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Comedian and restaurateur Sergei Svetlakov poses with plov, an Uzbek hat, and a donkey. "To every self-respecting Uzbek, this is unacceptable," is one reaction. "Some peoples consider an ass to be a symbol of hard work," is another.

Holding a fresh plate of plov and outfitted in a quilted robe and traditional Uzbek hat, Sergei Svetlakov, a donkey peering over his shoulder, stares longingly into a camera. The image is part of a Yekaterinburg ad campaign for another in the Russian comic and actor's chain of restaurants, called Eshak, or Ass, in Uzbek. Some in the local Uzbek community are unamused.

Holding a fresh plate of plov and outfitted in a quilted robe and traditional Uzbek hat, Sergei Svetlakov, a donkey peering over his shoulder, stares longingly into a camera.

The image is part of a Yekaterinburg ad campaign for another in the Russian comic and actor's chain of restaurants, called Eshak, or Ass, in Uzbek.

Some in the local Uzbek community are unamused.

"To every self-respecting Uzbek, this is unacceptable," Abid Turatov, the head of the Ural-Uzbekistan Friendship society, said, according to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service.

Turatov has asked the region's human rights commissioner and prosecutor to inspect the advertisements for signs of extremism. He says it's not the ass that bothers him but the image of Svetlakov, a Russian, in traditional Uzbek dress.

And Akbar Umarov, the head of the Uzbek Chefs Association, told the BBC that the Uzbek Foreign Ministry has already sent diplomatic notes to embassies in Russia and Ukraine, where Svetlakov has another Eshak restaurant.

"Our ambassadors have also expressed their disagreement," Umarov added.

Svetlakov has been accused of showing poor judgment before.

In a segment on Nasha Rasha (Our Russia), a popular Russian comedy show, the actor played a construction supervisor to two migrant workers from Tajikistan who spoke little Russian and were bad at their jobs. The segment was later made into a full-length movie.

Svetlakov has rejected the new complaints. "Our poster with the word Eshak and an image of an ass could only offend the ass in the image," the actor said through his representative, Olga Glushkova. "We make our advertisement with respect to the East. Eastern traditions and values -- hospitality, good taste, wit, and practicality -- all are a part of our restaurant culture."

Some Uzbeks agree.

Sher Abdugaripov, a famous Uzbek blogger who is also popular in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, tweeted that neither Eshak nor the advertisement concerned him.

"If people go to him to eat Uzbek food, let him work," he wrote.

"Some peoples consider an ass to be a symbol of hard work," Abdugaripov added. "For instance, in Argentina they lovingly call [soccer player Ariel] Ortega an ass."

Svetlakov opened his first Eshak restaurant in Kyiv in 2013. To attract customers, he placed a real donkey outside the restaurant. Neighbors complained of braying emanating from Eshak day and night, the smell of smoke from hookahs, and a rattling ventilation system that allegedly shook apartment building walls.

The actor has two more Eshak restaurants just outside Moscow.

A wooden stake dripping with blood-red paint has been erected in the Russian city of Kansk as an alternative monument to the controversial tsar Ivan the Terrible.

Ivan the Terrible was the first ruler to be called the "Tsar of All the Russias," but not all Russians today agree on the legacy of the 16th-century monarch.

Ivan the Terrible was the first ruler to be called the "Tsar of All the Russias," but not all Russians today agree on the legacy of the 16th-century monarch.

Far from it: Some praise Ivan IV as a protector of Russia, while others believe he was a bloody tyrant who killed his own son and created a secret police force that set the stage for centuries of oppression at the hands of the state.

Now those two views are set out in two monuments. Despite protests, Russia's first-ever statue of Ivan the Terrible was unveiled earlier this month in the southwestern city of Oryol, which he founded as a fortress in 1566.

Some 4,500 kilometers away, in the Siberian city of Kansk, an artist swiftly responded by putting up an "alternative" monument to the infamous tsar: a wooden stake dripping with blood-red paint.

Vladislav Gultyayev, who created the unusual monument, suggests it is a warning to Russians today that too little separates them from the state-inflicted violence of Ivan's rule.

"This hints that the days when killing was 'just because' and for fun aren't that distant," Gultyayev said on Facebook.

"The baton of the battle against our people was passed on to Anna Ivanovna, blessed be her memory, and to the jolly, mustachioed Stalin," he added in an apparently sarcastic reference to two other Russian leaders known for their brutality.

Gultyayev said that he was inspired to counter the monument unveiled in Oryol on October 14. It depicts Ivan IV, on horseback, holding a Russian Orthodox cross.

The controversial monument to Ivan the Terrible in the city of Oryol.
The controversial monument to Ivan the Terrible in the city of Oryol.



By agreeing to such a monument, Gultyayev said, Russians silently condone repression, torture, and execution.

Officials have not commented on the stake, which juts from the ground on a riverbank in Kansk, near Krasnoyarsk.

Ivan the Terrible carried out mass repressions with the Oprichnina, the original Russian secret police force that he founded. The new force carried out the Novgorod massacre, an event that became notorious for its brutality and high number of casualties.

The alternative monument has an additional meaning, according to Gultyayev: It symbolizes the backbone that "every Russian person must have."

"Its elegant profile, stretching upward, shows the commitment of our people to glorious deeds and titanic achievements," he wrote. "The blood on it implies that the price is not a concern."

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