Tolstoy against "Stomach Vegetarians"


The first Russian article on vegetarianism was published in 1878. It was written by a doctor: he described health, economy and ecology benefits of giving up eating meat.


This rational approach didn’t turn very inspiring. It was another person who made vegetarianism popular - Leo Tolstoy, the writer. He switched to a vegetarian diet in 1884.

His wife was ranting about it: “He is so stubborn, he doesn’t want to listen to the doctors, and continues ruining his health”. Feeling sorry for her husband she added several spoons of meat broth to his mushroom broth when he couldn’t see it.


Tolstoy became a “frontman” of vegetarianism in Russia. His reasoning about it laid entirely in ethical field and it found much more supporters than the idea of “healthy eating”. Those who chose being vegetarian because it was healthy were contemptuously named “stomach vegetarians”.


Photos of Tolstoy of different size covered the walls of this Vegetarian Canteen on Nikitsky Boulevard opened in 1910.

Such a close association with Tolstoy brought to vegetarians not only popularity, but also some problems with the government. As known, Tolstoy was almost “an enemy of the state”: he urged against paying any taxes, serving in the army and being involved in politics. Vegetarianism started to be associated with anarchy, and the government was suspicious about it.

After the revolution vegetarianism remained popular for a while, but in 1930 Vegetarian Society was proclaimed illegal.

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