Our Notes & References
Rare broadside by the pioneer of the Russian tea industry.
The broadside advertises the wide variety of fabrics and teas available at the Botkin Fabric and Chinese tea shop in Moscow, noting that the prices are already low and are not subject to negotiations. Botkin also offers delivery of his goods including various baikhovye (from Chinese bai hua – teas of small loose leaves) floral teas and coffee, as well as cashmeres and other fabrics from the best Russian, English, Dutch and Polish factories.
Petr Kononovich Botkin (1781-1853) is considered to be the pioneer of the tea business in Russia: he was the first to establish its mass deliveries from China where he exchanged Russian fabrics for tea, which was considered an elite product at that time. Caravans carrying exotic Asian goods would then travel to Moscow through Siberia and the town of Kyakhta on the border with China. This encouraged settlement and development in the southern part of Siberia – new settlements quickly sprang up along the trade route. During the first half of the 19th century Botkin’s company became one of the leaders in the tea trade, and his fabrics for sale and exchange were supplied from many factories in the Moscow region.
Botkin even “opened branches in London and the Chinese cities of Hankou and Shanghai” (Gavlin, our translation). After his death, his heirs carried on under the trade name of Petr Botkin i synovia [Petr Botkin and Sons] until the 1910s.
Among Botkin’s sons who managed his company were those who also succeeded in very different fields. His oldest son Vassili was a literary critic and essayist, maintaining correspondence with Leo Tolstoy among many other major Russian writers; Dmitii Botkin was a keen collector of European and Russian art and was considered one of the best connoisseurs of art in Moscow; Mikhail Botkin was an artist and a major collector too, owning of the richest art collection which was added to the Hermitage museum after the October Revolution; Sergei Botkin was an important infectious disease doctor and physiologist, and his son Evgeny, a doctor of Nicholas II, followed the tsar into exile and was shot by the Bolsheviks in 1917.
Vorobieva, Olga. Botkiny (online); Egorova, Irina. Kupecheskaia dinastia Botkinikh (online); Gavlin, Mikhail. Rossiiskie predprinimateli i metsenaty. (online).