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Russian People and Semechki (sunflower seeds): the Story behind the Complex Relationships

Russian People and Semechki

It is difficult to imagine, but there were times when Russian people knew nothing about Semechki. Now Russia ranks first in their production. Today, you can find a wide variety of sunflower seeds at almost any store. In our article, we’re going to tell you the story behind complex relations between Russian people and Semechki, and love for this treat in Russia.

How Semechki appeared in Russia?

Semechki appeared in Russia in 1698. It was Peter the Great who brought sunflowers from Holland. Russian people immediately fell in love with beautiful sunflowers. Therefore, they considered it a decorative plant. It’s impossible to give the exact time when people started popping Semechki, although we know when people first pressed the oil out of sunflower seeds.

In 1829, a peasant Bokaryev from the village of Alekseyevka in Voronezh region built a press that wrung the oil out of sunflower seeds. Compared to linseed and hemp oil, the production of sunflower oil was much more profitable, so it was an instant hit. Soon, the first oil factory was opened in Alekseyevka, and it still works up to now.  They make the well-known sunflower oil “Sloboda” there.

Russian People and Semechki

The new crop spread rapidly throughout the country. Sunflower occupied about 40% of agricultural land in Saratov and Voronezh regions, and by the end of the 19th century, sunflower oil became popular among all residents in Russia.

Russian habit of popping Semechki

At first, eating sunflower seeds was popular only in rural areas. However, with the advent of railway communication and labor migrants, the habit of popping Semechki appeared in cities, too. Before the 1917 revolution, popping Semechki in public places was considered inappropriate. Then there was a general marginalization of the population and Semechki hit the streets of cities. Aristocrats and intelligentsia didn’t approve of it. Mindless popping of Semechki by people, husks on the carpets of the houses represented a revolutionary chaos.

Russian People and Semechki

Semechki and Soviets

During the formation of the Soviet state, popping Semechki was also considered a bad habit. Then it was decided to take peasants back to collective farms, and to clear the cities of husks and people who at any opportunity took out Semechki and threw husks on the streets. At the time of perestroika, in the cities there were elderly ladies who sold Semechki putting them into rolled-up bags made from newspapers. At that time, Semechki became a social marker and a communication tool.

Now you can find a wide variety of Semechki, produced by different companies. However, until now, popping Semechki on the street, and spitting out the husk under your feet, is considered inappropriate.

Russian People and Semechki

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