The Victims of Communism Foundation's Blog

Campari should apologize for July spread of their calendar

Soviet-chic ad crosses a line

Campari—the bitter Italian liqueur—joined those ‘useful idiots’ making communism cool again. They ought to issue an apology for their use of Soviet symbols in an advertisement.

Every year Campari shoots a calendar featuring a celebrity showcasing a cocktail per month. Alumni include: Uma Thurman, Penelope Cruz, and Benecio Del Toro. The French actress and model Eva Green landed the gig for Campari’s 2015 calendar. The photographer is Julia Fullerton-Batten.

For July’s spread, Ms. Fullerton-Batten has Ms. Green sitting legs crossed on the moon in a red jumpsuit and stilettos. She is looking back at earth. On her side table is a cocktail and a space helmet emblazoned with the Soviet insignia—“CCCP.”

Very Soviet chic.

“Don’t just ask for the moon,” says the caption for a drink called Sputnik. “Montecarlo, 1957.Created by the head barman of a famous hotel, it was made to mark the visit of a Russian diplomat, using vodka to celebrate the start of the famous Soviet space programme.”

While Soviet space propaganda has a long history, there are three reasons why the creative director at Campari should not have approved the July calendar spread.

First, a lesson in Space Race History. The USSR put Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, into space in October 1957—remember Jake Gyllenhaal in October Sky? They also put the first man in space, but in 1969 the US put the first man on the moon.

The USSR never put a cosmonaut on the moon.

The July Campari ad lets artistic license and perhaps nostalgia trump historical accuracy.

Second, consider a couple points of historical context.

After Stalin died in 1953, the Kremlin gave amnesty to 1.2 million Gulag prisoners with the same Soviet-style haste that plagued their space program. The amnesty didn’t compensate the former prisoners or return any property, including personal identification documents. Prisoners were given a starvation ration and turned out to make their way home from Siberia. For some this was a death sentence.

Of those were many originally sent to the Gulags during Soviet mass deportations. If they made it home after gaining amnesty, they most often found their houses occupied and with no legal recourse to claim ownership. They resorted to setting up shantytowns where they eked out their life under the constant threat of arrest for failure to comply with Soviet passport laws.

The amnesty did not include political prisoners. Even after the Gulag system was closed in 1960, the Soviets maintained Gulag-style prisons for political prisoners such as the Ukrainian Myroslav Marynovych.

Another reality of life in the Soviet Union during this time was brutal and often bloody repression of grassroots political movements in the nations held captive by communist domination. Before there was the Tiananmen Square Massacre, there were communist tanks crushing their own people in their own cities in, for example, Poland and Hungary in 1956.

Rather than beautiful women in spacesuits sipping cocktails on the moon, this was an era in Soviet history more accurately portrayed by botched domestic policy and tanks killing civilians.

Would Campari dream of promoting a cocktail inspired by the Third Reich?

Third, Soviet symbols like the sickle and hammer, the red star, and the CCCP lettering deserve the same cultural stigma as the swastika. These Soviet symbols represent an ideology that inspired murder as ruthless as the Nazis’. Would Campari dream of promoting a cocktail inspired by the Third Reich? The same sensitivity should be shown to the victims of communist violence.

Cameron Diaz apologized when she made a similar mistake. Campari should apologize, too—there are better ways to sell a cocktail than glamorizing Soviet Communism.