Alyonka, the Innocence of Russian Chocolate

Posted by OmarTarakiNiodeFoundation
27 January 2013 | blogpost

One of our volunteer bloggers, Terzi, used to live in Moscow, Russia and often reminiscing his childhood days there when he slurped ice cream cones during below zero winters and raced with friends to street kiosks to buy some chocolates and candies.

The children’s favorite was Alyonka, a thin chocolate bar wrapped in an image of a rosy-cheeked blue-eyed little girl in a colorful scarf.

Russia’s Mona Lisa

We had a chance to taste Alyonka when Soraya, our friend returning from a holiday in Tashkent, Uzbekistan brought back several bars. Apparently Alyonka is very popular in post-Soviet states. The 100 grams chocolate bar first produced in 1965 is one of the 500 confectionery products of Krasnyj Octyabr (Red October) a Russian chocolate factory that has been in business for 161 years.

Viktor Kuzmin in his article Top 12 Russian Sweets wrote that Krasnyj Octyabr decided on the image after an artist who worked at the factory won a competition for a photo of an 8-month old girl.

Adopted from Russia, the first Russian children's store launched online in the USA, told readers that the chocolate was named Alyonka, Russian for Helen, after the daughter of the first female cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova.

This video  of Alyonka advertisement attests to the cute image.

The United Confectioners, the Eastern European confectionery holding, believes Alyonka is the most recognizable woman image in Russia. In the country it is equivalent to Mona Lisa, a painting by Leonardo da Vinci.

Alyonka Tasting

As it is such a rare chocolate, we took time in opening the Alyonka bar from Soraya and expected a different taste knowing that it is a Russian chocolate. We savored the bar bit by bit. It was exactly like Terzi said, scrumptious with a strong cocoa flavor. The bar was not very thick, had a vry soft texture and slowly melted in our mouth.

Without knowing it, we were practicing what Mark Stibich recommended in How To Taste Chocolate.  Tasting chocolate, Stibich wrote, is much like tasting fine wine -- there are subtleties of flavor and tones that you can train yourself to appreciate. Here are ten easy steps that will only take you 5 minutes to judge a chocolate bar: room temperature, be still, clear your palate, look at the chocolate, break off a piece, rub it, smell the chocolate, feel the chocolate in your mouth, taste it, the finish. Alyonka is certainly a good quality chocolate. It has rich, velvety texture, and we did not need to chew to let the flavor flows.

Red October

The roots of Alyonka dates back to 1851 when Teodore Ferdinand von Einem, an immigrant, partnered with fellow German Julius Heiss to open a workshop in Arbat Street, Moscow to produce chocolates and sweets. Einem was the one who had the knowledge of what taste Muscovites liked in sweets, chocolates, cookies and glazed fruits.

The factory, Einem, opened in 1867 and later expanded to a red brick building complex on the Bersenevskaya Embankment of Moscow River. Over the years the name of the business has changed to State Confectionery Factory #1, Former Einem after the 1918 revolution and finally Red October in 1922.

A few years ago the manufacturing of Red October products has moved far from the center of Moscow but a chocolate museum stays there and the area has turned into cafés, restaurants, and galleries.

A video clip from The Chocolate Heart of the Russian Capital  has a detailed account of the building history and how it is nowadays.

A bite of Indonesia

Sri Murwati, another volunteer at Omar Niode Foundation who lived in Moscow for 10 years told us how adults and children alike love Alyonka. Originally, there were only two types of Alyonka, dark and milk chocolate. But with time and market demand, Alyonka now has a variety of tastes.

When Sri with a group of Indonesian ladies visited Red October many years ago she was informed that Alyonka used high quality cocoa imported from Indonesia. Red October website says the company processes 100 types of raw materials in its production line. It imported high-grade beans from Ecuador, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, and Indonesia.

The Art of Alyonka

The United Confectionary may be right in claiming that Alyonka is as popular as the Mona Lisa. The image of Alyonka is so well liked that many artists based their projects on the little girl. The long running project is the Alyonka Mail Art Project, initiated by Ivan Zemtsov in 2006. He invited the global creative community to make artworks using Alyonka and uploaded the work on the web.  Below is a work sent from Test Tower, Centralia, WA, USA. 


Another artist who had Alyonka is Pavel 183, a Russian street artist. In an article Street art with an intelligent face by Daria Gonzales,  Pavel represented Alyonka as the most radiant person on earth, always naive and selfless. In 2005, Pavel made the film - The Tale of Alyonka, 2005 - in which the little girl becomes a kind of image of the modern child.

We have written blog posts focusing on chocolate: Royce Chocolate, Harmonizing Process, Sweet and Savory  and Cacao Movement in North Luwu.  Nonetheless, Alyonka the Russian Chocolate brings the innocence and the comfort food of children in Russia.


Images: Natasha Ivanova; United Confectioners; EO, Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock; Omar Niode Foundation