky have been granted government support to create Russia's very own fast-food chain: Edim Doma! (We Eat At Home!)

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    Tom Balmforth

    Tom Balmforth covers Russia and other former Soviet republics. He can be reached at