In 1827 Russian poet Pyotr Vyazemsky (1792-1878) wrote in a letter from Paris:
Many see patriotism as unqualified praise of everything that is your own. [French economist A.R.J.] Turgot called this “servant patriotism,” du patriotisme d’antichambre. In our country we could call it “kvas patriotism.”
Why move false patriotism out of the antechamber and into the realm of food and drink? This invocation of kvas—that most Russian of thirst-quenching drinks—is not accidental, and the concept of kvas patriotism has continued to flourish across economic regimes in Russian history. Generally used as an insult, the term coincides with a platform of cultural self-sufficiency and an idea of Russian national identity which in some periods of history have been seen as positive traits.
The relationship between food and country almost always intensifies in relation to war and times of national anxiety, and Prince Vyazemsky was not the first to connect homegrown nutrition with jingoistic patriotic feelings. The talk will explore the concept of “kvas patriotism” as related to national pride and entrepreneurship from its inception through its application in the era of food nationalism and economic sanctions. Drawing examples from poetry, film, and the popular press from the nineteenth century until today, Brintlinger aims to identify specific Russian cultural myths related to nationalistic ideas about food and their uses.
Angela Brintlinger is professor of Russian literature and culture at Ohio State University and director of the OSU Center for Slavic and East European Studies. Brintlinger has written on literature, war, and madness, and she recently published two books about food and culture: a translation of Pyotr Vail and Alexander Genis’s 1987 Russian Cuisine in Exile and an edited volume entitled Seasoned Socialism: Gender and Food in Late Soviet Everyday Life.