Vegetarianism in the Russian Empire

Ideas, Practices, Identities and Legacies, 1860s–1920s


The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies

Project type



Postdoctoral Project at the Centre for Baltic and East European Studies (CBEES)

Vegetarianism seems to be increasing in popularity, yet, the percentage of population practicing it has not changed dramatically over the past decades, even though organizations all over Europe and the US have been promoting it since 1840s. Historians have been slow to consider how food provided opportunities and offered sites for political mobilization. These perspectives are problematized in my project.

Present study is a genealogy of vegetarian social movement activism in the Russian empire, analysing the impacts of the revolutions of 1905 and 1917, the World War I, and the Bolshevik rule on the vegetarian activism of the ancien régime, its formation, ideologies, practices and activists.

By using untapped sources, the project focuses on the production and dissemination of ideas and practices of vegetarianism in time and space, between different activists and contexts. It scrutinises ideas that guided actions, alliances and conflicts that arose, and how these played out in practices, and identifies key individuals, networks, organizations and centers.

Going beyond Petersburg and Moscow, the study concentrates on Belarusian, Ukrainian and Central Russian provinces. It untangles the intersections of social status, ethnicity, and gender in vegetarian activism across the empire, and examines strategies of vegetarian ideas’ legitimization and popularization, and varieties of vegetarian consumption.

Finally, synergies of vegetarian activism and other activisms – women’s, Jews’, ethnic mobilization movements etc. – are scrutinized, revealing the role of vegetarianism in socio-political landscape. Study, among other things, suggests on vegetarian canteens and networks used for political mobilization and civil activism.

Elaborating interdisciplinary methodology, the study contributes to the theoretical rethinking of collective actions by unveiling the mechanisms through which movements create new identities and legitimize themselves, and catches the process of movement activism (de)formation in a changing political climate.

Shifts in mindsets and (de)formations of identities in Eastern Europe are studied through the lens of vegetarian activism. Transgressing the boundaries of nation-states, the project is the first to consider vegetarianism in the context of the fall of the European empires and rise of new political order in the 20th century.

Research area / geographic area

Historical and Contemporary Studies History CBEES Historical Studies History Eastern Europe

Project time

2019 — 2022


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