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In Russia, Brands Advertising Diversity Are Under Attack

Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple.

In Russia, Brands Advertising Diversity Are Under Attack

Yobidoyobi said it simply "made very standard visuals for social media"

MOSCOW — "On behalf of the entire company, we want to apologize for offending the public with our photos..." reads a recent statement by Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi. What was the offending ad? Yobidoyobi published an advertisement that included a photograph of a Black man.

Shortly after, Yobidoyobi's co-founder, Konstantin Zimen, said people on social media were accusing Yobidoyobi of promoting multiculturalism. According to Zimen, the accusations began to appear after the founder of the far-right Male State movement, Vladislav Pozdnyakov, called on his Telegram digital channel to "leave feedback" about the company, as well as place orders and not pay for them.

"This is all very strange, considering that we didn't even try to 'promote the agenda,' but simply made very standard visuals for social media," Zimen wrote.

Another recent case involved grocery store chain VkusVill, which released advertising material featuring a lesbian couple. (It came with a PG-18 warning, given a 2013 law penalizing "the propaganda of homosexuality among minors.") The company soon began to receive threats and quickly apologized and removed the text and apologized. VkusVill wrote the representation "hurt the feelings of a large number" of buyers, employees, partners and suppliers. VkusVill added that the publication showed "the lack of professionalism of individual employees."

Photo: VkusVill Natural Products via Facebook

Even after that, VkusVill still received a large number of negative comments on social media. For the real life family featured in the ad, they have taken refuge in Spain, after their emails and cell phone numbers were leaked.

"We were happy to express ourselves as a family because LGBTQ people are often alone and abandoned by their families in Russia," Mila, one of the daughters in the ad, explained in a recent interview with El Pais.

It is already common in Russia to talk about "spiritual bonds," a common designation for the spiritual foundations that unite modern Russian society, harkening back to the Old Empire as the last Orthodox frontier. The expression has been mocked as an internet meme and is widely used in public rhetoric. For opponents, this meme is a reason for irony and ridicule.

Patriots take spiritual bonds very seriously: The government has decided to focus on strengthening these links and the mission has become more important than protecting basic human rights. The Russian court even abolished criminal liability for domestic violence. From these recent free speech cases, it's clear that not only members of LGBTQ communities, but also representatives of non-Slavic races and non-Christians are considered a threat to families in Russia.

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