Greek Tea Farmers before the 1917 Revolution

Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii. A Group of Workers Harvesting Tea, ca. 1907-1915. Digital color rendering. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsc-04430 (32)

Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii was a photographer who surveyed many different regions in Russia during the early 1900’s and during one of those surveys came across the area of Chakva. As seen above, this image of farmers of Chakva was at least significant to Sergei. A picture of almost entirely Greek women working on a tea farm in Western Russia (today in Georgia). Aiming to use this image as a start of learning more about Russia before the World Wars I pursued information regarding the Greek-Russian relationships considering recent discussion of Russian aid towards the Greek crisis. We begin our journey of understanding the Greeks in Russia by looking back to the Byzantine Empire.

Apparently back in the 10th and 11th centuries when the Byzantine Empire and Kievan Rus were neighbors they got along quite well, to the point where Kievan Rus attempted to imitate the Byzantines artistically and religiously. During this time the people of the Byzantine Empire, specifically from the Greek Peninsula, often migrated to live in what was Western Russia. This it is interesting to notice that the farmers pictured above could have lived in this area for many generations dating back 800 years. The alternative times of Greece migration to Russia were during the Russo-Turkey and Crimean war, 1828 and 1882 respectively. The largest migrations since the Byzantine Empire were after World War II which is many years after this image was taken.

I doubt I am alone when I did not realize until now the ties that Russia and Greece have shared for so many years and how tightly woven their societies are/were. This may attribute to why Putin speaks about Greece as a partner and friend.

The second major question that came to mind for this image was the abundance of women in the agricultural community. In the image there appear to be about 2 men and a few boys while everyone else is either adult or child females. It makes sense for such an agricultural community to have the women working in the fields alongside the men but in this image there were so few men working the fields at the time it seemed. If this were post-World War II it may make sense being on the western edge considering the Russian casualties, but I could not find an answer as to why the men were not present here.