For centuries, the naval power of Great Britain was based on this key Russian export – all the rigging was made of hemp imported from Russia, where this plant was exceptionally widely used… but not for recreational purposes.

Russia before the 20th century was mostly an agricultural country, and the decisive majority of its exports were raw materials. Hemp, a plant of the genus cannabis sativa, was one of the biggest factors in Russia’s exports. The strains that were grown in Central Russia were low on tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive component of the plant, so Russians didn’t get high on it (there are no records of a massive recreational use), but the state surely got rich with it. Moreover, Russia actually supplied its biggest naval enemy, Great Britain, with hemp that was used to make rigging for the British fleet…

Paper and armor, ropes and sails

Rope making: ‘laying’ or twisting three strands…

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