National University of Food Technologies
For the first time, an article highlights the process of founding a vegetarian
Society in Poltava (the second one on Ukrainian territory) in the early 1900’s.
The Annales school civilizational approaches constitute the methodological
ground of the study. These approaches take into account the influence of socio-cultural
factors in a comprehensive way. Everyday life history is one of the scientific
directions within which the research took place. The selected topic required
the usage of methodologies developed in the European ‘food studies’ framework.
The research relies on methods of system analysis, deduction, induction, and
A year before the actual registration of the Society, a group of activists opened
a vegetarian canteen in Poltava, aiming to promote vegetarianism. Immediately,
it became popular and profitable.
In the beginning, founded served in the canteen. Later, due to a steady increase
in the number of visitors, they hired additional personnel. There was an
urgent need to create a society that would guide its activities and systematically
implement the ideas of the canteen’s founders. In the autumn of 1912, the Society
was registered and immediately attracted the attention of the local community.
The number of its members doubled during the year.
Our research discovered that, since the beginning, the City Duma (City Council)
had been favorable to the vegetarian canteen and the Society and granted them several privileges. Given the favorable social atmosphere and extreme
successes, leaders of the Poltava Vegetarian Society were full of well-founded
optimism and outlined a broad agenda of actions. However, lack of funds, the
inertia of the vegetarian community, and issues within the political environment
undermined the plan.
Only the canteen managed to demonstrate notable success. As soon as the
Society was founded, the Canteen was transferred under its management with no
specific conditions or requirements. This transfer provided the Society with significant
resources for its activities, so members started investing in canteen development.
However, members of the Society firstly could not agree on the main
principles for the canteen functioning. Several members voted for non-commercial
usage preserving mainly its ideological function. Others attempted to make
it commercial. Finally, members managed to find a compromise, which allowed
to increase volumes and quality of service on one side and keep low prices on
the other. As a result of such policy, the canteen became a popular elite place
and failed to bring significant profits.
Taking care primarily of the canteen affairs, the Society decided to conduct
an assessment at the end of 1913. The idea was to survey Society members and
canteen visitors. The official aim was to research the development of the vegetarian
movement in Poltava. Unfortunately, the results of this poll have never
been published. At the beginning of 1917, Poltava Vegetarian Society’s Council
decided to conduct a survey again. The questionnaire published in the press
hardly intended to find out the real state of affairs. All questions were frankly
manipulative, pushing the respondents to give an answer required by the authors.
The political crisis of 1917 interrupted activities of the majority of Russian Empire
vegetarian societies in general and Poltava Vegetarian Society in particular.
Keywords: Poltava, vegetarian society, canteen, lunch, questionnaire,
O. Volkenshtein, M. Dudchenko.