When the U.S. ran its campaign for "freedom fries" in 2003, we should have known that more than a decade later, Russia would start its own fast food war. A new Kremlin-approved burger joint called RusBurger is replacing Crimea's three McDonald's restaurants, all the while touting a slogan, "The Taste of Russia."
Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March, and McDonald's promptly pulled their locations out of the formerly Ukrainian territory in April. Then on July 1, news broke that RusBurger's "all Russian-produced ingredients" will be taking the place of Big Macs in Crimea.
Image Credit: Getty Images. A closed McDonald's restaurant in Simferopol, Crimea's capital.
Some might see the RusBurgers as an insult added to injury after Putin used indirect force to take the strategic Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine, a move largely considered by western lawmakers to be a violation of international law. Putin justified his annexation by citing a long mutual history, including Russia's past claims to the region. He also described his move as a reaction to the unrest in Ukraine after the country ousted its own president. Putin needed to "protect" the substantial population of ethnic Russians living in Crimea and take them under his wing. Well, now they are all proud Russians and can eat delicious, all-Russian RusBurgers.
Image Credit: AP. Pro-Russian demonstrators in Simferopol.
RusBurger's marketing campaign so far has been as juicy as its all-Russkii veal-packed burgers. Its unfortunately soundless ad on Vimeo features an evidently smart young man (perhaps a professor of Soviet history?) wearing glasses, enjoying a bite of a RusBurger, probably after giving a long lecture on the genius of Lenin's New Economic Policy of 1921. The text that scrolls from the top of him says, "We will be smarter!" as if Russian food is more clever (or more sustainable?) than America's McDonald's. Then in front of a burger it says, "Ours are tastier!" Smarter and tastier are supposed to rhyme in this context, like a little burger song. I guess in English this genius folk chant might sound something like:
We will be cleverer!
Ours are tastier!
We can just taste that veal burger and lemonade replete with Slavic pears. Not to mention we are excited to order the all-white chicken "naggetsii," which is a pretty hefty foreign cognate to use for such a wholesomely nationalist Russian establishment.
RusBurger is a silly, nonthreatening, only-in-Russia-meme-type part of a more serious trend going on in Putin's Russia, where many believe the president's nationalism will come at the expense of Russian and Ukrainian citizens.
You can find other RusBurger ads on their official website. The restaurant is proud to be the only fast food place in Russian history with an "A-rating." In a country so corrupt that policemen can be bribed to let pretty much anything go, an "A-rating" in food doesn't mean all that much. Unfortunately, when dealing with the geopolitics of burgers, the food has to speak for itself.