A banya crisis, cocaine-addicted choirgirls and the first Chekhov biography

'The Oriental bath. Massage'. Found in the collection of the Russian Museum of Ethnography. Source: Getty Images / Fotobank

'The Oriental bath. Massage'. Found in the collection of the Russian Museum of Ethnography. Source: Getty Images / Fotobank

RBTH turns the clock back a century and shines a light on the now-forgotten stories being reported on the inside pages of Russian newspapers in 1915 and the events and processes occupying the minds of the Russians of the age. Travel back in time with us week by week for a sense of what life was like in the twilight days of the Russian Empire.

'The Oriental bath. Massage'. Found in the collection of the Russian Museum of Ethnography. Source: Getty Images / Fotobank

Among the banya owners

An emergency meeting of the Banya Owners’ Society to discuss the recent fuel price increase took place yesterday. Suppliers are refusing to conclude agreements for more than two or three months. The lack of fuel has even caused two banyas in Moscow to close temporarily.

Acknowledging the importance of banyas for public hygiene – which is all the more at present, when banyas are used both by the wounded from Moscow infirmaries and the soldiers of military units passing through Moscow, the meeting agreed to file a request with the office of the governor-general of Moscow to take appropriate measures and ensure that banyas are provided with fuel.

Moskovsky Listok, July 7, 1915


Cocaine users

An outrageous incident took place yesterday in one of the local parks. One of the female singers of the choir performing on a stage there was led from the wings and brought to the exit. Responding to inquiries by the curious onlookers, one of those people explained: “She got high and she can’t seem to come to her senses.”

“Getting high” is apparently a new term, quite banal in its usage but horrifying in its meaning: As it turns out, the choir girl had snorted too much cocaine. Her eyes were bulging out, her gaze was blurred and she almost resembled a drunken woman.

It was found out later she just did not have the tolerance for cocaine most of her colleagues had – cocaine, as it happens, is quite popular among the choir girls performing in the park.

Sankt-Peterburgskiye Gubernskiye Vedomosti, July 9, 1915


The first biography of Anton Chekhov

Biography of Anton Chekhov by A. Izmailov – a large volume of 800 pages – will be available in stores at the very beginning of the fall season, with a half of the total press run already having been printed. This is the first attempt to consolidate and evaluate the vast amount of material published during the 10 years that have elapsed since the death of Russia’s beloved writer. Besides those records, the biographer managed to obtain access to numerous documents and letters, which allowed him to make some very curious reassessments. Among other things, Mr. Izmailov was able to find the original account books of the humorous magazines in which Anton Chekhov began his literary career. These shed some light on the – hitherto only alleged – actual meager fees the writer’s immense efforts earned him.

Moskovskie Gubernskie Vedomosti, July 10, 1915


Rabbit meat

With meat prices rising, Russia’s Society of Rabbit Breeders is undertaking a whole series of extraordinary measures to develop their trade in the country. The society’s departments throughout the Empire are opening farms offering purebred animals, holding lectures, etc. The society has also begun talks with the public administration of Petrograd, discussing the possibility of supplying the city’s butcheries with rabbit meat.

Yaroslavskie Gubernskie Vedomosti, July 11, 1915


A letter to the editor

The hot summer days are back. But where does an average resident of the capital find a place to freshen himself up and rest from the day’s work if he cannot – for whatever reason – retreat to his dacha? The only sites of this kind are the city’s parks and gardens where one can still find comparatively fresh air. That being said, starting July 1, those parks close their doors to the public as early as at 10 p.m. Is it really impossible to leave them open if not until midnight, then at least till 11 p.m. in summer, like in June? After all, it is for this express purpose, it seems, that the city’s administration has installed kerosene lanterns in all the parks.

Petrogradsky Listok, July 12, 1915

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