While the rest of Europe was working through the famous Industrial Revolution, Russia continued to work in more crude forms of agricultural techniques. After the failure of the Crimean War, Russia’s regime received a wake-up call and attempted to industrialize the country that “still imported 70 per cent of all machinery and relied heavily upon outmoded technology” (Freeze, 216). Unfortunately for Russia, “industrialization . . . had been so retarded and even discouraged by the pre-reform regime, [that it] faced considerable obstacles” once they attempted to industrialize (Freeze, 215). Russia’s attempt to industrialize made a significant impact on small and large areas of Russian politics and society. The attempt at industrialization by the regime even had a significant impact on Russia’s tea trade and culture.
The consumption of tea in Russia has long been a part of its history since the 17th century and continues to be a part of the culture today. A Los Angeles Times article, “Slaves of Tea,” describes the strong tea culture in Russia by expressing the “tea drunkenness” and consumption of cheap tea by the Russian workingman. This article also describes the “fine taste” of tea in the Russian upper classes and that “no respectable household in Russia [is] without one or more ‘samovars.’” This article reveals the strength of tea culture in Russia and its importance in Russian culture. Russian tea was often imported from China by means of camel caravans. The trade with China that provided much of the tea in Russia continued from the 17th century into the mid-19th century. However, the camel caravan means of tea trade began to decline around the time the first leg of the Trans-Siberian was put into use in 1880. This product of industrialization in Russia caused a shift in how tea was supplied to the country. However, it did not necessarily increase tea trade with China or other important regions. In fact, the result was quite the opposite.
Four years after the first leg of the Trans-Siberian Railway was established, a New York Times article, “Tea Grown on the Black Sea,” describes the determination of the Russians to forego reliance on imported tea as “the tea plant has lately been introduced near Soukgoum Kaleh, on the Black Sea, and the Russians are confident, it seems, that they will be able to do without either Chinese or Indian teas.” Similarly, a short newspaper article, “Tea Culture in the Caucasus,” reveals the plan of tea merchants to establish tea plantations “along the Circassian coast.” Also, the merchants sent Russian experts to China “to study the tea culture” so that the region could provide a good tea staple for the country. The picture of the tea weighing station above was taken in Chakva. Chakva was a tea farm near the Black Sea and supplied large amounts of tea throughout Russia. This picture continues to show the how merchants focused more on growing and dispersing tea within Russia. The tenacity of the Russians to grow and disperse their own tea throughout the region reveals some of the obstacles and resistance by the Russians to industrialize as some tea merchants seemed to try to curl themselves and tea culture within Russia’s border lines.
The impact of Russia’s attempt to industrialize resulted in obstacles and opposition by many. The change in tea trade in Russia from a culture that largely imported their tea by camels to one that grew and dispersed their own tea within the country was an impact of Russia’s many attempts to industrialize. In the late 19th century, Russian industrialization did not greatly increase trade, but caused Russia to attempt to limit tea and tea trade to themselves.
- Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
- “Russian Tea Culture.” Wikipedia. Accessed August 31, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_tea_culture.
- “Tea Culture in the Caucuses.” New York Times (1857-1922), Dec 25, 1887. http://ezproxy.lib.vt.edu:8080/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/94490489?accountid=14826.
- “Slaves of Tea.” Los Angeles Times (1886-1922), Oct 15, 1899. http://ezproxy.lib.vt.edu:8080/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/163980905?accountid=14826.
- “Tea Grown on the Black Sea.” New York Times (1857-1922), Aug 04, 1884. http://ezproxy.lib.vt.edu:8080/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/94267431?accountid=14826.
- Prokudin-Gorskii, Sergei Mikhailovich. Weighing Section. ca. 1907-1915. Digital color rendering. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsc-03992 (26). http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/empire/work.html.
- Tea Weighing Station Image retrieved from: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/prk2000001010/
- Trans-Siberian Railway Image retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans-Siberian_Railway#Gallery