Influence of the Russian Orthodox Church

The Russian Orthodox Church had a profound influence on the formation of cuisine in Tsarist Russia. Up until the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, Russian cooking developed along two parallel tracks with separate foods for meat days and for fast days. Since Orthodox believers were required to fast nearly two hundred days per year, the cuisine developed into a diet of opposites with frequent alterations between fasting and feasting.30

The Church prescribed four major fasts per year, the most important of which was the seven-week Great Fast preceding Easter. The Trinity or Whitsun Fast lasted from eight to forty-two days; it began fifty days after Easter and continued until June 29, which was the Feast of Peter and Paul. The third fast of a fortnight’s duration preceded the Assumption of the Virgin in mid-August. The Christmas or Advent Fast lasted for forty days; it began November 15 and ended on December 25. In addition, all Wednesdays and Fridays were treated as fast days except that fasting was prohibited during Easter week, Whitsun week, and the twelve days after Christmas.31