02 November 2006


I think this is one of the best chocolates in Russia: Alyonka by Red October Chocolate Factory.
But what makes it more interesting is the drawing of a stereotypical russian girl with a headscarf. Now you it is impossible not to notice the gigantic ads on the streets and I learned that it also has a story...

In 1962, photographer Alexander Gerinas took a picture of his daughter, Yelena, who went by the nickname of Alyonka. The photograph was on the cover of the magazine Zdorovye (Health), and seems to have caught the eye of the chocolate manufacturers at Red October. Yelena Gerinas claims that one of the factory's artists did a drawing of the photograph, turning it into what the company calls "a national Russian image."

Everyone seemed happy until 2000, when Yelena Gerinas, the heir of her now-deceased father, went to court to prove that the image of the wrapper belonged to her father -- and her. She asked for more than 4 million rubles (then $143,087) in compensation. The court did not consider whether Gerinas was the original model for Alyonka, but rather whether she had the rights to the image. In the end, the judge determined that regardless of whether the drawing was based on the photograph, it was a new, independent work of art and ruled against Gerinas. So the jury is permanently out on how closely the chocolate wrapper Alyonka resembled the real Alyonka.

This legal spat does not seem to have dimmed the chocolate's popularity. It remains a source of nostalgia for older Russians, and a source of smudged cheeks and sticky hands for the younger generation of chocolate lovers.

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