I read in the news that the consumption of kvass is victoriously advancing on the Russian front of soft drinks. “Local drink producers advertise their products as patriotic alternatives to Western drinks. One of them even chose a patriotic name: Nikola, alluding to Ne kola [not Cola]. In the last year they even launched an «anticolanization» campaign against colanizing Western soft drinks.”
Say no to colanization – Kvass is the health of the nation.
– Nu pogodi! [wait a minute] – I recall immediately the title of the famous Soviet tale serial of my childhood. Did they not nail this name and slogan from Pelevin?
Viktor Pelevin (the second one among the three Che portraits) published at the end of the 90's in free web sequels – today we would call it a blog – his remarkable work Generation П, the absurd utopy of the Post-Soviet chaos and of the new order manipulated, moreover created, moreover substituted by the publicity and TV. The action of the novel that takes place in the world of the creatives is dotted by excellent advertisement drafts, illustrating with tangible examples what Pelevin scented with an amazing intuition: that the Russians (but we could also safely say Eastern Europeans) have a great relish for watching the ads and wares, the capitalism and the West being ridiculed – and if this is done in an advertisement, then with this advertisement you can sell anything to them.
In one of these drafts the protagonist writes (already in the 90's!):
First of all it is to be considered that the actual order of things in Russia cannot survive for long. The future dictatorship, independently of its political and economical program, will avail of nationalistic catchwords, and pseudo-Slavic style will become the dominant state aesthetics. In the system of signs and symbols of this style the traditional Western advertisement is simply unimaginable. (…) Let us consider the traditional positioning slogan: Sprite – the Uncola! Its use seems to be maximally purposeful in Russia, albeit for reasons different from America, where the term Uncola successfully positions the Sprite as compared to Pepsi and Coca-Cola. (…) However, we know that in the countries of Eastern Europe, the Coca-Cola has meant rather an ideological fetish than a soft drink, the “taste of freedom”, as it was proclaimed by a large number of Eastern European refugees in the 70's and 80's. Thus the term Uncola creates a largely antidemocratic and antiliberal connotation for the home consumer, a fact that renders it maximally attractive and promising in a military dictatorship. The Russian translation of Uncola is Ne-kola [Некола]. It sounds similar to the name Nikola, and, considering the associations evoked by this word, it perfectly fits in the aesthetics of the probable future. A possible version of its slogan is:
SPRITE – NE-KOLA FOR NIKOLA
[СПРАЙТ. НЕ-КОЛА ДЛЯ НИКОЛЫ]
[СПРАЙТ. НЕ-КОЛА ДЛЯ НИКОЛЫ]
It would be worth to consider the introduction of Nikola Spraitovich, into the consciousness of the consumer, a figure similar to Ronald McDonald but with a deeply patriotic soul.
And yes, they made it. NiKola has arrived, Nikola Spraitovich has been created, the patriotic campaign around it has been organized, and of course the matching political system has been also established in the meantime.
According to the historical summary by Vlad Grinkevich, the Nikola was created on May 9, 2005, the Day of Victory (!) by Nikita Volkov, the director of the Deka beer factory in Novgorod that had lost its market as a consequence of the invasion of Western multinational companies. And he confessedly drew the idea of the name and of the slogan from Pelevin.
The campaign of the Nikola was initially based on a patriotic joining of forces against the “aggressors” breaking in upon Russia, primarily against the two Cola’s, also targeted by name. However, the Russian counterattack also proved too aggressive. The Pepsi- and Coca-Cola raised objections, and the Russian anti-monopoly authorities constrained the Deka to a change of strategy – writes in his recent analysis Anton Gladchenko. They are not permitted to mention the enemy by name. But there are also much more subtle tools, aren’t we Russians after all?
On the eve of the Day of Victory of 2008 new advertisements appeared in the metro and autobuses of Moscow – writes Sergey in his blog Idiotskaya reklama –, that build on the unique skill of Eastern European citizens of reading between the lines. For the initials of the single paragraphs of the usual boring and politically correct blabla sum up the following phrase:
КОЛУ В ГОПУ.
The Cola to… where? What is “гопа”? – ask the Russians themselves. True, this word means a ‘drinking den’ in the slang of the Russian underworld, and in a figurative sense a ‘gang of hooligans’, and whoever knows it may cheer up seeing this ad. However, hardly anyone knows it. But a similar word known and used by everyone is “жопа”, ass, and the term “в жопу” – get the fuck off! Knowing the susceptibility of colloquial Russian to expressive nuances, I would not be surprised to see the eufemism “гопа” soon in standard dictionaries.
But what about Pelevin? Did he receive a percentage after the brand and slogan created by him from the kvass business that has doubled its turnover since 2005?
“We have registered the copyright on the brand, and all its rights belong to us.” – replies on this question Nikita Volkov. – “We keep trying to say thanks to Pelevin, but we have not managed to get in contact with him.”
This noble effort immediately recalls to me another great classic of post-Communist Eastern European literature, the I’m a Communist granny (Sînt o babă comunistă) by Dan Lungu:
Now there is her favorite program, when the listeners can also phone in. They can speak about the voluntary works they have accomplished. Now there is a comrade on the line and she says:
– I’m a working woman from Craiova… In the last days I was in Bucharest to arrange my personal affairs. In front of the Hotel Intercontinental I have found a purse… Of course I have lifted it and looked into it. There were five thousand lei and two thousand dollars in it… From the documents it turned out that the owner of the purse was a certain Anton Cărăşel, Bucharest, Izvoarelor street 46, block A6, stairway C, first floor 3.…
– Yes? And what can we do for you?
– I would like very much to send a beautiful song to Comrade Cărăşel.
And this makes this story really beautiful, Eastern European and Russian.