Motto Is the Message: Perestroika to Whiskas

On a half-forgotten lane in the forlorn Moscow neighborhood of Tushino stands an abandoned, dilapidated poster with half the letters missing:


a nost',


eto nashi lozungi.

As soon as we figured out the riddle of the missing letters, we all felt the same tug on our heartstrings.

This was a perestroika-era sign proclaiming that "labor, glasnost and acceleration [uskoreniye -- that most Gorbachevian of logos], are our slogans," or lozungi, of the day.

There was a certain finality to sloganism in the good old days not so long ago.

My favorite one was Yedinstvo partii i naroda nerushimo ("The Party and the people are indivisible"), which hung on a red banner outside the eternal construction site near the former Leninskiye Gory metro station.

Like a never-ending remont, that poster was something you could count on, a given. A friend.

Alas, as Russia shifted from communist to consumerist, so has sloganry evolved.

It has slid from socialist positivism into the dynamic individualism of Western advertising.

Mir vrashchayetsya vokrug vas, reads the advertisement of one bank. "The world revolves around you."

No longer are we defined by a mass affiliation with a social system. Now we see ads that tell us Ty -- eto to, chto ty nosish'. "You are what you wear."

Amazing though it seems, under communism there were never as many signs exhorting party loyalty and good work habits as there were lampposts.

Which is more than we can say for the advertising campaign a while back that reminded us ad nauseam that Vasha kiska kupila by viskas, or "Your cat would buy Whiskas."

Maybe there was little warmth or meaning to be derived from being reminded that you were irrevocably united with the Party.

But the upside was that those slogans were so bland and meaningless that they never told you what to do.

Which is more than I can say of my least favorite advertisement:

Khochesh' byt' shchastlivym? Bud' im. "Want to be happy? Be it." Nice motto, and an uplifting message.

But whenever I see that sign when I'm in a bad mood, I feel like throttling my dachshund.

I wonder how many other deranged souls out there read that ad and see justification for committing axe murder?

Try doing that with a nost' and eniye.