Our Notes & References
Long and detailed price list of tobacco products offered in Moscow during Pushkin’s time, showing a broad and very international range.
Since English merchants introduced tobacco to Russians in the mid-16th century, this foreign product became extremely popular, from peasantry to the 18th-c. tsarinas. The new trend of smoking tobacco from a pipe was promoted by Alexander I, for whom the court would order one-meter-long pipes. Since that time, a chibouk, or Turkish-style pipe, together with an ottoman, a flat sofa with cushions, became an obligatory attribute of a nobleman. Alexander Pushkin, Russia’s greatest poet and an amateur of tobacco, begins his depiction of Eugene Onegin’s study with a pipe:
“A pipe of amber from Istanbul,
China and bronzes fill the table,
And to delight the sensual
Perfumes in finely-crafted crystal…”
Oddly enough, with such love for tobacco, Russia did not have its own tobacco industry until the early 19th century. Peter the Great attempted to organize the first tobacco processing factories but the lack of experience did not allow them to work effectively. By the 1830s however, several merchants and producers were competing, the most important one being probably Vasilii Zhukov (1800-82).
One of Zhukov’s competitors was Amedei Arto (Artaud?), who in this announcement advertises the arrival of new products at his shop and many new, lower prices. The rather detailed price-list is fascinating for the variety of options available, from sniffing tobaccos from Holland, Brazil and Morocco to tobaccos for smoking from the North America, such as the “Floridskii” (from Florida), “with the image of a ship” and a stamp, and “Marilandskii” (from Maryland) with tobacco powder of different colours for 12 to 1.20 rubles a pound. While offering imported tobacco, Arto also creates his own new mixtures with exotic names and sells tobaccos from other producers, such as Zhukov (whose options were usually humbler).
Cigars would gradually come in fashion in Russia around that time, and Arto, catching up with the latest tendencies, offers here cigars called “Gavanskaia” (Havana), “Porto-Rikko”, “Sent-Domingo dos Amigos”, Holland standard size, Hungarian small and Turkish yellow, with prices varying from 12 to 3 rubles for a hundred pieces. It is notable that such cigars, as well as many kinds of foreign tobacco, were luxury goods, as the salary of a lower-range bureaucrat ranged from 40 to 45 rubles a month, and a lunch at an inn or a restaurant cost around 30-40 kopecks.
Pushkin, Alexander, Eugene Onegin. Translated by A.S.Kline, 2009.
Pirogovskaia, Maria, “Tabak” (online).