Siberian sushi-delivery restaurant chain Yobidoyobi took down an advertisement with a black person this week after racist comments and threats from far-right hate group Male State — another example of Russian companies reversing progressive policies following pressure from activists. Yobidoyobi also issued a public apology.
- Yobidoyobi began receiving a flurry of messages last weekend that demanded the advertisement, which featured a black man surrounded by three Slavic-looking women, be pulled. The restaurant’s website suffered a DDOS attack and Yobidoyobi’s co-founder started receiving death threats after his private cell number was published online.
- The group behind this coordinated assault was Male State, which serves as an umbrella group for several ‘nationalist patriarchy’ communities on social network VKontakte. Right now, most of their pages on Vkontakte are blocked. The ideological leader of Male State is Vladislav Pozdnyakov, who was jailed for two years in 2018 for inciting hatred of women (the sentence was quashed after three months). After that, Pozdnyakov left Russia. He was last heard of a few days ago: if you believe a message posted on his Telegram channel, he was arrested this week on the border with Azerbaijan.
- A few days after the start of Male State’s campaign, Yobidoyobi capitulated, apologized, and posted on social media that “on behalf of the whole company, we want to apologize to the Russian nation for offending Russians with our photos.” The incident was reminiscent of a recent scandal when grocery retail chain VkusVill took down an advertisement featuring an LGBT family after it generated online controversy. The family subsequently fled Russia.
- Yobidoyobi received unexpected support from rival sushi chain Tanuki as it faced online threats. But don’t be deceived into thinking Tanuki is a progressive force: the company is entirely comfortable with sexist advertising, including drawing a parallel between girls eating sushi and giving oral sex.
Why the world should care: It’s amply clear that Russian society has a strong undertow of racism and misogyny — and incidents like this show how close it is to the surface. Nor is the situation helped by contradictory messages from the state. Any company interested in ‘edgy’ advertising will have to be prepared to step on this rake for many years to come.