Wednesday, December 21, 2016


In the years leading up to World War II the Soviet Union was a bleak and repressive regime under the absolute rule of Joseph Stalin. In 1934 he founded the powerful nationwide law enforcement super-agency called the NKVD (English: People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs), which became a notorious example of the excesses of power in an authoritarian government agency. The NKVD ran the infamous Gulag system of forced-labor camps, and would also become the predecessor of the equally sinister intelligence service KGB (English: Commission for State Security). Generally speaking, the very name of the old service still brings a chill to most contemporary Russians the way everything Nazi is a sore spot for most Germans.

Which is why, as BBC tells it, the decision of a certain restaurant in Moscow to call itself “NKVD”, putting the Cyrillic letters of the acronym on its facade, and even design its interior after a blatant Soviet motif, could be construed as some sort of complex self-bankruptcy on the part of its owners. When word got out, the place found itself lambasted on social media. And if the staff was to be believed in their testimony to BBC, some parties came in the middle of the night and took down the “NKVD” lettering on their storefront, and they have no clue where the thieves went.

While some may think the owners to be out of their gourd using such a loaded name for their establishment in the first place, there’s no denying that they put a great amount of effort in styling their restaurant. A staff member insists that the “NKVD” in their name was a play on acronyms; translated into English their alleged meaning of the four letters was “National Cuisine of a Great Power”. But that still doesn’t quite explain why the interior dining area is dominated by a large portrait of Stalin the man himself, and that his imagery also pervades the pages of the restaurant’s menus. Then again, in the aftermath of the theft of their signage, the managers have decided to hide the Stalin-filled menus at least until the letters were recovered.

Russians who have been upset with the restaurant’s name say that the very usage of the “NKVD” acronym was tantamount to an attempt at whitewashing Russian history as regards to Stalin’s brutal purging of his own countrymen through the agency’s help. It was bad enough that for decades after his death, it was a big no-no to display images of Stalin in the Soviet Union. Interestingly, “Uncle Joe’s” mug becoming vogue imagery in Russia came at around the time of current President Vladimir Putin’s administration.

The maligned “NKVD” restaurant is located not far from the Kremlin, specifically the old headquarters of the real NKVD of long ago.

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