18 января 2018, 23:00
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Home :: Russian Furs :: History


Russian fur had had a long history even before it became an essential part of the world fur market. The ancient Russians used furs in the household - as warm clothing in the cold wintertime and as soft bedding. Fur was an important part of economic activities: pelts of sable, marten, beaver and other fur-bearing animals acted as a currency. One could pay with fur for any kind of goods, education or church service. Pelts were levied as sales duties and customs duties, fines and tributes. There are well known occurrences in Russian history, when valuable furs served as an adjusted form of tribute collected from the population. So, for example, in 883 the conqueror "Veschij" Oleg (Oleg the Oracular) levied duties on the drevlyane people of one "black marten" per household.

The other significant use of fur in Russia was as a gift. Princes and barons gave valuable furs as rewards for "good deeds". Fur has always been a good present. On solemn and celebratory days the members of the prince families, priests, noble guests and ambassadors of foreign states were given fur coats and fur hats as presents. The value of the fur was so high, that merchants and noblemen passed on furs as inheritance from one generation to another. Fur was one of the most important parts of the dowry for rich brides.

In the 10th -11th centuries for Russians fur became an important element of trade with neighboring countries. And at the same time, not only merchants were selling furs, but also boyars and princes. In this period Kievan Russia was actively trading furs with countries in the East and Byzantium. In the next two centuries merchants also built trade routes to the countries of Western Europe. The majority of goods in the middle age were martens, beavers, wolfs, foxes, squirrels, hares and most of these animals were being sold for their fur and were brought from the territories, which belong nowadays to Ukraine and Belarus. In the 14th century import furs became foreign furs, because Belarusian and Ukrainian lands had come into the body of the Polish state, which afterwards joined The Great Lithuanian Principality.

In the 15th-16th centuries the import furs completely pushed out local goods. This was caused by the fact that the local forests had become "scanty" - "the animals are worse than before", as it was written in a manuscript of that time. At that time the gathering of duties was replaced everywhere by monetary tax, however the names of the furs remained in the titles of the taxes - squirrels, martens and beavers.

In the 15th -17th centuries Russian fur, which was brought from Moscovia, became popular as "Moscow fur" in Moldavia, Valachia and on the Balkan Peninsula, in Turkey, Italy and in The Netherlands thanks to Ukrainian and Polish merchants. The taming of Siberia, which was fabulously rich in valuable kinds of fur-bearing animals, contributed to the fame of the fur empire. The joining of this "sable paradise" to Russia helped to strengthen the position of Moscovia in the world fur markets in the 17th century and to make "soft lumber" a Russian trade mark - Russia itself now being the biggest fur-supplier. The Russian government held this position right up until the end of the 19th century, when The USA and Canada joined it in the world fur market.

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