Greeks - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. In pre-Revolutionary Russia, Greeks were successful in both commercial and agricultural spheres. Greek trading activities were spread throughout the Russian Empire, and it was Greeks who introduced the cultivation of tobacco to Russia. The All-Union census of 1926 records a population of Greeks engaged mainly in agriculture, cattle breeding, and trade. Following Lenin's death, a punitive taxation of private commercial and agricultural enterprises was introduced to bring an end to capitalistic activities. In 1929 the Stalinist regime began to force the peasant population to work in kolkhozy (agricultural collectives) and sovkhozy (state farms). Like many farmers who tried to resist collectivization and the compulsory purchase of their land and livestock, large numbers of Greeks were imprisoned and sent to camps.

Today it is still common for Greeks to work in kolkhozy, but because of vast geographical differences in habitat, generalizations about agriculture are difficult. Members of a kolkhoz are normally allowed a private plot of land, where they can keep animals and cultivate fruit and vegetables. Although a fixed amount of produce must be handed over to the kolkhoz, successful farmers are also able to sell their produce privately in markets.

In many Transcaucasian rural communities, Greeks commonly grow a wide variety of vegetables and fruits and keep chickens, pigs, sheep, and cows. The profitable cultivation of citrus fruits, tea, and tobacco is also widely practiced in these regions.

The historical Pontian diet consists of many sheep's milk products such as yogurt, kefir (a soured milk drink), cream, and cheese. The basis of the cuisine was not oil but butter. Pontian Greek communities are renowned for the variety and quality of their cheeses. Meat is not a significant part of the everyday diet, although fish is popular among Black Sea communities. Plenty of green vegetables and herbs are consumed, and staples often include macaroni-type products and cereals such as maize and buckwheat as well as bread and potatoes.

Pontian cuisine resembles Greek and Turkish cooking but has also been influenced by surrounding cultures. For example, Greeks in Georgia eat food that has much in common with the Georgian cuisine.

Division of Labor. Traditionally, and in rural communities, women tend to carry out all the basic domestic tasks including crafts such as weaving. They also work on the family's plot of land, although men do heavy work such as digging. The division of labor varies according to the region and according to whether the household has a large or small piece of land. In the Tsalka region of Georgia, the land is very poor, and Greeks there tend to work on the kolkhoz and maintain only a small private garden. In other regions of Georgia, however, plots of land are larger (up to about 2,500 square meters), and agricultural labor and production are carried out at a household, rather than a collective, level.

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