March 23, 2020

This samovar, decorated in the Khokhloma style, was donated to our museum today! Thank you, dear donor, for your generosity that nothing can stand in the way of, even during this nasty pandemic!

What is a samovar? According to Fedor Dostoevsky, “A samovar is the most necessary Russian thing, and all the more so in difficult times.” A samovar is the thing you need when things really fall apart. You can heat water for tea in it without electricity. All you need is a little bit of wood chips, or even pine cones to build fire inside the samovar. Well, this particular samovar happens to be electric, but our museum has a collection of wood-heated samovars dating from the 19th century. It was about one of those that Russian poet Peter Viazemsky wrote in 1838:

“Beloved samovar, domestic altar,
Ark of home’s bliss,
You purr and pour with legends of today
And memories of Russia’s past […]

In splendid mansions and in humble huts,
A copper samovar is an orphan’s heirloom,
A widow’s treasure, and a poor man’s wealth,
Presiding at the family table.”

– Dr. Masha Zavialova, Chief Curator and Head of Collections, The Museum of Russian Art