Pea patties and tea from hay. Vegetarianism in tsarist Russia

Voluntary renunciation of animal products is not a phenomenon of recent decades. To famous vegetarians of the past include such well-known representatives of Russian culture, like Leo Tolstoy and Ilya Repin. The first vegetarian society “Neither fish nor fowl,” appeared in tsarist Russia in 60th years of XIX century. In the early twentieth century in every city of the Empire was at least one vegetarian diner. The real turning point in the approach to a very elitist hobby occurred during the First world war. Such slogans as “thou shalt Not kill!”, barely got along with military propaganda. The Russians again began to return to a vegetable diet only during perestroika in the 80-ies.

The famous author of the novel “War and peace” became the spiritual father of Russian vegetarianism. In 1891, Tolstoy published an article in which he described vegetarianism as the first step on the path to spiritual renewal. It is the thesis of Tolstoy distinguish Russian from vegetarianism vegetarianism promoted at a time in the West. If Western colleagues have relied primarily on the rational reason and switched to vegetarian food, since meat is considered harmful to health, the Russian became vegetarians for ethical reasons.

Extreme idealism is also evident in letters to Repin Tolstoy’s daughter Tatyana: “Vegetariantsy I enjoyed it… Never worked so well!” However, ten days later the artist sent a letter in which the enthusiasm from the dead of vegetarianism: “Vegetarianism I had to leave. Nature does not want to know our virtues. After I wrote You, at night I had such willies that the next morning I decided to order a steak and vanished. You know, sadly, I came to the final conclusion that I am without eating meat would not exist. If I want to be healthy, you must eat meat; without it, I now immediately begins the process of dying”.

Forever Repin returned to vegetarianism under the influence of his second wife, Natalya Nordman. Eccentric Natalia became one of the first popularizers of not only vegetarianism, but raw food diet. In 1910 Repin wrote that the meat and meat broth for him — it’s like poison. He wrote that to eat a few days in the restaurants for it — torture, and that he gladly returns to his pea cutlets, herbal broths, olives, nuts and salads. “Salads! How lovely! What life (with olive oil)! Soup of hay from the roots of grasses — that is the elixir of life!” — said Repin.

In those days, vegetarianism was experienced in Russia’s Golden age. In every big city had its own vegetarian dining. In 1914, according to statistics, four vegetarian canteens in Moscow for a year was visited by over 600 thousand people, and in St. Petersburg, these figures were twice. In total to the beginning of the First world war there were 74 vegetarian canteens in 37 Russian cities. However, not all representatives of the cultural elite were treated to vegetarianism with the same enthusiasm as Thick or Repin. The young poet Vladimir Mayakovsky spoke with contempt about vegetarians: “Furious eaters of grass, forgetting the commandment of non-resistance to evil, jumped up from their seats and threateningly waving his fists, surrounded us more and more close ring”.