Milk Guard [ and Milk ] (Kazakhstan)

Milk Guard [ and Milk ] (Kazakhstan)

What a peculiar thing is in front of you!
What you see on the image is a round-shaped disk with a raised rim and a notch on one of its sides. On the surface of the object, there is a sign that says “top side.” At first glance, this metal object seems to resemble a lid or a piece of machinery in some industrial setting; however, this simple object is kitchenware used in the soviet kitchens. Its use is related to one of the most beloved products of the Soviet people and the people of Central Asia – milk.

Several reasons drive our interest in the object. The milk guard reflects the early memories with which Soviet Asia will remain as we are the last generation born in the Soviet Kazakhstan. However, more importantly, we believe that this tiny object highlights the female member’s role within the family structure and societal system, and we believe it is important to acknowledge this in the given exhibition. On the other hand, the tool's purpose outlines the importance of milk and its use in the territory of Central Asia. It also leads to one of the main rituals in Central Asian culture – drinking tea with members of family, close friends, dear guests. Every region performs this ritual in its own unique way: green tea in small pialas resonates with hot summers in Uzbekistan, black tea with milk accompanies families across endless steppes of Kazakhstan. Finally, the application of this object in the soviet time makes it an exciting artifact of the soviet domestic environment – it speaks of it not only through the visual representation but also through the means of sound, extending the artifact to encompass a sound object that defines all the mentioned above.

Growing in Kazakhstan, drinking tea with freshly boiled milk was a common tradition. Everyone loved rich in flavor and beautiful in color Kazakh milk tea! With guests around, it was a whole special ceremony, when colorful pialas were taken out of a large wooden cupboard, black tea was brewed in the saucepan, and freshly boiled milk was ready to be used.
However, if we revert the memory to a time just a few hours before the guests were about to arrive – the kitchen was the most chaotic place on earth! It was full of objects and sounds scattered around and yet to be assembled. And we have to say that boiling milk in the soviet kitchen had its specific sound.

The object’s soundscape, perhaps, points to a woman's role in the soviet kitchen – the soviet woman had to be on top of everything in the household. Therefore, taking control over many things at once and being a multitasker has been somewhat engraved in the culture of soviet womanhood.

Such device as milk guard – a mass-produced tool aimed at easing the burden of the household –  was offered to the women of the Soviet Union only in the second half of the 20th century. The function of the device was precisely what the name stands for, with its distinct sound produced as a result of the object heating up prior to the moment when the milk was about to boil out, milk guard was preventing the milk from boiling out.

I.F. Ivankovitser invented the tool in 1921, the patent was obtained in 1929 (patent №10362 from July 31 1929, for 15 years). Soviet Milk Guards were made of porcelain, aluminum, and stainless steel. Throughout the time, its cost changed from 21 kopeyek to 1 ruble 50 kopeyek.

Of course, the popularity of the device was not only defined by the accessibility of the tool but also by the spread of the beverage that it best worked with – milk.
Needless to say, the ritual of sharing a dairy beverage, or a beverage derived or with the use of milk as a base is an integral part of the culture in Kazakhstan. Here, milk tea holds a special place in every household and is prepared very special.


Milk Guard, Brief encyclopedia of household, edited by A. I. Revina. - M .: Soviet encyclopedia, 1960

Shalekenov M.U., “Traditional Diary Food of The Kazakh People”, Electronic scientific journal "" № 2 (14), 2018

Shakhanova N.Zh. Traditional food of Kazakhs as a historical and ethnographic source: Avtoref. diss. Ph.D. - L., 1987 .

Lena Pozdnyakova is an independent artist and curator from Kazakhstan, an early-stage researcher at UCLA and doctorate student at Freie Universität Berlin.

Alexandra Tsay is an independent curator, and scholar interested in interdisciplinary approaches to analyze and theorize contemporary art in Central Asia.
Eldar Tagi, an independent composer and sound artist from Kazakhstan interested in the complicated dynamics between cult objects, spaces, and sound.

Eldar Tagiyev is a sound artist, independent musician and researcher.