"Men often say they like dry wine, slim women and music by Hindermith. In fact, they like sweet wine, fat women and music by Tchaikovsky", wrote Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset.
This sarcastic truth was proved once again by the story of the might-have-been Miss Russia, Alyona Pisklova, a nice plumpish girl from Domodedovo, the Moscow region, who is 164 cm tall, weighs 60 kg, with measurements 90-75-100.
The ideal of Russian female beauty does exist and has passed through several stages, which is easy to see visiting the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, for example.
The first guiding line was the medieval ideal of the Virgin Mary. At some point in history, a Russian woman was first of all a mother, not a wife. The waistline in clothes of Slavic women was directly under the breast, emphasising their destiny of feeding infants. Emphasis was given to neither the waist nor the hips. Gradually, however, this image gave way to a wife in childbirth and a worker. Only before the Bolshevik Revolution did society created a new type of women - a mistress, which during the Soviet era was transformed in the image of a working friend and a comrade in arms. During those years, "the line of beauty" was finally lowered to the waist, while trousers became the usual attire for millions of women. The sexuality of Russian women became the norm.
Yet in any case throughout almost a thousand years, the Russian etalon of female beauty was a stately woman like those painted by Rubens: large, full-breasted, curvaceous, round-bellied and with long hair. Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and Dostoevsky's Nastasya Filippovna were somewhat plump. Indeed, most Russian film stars are also quite large.
The cause of the current scandal came with the Miss Universe beauty pageant announced in March by the web-holding Rambler and Firebird Productions. The organisers offered web surfers the chance to vote for a girl to represent Russia in the final, which is to be held in Ecuador this summer. Any hopeful could send in her photo.
The nice plumpish girl would have never thought of participating, but for her friend who sent some of Alyona's photos to the contest just for fun. But the sensation came: during the first day alone the short chubby girl received 10,000 votes. To some extent the result was thanks to the spontaneously created movement "Stop Barbie" (www.stopbarbie.org.ru), which actively promoted Alyona on the Russian Internet.
In March and April, Pisklova was mentioned on the Russian Internet more frequently than President Putin. All Russia's mainstream media wrote about her, while the 9th grader became the heroine of a few TV programmes.
This, however, did not last. Alyona herself was somewhat embarrassed by the sudden glory and afraid that the stir would lead to problems with her boyfriend. People in her town started to cast her sidelong glances. The organisers started to panic: none of them had expected a scandal in the fashion industry, which had long had firm control over beauty pageants.
Before April 1, Rambler stopped the web and mobile message voting for Alyona, who was in the lead by a clear margin. She was disqualified and someone more conforming to Barbie's curves was declared the winner.