Is Caviar Russian?

Caviar, as one of the most luxurious foods in the world, is often associated with Russian and Russian cuisine. Especially if you hear it’s best combined with vodka. However, many people come to the question, “Is caviar Russian?”

No, caviar is not Russian. The first known record of caviar dates back to the time of ancient Greek philosophers, precisely Aristotle. However, it wasn’t until Russians, and the Russian Tsar started consuming this food that it was catapulted into the world of luxury.

In this article, we will try to get to the bottom of this question and explain the origins of the caviar. Keep reading to find out all the most interesting facts about how caviar became so popular over the years.

Served black caviar.

Is Caviar Russian? What Are the Origins of the Caviar?

Caviar is not Russian, but If we want to solve the dilemma of caviar’s origin, we should start with decoding the basic meaning of this word. It is considered that the etymology of the word caviar comes from the Turkish word khavyar. Some considered that before the Turks used it, it belonged to the Persians, who are considered to be some kind of inventors of this food.

The Persian word “khav-yar” means “cake of strength” or “cake power,” which obviously indicates caviar’s nutritional power. It is well known in historiography that the people of Persia attributed this food to many medicinal powers. Persians were collecting the fish eggs on the Kura River, while the traditional salting of fish roe before consumption actually comes from China.

It’s quite logical that the Greeks may have found out about this food from the Persians and started consuming it. That would explain why Aristotle knew about this extraordinary food. Later, even Romans took over the tradition of consuming caviar.

How Russians Introduced Caviar to the French

It’s quite known that caviar was very popular in the Russian monarchy in the 19th century. To the czars and czarinas, caviar was not a staple or a luxury, and it was enjoyed on a daily basis. It was usually served as an appetizer on the court’s menu. However, caviar was a staple of Russian cuisine for the general population, and it was traditionally enjoyed on New Year’s Eve.

After the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, many aristocrats escaped to France and brought with them their taste for caviar, The French élites quickly became fond of it, and it soon became a symbol of luxury and delicacy.

Caviar served on biscuits.

Where Do Most of the Caviar Come From?

Caspian Sea Russian sturgeon, beluga sturgeon, and starry sturgeon provide around ninety percent of the world’s black caviar. There are also varieties from the Black Sea and Great Lakes.

For years sturgeon were exploited to the point where several species were critically endangered, and their survival was no longer particular. That’s why the participants of the CITES Convention decided to protect the wild species by establishing fishing quotas in 1998. Russia has been the main exporting country for a long time, but here’s how the charts look in 2022:

CountryExport %Export Value
China24.63%$1.87 M
Italy13.81%$1.02 M
France12.48%$1.15 M
Germany9.05%$1.14 M

The Best Kind of Caviar Comes From The Caspian Sea

If you were wondering what kind of caviar is the best on the market – it’s definitely the caviar from the beluga sturgeon Huso huso. The roe for the world’s best caviar is extracted from the fishes that live in the pollution-free waters of the Caspian Sea.

Russian Osetra Caviar is considered the second-best, and it also comes from the Caspian Sea. Since the Caspian Sea is mostly on Russia’s territory, it’s considered that the best caviars come from them. Some of the most famous Russian caviars are:

  • Sterlet Caviar,
  • Siberian Sturgeon Caviar,
  • Osetra Caviar,
  • Sevruga Caviar,
  • Beluga Caviar.

Serving Caviar the Russian Way

Because caviar was first popularized as a dish by the Russians, most people serve it today in traditional Russian ways. Traditional Russian caviar is mostly served with bread and butter. If this is your first time tasting it, you can consider accompanying it with blinis (Russian crepes) or crackers.

Caviar is served at a freezing temperature, so it’s usually placed in a non-metal bowl, which is then put on top of crushed ice. In the traditional Russian way, caviar and caviar dishes are usually paired with ice-cold vodka. However, most people today choose to pair in a french manner with champagne.

Russian caviar served on blinis

None of the Caviar in America Comes From Russia.

Until the early 2000s, Russia and Iran were huge producers of expensive caviar. However, after the bans on fishing, they stopped mass production. Today’s experts believe that the last time Americans were served Russian caviar was in 2008.

Most of the caviar that is served in America today comes from Germany. With the recent bans, there has been a lot of speculation about whether Russia is able to export any caviar. Most experts believe that everything that is produced in Russia is sold inside the country, including caviar.

Caviar being served on a plate.

So to Answer the Question, Is Caviar Russian?

Now that you have read a lot of information about the origin of caviar, how it was discovered, and the way it was popularized, you might already have a clear picture of whether this food is Russian or not. We can’t say caviar is Russian, but thanks to them, caviar was popularized and spread all over the world.

For years Russia produced the most caviar on the market, and they were experts in the industry, but in the last decade, the situation has changed. Still, caviar is rightfully associated with Russia and will probably continue to be in the future.