Today I have a fairly cheesy story for you. Recall that Western countries (Europe and the U.S. mostly – I call them “Westies” for short) are waging a vicious economic war against Russia. (No time to go into all of that, you can google other sources to get the background.) All part of the geo-strategic Great Game, which is waged on several fronts simultaneously.
Now, the Russian people have proved, throughout history, that they can weather pretty much any attack or suffering inflicted on them by a sworn enemy. Recall that during the German attack and siege of Leningrad 1941-1942, Russian civilians trapped in the city survived on 500 grams of bread per day. Meat was scarce, and there was no talk of artisan cheeses. Children were lucky if they could get a sip of milk. And yet the Russian people survived, and even emerged victorious, kicking Nazi ass all the way back to Berlin.
The moral of the story: Anyone who thinks that Russians will come crawling back to their natural “masters” just for a bite of parmesan or the delicious aroma of Spanish prosciutto … simply don’t know who real Russians are.
Let’s Get Real
Having said that… Okay, let us fully stipulate that Italian parmesan is the best parmesan in the world; and that Spanish prosciutto is the best prosciutto in the world. There is no point in denying this, or trying to pretend that home-grown substitutes are just as good. The point is that Russians can survive on substitutes. Hell, Americans have survived for decades on fake cheese — some kind of weird, orange-colored plastic substance — and they’re still alive. Well… rapidly turning into Walking Dead en masse, but still… mostly alive.
Okay, having stipulated that real food is better than fake food, and that imported luxury food of the highest quality is something that is desirable for any nation to be able to afford, we turn to the fact that several months went by, since the start of the “embargo”, that Russian supermarkets have not been stocking several previously-popular brands of European parmesan cheese, nor Spanish prosciutto – in Russian called хамон (“khamon”). And that Russians have survived without these luxury foodstuffs.
But why just survive when you can thrive?
A Lawyer and a Poet Walk Into a Supermarket…
Returning to the VZGLIAD story, the lede is that businessmen from two nations, Russia and the tiny Republic of San Marino, plan to sign a series of contracts on March 18. Which is actually today. The contract will be signed — maybe has been signed already — at the economic forum of the CIS countries. San Marino is represented by the Minister of Territorial Development and International Economic Collaboration, a woman named Antonella Mularoni. Her wiki bio is scarce: She was born in 1961, is a politician and served as judge for the European Court of Human Rights. She graduated with a law degree from Bologna University. Which may have been an early indication of her ensuing interest in delicious Italian pork products. It is said of Antonella that she is a straight-talking gal who will not tolerate baloney. Nor can she abide fake food pretending to have “real Italian” flavor in it.
The Russian side of this negotiation is represented by a man named Vladimir Lishchuk. Who turns out to be some kind of Renaissance man: a writer and a poet, as well as a businessman! According to his bio, Lishchuk was born in 1955, in the Kaliningrad area, in a family of army officers. By education, Lishchuk is an engineer and economist, who also studied in a military academy. In 1997 he became a successful businessman and ended up owning a chain of supermarkets in the Moscow area. (Hence, also his interest in pork and cheese products.) In the other part of his life, Lishchuk is a poet and song-writer. He is a member of the Writers Union of Russia and also of Academy of Russian Literature. He has won awards for his works, including the Order of Peter the Great (Second Degree), Alexander Nevsky (Second Degree), and many others too. Here is a clip of his popular patriotic song called “I am a Russian”:
Let’s Make a Deal
In his current capacity, Lishchuk is representing a Russian commercial organization called the National Association of wholesale and distribution centers (NAORTS) – in Russian Национальной ассоциации оптово-распределительных центров (НАОРЦ). Of which the ever-talented Lishchuk is the Executive Director.
According to Lishchuk, the deal with San Marino will allow for Russia to import many products currently under embargo. Including parmesan and prosciutto. It’s sort of a loophole to the embargo, because the European goods will pass through San Marino first, on their way to Russia. Lishchuk emphasizes, that these products are artisan and specialty in nature, they are not used by the wider consumer market in Russia, just enjoyed by a relatively small number of connoisseurs. Nonetheless this is a step in the right direction. Of breaking the unfair embargo.