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4. Abbreviated history

In Russia, the samovar's precursor was known as сбитенник (sbitennik), an implement for heating сбитень (sbiten), a hot winter drink of honey, herbs and spice. A sbitennik looked like a metal teakettle fitted with a heater pipe and legs, similar to a samovar.

During the 19th century, samovars gained increasing popularity in major cities, such as Saint Petersburg and Moscow, and became inseparably bound to the Russian way of life.

Classics of Russian literature, like Pushkin, Gogol and Chekhov, regularly mention samovars in their works. Chekhov even coined an idiom: "to take one's own samovar to Tula". This phrase is still understood and occasionally used by most Russians, with a meaning similar to the English "to carry coals to Newcastle".

Railroad companies in Russia recognized the practicality and popularity of samovars, and fitted long-distance sleeping cars with them. Luxurious cars of the Trans-Siberian railroad were first to adopt this custom. Gradually, the samovar in a railroad car was replaced by the boiler of potable water, known as титан (titan) in the Soviet Union.

With the advent of electricity and electroplating, the hitherto undisputed reign of the solid-combustible burning samovar came to an end. The gentle flavour of smoke from burning pine cones proved to be insufficient in the face of such benefits as the ease of use and convenience, reduced tea-brewing time and the ease of cleaning, let alone the longevity provided by the nickel-plating that protects brass from corrosion.

Catering facilities and households embraced the new technology swiftly; only the railroads remained faithful to the smoky, charcoal-fuelled, traditional samovar.

Or go back to revisit:

1. About the Samovar
2. Samovar Through History
3. Types of Samovars
5. Sbiten or Russian brew
6. Birth of the Samovar



















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