Animals in Rus’: a love story and/or cuisine?!

Turning to folk tales and beliefs about animals, you plunge into the world of rainbow and fairy-tale images, you find such a piercing love, respect and awe. One has only to delve into the history of everyday life, as immediately the plots sung in literature and poetry appear in a completely different light.

As, for example, it happened with swans. The symbol of the marriage union, female and girlish beauty in practice turned from a subject of worship into an object of eating. Fried swans were traditionally the first course at grand-ducal and royal dinners, as well as at weddings. In folklore, a kind of “bird hierarchy” is captured, from which one can learn that geese are boyars, and swans are princes. That is, it is a sin for people to beat swans, and even more so for people, but there are special people, not simple ones, they can do anything. This is where the dual logic comes in.

In relation to bears, understanding becomes even more multidimensional and confusing. On the one hand, the bear is a totem Slavic beast, and on the other hand, they ate bear meat, wore claws as a talisman, and treated diseases with lard. Go around the house in a bearskin, dance – it was completely possible to remove the damage and increase the fertility of livestock and the garden.

How was this possible, given that the bear was considered an enchanted person?! And there were even such traditions as lamentations and singing of apologetic songs if a bear was killed. They did this out of fear of meeting him after death.

And at the same time, the treatment of animals in Rus’ was terrible. What was the description of the methods of the bear school, the so-called “Smorgon Academy” worth. The cubs were trained, keeping them in cages over red-hot stoves – the floors heated up so that the bears jumped, trampled, and the trainers at that time beat tambourines. That was the goal – to combine the sound of a tambourine with the fear of burning the legs, so that later they would show how “drunks walk” when they hit the tambourine. After the training, the claws and teeth of the animals were sawn, a ring was threaded through the nose and lips, they could even gouge out the eyes of too “wayward” animals. And then the poor bears were dragged to fairs, booths, pulling on the ring, which hurt the bears, and the leaders beat the tambourine, exploited them as best they could. 

The bear is a symbol – so the crowd, both old and young, gathered to laugh at the “fooling around” bear, depicting a drunk, a child, women with a yoke. How the love for Michal Potapych, fairy tales about bear cubs and life in a chain are combined is not very clear. Approximately the same as the circus and love for animals, like children and petting zoos. Or again, “why can kings eat swans, but we can’t?! So, on the other hand, we have a bear on a chain, and will we win back on it? Maybe this is how the Russian people think?! 

Approximately such proverbs can be found on the topic of “nutrition”.

What will be food, apparently, it is desirable to immediately designate for yourself, sort of like not very alive initially. Like, for example, the modern construction of the life of quails or broiler chickens. A special cage, where the lattice-ceiling rests against the head, and under the feet there is again a lattice. And like in a crowded prison cell for death row that you can’t turn around, there’s also the frying of lamps from above, endless light from morning to evening. Do not sleep, eat, eat, grow weight. This attitude is not to living beings, but to mechanisms, “egg-meat-producers”! Is it possible to treat an animated being like that?! Even the names of broilers are encoded in alphanumeric characters. A living thing has a soul, a name, but numbers do not.

However, there was a lot of cruelty in the same XIX century. Reading about folk life, we find about the trade of catching birds with snares, which was considered almost officially … a child’s occupation. The children not only traded in captured goods, sometimes they acted more cruelly. Magpie tails were sold in the markets for 20 kopecks, and then went to the finishing of hats.

Who could break out of the general picture of “killing-consumption” is animal helpers. Horses, dogs, cats. If the animal worked, did some work that was beneficial to the owner, he could be treated as a partner. And the proverbs have changed. “Don’t kick the dog: the convulsions will pull.” “To kill a cat – for seven years you won’t see any luck in anything.” Domesticated “partners” could already receive names, a special place in the house, some kind of respect.

And what was the attitude of the church towards animals?! Temples were decorated with figures of animals in the XII-XIII centuries. For example, Dmitrovsky Cathedral in Vladimir, the Church of the Intercession on the Nerl. Isn’t this the height of reverence and respect for living creatures – to place images of living creatures in temples?! The same is confirmed by the list of saints that still exists today, with prayers to which one could turn to help animals.

Horses – Saints Flor and Laurus; sheep – St. Anastasia; cows – St. Blaise; pigs – St. Basil the Great, chickens – St. Sergius; geese – St. Nikita the Martyr; and bees – St. Zosima and Savvaty.

There was even such a proverb: “Protect my cow, St. Yegoriy, Blasius and Protasius!”

Was, then, in the spiritual life of the Russian people a place for the “creature”?!

I really want to extend this thread of spirituality to modern Russia: to the question of the humanization of education and the development of bioethics.

The use of laboratory animals in education is like forcing children to kill birds by trading them in the market. But the yard is a different century. Has nothing changed?

For example, in Belarus, more than 50% of university departments of universities have refused to use experiments on animals in the educational process. Using Russian-language computer programs, virtual 3-d laboratories, students can remain believers, and not be forced into senseless killings by pawns in the hands of the education system.

Surely Rus’ won’t take a step forward, won’t jump out of the dark pages of history, won’t learn its bitter lessons?!

It’s time for Russia to have a new history – a history of love and compassion for animals, isn’t it?!

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