Putin’s invasion has led to people shunning Russian products, celebrities and even cats. Many of those affected by the boycott are against the war; others aren’t even Russian. But the past 250 years show that this crude weapon can also be highly effective
A couple of weeks into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Alexei Zimin realised something unfortunate about his London restaurant, Zima: there was a capital Z right above the entrance. Zimin, who comes from a small town two hours north of Moscow, was horrified by the association with the dominant symbol of an imperialist adventure that disgusted him, and he ordered its removal. But it wasn’t enough to exempt his business from the boycotts that have become a central feature of western outrage at Vladimir Putin’s war.
Bookings at Zima, which has recently added chicken kyiv to its menu of Russian staples such as borscht, pirozhki and blinis with sour cream, had already started to drop off. Staff were fielding abusive phone messages from anonymous callers who had concluded that they must be supporters of Putin, and were perhaps unaware that 80% of kitchen staff there are from Ukraine. Zimin didn’t really take it seriously, but he put security on the door just in case.