The Imperiia Project: a spatial history of the Russian Empire

Sweet Things: A Map of Gingerbread-Bakers and Chocolatiers

Chocolate is as political as it delicious.

Consider for example the history of the Roshen Confectionery Corporation, which ranks in the top 25% of most global indexes of confectionery producers each year. The company was owned by - and named for - Petro Poroshenko until his election as president of Ukraine in 2014. While Poroshenko eventually transferred his stake to the Rothschild family, Roshen's ability to operate, let alone export, has proven inseparable from Ukrainian-Russian relations. 
Access to sweets has always been a function of social status. And the nature of the sweets to which one has access has just as much to do with culture: with holidays, religious beliefs, practices associated with health and family and many other elements of daily life. While researching the Gardens of Crimea project we stumbled upon the fact that the apples and pears and cherries that grew so famous throughout the empire played a crucial role in the production of sweets: in a region with limited access to cane sugar, confectioners processed fruits into the syrups and compotes that brought candies and pastries to life on the tongue.

Confections are a sidenote in the broader history of factory production, which focuses almost exclusively on the heavy-hitters of the economy: iron, steel, and cloth.

But sweet things matter.

In 1887 the Department of Trade and Manufactures published an index of factories in European Russia and the Kingdom of Poland and it included a section on "Confections and Macaroni." It identifiesThe factories listed in the index produced over 11,000 tons of confection and more than 6,000 tons of macaroni on an annual basis. Products in this category include pryaniki, candies, confections (unspecified), caramels, montpensiers, chocolate, cookies, wafers, halva, lokum, tahini, jam, pastila, marmalade, biscuits, and baked goods.

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