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Russias Vegetarians Thrive, Despite Prejudice

Published: May 16, 2012 (Issue # 1708)



  • Fruit and vegetables were grown in allotments on New Holland island last summer.
    Photo: ALEXANDER AKSAKOV / SPT

Although vegetarianism is not as popular in Russia as in many Western countries and some Russian psychiatrists even consider some of its forms to be indicators of mental illness, the number of Russian vegetarians and vegans continues to grow.

St. Petersburg resident Lembit Lemsipp, a 33-year-old Russian translator who gave a pseudonym for this article, said his major motivation for becoming a vegan was feeling disgusted with the idea of brutality and torture.

I reckon there was some influence from the hardcore punk scene and the health and environmental benefits of the vegetarian diet were appealing, said Lemsipp, who became a vegan in 1997 when he was 18.

Lemsipp said that now it is quite easy to find most of the vegan food he needs in St. Petersburg.

Vera Kozlovskaya, 30, who teaches at St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, said it took her about five years to make her decision to become a vegetarian.

We always had animals in our family, and my parents taught me to love animals and nature, and at some point I realized it was hypocritical to say that I love animals but at the same time eat them and wear clothes made of leather and fur, Kozlovskaya said.

Kozlovskaya said she then thought that vegetarians were doing the right thing by not eating meat, but she still couldnt make a final decision for herself. She thought she wouldnt be able to avoid eating meat and didnt want to inconvenience her parents, with whom she lived, by making them cook special meals for her.

However, when Kozlovskaya was 22, she came home one day and told her mother that she would not be eating meat anymore. Three years ago, she switched from vegetarianism to veganism. She does not wear clothes made from leather or fur, and tries to avoid buying things made of wool.

Kozlovskaya said her parents soon accepted her choice. The other advantage of her new lifestyle was that she finally learnt to cook herself, she said, and it even became a hobby.

Nadezhda Davydova, a 45-year-old PR manager, became a vegetarian in a completely natural way, as she put it.

In fact, I never felt any particular inclination to eat meat, but would eat barbequed meat at picnics with my friends two or three times a year. Then, 12 years ago, I suddenly noticed that I hadnt eaten any meat for more than a year, just because I didnt feel like it. At that time I would still have fish at my friends for dinner or at a restaurant, but gradually fish also disappeared from my diet, Davydova said.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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