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What role did butter play in the history and economy of the Russian Empire?
What role did butter play in the history and economy of the Russian Empire?

By the end of the 19th century, the export of Russian-made butter was estimated at millions of poods of a product worth tens of millions of rubles. At the end of the empire, oil sold abroad brought more gold to the treasury than the largest gold mines combined. Europeans revered the Russian product, different from any other, for its special preparation technology. Butter production has revived hundreds of withering Siberian villages.

Historical evidence and early technologies

Dairy of the 19th century

Historians do not give accurate information about the appearance of butter in human life. According to some sources, this happened 10 thousand years ago, simultaneously with the domestication of herbivores. There is a legend about a traveler who took sheep's milk with him on the road, which turned into a viscous substance with a pleasant and unusual taste. As for the written sources, a process similar to the stages of oil production was captured on stone tablets in Mesopotamia (2500 BC). A little later, similar evidence appeared in India. A vase flooded with oil was also found by archaeologists in Egypt from the period 2000 BC. As for the world famous Norman butter, it became popular with the campaigns of the Vikings who inhabited Normandy. In the Middle Ages, cookbooks were already printed evidence.

The inhabitants of Russia have been using butter since the 9-10th century. Chronicles recorded that European traders bought the product from the monks of the Pechenezh Monastery, where oil came from neighboring villages. Then butter was churned from sour cream, cream and whole cow's milk. Of course, cream was used for the best varieties, and sour cream and sour milk were enough to produce the kitchen version. Most often, the raw materials were reheated in a Russian oven, the separated oily mass was knocked down with wooden shovels, and sometimes by hand. Butter was expensive, and therefore the daily product was only on the tables of wealthy townspeople.

Vologda oil mastery

Rural production

The middle of the 19th century was marked in Russia by the era of great reforms. One of the graduates of the Naval Cadet Corps, Nikolai Vereshchagin, having fought in the Crimean War, decided to go into the economy. In the spirit of the times, he puzzled over how to bring something new to the country. After graduating from the Faculty of Natural Sciences, he firmly decided: the agricultural future of Russia is in dairy farming.

Oil production was not cheap, but the income came out decent

Extensive floodplains provided cheap hay, and two hundred fast days a year endangered the huge milk yields. Initially, Vereshchagin relied on cheese making. But the complex and lengthy production cycle made cheese not the most profitable product. Then the idea of ​​producing butter came to the fore, which quickly became the main export commodity in the Russian Empire. The high fat content of dairy raw materials from Vologda cows (up to 5, 5%) simply obliged to use it in butter-making. And with the introduction of the separator, it was possible to produce high-quality oil in especially large volumes. By 1889, Vereshchagin's forces in the Vologda province alone were successfully operating 254 butter factories.

The Parisian brand

In 1939, "Paris" was renamed into "Vologda"

Until the end of the 19th century, Russia supplied ghee to world markets.Thanks to the technological research of Vereshchagin, a special technology for the preparation, storage, and transportation of cow butter appeared. Nikolay introduced the production of butter from ghee, thanks to which the final product had a delicate nutty taste. This oil was named "Parisian". The oil has received the highest international awards. By 1872, the Moscow-Vologda railway appeared, and the "Parizhskoye" became in demand among a dozen large foreign companies, displacing even the legendary "Normandskoye". In 1875, the first thousand barrels full of oil went to Europe. By 1897, exports amounted to 5 million rubles, and 10 years later - 44 million. Russia occupied the fourth part of the world oil market.

Siberian oil

Transsib, which made possible the production of Siberian oil

Following Vologda, Siberia became the center of butter-making. This, first of all, was facilitated by the appearance of the Trans-Siberian Railway and peasant resettlement beyond the Urals. The favorable conditions for animal husbandry there also played in favor of the formation of a new production. In a few years, the butter-making belt stretched across the northern Siberian settlements along the edge of the taiga, where there were no fertile lands, but there was an abundance of pastures. At that time, many of the once developed and prosperous merchant settlements fell into decay. The production and trade of butter revived them and breathed a second life. So, before our very eyes, the old Siberian center Tobolsk revived, which wilted after it was bypassed by the major trade routes of the railway. New cities, for example, Kurgan, were born on butter alone.

With the opening of the Transsib, Vereshchagin sent his student-buttermaker Sokulsky to the Trans-Urals. He, in a duet with the Petersburg merchant Valkov, opened the first butter factory in the Kurgan district with further "expansion" to the Tobolsk province. Vereshchagin supervised the formation of dairy cooperatives in the Siberian region. He supervised the formation of special trains for the export of finished oil, and the arrival at the ports of the Baltic was timed to coincide with the loading of steamships. Merchant ships bound for Europe were planning their voyages for stock exchange days in the markets of London and Hamburg. A revolution in the transportation of perishable goods was also the fact that the enterprising reformer Vereshchagin knocked out the production of refrigerated cars at the Ministry of Railways. In the battle for global foreign markets, every detail was taken into account. For example, the British used to buy butter in beech barrels, so Vereshchagin took duty-free import of beech riveting, a material for containers, as his goal. In 1902, at least 2 thousand creameries operated beyond the Urals. In just one year, Siberia exported to Europe about 30,000 tons of the product, which was expressed in the amount of about 25 million rubles. At the peak of production success, the oil industry accounted for up to 65% of all Siberian exports.

But since the Soviet era, the export situation has changed. This has become the main product from Russia, sold in foreign markets.

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