Taking My Samavor to Tula

An remarkable collection of forty samovars is on display at The Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis now through January 24, 2016.

A samovar or “self-boiler” is a metal urn with a spigot used to boil water for making tea. The water is boiled by kindling a fire in a metal tube that fits inside the urn. Although samovars are used for an ordinary, everyday purpose, the exhibit shows that many of them are elaborate works of art.

Samovar 3The industrial city of Tula in western Russia became the most important manufacturer of samovars, boasting of over 28 samovar factories in the 1850’s. The phrase, “taking my samovar to Tula” became synonymous with doing something futile, pointless or unnecessary, kind of like the phrases “carrying coal to Newcastle” and “preaching to the choir.”

Tea-drinking came to Russia in the early years of the Romanov dynasty and soon became a staple of everyday life across the country.

The Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis is one of my favorite places to visit in the Twin Cities. I’ve never been disappointed by any of their exhibits. For history buffs, the other exhibit going on right now at the museum is called “Faces of War, Russia in World War I 1914-1918.”

I am not a big fan of gift shops but this museum’s gift shop features a great selection of beautiful, Russia-sourced items.

Pictures of samovars from the exhibit brochure

Samovar 1

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