Who is Alyonka?
Although Russia’s main exports have for a long time been oil, gas and other natural resources, the iconic chocolate brand Alyonka (Алёнка) stands out for selling one of the few Soviet products which made it through the economic chaos following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today, Alyonka is still the brand market leader of chocolate in the Russian Federation, as well as one of the most iconic Russian symbols.
How it all started
Moscow’s Red October factory started producing Alyonka chocolate bars in 1966, after being given a livestock subsidy by the government. The rise of the brand was also possible thanks to the political situation, the Brezhnev years (1964 – 82), embraced by many as a period of prosperity and stability. The factory was provided with good quality milk, thanks to which they produced very tasty chocolate at an affordable price (80 kopecks vs the ruble for a bar of regular bitter chocolate). Its low cost, together with its creamy taste and aroma, made Alyonka the most popular brand of milk chocolate in the USSR.
The story behind Alyonka’s face
We are sure you have seen this face before: in Russians’ imagination this heartwarming picture of a rosy-cheeked little girl has been associated with the brand Alyonka for more than 40 years. But who is this sweet blue-eyed infant? Let’s find it out!
Since Alyonka’s managers couldn’t agree on the design of the wrapping, they decided to hold a competition through the Evening Moscow to find the face of Alyonka, after which the iconic picture was selected to be the official face of the brand. In an attempt to find out the real identity of the original little girl, the brand launched an advertising campaign in the 1990s with the title ‘Alenka, where are you now?’.
Even though participants replied in waves, the scores of applicants were whittled down to just one: Elena Gerinas, the daughter of the famous Soviet photographer Alexander Gerinas. Despite the factory welcoming her with open arms, in 2001 the woman decided to sue the brand, demanding compensation for the use of her face without consent. The matter surely has left a bitter taste, but didn’t damage the brand, which won the lawsuit due to lack of evidence.
Even the name “Alyonka” was carefully picked: the managers of the brand stated that they chose it because of the prestige connected to it, seeing as Alyonka was also the daughter of two famous Russian astronauts, Valentina Tereshkova (the first woman to ever go to space) and Andriyan Nikolayev.
Alyonka’s current popularity
On the occasion of the 40th birthday of the brand, a contemporary artist called Ivan Zemtsov organized the Alyonka Mail Art Project, where devoted consumers around Russia could send him their personal reinterpretations of the iconic chocolate design (the postcards were displayed in the Yoshkar-Ola Museum of Fine Arts in 2006).
What about now?
Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union and the many changes the country’s economy has undergone, Alyonka still stands strong: the brand continues to grow, diversifying its products and exporting any kind of sweet delicacy abroad. In our internet era the chubby face of Alyonka has increased its popularity, pulling the trigger on an avalanche of memes and photomontages of the iconic infant. Here are some of them:
If you like chocolate…
Whether you are interested in Russian culture or you are a sweet-tooth (maybe both), we suggest you should try these iconic chocolate bars. They come in a lot of sizes and flavors (with nuts, candies and dried fruits) and you can easily purchase them on the internet. Give them a try and let us know which one is your favorite!