Photo exhibit sheds light on food in modern-day Russia
FAO hosts Russian photo exhibition
12 September 2007, Rome – A new photographic exhibition at FAO headquarters takes viewers on a vivid tour of Russia’s vast food landscape.
From the lone farmer leading his goats across the deserted windswept steppe to shoppers wandering a richly stocked supermarket set within a palatial marble building, photos capture the rich diversity of the country’s food market.
Diversity is perhaps no surprise in what in one sense could be considered “the world’s longest food chain”. Russian territory spans some 10,000km from Kaliningrad to the Bering Strait.
The exhibition is a joint initiative of FAO and the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, which boasts the country’s largest photo archive with over one-half million images.
These photos chart the production and consumption of food right back to the tsarist era, through 70-plus years of Soviet rule and the eventual dissolution of the USSR.
But the exhibit’s emphasis is very much on food in today’s Russia.
Nick Parsons, director of FAO’s Communication Division, explains: “The aim is to offer a glimpse of modern Russia through its food, although a lot of what is eaten does have its roots in tradition.
“Much has been written about Russia and the radical changes it has undergone, but perhaps less is known about life in Russia today, including what people eat.”
Russians indeed enjoy a deep basket of traditional food – from sweet and savoury pies to sour cream and cucumbers – that feature in the exhibition.
As always, these traditions originated in what people could grow or hunt, and include sturgeon and caviar, wild mushrooms, borscht and schee soups, dark rye bread, fermented milk beverages and buckwheat kasha.
Trade may be brisk in today’s coffee shops and supermarkets, but a closer look reveals that consumers continue to seek out traditional foods as well.
Older Russians can also recall the darker times of limited supplies, hunger and even famine, for example during the military sieges of World War II.
The relationship between FAO and Russia dates back to 1945, when the USSR was among the founders of the Organization.
It was only in spring 2006 however that the Russian Federation – legal successor to the USSR – formally became a full member of FAO.
“We’re happy to take part in this creative collaboration with RIA Novosti,” adds Mr Parsons. “It has been a pleasure to work with images of this quality and variety.”
“This is one of the first initiatives of its type for us,” says Sergey Startsev, RIA Novosti’s representative in Rome. “We are proud of the exhibit that has taken shape, especially in view of Russia’s newly activated membership in FAO.”
Although at present the exhibit is open only to representatives of member governments, official visitors to FAO Headquarters and staff, the organizers are evaluating other possible exhibit venues for the future.
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