French Influence on Russian Cuisine

In the early eighteenth century, Peter the Great instituted a series of reforms to end his country’s isolation. One unanticipated result was a decisive change in Russian cuisine, at least for the upper classes. According to the Soviet food historian V. V. Pokhlebkin, both the upper and lower classes in Russia had formerly eaten the same kind of national dishes, although to be sure the upper classes had always eaten a wider variety of better foods. With the opening of Peter’s “window to the West,” however, a sharp divergence occurred. The lower classes retained their traditional dishes, while the Court and nobility began to accept unfamiliar foods along with new Western ideas. The first important foreign influences on Russian cuisine were German and Dutch, followed by Swedish. Soon thereafter French culture became predominant in Russia, in the kitchen as well as the drawing room.65