Despite nowadays political situation and the past of propaganda, Russia was the main fur trades hot spot. This nations has an old and long history of fur fashion. Today Russia is the main part of the global fur market. How eastern furriers managed to dictate the fur trends, even under difficult political circumstances? Even today they use fur fabric for clothing and interior purposes. In Siberian Taiga there is a great populations of fur-bearers. Who are they? Why Russian region is so exceptional? And why Russian fur?
In the beginning Russians used this warm materials in their households, not just for clothing. It was the perfect fabric for bedding insulation. In the beginning Russians thought about fur practically, within years it became one of the most important part of their economy. Russian fur pelts were made out of marten, sable, beaver, fox and even wolf. Those were the days, when fur was item of exchange just before money came into being. It was possible to pay with fur for education, goods and even church services. Fur was the most valuable item, a duty, a fine and a tribute. In Russian history there was a time, when fur was responsible for adjustment and tribute of this nations population. Some duties were exchanged with “black marten”.
Just as today, Russian fur was a perfect gift. Barons gave valuable furs to Princesses. It was also a reward for “good deeds”. We know now that fur is a perfect, luxurious, so as expensive, present. Prince’s family, noble guests, ambassadors and priests got fur hats and coats as a present on those solemn and celebratory days. In those days fur had a great value and so it has today. Merchants and noblemen hoped to get fur, most of the time they inherited it and passed to other generations. Fur was also the most important part of a wedding garment.
Only in 10-11th century Russian fur became the part of global trades. In the beginning trades included only the neighboring countries. Boyars and princes were also selling fur, not just merchants. Kievan Russia was interested in fur trades with the East so as with Byzantium. For two centuries Russians tried to expand their trade routs with the Western world. In the middle ages the most popular bearers of fur from Russia were beavers, foxes, hares, squirrels and wolfs. Those animals populations came from nowadays Ukraine and Belarus. The Western world was happy with these trades.
The majority of these animals were being sold for their fur and were brought from the territorial of nowadays Ukraine and Belarus. There was a time when these lands came into the territory of Polish state and later to The Great Lithuanian Principality. Thus in 14th century Russian fur caught the attention of foreign merchants. Thus in the 15th-16th centuries fur importation and exportation was more important than local goods. Situation in local fur market got even poorer. Russian forest were “scanty” ( situation with local wild animals got even worse). Monetary taxes changed their old duties, but the names of furs in the titles of taxes remained ( squirrels, martens, beavers).
Russian fur was brought from Moscovia in the 15-17th centuries. From that moment it became the Moscow fur. Trades from Moscow reached Moldovia, Valachia, Italy, Turkey, The Netherlands and the Balkan Peninsula. This trade was possible because of Ukrainian and Polish merchants, but the big rise in Russian fur market happened with the taming of Siberia. This region was rich in all kids of high quality furs. Siberian furs definitely contributed to the empire’s glory and fame. It was the biggest sable territory, some sort of fur paradise. Russia gained strength because of fur. Thus it was the time of “soft lumber” ( Russian trade mark) and great position in the global fur market. Russia was the biggest supplier of furs until the end of 19th century, when the Western world ( USA and Canada) took over. Nowadays Russia still has a strong fur market, they still hold a high position in global fur trades.