Major Field: Russian and East European History
Other Fields: Asian History
Adviser: Louise McReynolds
BA Wheaton College, 2005 (History)
MA Miami University of Ohio, 2009
MA Thesis: “Making Tea Russian: The Samovar and Russian National Identity, 1832–1901″
My dissertation represents the first full-scale academic study of the history of tea in the Russian Empire. I use this history to reexamine critical questions about processes of cultural borrowing, modernization, and identity formation in Russian history. As a commodity and a social ritual, tea serves as the vehicle for a fresh examination of the development of Russian society and culture during the turbulent era of modernization between 1600 and 1900. The introduction of many European elements into Russian cultural life, including tea and its accessories, was highly controversial and stimulated a search for Russia’s “true” national identity. Despite being European in origin, the samovar quickly became so thoroughly integrated into Russian culture that the samovar was imagined as genuinely “Russian” by the late nineteenth century. As the cultural wars over Russia’s identity and future path intensified during that period, the vessel was increasingly associated with “old” Russian culture in the popular imagination. Simultaneously, some conservative religious groups continued to condemn tea because of its foreign origin. As varying and often contradictory understandings of the meaning of tea-drinking coexisted and competed with one another in the discourses of evolving social milieux, tea and the samovar found their way into debates about the future trajectory of Russian society.