Head of the Organising Committee
Sanna Turoma
sanna.turoma [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Coordinator
Kaarina Aitamurto
kaarina.aitamurto [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Secretary
Maarit Elo-Valente
maarit.elo-valente [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Intern
Miikka Piiroinen
miikka.piiroinen [at] helsinki.fi

Conference e-mail:
fcree-aleksconf [at] helsinki.fi


The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki
phone +358-(0)50-3565 802

aleksanteri [at] helsinki.fi

 

Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Ilya Vinkovetsky( Simon Fraser University, Canada)

The Making of a National Drink: Tea as a Broker of Cultural Contact and Russia's Window on Asia

Tea has for centuries been intimately identified with Russian culture. Russia is known for its samovars and tea kettles, and tea is nearly universally acknowledged as something akin to Russia's national beverage. Yet, in spite of this image, tea has always been an imported commodity. This paper examines how a colonial product, grown and packaged in southern China, and transported to Moscow via a complex continental route across Eurasia (via China, the Gobi Desert, Siberia, the Urals, and the Kama-Volga basin) became an essential drink of choice not only among Russia's aristocrats but among the people as a whole. The paper also explores how the tea trade with China has affected Russia's interactions with the outside world in general. Finally, in order to situate the Russian experience in a broader context, this paper looks at the place of tea in Great Britain, another nation that has fashioned a distinctly tea-infused culture based on its imperial connections to the Far East. Research for this paper has been conducted in the archives of Nizhnii Novgorod, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, and London (the National Archives at Kew and the British Library).