Siberian Estonians - Economy

In the late nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries, the main economic pursuits of the Siberian Estonians were agriculture and animal husbandry. Hunting, fishing, and subsidiary activities (gathering berries, mushrooms, and nuts) were popular mainly in the taiga regions but were of secondary importance. In industrial arts, the Siberian Estonians made tar, baskets of linden and birch, weavings, and furniture of various kinds of wood. Among them were many shoemakers, plumbers, coopers, woodcarvers, blacksmiths, stove makers, and butter makers.

For transportation, Estonians used horses harnessed to sledges and carts. Carts ( vanker ) did not, on the whole, differ from those used by the neighboring Russian population. Estonians made sledges ( saan ) with the runners turned up and a high back. Boat (punt) making was found mainly in the Far East, where fishing was the chief economic pursuit. Keel boats were constructed for ocean excursions. In western Siberia, mostly wooden, flat-bottomed boats were made.

Clothing. Traditional ethnic attire was popular until the beginning of the twentieth century, when it was replaced by urban-style dress. Men wore linen shirts with a straight collar line ( särk ) and trousers ( püksid ); sometimes they would wear a lace-up vest with the shirt. In winter they wore fur coats or sheepskins. Headgear consisted of hats ( shapka ) or caps, and footgear was boots or leather past-lads. The women's costume was distinctive. It consisted of a blouse cut with a pronounced waistline and a skirt ( seelik ) , either checkered or with vertical stripes, with a decorative round metal buckle. As headgear they would wear scarves ( ratik ) on a base of fabric or metal, sometimes decorated with beads. Estonian knitted items—such as mittens ( kindad ) , stockings ( sukad ) , socks ( sokid ) , and scarves ( sall )—were quite beautiful. They had a floral or, more rarely, a geometrical pattern.

Food. Estonian cuisine included hundreds of different dishes. The most popular ingredients were farmer's cheese ( kohupiin ) , butter ( või ) , cream ( koor ) , and sour cream ( hapukoor ) . Meat—including pork, beef, lamb, and poultry—played an important role in the diet. Almost every Estonian family made blood sausage with pearl barley ( kholodets, sult, jahuliha ) . One of the most favored dishes was potato stew with meat sauce. Of desserts and pastries, rhubarb pies were popular, along with those that had bird-cherry, beet, carrot, or berry fillings. The beverage of choice was birch kvass ( kali ) or, more rarely, tea or juice.

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