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Russia’s 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 couldn’t make a final decision for herself. She thought she wouldn’t be able to avoid eating meat and didn’t 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 hadn’t eaten any meat for more than a year, just because I didn’t 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

Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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