March 16, 2021

Draining the Tanks


Draining the Tanks
At St. Petersburg's pool – ahem, dolphinarium – visitors can get a picture with a beluga or dolphin for only 300-500 rubles ($4-$7). Amanda Shirnina

The marine mammal display industry has been booming in post-Soviet Russia, catching up to the American model just in time for the U.S. to drop it. But the State Duma is now expected to put an end to the practice.

A recent article entitled "Don't Catch Willy" — a reference to the 1993 film Free Willy — reports that the Duma is considering a bill to ban the wild capture of whales, dolphins, and seals. The bill is expected to pass and would also impact Moskvarium.

Svetlana Bessarab, Duma deputy, writes that some of the hunting scenarios are "absurd: the dolphinarium orders the poacher to catch the animal, state authorities seize the animal, and then they transfer the animal to the dolphinarium that had ordered it, for safekeeping."

It is already the case that marine mammals cannot be hunted in Russia for other than scientific purposes. But it is obviously easy for dolphinaria and oceanaria to sport an educational mission statement while operating primarily for entertainment and profit. Each animal caught in the ocean sells for about $2 million, making it a lucrative business.

Russia remains one of the most prolific collectors of marine mammals in the world. If the bill passes, it will also cut off another market: China buys about 100 marine mammals per year from Russian hunters for entertainment purposes.

The report argues that some animals live in simple "cisterns." Mobile dolphinaria, which were popular before the pandemic, are especially damaging to marine mammals and have already been banned in 17 countries.

As at SeaWorld, this legislation would allow animals already enclosed to stay in place until death but not be replaced, thus eventually leading to the eventual closure of dolphinaria and other marine mammal display facilities.

Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

Some of Our Books

Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

A book that dares to explore the humanity of priests and pilgrims, saints and sinners, Faith & Humor has been both a runaway bestseller in Russia and the focus of heated controversy – as often happens when a thoughtful writer takes on sacred cows. The stories, aphorisms, anecdotes, dialogues and adventures in this volume comprise an encyclopedia of modern Russian Orthodoxy, and thereby of Russian life.
Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod is a mid-sized provincial city that exists only in Russian metaphorical space. It has its roots in Gogol, and Ilf and Petrov, and is a place far from Moscow, but close to Russian hearts. It is a place of mystery and normality, of provincial innocence and Black Earth wisdom. Strange, inexplicable things happen in Stargorod. So do good things. And bad things. A lot like life everywhere, one might say. Only with a heavy dose of vodka, longing and mystery.
Moscow and Muscovites

Moscow and Muscovites

Vladimir Gilyarovsky's classic portrait of the Russian capital is one of Russians’ most beloved books. Yet it has never before been translated into English. Until now! It is a spectactular verbal pastiche: conversation, from gutter gibberish to the drawing room; oratory, from illiterates to aristocrats; prose, from boilerplate to Tolstoy; poetry, from earthy humor to Pushkin. 
Bears in the Caviar

Bears in the Caviar

Bears in the Caviar is a hilarious and insightful memoir by a diplomat who was “present at the creation” of US-Soviet relations. Charles Thayer headed off to Russia in 1933, calculating that if he could just learn Russian and be on the spot when the US and USSR established relations, he could make himself indispensable and start a career in the foreign service. Remarkably, he pulled it of.
Murder and the Muse

Murder and the Muse

KGB Chief Andropov has tapped Matyushkin to solve a brazen jewel heist from Picasso’s wife at the posh Metropole Hotel. But when the case bleeds over into murder, machinations, and international intrigue, not everyone is eager to see where the clues might lead.
Fish: A History of One Migration

Fish: A History of One Migration

This mesmerizing novel from one of Russia’s most important modern authors traces the life journey of a selfless Russian everywoman. In the wake of the Soviet breakup, inexorable forces drag Vera across the breadth of the Russian empire. Facing a relentless onslaught of human and social trials, she swims against the current of life, countering adversity and pain with compassion and hope, in many ways personifying Mother Russia’s torment and resilience amid the Soviet disintegration.
Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

This astonishingly gripping autobiography by the founder of the Russian Women’s Death Battallion in World War I is an eye-opening documentary of life before, during and after the Bolshevik Revolution.
Woe From Wit (bilingual)

Woe From Wit (bilingual)

One of the most famous works of Russian literature, the four-act comedy in verse Woe from Wit skewers staid, nineteenth century Russian society, and it positively teems with “winged phrases” that are essential colloquialisms for students of Russian and Russian culture.
22 Russian Crosswords

22 Russian Crosswords

Test your knowledge of the Russian language, Russian history and society with these 22 challenging puzzles taken from the pages of Russian Life magazine. Most all the clues are in English, but you must fill in the answers in Russian. If you get stumped, of course all the puzzles have answers printed at the back of the book.

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Latest Posts


Our Contacts

Russian Life
PO Box 567
Montpelier VT 05601-0567

802-223-4955