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Catriona Kelly: Russian Food from 1800: Empire at Table



This is a Hybrid Event.

Professor Catriona Kelly, who is well-known to members of the Society, is a leading cultural historian of Russia and the Soviet Union. She is also a keen amateur cook. In her recently published book, Russian Food Since 1800: Empire at Table, Professor Kelly provides an illuminating history of Russian food in the modern age. She reflects on the hugely important role which food has had in Russia in political, symbolical and practical terms and in an environment where what you eat (and drink) indicates how patriotic you are.In her illustrated talk Professor Kelly will explore this and other themes she covers in her book. She will show, for example, how an expectation of 'feeding' is embedded in attitudes to the State as provider, and that rationing systems have traditionally replicated and even enforced social hierarchies. Professor Kelly will also discuss how Russian food has always been intimately connected with family and friends, and was an important source of delight throughout the Soviet period, when official culinary provision and practices ostensibly sought to promote nutrition above all, and when food was often short. She will also describe the various shifts in diet and cuisine over the last three centuries, including the ways in which old traditions such as pickling and jam-making sit alongside dishes like Uzbek plov, Ukrainian borscht and Georgian shashlik on the Russian dining-table.

Professor Catriona Kelly studied Russian at the University of Oxford and the University of Voronezh and was a post-doctoral fellow at Christ Church, Oxford before joining SSEES in 1993. She returned to Oxford in 1996 and in 2021 was elected a Senior Research Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, where she is also Honorary Professor of Russian and Soviet Culture.

In her work Professor Kelly has focused on the realities of everyday life and culture in the Soviet Union, addressing topics as diverse as the life of children, women’s writing and social mores and manners as well as food. She has written many books about Russian and Soviet culture and history. These include Russian Literature: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2001); Refining Russia: Advice Literature, Polite Culture, and Gender from Catherine to Yeltsin (Oxford University Press, 2001); Comrade Pavlik: The Rise and Fall of a Soviet Boy Hero (Granta Books, 2005); and St Petersburg: Shadows of the Past (Yale University Press, 2014). Members will recall the fascinating Zoom talk Professor Kelly gave in March 2022 based on the book she had published in 2021 about the Lenfilm Studio under Brezhnev (“Soviet Art House”). We are delighted that this time Professor Kelly will be able to join us in person to talk about her latest book, Russian Food Since 1800: Empire at Table, which was published by Bloomsbury Academic in February 2024.

At this event

Tanya Linaker

Team Leader for Slavic and Middle Eastern Languages

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