They drank tea, they struck spoons...: ethnocultural identity in the tea drinking practices of Russian Siberians

in the 19th early 20th century   

Fursova E.F. (Novosibirsk, Russian Federation)


              page 159169


On the basis of original field materials, the author set a goal to reveal the identifying functions of the food culture, particularly, of such a characteristic component of the Northern Eurasian population as hot drinks (teas), in different ethnocultural groups of Siberia: descendants of the old settlers and later Russian migrants, old-believers and followers of the official church. The practices of Siberian tea-drinking have been studied from the perspective of ethnocultural identity within the framework of the mundanity theory. It is the folk customs and beliefs related to the consumption of decoctions of local herbs and later of Chinese leaves (tea) that provide opportunity to infer the place of hot drinks in peoples culture. The author reports interesting facts about the traditions of Siberian tea-drinking and table etiquette in the countryside. Chinese tea-drinking from samovars (table boiling tanks) was not embraced by the old-believers and by some Russian migrants in the late 19th early 20th c. (South-Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians), where the former refrain due to suspicious glare of the surface resembling snakeskin, while the latter by the slimy samovars. In Siberia, the spread of the tea-drinking with Chinese leaf coincided with formation of local old-settler population in the 17th18th centuries and therefore it can be regarded as an old custom for the service-class people and Cossacks. The fact that the Chinese tea was relatively a novation in the culture of the Siberian population is evidence by that it was not part of the ceremonial practices (e.g., family), in contrast to various herbal brews and kisels (jellies). Siberian tea-drinking traditions of the old-settlers (apart from the old-believers) had strong influence on formation of the regional and ethnocultural identity of the Siberians, in the wide sense of the term as Siberia locals. The established traditions can be considered as a consequence of integration processes amongst the Slavic people in Siberia. The tea-drinking traditions support the conjecture that the differentiation process (comparative evaluation) was accompanied by another process cultural interference and is inextricably linked to the cognitive process collective identification, which inhibits non-critical adoption of extraneous traditions.

Key words: tea drinking practices, Russian Siberians, ethnocultural differences, ethnocultural identity, Siberia of the 19th early 20th century.


Funding. This work was supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, project No. 18-09-00028.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Accepted: 29.05.2020

Article is published: 28.08.2020


Fursova E.F.

Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of Siberian Branch RAS, prosp. Acad. Lavrentieva, 17, Novosibirsk, 630091, Russian Federation