December 01, 2019

Herring Under a What?


Herring Under a What?
No Russian New Year's table is complete without this dish. Image by Eugene Zelenko via Wikimedia Commons

Every country has distinctive holiday dishes. For Russia, this means the New Year’s table. And one dish that is quite popular in Russia and other FSU states is herring under a fur coat (Селедка под шубой). While many tables in Russia enjoyed this dish on New Year’s, it remains a bit mysterious to outsiders.

Herring under a Fur Coat is actually a layered salad consisting of potato, herring, carrots, beets, egg, and lots of mayonnaise. The beet layer on top makes the entire dish look like it’s wearing a bright purple fur coat.

According to legend, the dish originated in 1918 in a bar in Moscow. A merchant named Anastas Bogomilov, who owned several pubs in Moscow and Tver, was frustrated that his customers got too drunk on New Year’s eve after drinking too much vodka, and would then break his china and windows in fights. So he came up with this hearty dish to help soak up the alcohol.

In addition, the ingredients in the salad symbolized values important to the new communist regime: the salted herring represented the proletariat, potatoes symbolized the peasantry, and the red color of the beets stood in for the Bolshevik flag. Bogomilov topped off the dish with the French sauce Provençal (later replaced with mayonnaise). He named this new creation SHUBA (ШУБА), which was an acronym for “Shovinismu i Upadku – Boikot i Anafema” (Шовинизму и Упадку – Бойкот и Анафема), or “Death and Damnation to Chauvinism and Degradation.”

Since its debut a century ago, herring under a fur coat has just gotten steadily more popular. In the initial years of Bolshevik rule, mayonnaise was difficult to come by, so only the political and cultural elite could afford it, making the dish something of status symbol. By the 1960s, mayo production had increased, making Herring Under a Fur Coat more accessible for all, and cementing its role as a staple of the New Year’s table.

Other popular New Year’s dishes include pirozhki, kholodets, Olivye salad, vinegret, pryaniki, and much more!

See Also

A Time for Pirogi

A Time for Pirogi

January – and the winter months in general – are a great time to master the hearty Russian recipes for all kinds of pirogi.
Russian Food With a Twist

Russian Food With a Twist

At Moscow's fashionable GQ Bar, Chef Konstantin Ivlev cooks up a new style of Russian cuisine. Here we present a flashy Baked Chicken Breast with Garlic, Potatoes and Truffles.
Christmastide Tradition

Christmastide Tradition

St. Nicholas, Babouschka, Christmas Eve festivities . . .Ded Moroz leading to Christmas on January 7th.
7 Russian Dishes for Olympic Viewing

7 Russian Dishes for Olympic Viewing

OK, so you are recovering from the Super Bowl and starting to look ahead to next weekend’s opening of the Sochi games. Which of course means a viewing party, which means food, which means Russian food!
Unusual Russian Dishes and VR Films

Unusual Russian Dishes and VR Films

“This dish is eaten in almost every home. I don’t understand Russian people’s tastes at all.” - Chinese blogger on herring under a fur coat, one of six items he listed as unusual Russian dishes
Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

Some of Our Books

Chekhov Bilingual

Chekhov Bilingual

Some of Chekhov's most beloved stories, with English and accented Russian on facing pages throughout. 
Survival Russian

Survival Russian

Survival Russian is an intensely practical guide to conversational, colloquial and culture-rich Russian. It uses humor, current events and thematically-driven essays to deepen readers’ understanding of Russian language and culture. This enlarged Second Edition of Survival Russian includes over 90 essays and illuminates over 2000 invaluable Russian phrases and words.
Marooned in Moscow

Marooned in Moscow

This gripping autobiography plays out against the backdrop of Russia's bloody Civil War, and was one of the first Western eyewitness accounts of life in post-revolutionary Russia. Marooned in Moscow provides a fascinating account of one woman's entry into war-torn Russia in early 1920, first-person impressions of many in the top Soviet leadership, and accounts of the author's increasingly dangerous work as a journalist and spy, to say nothing of her work on behalf of prisoners, her two arrests, and her eventual ten-month-long imprisonment, including in the infamous Lubyanka prison. It is a veritable encyclopedia of life in Russia in the early 1920s.
A Taste of Chekhov

A Taste of Chekhov

This compact volume is an introduction to the works of Chekhov the master storyteller, via nine stories spanning the last twenty years of his life.
Fearful Majesty

Fearful Majesty

This acclaimed biography of one of Russia’s most important and tyrannical rulers is not only a rich, readable biography, it is also surprisingly timely, revealing how many of the issues Russia faces today have their roots in Ivan’s reign.
A Taste of Russia

A Taste of Russia

The definitive modern cookbook on Russian cuisine has been totally updated and redesigned in a 30th Anniversary Edition. Layering superbly researched recipes with informative essays on the dishes' rich historical and cultural context, A Taste of Russia includes over 200 recipes on everything from borshch to blini, from Salmon Coulibiac to Beef Stew with Rum, from Marinated Mushrooms to Walnut-honey Filled Pies. A Taste of Russia shows off the best that Russian cooking has to offer. Full of great quotes from Russian literature about Russian food and designed in a convenient wide format that stays open during use.
Driving Down Russia's Spine

Driving Down Russia's Spine

The story of the epic Spine of Russia trip, intertwining fascinating subject profiles with digressions into historical and cultural themes relevant to understanding modern Russia. 
Dostoyevsky Bilingual

Dostoyevsky Bilingual

Bilingual series of short, lesser known, but highly significant works that show the traditional view of Dostoyevsky as a dour, intense, philosophical writer to be unnecessarily one-sided. 
Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

This astonishingly gripping autobiography by the founder of the Russian Women’s Death Battallion in World War I is an eye-opening documentary of life before, during and after the Bolshevik Revolution.

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Latest Posts

Our Contacts

Russian Life
73 Main Street, Suite 402
Montpelier VT 05602

802-223-4955