History of black caviar


Hereby the oil was not "black gold" of Russia, and caviar

Black caviar is considered one of the most expensive and exquisite delicacies. Since ancient times all over the world it is considered a dish was a traditional Russian cuisine. However, the majority of the population of Russia, as well as all over the former Soviet Union, almost does not remember her taste. Once only "black gold" in our country has no oil, and "eggs of sturgeon fish" - so in ichthyology, the study of fish, referred to as the black caviar.

Black caviar give a sturgeons - sturgeon, beluga and stellate sturgeon. Adult individual of beluga, without encountering on the Volga dangerous for her natural predators other than humans, live longer than a century, and reaches the weight of hundreds of kilograms. It is the largest freshwater fish in the world. By the beginning of the XX century, due to the mass of industrial fish catch, the age limit and belugas size reduced by half.

As geologists consider, the Caspian Sea appeared about 100 thousand centuries ago on the territory of the Eurasian continent. Even in our XXI century Caspian gives 90% of the caviar produced in the world. In the distant past, even before the commencement of commercial fishing, the biological resources of the Caspian Sea and the Volga River reached fantastic volume and sizes.

Luxury fish, "almost equal to the dolphins"

The ancient Greek historian Polybius and Strabo, who lived in the II and I centuries BC, mention the export of Azov and the Caspian regions of large sturgeon, "almost equal to the dolphins." In ancient Rome, Sturgeon fish considered a delicacy elite.

Black caviar, falls on the river trade routes to Novgorod, mentioned from the XIII century. Since the XV century Volga caviar supplied to the court of the Great Moscow princes. Abounded sturgeon fish and caviar Lower Volga fall of the Russian state only in the middle of the XVI century, after the capture of Tsar Ivan the Terrible Kazan and Astrakhan Khanate.

In 1554 Russian forces were put on the throne of the Astrakhan Khanate new puppet khan obliged to pay tribute to the Russian Tsar. By that time, Moscow has already massively consumed delicacy fish and caviar. Therefore, as part of the tribute, Ivan the Terrible ordered Darwish Ali Khan to supply the royal treasury annually 3000 large beluga and sturgeon in fresh and salted. Prior to the beginning of the last century the average weight of sturgeon in the Volga reached 200 kilograms so the size of the Astrakhan fish tribute Moscow is estimated at 400-600 tonnes of fish annually delicacy.


In addition to the supply of fish to the Moscow Treaty dependent Astrakhan khan includes the right of the Russian people without paying tribute to the Volga catch fish throughout the river from Kazan to the Caspian Sea. In just two years, the Astrakhan Khanate was liquidated, and the entire Volga completely throughout its length was the Russian River, and since the largest share of sturgeon and black caviar belonged to Russia.

«Arminska Ekra»

The scale of caviar consumption in the pre-Petrine Russia can be estimated according to the Trinity-Sergius Monastery early XVII century. On the eve of the Time of Troubles in the monastery every year brought 6000 sturgeon and stellate sturgeon and 600 pounds (almost 10 tons) of caviar.

In 1669, Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, father of the future Emperor Peter I, issued the first decree on the regulation of fishing. By the time production of sturgeon on the Volga reached 50 thousand tons annually.

In addition to caviar the Volga supplied a glue in Russia. In the Middle Ages it was considered the best glue from sturgeon fish, which in Russia called "Karluk". Until the twentieth century, the glue was made of treated air bladders of sturgeon and was considered the best and most durable.

On average, from one ton of sturgeon receives about 1 kg of dry fish glue, which went to the domestic market and for export. By the end of the XVII century on the Volga sturgeon and beluga was done about 300 pounds of the glue. It is not difficult to calculate that for the manufacture of such amount needed to kill the fish with a total weight of nearly 5 tons. But it was worth it - European merchants willing to buy sturgeon glue as low as 7 to 15 silver rubles per pood. That is, three kilograms of the glue cost as a good horse.

The personal doctor of the king Alexei Mikhailovich Englishman Samuel Collins, who has lived nine years in Moscow, described the technology on which the "Muscovites" prepared caviar from sturgeon. The recovered caviar "cleaned, salted and put into a trough that drained oil and fat its juices; then put it in barrels and pressed very hard, as long as it is to make a solid". Fresh, salt as it was called then, "not appressed" caviar, according to Collins, was extremely tasty and sold in large quantities, but it quickly deteriorates.

Caviar produced from belugas, according to an Englishman, called on Russia Armenian. «Arminska Ekra» - so says the Englishman, explaining that Armenian merchants were the first to produce it became in the days of the Golden Horde. Soon the "Armenian" caviar in Russia increasingly became known as "of pressed", it is from the XVII century began to actively sell to Western Europe.

The Western European diplomats, arriving then to Moscow, very interested in caviar and caviar market prices. Swedish trade representative in Moscow Johann de Rodes at the end of 1653 sent to Stockholm analytical report "A detailed report on the commerce taking place in Russia."


Best quality caviar, "the best, the pressed Caviar", writes de Rodes, sent from Nizhny Novgorod on ships up the Volga to Yaroslavl, Vologda and from there through the carts on the sled to Arkhangelsk. Here spawn more profitable to sell to European merchants in the payment received only silver coin. De Rhodes said that in the years 1651-1653 from Arkhangelsk were exported 20 thousand pounds "Kaviar" in 400 barrels. In the domestic market, the volume of Russian caviar such cost about 30 thousand rubles in silver. But European merchants prices were even higher - as in 1654, almost 12 pounds of eggs were sold for export abroad Dutch merchants at a price at least twice more expensive than in the domestic market.

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