History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in Eastern Europe (Including All of Russia) (1783-2020)

William Shurtleff; Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-948436-17-5

Publication Date: 2020 May 28

Number of References in Bibliography: 3598

Earliest Reference: 1783

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Brief chronology/timeline of soy in Eastern Europe (including all of Russia).

1783 – Soy sauce and ketchup (whose main ingredient is probably soy sauce) are now both sold in Russia for 20 Cop. per common-sized bottle (Muscovy Company 1783).

1800 or 1804Monografija Dubrovnika 1800-1810 godina [Monograph of Dubrovnik, 1800-1810], by Andrija Buconjic, a handwritten, unpublished manuscript written in Cyrillic characters, is a story set in Dubrovnik (an ancient city on the Adriatic sea, in today’s Croatia). Prof. Ted Hymowitz of the University of Illinois received the manuscript from Bogdan Belic, who found it in the Library of a monastery. Prof. Hymowitz had it translated into English.

“A woman in the market named Donna Maria said she had grown yellow beans for years and had fed them, cooked, to her family every Friday when the entire family fasted and on church holidays. She instructed me to fry or boil the yellow beans, mix them with barley or corn grain, and feed the mixture to chickens. They would then lay those beautiful eggs, even two a day, like those from her basket.”

Donna Maria then told friar Bucojnic: “I was given the seeds by captain Luca, our neighbor in the village of Konavlje, and he had brought the seeds” from a “far-away country called China. Ask captain Luca; he will tell you more. He calls the seeds 'soybeans' and in Konavlje we call them 'yellow beans.' So the next day the friar visited captain Luca, who said: "These seeds are called soybeans in China. I brought some in 1804 and planted them in my garden, the way my friends from China advised me.” He proceeds to tell the fascinating, long story (first cited by fra, I. Simic in 1826).

However, I. Kolak et al. of Zagreb (1992, p. 76) state the following about this document: “Soybean seed was introduced from China by sailors from Dubrovnik for the first time in 1800 and, the same year it was planted in Dubrovnik, Konavle, Slano and Ston under the name ‘Chinese yellow beans.’”

This is the earliest document seen concerning the cultivation of soybeans in Eastern Europe.

1811-1813 – Capt. Vasilii Golownin, a Russian, while confined to a prison in Japan, receives miso, tofu and soy sauce as part of his food.

1831 – A list of plants collected in the basin of the Amur River, on the border between northwest China and Russia, in 1831 by Alexander von Bunge of Russia includes Soja hispida. This may be the earliest document seen concerning the cultivation of soybeans in Russia (Bunge 1833, p. 94).

1845 – Siebold and Zuccarini, in a book about the flora of Japan, first give the soybean its present genus name, Glycine. They are also the first to give the wild soybean its present scientific name Glycine soja.

1856 July 19 – Carl Joh. Maximowicz, a Russian botanist, finds soybeans cultivated in the basin of the Amur River between northwest China and Russia (1859).

1860 – Wraxall describes Worcestershire sauce in Ukraine; its main ingredient is soy sauce.

1861 – In an essay on the flora of the Ussuri/Amur River, Regel and Maack, Russian naturalists first give the name Glycine ussuriensis to the wild soybean. They admit that, despite its unusual characteristics, G. ussuriensis may be simply a different form of Glycine soja Sieb. et Zucc., rather than a new species. The name is soon standardized as Glycine soja.

1876 April – Soybeans are first cultivated in today’s Ukraine. Friedrich Haberlandt, of the Imperial-Royal College of Agriculture in Vienna, sends seeds to Dr. Nicolaus Dimitriewicz, a former student at the Royal College of Agriculture in Vienna, and now a farmer in Bukovina [Bukowina or Bucovina]. He receives 100 seeds which he sends to 6 farmers he knows in four nearby locations in the district of Kotzman (today’s Kitsman) in southwestern Ukraine. The seeds are planted on April 20 or later (Haberlandt 1877, p. 253, 257-58).

1876 April – Soybeans are first cultivated in today’s Czech Republic. Prof. Friedrich Haberlandt sends soybeans to Mr. A. Tomaszek [Tomasek], farmer and civil servant in Napagedl in Mähren [Moravia, a region in today's central Czech Republic]. He plants 25 yellow and 25 reddish-brown soybeans on April 29. The yellow yield 1,400 seeds and the reddish-brown 1,350 seeds (Haberlandt 1877, Jan. p. p. 253, 255-56, 260, 263).

1876 April – Soybeans are first cultivated in today’s Hungary. Friedrich Haberlandt sends soybeans to landowner A. Stojics (p. 253-54) in Gross-Becskerek in Hungary. He plants 100 brownish-red and 100 yellow soybeans in mid-April. In mid-September he harvests 0.33 kg seeds of the former and 0.32 kg of the latter (Haberlandt 1877, Jan. p. 253-54).

1876 April – Soybeans are first cultivated in today’s Poland. Friedrich Haberlandt sends soybeans to A. Schnorrenpfeil (p. 253, 258), Administrator of Gutswirthschaft at the Agricultural Academy in Proskau (Landwirtschaftlichen Akademie Proskau) [now named Proszkow, in today's southwest Poland] in Preussisch-Schlesien [Prussian Silesia, a Prussian province later divided into upper- and lower Silesia]. He plants 50 seeds of two varieties in late April. Note: Proszkow is a market town located 7 miles southwest of Oppeln (now Opole), in southwest Poland at north latitude 50°40' (Haberlandt. 1877, Jan. p. 253, 258).

1877 April – Soybeans are first cultivated in today’s Slovakia/The Slovak Republic. Friedrich Haberlandt sends soybeans to 8 farmers in this area. The name of each village or locality is given (Haberlandt 1878. Part 3: Agronomic trials in the year 1877. p. 68-86).

1877 May – Soybeans are first cultivated in today’s Slovenia. Franz Schollmayer of the Versuchshof-Administration in Laibach [Ljubljana, capital of today’s Slovenia] obtains soybean seeds from Prof. Friedrich Haberlandt of Vienna. He obtains 200 brown-seeded soybeans from China, 200 black-seeded soybeans from China, and 200 yellow-seeded soybeans from Mongolia. He plants the seeds on 16 May 1877 about 26 cm apart in a grid pattern at the experimental farm in Ljubljana. After several days, all of the seeds have germinated and emerged well. The plant tops soon form a canopy so that few weeds could grow. The stems become very sturdy and the pods fill nicely with seed. The lower pods on the plants ripen in mid-September and the higher pods in mid-October. The 180 brown-seeded plants yield 6,660 seeds (37-fold increase) weighing 1,061½ gm. The 180 black-seeded plants yield 7,814 seeds (43.41-fold increase) weighing 816½ gm. And the 180 yellow-seeded plants yield 16,371 seeds (90.95-fold increase) weighing 1,925½ gm. These increases are so much larger than can be obtained from regular Austrian runner or French beans, that the soybean (especially the yellow variety) must be urgently recommended for expanded cultivation (Schollmayer 1877. Nov. 24, p. 533).

1877 spring – Ivan. G. Podoba in southern Russia starts to cultivate soybeans sent to him by Prof. Haberlandt of Vienna. These are the earliest soybeans clearly cultivated in Russia. Podoba resides in the Tavricheskaya Governorate (Taurua Oblast) on the northern coast of the Black Sea, in today’s Crimea (Podoba 1879).

1878 – Soybeans are first cultivated in today’s Romania. Friedrich Haberlandt sends soybeans: In Luka czestie [Lukaczestie] in Bukovina [Bukowina or Bucovina, a former Austrian crownland, now divided between the Ukraine and Romania], the landowner Kl. Botkouski obtained from 160 yellow soybeans 1.36 kg of seeds. Note: Lukaczestie [today’s Lucaciul] is a village in today's (2015) Romania, 16.5 km east of Gura Humorului (Haberlandt. 1877, Jan. p. 596).

1880 – Soybeans are first cultivated in today’s Belarus in the Grodno and Mogilev regions (Strazh & Myatel’ski 1930, p. 68).

1881 March – Ivan G. Podoba, in a letter to the editor, states that soybeans make a good coffee substitute.

1881 April – Soybeans are first cultivated in today’s Moldova. Count Marakov writes: Along with the March issue of the Transactions of the I.V.E. Society (Imperial Free Economic Society), we received 79 soybean seeds, which were planted on April 17 [1881] in the garden of the Karabedovka Estate (Bessarabian province {guberniia}, Bender district {uezd}, Abaklidzhaiskaia township {volost'}). They were planted in rows 14 inches (8 vershki; 1 vershok = 1.75 inches) long. The distance between seeds was 8.75 inches (5 vershki), and they emerged from the ground on May 2-3. By August they ripened, and on Aug. 10 we uprooted the plants and allowed them to dry; the pods were in clusters of three, and when the beans were threshed we ended up with 4 pounds of seeds. Individual seeds were slightly smaller than those which had been sent to us (Marakov 1882, p. 551).

1885 Nov. – A. Lipskiy, in a Russian-language article titled [The Chinese soybean and its nutritive value], states: Recently a special type of coffee has appeared for sale in Petersburg under the name of "Chinese coffee," prepared from soybeans, which for some reason is not indicated on the labels. The chemical composition of this coffee, according to our analysis, is as follows:

Water, 4.25%

Fatty substances, 19.33%

Proteins, 37.28%

Non-nitrogenous substances 33.45%

Ash, 5.69%

This coffee contains a quite significant quantity of nutritive substances and its taste, it seems to us, is fairly pleasant.

1899 – Ivan Yevhenovych Ovsinsky (1856-1909) of Podolia, in today’s Ukraine, conducts trials with soybeans. After numerous vain attempts, Mr. Ovsinsky [also spelled Ovsinski, Ovsinskii, Ovinski, Owinski] succeeds in acclimatizing two varieties (one black, one brownish) to the area of Podolie, which has a very hot and dry climate. The black soybean requires 110 days for its seed to mature, and the brownish one requires 100 days (Courrière 1899, Jan/June. p. 472-73).

1899 – Soybeans are first cultivated in today’s Lithuania. Mr. Czeczott conducted agronomic trials with the soybean in Grodno, Lithuania (Courrière 1899, Jan/June. p. 472-73).

1910 – Soy coffee (made of roasted and ground soybeans), is made by a company name Argot or Argo at Sta. Quirili (Kurile), on the railroad from Batoum to Tiflis, Republic of Georgia (Frank Meyer, letters).

Georgia had been a vassal of Russia since 1783. So this is also the earliest known commercial soy product made in the Russian Empire.

1916 – Soybeans are first cultivated in today’s Bosnia and Herzegovina. The source of these soybeans is unknown (Kuraz & Senft 1917).

1917 Oct. – The Russian Revolution succeeds, leading to a Bolshevik (Communist) government and transforming Eastern Europe for more than 100 years.

1918 – Soybeans are first cultivated in today’s Bulgaria (Stopanski Pregled. 1918, March. p. 25-27).

1919 July 30 – Charles V. Piper of the USDA asks W.J. Morse to send soy beans (1-pound bags of 5-6 early and medium varieties) to Lieut. Frank Micka, Cecho-Slovak Consulate in New York. “These seeds are for experimental purposes in Bohemia” [the area around Prague in today's Czech Republic].

Note: This is the earliest document seen that mentions soybeans in connection with Czechoslovakia, which was established in Oct. 1918. Formerly, it had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

1922 Dec. 30 – The Soviet Union comes into existence by the unification of the Russian, Transcaucasian, Ukrainian, and Byelorussian republics.

1928 – Romania is the leader in soybean cultivation in Eastern Europe during the 1930s. In 1928, a series of experiments with soybeans is initiated by the agricultural research institute in Bucharest, which leads to the area of soybean cultivation being estimated at up to 400 hectares by 1933 (Granhall 1939).

1929 – Collectivization of Soviet agriculture begins, as Stalin forces peasants onto collectives. One result is millions of deaths from starvation (some estimates place the figure as high as 10 million).

1930-1933 – Leon Rouest, soybean pioneer from France, works in Russia’s Northern Caucasus introducing, propagating and breeding soybeans. His hopes for success and progress are largely unrealized and he returns to France disappointed (Rouest & Guerpel. 1936. Le soja français et ses applications agricoles et industrielles. xxiii + 99 p. See p. xv-xvii).

1934 – Soybeans are first cultivated in today’s Estonia (University of Tartu, Botanical Gardens).

1934 – “In Romania, a German-Romanian company 'Solagra' [or Soja S.A.R., or Soja-Gesellschaft] controlled by the German Dye Trust (I.G. Farben) was founded for the purpose of encouraging the cultivation of soybeans in Romania” (Diaconescu, O.; Hymowitz, T. 1940. p. 16-17; Granhall 1939).

1938 – In Romania, about 150,000 acres were sown to soybeans. The beans were exported to Germany (Diaconescu, O.; Hymowitz, T. 1940. p. 16-17).

1940 – Soybeans are being cultivated in Latvia by 1940. Source: Soybean collection at the N.I. Vavilov All-Russian Research Institute of Plant Industry (VIR) based on the log book of 1940, sent (Nov. 2010) by Irina Seferova, Soybean Collection Curator at the VIR.

1942 – Soybeans are first cultivated in today’s Albania at Korça as an experiment on a small piece of land (Karaj 1985).

1943 – Soybeans are first cultivated in today’s Macedonia (Nikolov 1961, p. 22-24).

1947 – World War I inflicts great damage on the USSR and its crops. “The areas sown to soya in the Ukraine, North Caucasus and Moldavia decreased considerably as a result of the war and the temporary occupation. In the Ukranian SSR these plantations decreased by 80 percent, in the North Caucasus by 83 percent and in Moldavia by 77 percent” (Ryzhikov, N. 1947. Soybean Digest. p. 12).

1969 – In Romania, about 150,000 acres are sown to soybeans (Diaconescu, O.; Hymowitz, T. 1940. p. 16-17).

1972 – The USSR has its most severe drought in 100 years, leading to small harvests of grains and soybeans (Gavva 1974).

1973 June 27 – After huge Soviet purchases of soybeans from the USA, President Richard Nixon imposes a worldwide embargo on soybeans and soybean products to keep down the price of soybeans, which had topped $12.00 a bushel by early June of 1973. The result (called the “Nixon shock” in Japan) is a short- and long-term disaster, especially for U.S. soybean farmers. USA. The main U.S. trading partners are dismayed that the country that had long championed free trade would resort to an embargo to protect its domestic interests. Japan encourages Brazil to grow more soybeans and become a reliable trading partner. The rest is history (Chicago Board of Trade 1973; Acton 1982).

1973 – Romania is by far the leading soybean producer in Eastern Europe, producing 224,000 tons on 452,000 acres. Yugoslavia is in 2nd place (Proctor 1975, p. 11).

1976 – Soviet purchases of U.S. goods in 1976 amounted to a 20-fold increase over those in 1970. Much of these purchases were soybeans and feed grains (Lee 1978, p. 6, 9, 10, 12).

1984 – Tofu and miso are first made commercially in Czechoslovakia by Kamil Bersky, M.D. of Sunfood (Dobruska, Czechoslovakia). He is macrobiotic.

1986 – While the sunflower is the leading oilseed crop grown in the USSR (5.26 million metric tons in 1986), followed by cottonseed (4.53 million metric tons in 1986), production of soybeans is increasing the fastest; it has grown from 471,000 metric tons in 1971 to 703,000 metric tons in 1986 (Daizu Geppo. 1987. July/Aug. p. 12-15; Mangold. 1988; Soybean Digest. Dec. p. 6-13).

1987 – Yugoslavia grows nearly 272,000 acres of soybeans, Hungary roughly 100,000 acres [this year].

Sojaprotein, a crushing plant located near Becej, Yugoslavia, processes 200,000 tonnes of soybean meal a year for feed and food. Most of the meal is used for Sojavita, a soy enriched food similar to grits (Soybean Digest. 1987, Oct. p. 22-24).

1989 – Tofu is first made commercially in Croatia (near Rijeka) by Ivan Jugovac of Anyo, which also makes Smoked Tofu, Grilled Tofu, Deep-Fried Tofu, and Tofu Spread.

1989 – Nad Miljenko, founder and owner of SoyaLab, starts making tempeh and tofu commercially in Zagreb, Croatia.

1989 – In Romania soybean area increases from 120,800 ha in 1975 to 512,200 ha in 1989. In Bulgaria it increases from 36,300 ha in 1975 to a peak of 99,200 ha in 1978, then decreases to 21,500 ha in 1989. In Moldova it increases from 50,400 ha in 2007 to 65,000 ha in 2014. Serbia is also a small but important producer of soybeans. The European Union (EU) is facing a major deficit in certified non-GM [genetically engineered] soy protein. It is looking to Eastern Europe to help fill this deficit (Dima 2015; Donau Soja Association).

1990 June – Archer Daniels Midland Co. (Decatur, Illinois) starts to sell Veggie Burgers in Moscow (Russia). They are shipped from the USA to the Moscow as a dry mix.

1991 Dec. – The Soviet Union (USSR) ceases to exist.

1991 – Tofu and soymilk are first made commercially in Slovakia by Jan Lunter of Alfa Bio spol s.r.o.

1993 Dec. – Krasnodar, a city in southern Russia, hosted a warm reception for the first SoyaCow (made by Raj Gupta of ProSoya Inc. in Ontario, Canada) ever to penetrate the former Soviet Union. Krasnodar is the center of a major agricultural "breadbasket" for Russia and soybeans are a leading local crop. The Russian Soybean Association, ASSOY, headed by Alexander Podobedov, had arranged for a SoyaCow demonstration, attended by local staff, VIPs, and the media. That same month the first pilot SoyaCow system was installed in Krasnodar.

1993 – Tofu is first made commercially in Poland by Piotr Poninski of Polsoja.

1994 Jan. 13 – ProSoya Inc. has signed a major deal to provide Alexander Podobedov of ASSOY (the Russian Soybean Processing Association), with 100 of its SoyaCow soymilk machines [SC-20 type]. The six-year deal will earn the young company about $1 million during the first year alone (Ottawa Citizen, p. D6).

1994 March – Six SoyaCows are delivered to Moscow, where most are promptly installed in the kitchens of key government buildings. The sites include: The Russian Council of Ministers (White House), Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Economics, Ministry of Agriculture, and the State Bank. – all at the initiative of Alexander Podobedov. “In addition to flavoured beverages, the SC-20 systems are providing for soy yogurt, tofu, and baked goods using the 'okara' fibre. Hundreds of top government people have sampled the various products, made with homegrown soybeans, with generally positive results” (SoyaCow Newsletter, 1994, Jan/March, p. 1).

Note: The SC-20 SoyaCow produces 20 liters of soymilk per hour by an airless, cold-grind process, invented and patented by Raj Gupta, founder of ProSoya.

1995 May 19 – Tofu is first made commercially in Slovenia by Jan Krizstan of Biolosk Kmetija Trampus.

1995 – Sladjan Randjelovic and his wife Vladimirka, founders of Lion Health Foods Co. of Zemun, Yugoslavia, start to sell Sweet Barley Miso and 6-Month Barley Miso – which they made. Sladjan learned miso-making from Tim Ohlund in Sweden.

1996 July – ProSoya has sold 60 to 70 SC-20 SoyaCows, and one SC-100 SoyaCow to Russia. By the end of August, ProSoya will also have sold eight SC-2000s (which produce 2,000 liters/hour of soymilk). Most of the latter large soymilk machines are being sold to a former dairy factory in Korenovsk, located about 35 miles northeast of Krasnodar in southern Russia, just northeast of the Black Sea. It was purchased by ASSOY – the Russian Soybean Association; Alexander Podobedov, director), which shut down the dairy operations completely and converted the plant to 100% soymilk production. Most of this soymilk is spray dried (powdered), and sold for half the price of dairy milk.

2006 – Romania produces 376,000 tonnes (metric tons) of soybeans, but it exports about 54,000 tonnes (14.3%). In 2007, Romania produces 110,000 tonnes of soybeans on 110,000 hectares, while in 2008 the country produces 210,000 tonnes of soybeans on 100,000 hectares, with an average yield of 2.1 tonnes per hectare (Lyddon. 2008, p. 20-22).

2011-2012 – According to the Danube Soya Association (www.donausoja.org; founded in 2012), the Eastern European nations with the largest production of soybeans in metric tons are (in descending order of tonnage):

Ukraine 2,775,750

Serbia 475,000

Moldova 147,250

Croatia 105,000

Romania 105,000

2015 – Alfa Bio in Slovakia, which has a beautiful website (also in English), is in the process of changing its company name to Lunter, the family name of the founder, Jan Lunter.

2019 Dec. 18 – According to Donau Soja statistics, the increase in soybeans produced by countries in Eastern Europe from 2012 to 2019 are (in metric tons, with countries listed in alphabetical order):

Bosnia Herzegovina: 6,710 → 18,900

Bulgaria: 4,300 → 6,280

Croatia: 96,720 → 260,000

Czech Republic: 13,150 → 25,092

Hungary: 67,730 → 167,000

Moldova: 48,200 → 61,600

Poland: 4,600 → 34,500

Romania: 104,300 → 462,080

Serbia: 281,000 → 700,500

Slovakia: 41,830 → 121,240

Slovenia: 340 → 4,940

DS [=Donau Soja] Ukraine 680,229 → 1,242,385

Non-DS Ukraine: 1,724,771 → 2,727,615

Total Ukraine: 2,405,000 → 3,970,000

Russia – European part: 761,000 → 2,750,000

Last updated: 18 Dec. 2019 (Source: Leopold Rittler & Bertalan Kruppa, Donau Soja, personal communication, 13 April 2020).

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