Skip to main content

‘Shiny shoes’ for the city: the public abattoir and the reform of meat supply in imperial Moscow


In the nineteenth century, meat production underwent radical changes, turning into a mass-scale and industrial process that was based on the new norms of hygiene and veterinary medicine. Anthropologists and cultural historians have pointed out that, in a western European context, this also entailed the marginalization of the slaughterhouses, which were excluded from urban life and made anonymous and invisible. This article examines the case of the Moscow public abattoir (1886–88) and argues that, instead of being marginalized, it emerged as one of the city's landmarks due to its important symbolic role in the Russian discussions on modernization and ‘Europeanness’.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      ‘Shiny shoes’ for the city: the public abattoir and the reform of meat supply in imperial Moscow
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      ‘Shiny shoes’ for the city: the public abattoir and the reform of meat supply in imperial Moscow
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      ‘Shiny shoes’ for the city: the public abattoir and the reform of meat supply in imperial Moscow
      Available formats
Hide All

1 Dobroslavin, A.P., O sravnitel'noy stoimosti uluchshennoy pishchi arestantov s zatratami na ikh lecheniye (St Petersburg, 1884), 811; Erismann, F.F., ‘Pishchevoye dovol'stvo rabochikh’, in Sbornik statisticheskikh svedeniy po Moskovskoy gubernii. Otdel sanitarnoy statistiki. Obshchaya svodka po sanitarnym issledovaniyam fabrichnykh zavedeniy Moskovskoy gubernii za 1879–1885 gg., vol. IV, part 2 (Moscow, 1893), 464516.

2 A variety of reasons behind the exclusion and relocation of slaughterhouses are discussed for example in Philo, C., ‘Animals, geography, and the city: notes on inclusions and exclusions’, Environment and Planning, 13 (1995), 655–81; Otter, C., ‘The vital city: public analysis, dairies and slaughterhouses in nineteenth-century Britain’, Cultural Geographies, 13 (2006), 517–37; MacLachlan, I., ‘A bloody offal nuisance: the persistence of private slaughter-houses in nineteenth-century London’, Urban History, 34 (2007), 227–54.

3 Vialles, N., Animal to Edible (Cambridge, 1994), 22.

4 For the discussion of the term ‘abattoir’, see Vialles, Animal to Edible, 15–26; Joyce, P., The Rule of Freedom: Liberalism and the Modern City (London, 2003), 77.

5 Joyce, The Rule of Freedom, 76–7; Lee, P. Young (ed.), Meat, Modernity and the Rise of the Slaughterhouse (Durham, NH, 2008), especially: C. Otter, ‘Civilizing slaughter: the development of British public abattoir, 1850–1910’, 89–106.

6 ‘Doklad N 41 ob ustroystve gorodskogo skotoprigonnogo dvora i boyni’, Izvestiya Moskovskoy Gorodskoy Dumy, 3 (1885), Appendix 5, 22.

7 Watts, S., ‘Liberty, equality and the public good: Parisian butchers and their right to the marketplace during the French Revolution’, Food and History, 3 (2005), 117. Individual cases of nineteenth-century slaughterhouse reform are discussed in Lee (ed.), Meat, Modernity and the Rise of the Slaughterhouse; see also the article by Mikkel Thelle in the current issue.

8 Poderni, S.A., Tekhnicheskoye opisaniye Moskovskikh tsentral'nykh gorodskikh boyen (Moscow, 1896), iv.

9 'Zapiska o rabotakh Komissii po ustroystvu boyen do 1885 g.’, Izvestiya Moskovskoy Gorodskoy Dumy, 3 (1885), 41–2.

10 Gorbunov, D.G., Moskovskiye gorodskiye boyni (Moscow, 1913), 20–1.

11 See Eklof, B., Bushnell, J. and Zakharova, L. (eds.), Russia's Great Reforms, 1855–1881 (Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1994), particularly A. Rieber, ‘Interest-group politics in the era of the Great Reforms’, 58–83.

12 Brantz, D., ‘Animal bodies, human health and the reform of slaughterhouses in nineteenth-century Berlin’, Food and History, 3 (2005), 193–4.

13 Nagorsky, V.F., Osnovnye printsipy i usloviya bor'by s epizootiyami (St Petersburg, 1904), 6.

14 Veselovsky, B., Istoriya zemstva za 40 let, vol. II (St Petersburg, 1909), 361–72.

15 Naumov, A.M., O pitatel'nykh veshchestvakh i o vazhneyshikh sposobakh ratsional'nogo ikh prigotovleniya, sberezheniya i otkrytiya v nikh primesey (St Petersburg, 1859), 146–7.

16 For detailed research on American cattle-drives and Chicago meat industry, see Cronon, W., Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (New York and London, 1991), 213– 30.

17 Verner, K.A., ‘Moskovsky skotny i myasnoy rynok’, Izvestiya Moskovskoy Gorodskoy Dumy, 5 (1885), 31–6.

18 Izvestiya Moskoskoy Gorodskoy Dumy, 11 (1884), 1–2.

19 'Doklad N 41', 4. American cattle owners, on the contrary, preferred railway transportation, because it allowed them to save the expenses and reduced the weight loss of animals: see Cronon, Nature's Metropolis, 223.

20 The proposals for the reorganization and centralization of slaughter can be found in ‘Kopiya s predlozheniya Imperatorskogo Moskovskogo Obshchestva Sel'skogo Khozyayskva ot 22 fevralya 1885 g. za N 61 g-nu ispravlyayushchemu dolzhnost' Moskovskogo Gorodskogo Golovy’, Izvestiya Moskovkskoy Gorodskoy Dumy, 3 (1885), 13; see also Verner, ‘Moskovsky skotny i myasnoy rynok’, 37.

21 Brantz, ‘Animal bodies’, 199; see also Virchow, R., Izlozheniye ucheniya o trikhinakh: S ukazaniyem na predupreditel'nye mery etoy bolezni (St Petersburg, 1864).

22 Rudnev, M.M., O trikhinakh v Rossii: Nereshennye vorposy v istorii trikhinnoy bolezni (St Petersburg, 1866), 12, 24.

23 Chudnovsky, Yu.T., Vorpos o trikhinakh i trikhinnoy bolezni v primenenii k Rossii (St Petersburg, 1866); Andreyevsky, V., Glisty i trichiny: Ikh proiskhozhdeniye, stroyeniye, otlichitel'noye raspoznavaniye i mikroskopicheskoye issledovaniye (St Petersburg, 1867); Tikhomirov, V.A., O legchayshem sposobe otkrytiya trikhin v podozritel'nom myase (Moscow, 1875); Krylov, V.P., K istorii trichinoza v Rossii (Moscow, 1876); Zeyfman, P.T., Trikhiny i trikhinnaya bolezn (St Petersburg, 1877); Krivoshapkin, M.F., Preduprezhdeniye zhiteley otnositel'no trikhin, finn i solitera (Kazan, 1884). In the early 1880s, the Moscow municipal journal Izvestiya Moskovskoy Gorodskoy Dumy repeatedly warned the city dwellers of the risks of trichinosis, see for instance the following articles: ‘Osmotr trikhinnogo myasa v Berline’, 11 (1883), 6–7; ‘K voprosu o trikhinakh’, 12 (1883), 3; ‘Trikhinoznaya epidemiya v Germanii’, 1 (1884), 18–19; ‘Po povody zarazheniya trikhinami’, 3 (1885), 221–4.

24 Doneseniye Meditsinskomu sovetu Osoboy komissii po voprosu o trikhinakh v svinom myase (St Petersburg, 1876); Petropavlovsky, N.P., K voprosu o rasprostranenii trikhin sredi zhivotnykh goroda Khar'kova (St Petersburg, 1899), 1214.

25 ‘Doklad N 41’, 1–2.

26 On Russian ‘bimetropolitamism’ and the rivalry between Moscow and St Petersburg, see Shevyrev, A., ‘The axis Petersburg–Moscow: outward and inward Russian capitals’, Journal of Urban History, 30 (2003), 7084; on Moscow bourgeoisie, see Rieber, A., Merchants and Entrepreneurs in Imperial Russia (Chapel Hill, 1982); Petrov, Iu.A., ‘Moskovskiy delovoy mir na rubezhe XIX–XX vekov’, in Petrov, Iu.A. and West, J. (eds.), Kupecheskaya Moskva: Obrazy ushedshey rossiiskoy burzhuazii (Moscow, 2004), 520.

27 ‘Doklad N 41’, 37–8, 80.

28 Ibid., 9–10, 29.

29 ‘Zhurnaly zasedaniya Komissii po rassmotreniyu proyektov kanalizatsii Moskvy, sostavlennykh gg. Gobrechtom i Popovym’, in Trudy III (Stroitel'nogo) otdela Imperatorskogo Russkogo tekhnicheskogo obshchestva, 18801884 (St Petersburg, 1884), 51–68. On James Hobrecht's role in German infrastructural projects, see Schott, D., Die Vernetzung der Stadt: Kummunale Energiepolitik, oeffentliche Nahverkehr und die ‘Produktion’ der modernen Stadt Darmstadt–Mannheim–Mainz, 1880–1918 (Darmstadt, 1999), 139–43, 170–2, 184. The project of Hobrecht was later rejected by the Moscow municipality in favour of the separate sewerage project by a Russian engineer Vsevolod Kastalsky.

30 ‘Doklad N 41’, 12–14.

31 Ibid., 32; Shchepkin, M.P., Opyt izucheniya obshchestvennogo khozyaystva i upravleniya gorodov (Moscow, 1884), 81–2; Verner, I.A., Sovremennoye khozyaystvo goroda Moskvy (Moscow, 1913), 243.

32 Minutes of the city council discussion were published in Izvestiya Moskovskoy Gorodskoy Dumy, 7 (1885), quote from 775.

33 Izvestiya Moskovskoy Gorodksoy Dumy, 10 (1887), 860.

34 Cronon, Nature's Metropolis, 207–59.

35 ‘Doklad N 41’, 19.

36 Izvestiya Moskovskoy Gorodskoy Dumy, 7 (1885), 787.

37 Izvestiya Moskovskoy Gorodskoy Dumy, 10 (1885), 1113.

38 ‘Doklad N 41’, Appendix 5, 15.

39 See, for example, Saunier, P. and Ewen, S. (eds.), Another Global City: Historical Explorations into the Transnational Municipal Moment, 1850–2000 (New York, 2008).

40 Izvestiya Moskovskoy Gorodskoy Dumy, 7 (1885), 787–8; 10 (1885), 1109.

41 Izvestiya Moskovskoy Gorodskoy Dumy, 7 (1885), 781.

42 MacLachlan, ‘A bloody offal nuisance’.

43 Poderni, Tekhnicheskoye opisaniye, v, 4.

44 Gorbunov, Moskovskiye gorodskiye boyni, 28.

45 This overrun (excluding the loss of 193,000 roubles in exchange rate) made the Municipal Auditing Committee conclude that the construction of the abattoir was conducted ‘uneconomically’; the financial reports of construction were approved only in 1896 after several additional explanations, see Gorbunov, Moskovskiye gorodskiye boyni, 32–7.

46 Ibid., 33–6, quote from 36.

47 Poderni, Tekhnicheskoye opisaniye, 19–83.

48 Smolensky, P.O., Boyni i skotoprigonnye dvory (St Petersburg, 1902), 1112.

49 Poderni, Tekhnicheskoye opisaniye, 25, 55, 126–37; The Shone Hydro-Pneumatic System of Sewerage (Liverpool, 1885), 39–47.

50 Poderni, Tekhnicheskoye opisaniye, 34–41.

51 J. Bater, St Petersburg: Industrialization and Change (Montreal, 1976), 287–95; E.M. Dement'yev, Fabrika: chto ona dayet naseleniyu i chto ona u nego beret (Moscow, 1897).

52 Veterinarny nadzor Moskovskikh Gorodskikh Boyen (Moscow, 1896), quote from 6.

53 Nagorsky, V.F., ‘Veterinarny nadzor na gorodskikh boynyakh g. Moskvy s ikh otkrytiya po 1 sentybrya’, Izvestiya Moskovskoy Gorodskoy Dumy, 9 (1888); 4–5; [Fidler], V.F., Moskva, Kratkiye ocherki gorodskogo blagoustroystva (Moscow, 1897), 88.

54 Gorbunov, Moskovskiye gorodskiye boyni, 45; Moskva kak potrebitel'skiy tsentr myasnykh produktov. Doklad Komissii boyenskikh veterinarnykh vrachey Pervomu Mezhdunarodnomu Kongressu po kholodil'nomu delu v Parizhe v 1908 g. (Moscow, 1908), 3.

55 Veterinarny nadzor Moskovskikh Gorodskikh Boyen, 7–8.

56 Doklad N 41, Appendix 5, 22.

57 TsGA Моskvy (Central State Archive of Moscow), 179:54:992:92–7; N.V. Zelenin, ‘Moskovskiye gorodskiye boyni’, in Verner, Sovremennoye khozyaystvo goroda Moskvy, 498–9.

58 Zelenin, ‘Moskovskiye gorodskiye boyni’, 479.

59 TsGA Moskvy, 179:54: 1057, 179:54:1105; 179: 54: 980; Zelenin, ‘Moskovskiye gorodskiye boyni’, 500.

60 Sputnik moskvicha: Moskva i eye okrestnosti (Moscow, 1894), 79; Illyustrirovanny putevoditel' po Moskve (Moscow, 1911), 104; Moskva. Putevoditel' (Moscow, 1915), 260.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Urban History
  • ISSN: 0963-9268
  • EISSN: 1469-8706
  • URL: /core/journals/urban-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *

Related content

Powered by UNSILO


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed