Getting drunk is an essential feature of Russian hospitality. The toasts and chips at the banquet also showed signs of a confrontation. This tradition originated from a monarch—Peter I.
In the eyes of friends, the most psychedelic winter in Moscow is not the bright red ancient buildings under the snow and ice, but the street alcoholics who may walk into the cold night and be frozen to death at any time, with blood flowing in their pupils, like wandering ghosts. In the writings of sojourners and envoys from the East and the West, vodka is a memory that transcends seasons, history, and destination for Russian drunks—the group of Russians who “live to death”.
Dionysus, set foot before religion
People who believe in climate determinism generally believe that Russians, like the Nordic peoples, naturally love strong alcohol because these alcoholic drinks, like flames, can promote blood flow in extremely cold weather. If the reader has ever drank hard liquor in the cold and felt the warmth it brings, he will not question this answer.
But this may not be the case. A typical counterexample is Berlin and Tallinn (now the capital of the Republic of Estonia). The climate difference between the two is very small, but the difference in drinking is huge-just because in the 19th century, the former was the capital of the German Empire, and the latter belonged to Russia. In addition, the vodka coverage once crossed the border of present-day Russia, dividing Poland in two, which coincides with the border of the Russian Empire. From this, we seem to be able to draw a bold speculation that in the process of shaping regional drinking culture, political factors themselves may play as important a role as climate factors.
In fact, for a nation that has just stepped out of ignorance, the initial politics is based on religion. When vodka has not yet dominated this land, mead and kvass have firmly grasped the throat of history.
In 986 AD, Grand Duke Vladimir I of Kievan Rus, who had conquered the city all the way, stopped his expansion and told the inside and outside: due to internal political considerations, there is a need for a universal religion that can build consensus. The news spread that in Kyiv, the capital, there were envoys sent by many monotheistic countries. They traveled thousands of miles and braved the wind and snow to try to convince the Grand Duke that he and his subjects should abandon pantheism and polytheism. Faith, and surrender to the faith you brought with you. According to the book “Vodka Politics”: The last messenger to arrive came from Bulgaria in the lower steppes of the Don River. When the messenger told the Grand Duke that in the afterlife believed by Islam, all the believers’ carnal desires could be miraculously satisfied, according to the “Original Chronicle”, “the Grand Duke listened carefully to the Bulgarians, especially the teachings. I am very interested in the part about beauty and indulgence, and expressed my willingness to go deeper on this topic.” Things were getting better, but when the Muslim turned to the Islamic practice of circumcision, the fasting of pork and alcohol. The Grand Duke showed distress, looked around, pondered for a long time, and finally declined the envoy’s missionary request, and left a famous saying that has been passed down through the ages: “Drinking is the pleasure of the Rus, and we cannot live without drinking.
” The following year, Vladimir I and his subjects were officially baptized in the Dnieper River and resolutely joined the Holy See in Constantinople. Since then, although Russians have suffered repeated internal and external military and political turmoil, they still regard the Orthodox faith as the main national identity standard.
Religion and Dionysus are combined in the snowfields of the Northland, and the former allows alcohol to quickly penetrate into all festivals and feasts. From Christmas to Epiphany, people in this land regard drinking alcohol as a way to communicate with the Lord. Alcoholism quickly expanded from individual cases to groups, from religious behaviors to social behaviors, and its expansion speed was staggering.
The outline of history is clear enough, Dionysus has set foot in the Northland before religion.
Peter I and His Court, Stanislaw Hlebowski, 1858. In Peter’s era, the aristocrats had strong drinking and social attributes, but what they needed to show was their own nobility, generosity, and arrogant masculinity, which was even regarded as the traits of leaders.
Peter I: The confrontation at the imperial wine table
In order to achieve the point of enjoying the guests and hosts, getting drunk is a basic feature of Russian hospitality. If the guests cannot be driven unconscious, the banquet will not be considered a complete success. The toasts and cups at the banquet also revealed a sign of confrontation, that is, who wins who drinks? This tradition originated with a legendary monarch.
During the reign of Peter I, a new wine began to enter the Northland banquet. This kind of wine is called “vodka”. Legend has it that it was born in the Chudov Monastery and was brewed by monks with rye, wheat, and mountain spring water. After it was solemnly named, it once spread throughout the scope of the former Orthodox mission. After entering the 16th century, Russia actively carried out the agricultural revolution, and the grain output was greatly improved. However, due to poor road conditions and poor transportation capacity, the profit of sending the newly increased grain to the market was too low, so it had to turn to distillation to make wine. Surprises were born – compared with fermented beer or mead, distilled wine hardly spoils, its value can be stored for a long time, and this value is easy to measure, subdivide and sell, becoming a long-distance , race, class currency.
For the Russians, the achievements of Peter the Great shine through the ages, and among them, traveling around the West with the mission and returning home to reform is the most commendable. When Peter disguised himself and mixed into the mission, Russia was far behind in culture, shipbuilding and military industry compared to Western countries. In the eyes of most Westerners at that time, Russia, as a wild and ancient country on a remote ice sheet, was a dark and deep medieval fossil. It is even more straightforward to use the words of Taylor, an authoritative scholar in the history of modern Western history and international relations in the 20th century, in “The Struggle for European Hegemony”: “In the depths of the soul, the British and the French (the latter is to a lesser extent) ) all regard the Russians as a semi-Asian country, which is not much higher than Turkey’s level, and it is not even higher than China’s level.”
But in the eyes of the Russians, being forced to communicate with Western pagans in strange clothes is a kind of humiliation. The huge risk we face is to allow the impact on beliefs that are regarded as life. Western etiquette, customs, aesthetics, utensils, etc. must be carefully observed. At the time of the visit, there were concerns in the country, the internal rebellion was still bloody, and the external neighbors were treacherous and unpredictable.