History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in Europe (incl. Eastern Europe and the USSR (1597 - Mid 1980s) - Part 7

by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi

A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and Soyfoods: 1100 B.C. to the 1980s

Copyright 2007 Soyinfo Center, Lafayette, California

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1873-1899 . The earliest known reference to soybeans in Russia was in 1873, when the Russian botanist Maximowicz proposed that the cultivated soybean be named Glycine hispida , and that the wild soybean was the ancestor of the cultivated one.

The earliest known attempt to grow soybeans in Russia was in 1877, when Haberlandt sent at least one variety to a cooperator in Podolia (also called "Russian Poland by early writers and now located in the Ukranian SSR). During the late 1800s, after a number of recent unsuccessful attempts to grow soybeans in Russia, the distinguished agronomist Ovsinski went to China and brought back two soybean varieties, a black and a brown, which he succeeded in adapting to Russian conditions at various latitudes. Much of his work was done in Podolia, where the climate is hot and dry, and the soil is fertile, although the latitude is rather far north (48*30'N) (Courriere?? 1899). From this work the soybean variety Podolia was developed prior to 1899; it was widely grown in France.

Soyfoods made their first appearance in Russia in about 1877, when Horvath (probably the father of Dr. A.A. Horvath) made soy coffee and marketed it in South Russia (Horvath 1927). One of the world great soybean pioneers, Artemy A. Horvath was born in 1886 in Russia and probably got interested in the subject from his father, maker of the soy coffee. The full story of Horvath's work is given in Chapter 60.

In 1893 the Russian-German Bretschneider, in his Botanicon Sinicum , gave extensive information about soybeans and soyfoods in China. Soy sauce must have been imported to Russia by the late 1800s or early 1900s for Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) used a traditional ceramic Japanese shoyu jar as a vase in his living room in Russia.

1900-1919. In 1900 Nikitin gave data on various soy oil characteristics in a German publication. Also in 1900 Ref?? (in 1901 in German) he did a review of the literature on soyfoods with special reference to their food value, citing many analyses made by himself and other Russian investigators, including Giljaranski, Lipski, and Podoba. Lipski did investigations on the nutritional value and digestibility of the soybean and a soybean paste food; Podoba made zwieback using soybeans and did human feeding studies on children. Nikitin reported on the results of soybean cultivation done in south Russia, and noted that cultivation had been allowed to lapse since it was not understood how to use soybeans as food, but only as fodder.

During the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05), which the Russians fought in Manchuria and lost, locally grown soybeans served as an important food source for both armies. This was the Russians' first extensive contact with soyfoods. Horvath?? later?? reported that the Russians were amazed at the stamina of the Japanese soldiers, who used dried frozen tofu and a number of other preserved soy protein foods as basic protein sources (Senft 1906)??. During the war the Russian scientists Korentschewski and Zimmerman (1905) did feeding studies on soldiers using soy oil at the Russian military hospital at Harbin; the oil was reported to be 97% digested.

In Western Europe there had been a burst of soybean imports from Manchuria from 1907 to 1913. A substantial portion of these exports were shipped out of the big Russian port of Vladivostok, which bordered on Manchuria. However by 1913 Russia had become Europe's leading importer of soybeans, soy oil, and soybean cake. Some of the oil probably used for margarine for Russian margarine production had grown from about 18,000 tonnes in 1900 to almost 40,000 in 1920.

Work with soybeans slowed during World War I, especially following the collapse of the Russian army and of the autocratic government of the Romanov czar, Nicolas II, leading to his abdication in March 1917. Following the hasty establishment of a provisional government, the Bolsheviks seized power in November 1917 and in 1918 formed the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic (RSFSR), the first socialist state in Europe; its name was changed to the USSR in 1922.

1920-1939. These 2 decades were ones of great activity and innovation with soybeans and soyfoods under the new Communist government, in part as a response to severe food shortages. Lenin had died in 1924 and by 1928 Stalin held absolute power. During these tumultuous years millions perished in a series of disasters: the major famines in 1921-22 and 1926, then worse in 1932-34; the elimination of the kulaks (peasant land owners) in 1929-34, and the major purges of 1936-38. Industry was financed by a general decline in living standards and exploitation of agriculture, which was almost totally collectivized on collective farms and state farms by the early 1930s.

It was at the time of the 1926 famine that the USSR began to take a great interest in soybeans and to start large-scale cultivation. In 1926 or 1927 the Austro-Hungarian soyfoods pioneer L. Berczeller went to the Soviet Union. Presumably they invited him, knowing of his interest and expertise in food world supplies and soy protein foods, Berczeller stayed in the USSR until about 1930 to help organize a modern soy industry. He met with Joseph Stalin and discussed soybeans and soy flour. For his work he was apparently given the title "Honorary General of the Red Army."

Soviet botanists were actively interested in soybeans in the mid-1920s. N.I. Vavilov discussed soybeans in his classic "Studies on the Origin of Cultivated Plants" (1926 Ref??). And Skvortzov (Skvortzow) in 1927 published "The Soybean, Wild and Cultivated in Eastern Asia," containing pioneering research on wild soybeans.

The USSR was the first nation in Europe and the second nation in the Western World (after the USA) to become a major soybean producer. Although according to Piper and Morse (1923), small amounts of soybeans were grown in the southern USSR (Podolia, Samarow) in the early 1920s, it was not until the late 1920s that commercial production really took off, reaching 41,000 tonnes in 1928 then leaping to a peak of 283,000 tonnes in 1931. Thereafter it fell back to 54,000 tonnes in 1935, then started to rise again during the late 1930s (Fig. ?.??). Soviet soybean production did not reach the 1931 level again until the late 1950s. The USSR also exported large quantities of soybean during these peak production years; 35,000 tonnes in 1931, then a peak of 177,000 tonnes in 1931, falling off to an average of 15,000 tonnes in the mid-1930s.

Another Western European soybean pioneer who worked in the USSR during the exciting period of the early 1930s was L. Rouest, the French soybean agronomist. Leaving his breeding project in southern France in 1931, he went to work in the Soviet Union at a Soybean Institute near the Caucasus doing new studies on soybean propagation. There he cultivated 2,000 soybean species and from those selected the best 600, samples of which he took back with him when he returned to France in 1935 or 1936.

At least eleven Soviet investigations on soybean agronomy were published during the period from 1929-1934, with 1932 being the peak year; all were published in Russian and most ranged from 50-150 pages in length. A detailed listing is given under "Soybeans" in the National Agricultural Library catalog and in Hennefrund 1938. At the NAL all the studies are catalogued under code 60.3. A few studies were done on using soybeans as fodder.

Yet, perhaps because of the famines and general hardships in the USSR during this period of worldwide economic Depression, most of the interest in soybeans seems to have been in their use as foods. Sometime shortly before May 1931 a "Soy Institute was organized in Moscow, as well as a special exhibition of soy foods at which 130 varieties of soy dishes, including cutlets, pastry, salads, candy, and beef, were shown . . . " as first reported by Horvath on that date. In November 1931 P.A. Webber in the US reported: In Russia the soybean is taking prominence in the dietary of the people there. `Plant soybeans and you plant meat, milk, egg omelets,' is the newspaper cry." In 1936 the Englishman Kale wrote:

In the Five Years Plan Russia has set aside vast tracts of land for the cultivation of the soya bean. There is a soya bean Research Institute at Moscow. An exhibition of soya bean foods was held where 300 varieties of soya bean dishes were prepared including cake, pastry, salads, biscuits, chocolates, toffee, tea, coffee, cutlets, meat substitutes, soup, etc. It was served to the representatives of trade-unions, factories, engineers, Soviet Press, and the Red Army. The food was unanimously pronounced to be excellent . . . The Soya Research Institute at Moscow is making researches into the nutritive, industrial, and economical values of the Soya Bean. I have seen there the actual working of the Soya-bean milk extracting plant. They make casein out of Soya-bean milk. Soya-bean cream is sold in the market . . . rickets and consumption are treated by Soyolk (Berczeller's soy flour) . . .

In his book, Kale showed photographs of the large, modern soymilk factory he had visited in Russia.

In 1931 Tolmachev (Ref??) wrote a 12-page report (in Russian) on Chinese soyfoods. At about this same time an undated 68-page report on soyfoods was published in Moscow. The text was in Russian with summaries of some of the articles in English. Many of the articles were written by D.E. Belenky. Subjects included "Complex method of industrial utilization of the soybean," "New sources of national food supply," "Koumyss from soybean milk," "Bacterial method of making tofu," "Soybeans as a meat substitute," and "Utilization and rationalization of tofu production" (NAL 60.39 M85)??.

This document and numerous others indicate that the soyfoods that attracted the greatest attention in the USSR during this period were soymilk and tofu, not soy flour as was the case in Western Europe during the 1930s. In 1931 Horowitz-Wlassowa and co-workers published articles "On the Preparation of Soymilk" and "On the Preparation of Kefirs and Cheeses from Soymilk," Ssadikow and co-workers (19?? Ref??) wrote "Processes for Making Soymilk," and Winokurov and Palladine (1932 Ref??) wrote "Biochemistry of Soymilk." In 1933 Bogatskii and co-workers Ref?? published "Processes for making soymilk," and "Technology for the Production and Methods of Deodorizing Soymilk," and Belen'kii and Popova (Belenki and Papowa, 1933) patented a process for "Cheese from Soy Milk." In 1935 a Leningrad institute (Ref??) published a 40-page report on "Uses of Soybeans in Confectionery," which contained articles on soymilk, soy cream, using okara in the chocolate industry, soybean pies, simplified method for roasting soybeans with sugar, and preserving okara for use in making crackers. Finally in 1937 Food Field Reporter in the US?? wrote an article entitled "Russians Make Soybean Milk, use it for Chocolate Candy," summarizing the 1935 Leningrad report on soy confections. Hennefrund (1938) gave citations for all of these.

After about 1935, interest in soyfoods seemed to fall, as soybean production had fallen from 1931-1935. Nothing is known of the reasons for this declining interest or of the fate of the Soya Research Institute.

1940-1959. Little is known about Soviet production of soybeans and use of soyfoods after the mid-1930s or during World War II. Soybean production grew slowly from 95,000 tonnes in 1938 to 166,000 tonnes in 1950, dropped to 123,000 tonnes in 1954, then grew rapidly to 344,000 tonnes in 1961, making the USSR the second largest soybean producer in the Western World, after the USA. Ryzhikov (1947) wrote about soybeans in the USSR during this period. Between 1955 and 1960 soybean imports averaged 500,000 tonnes a year, reaching a peak of 630,000 tonnes in 1959.

Margarine production also increased rapidly during this period (Fig. 27.1) and in about 1955 the USSR passed the UK to become the world's third largest margarine producer, after the USA and West Germany. It is not known what percent of the oil in this margarine was soy oil, but certainly some was.

1960-1982. In about 1963 Soviet margarine production passed that of West Germany, then in the late 1970s it passed that of the USA to make the USSR the world's leading margarine producer. During this period a large percentage of the oil used in this margarine was soy oil.

In 1966 Soviet soybean production reached 586,000 tonnes, but thereafter it stagnated, remaining at that level into the 1980s (Fig. ?.??). Most of the country's soybeans were produced in the area just east of Romania, in the Moldavian SSR, formerly Romanian Bessarabia, at 47-48* north latitude, just south of Podolia.

After one-time large soybean imports of 92,000 tonnes in 1965, the USSR started large scale, regular soybean imports in 1972, which grew from 300,000 tonnes that year to 700,000 tonnes in 1973, rising to a peak of 1,765,021 in 1979. Prior to 1980 most of these imports came from the USA, but after the US limitation of farm exports to the USSR in January 1980 in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the USSR imported most of its soybeans from Brazil and Argentina. The embargo was lifted in April 1981. In the late 1970s Soviet imports of soybean oil and meal rose dramatically. Meal imports, used as part of "a large-scale drive to decisively improve protein feed supplies," leading to increased availability of meat and other animal products, rose to 50,000 tonnes in 1979, then skyrocketed to 350,000 tonnes in 1980 and 1,700,000 tonnes in 1981 (which came mainly from Western Europe and Brazil). 1982-83 imports were projected at a staggering 4.4 million tonnes.

The shift of the USSR from a major oil exporter to an oil importer was an important international trade development, since as recently as 1975 the country had exported 550,000 tonnes of oil a year. Soy oil imports rose to 19,500 tonnes in 1979, then to 35,000 tonnes in 1980. This soy oil was probably used mostly in margarine and in cooking and salad oils.

The USSR with a population of 268 million people in 1980, more than half as great of the population of Western and Eastern Europe combined, promises to be a large market for soybeans and products. American soybean farmers are working hard to see that political problems don't prevent them from filling that demand.

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