The first part of the publication was devoted to the chronic shortage of metals in Kievan and Moscow Rus. In the second part, we will describe how, in the 18th century, our country, thanks to the factories of the Urals, became the world's largest producer of metals. It was this powerful metallurgical base that was the basis of all the successes of the Russian Empire from Peter I to the Napoleonic wars. But by the middle of the XIX century, Russia lost the technological revolution in metallurgy, which predetermined its defeat in the Crimean War and the loss of Alaska. Until 1917, the country has not been able to overcome this lag.
For a long time, the development of the Urals was hindered by its remoteness from the main cities and the small number of the Russian population. The first high-quality ore in the Urals was found back in the 1628 year, when the “walking man” Timofey Durnitsyn and the blacksmith of the Nevyansk ostrog Bogdan Kolmogor on the bank of the Nitsa River (the territory of the modern Sverdlovsk region) found metal “wires”.
Samples of ore were sent "for testing" to Moscow, where they immediately assessed the quality of Ural iron. By the decree of the king from Tobolsk, the “boyar son” Ivan Shulgin was sent to the banks of Nitsa, who began the construction of a metallurgical plant. Already in 1630, in the Urals, the first 63 pounds of pure iron were obtained. 20 piscals, 2 anchors and nails were made of them. Thus arose the progenitor of the entire Urals industry.
However, until the end of the XVII century, the Urals still remained too distant and sparsely populated region. Only at the very end of this century, in 1696, Peter I ordered to start regular geological surveys of the Ural ore - “where exactly is the best magnet stone and good iron ore.”
Already in 1700, on the banks of the Neiva River (the source of the already mentioned Nitsa River), the Nevyansk Blast-Iron and Iron Works was built. The following year, a similar plant was built on the site of the modern city of Kamensk-Uralsky. In the 1704 year, in 150 miles to the north, the state-owned steel mill in Alapaevsk appears.
In 1723, the Yekaterinburg state-owned plant was built, which laid the foundation for the formation of the future industrial center of the Urals, the city of Yekaterinburg. In that year, two blast furnaces operated at the plant, producing 88 thousand poods of cast iron per year, and foundries producing 32 thousand poods of iron per year - that is, only one Ural plant produced the same amount of iron as the whole of Russia produced a century ago, on the eve of Troubles time ". In total, 318 workers worked at the Yekaterinburg plant at the end of the reign of Peter I, `of whom 113 were employed directly in production, the rest in auxiliary work.
Nevyansky plant, 1935 year
The Urals turned out to be an ideal place for the metallurgical base. By the beginning of the 18th century, it was already sufficiently populated to provide new plants with labor. The Ural Mountains contained fairly close to the surface, rich deposits of high-quality ores - iron, copper and silver. Numerous deep rivers allowed relatively simple use of water as a driving force — this was required primarily for the operation of large forging hammers and blast-bellows that forced air into the blast furnaces for efficient smelting.
Another important factor for development was the Urals forests, which made it possible to produce charcoal cheaply and in large quantities. The technologies of that time required for the smelting of one ton of iron to 40 cubic meters of wood, by special burning turned into charcoal.
Until the end of the 18th century, coal was not used in the production of metals, since, unlike wood, it contains considerable quantities of impurities, primarily phosphorus and sulfur, which completely killed the quality of the smelted metal. Therefore, the metallurgical production of that time required huge amounts of wood.
It was precisely the absence of a sufficient amount of wood of the necessary species that did not allow, for example, England at that time to establish its own mass production of metals. Ural with its dense forests was devoid of these shortcomings.
Therefore, only in the first 12 years of the XVIII century, more than 20 new metallurgical plants appear here. Most of them are located on the rivers Chusovoy, Iset, Tagil and Neive. By the middle of the century, another 24 plant will be built here, which will turn the Urals into the largest metallurgical complex on the planet at that time by the number of large enterprises, factory workers and metal smelting volumes.
In the XVIII century in the Urals around the metallurgical plants 38 new cities and settlements will arise. Taking into account factory workers, the urban population of the Urals will then be 14 – 16%, this is the highest urban density in Russia and one of the highest in the world of that century.
Already in 1750, Russia had 72 "iron" and 29 copper smelters. In the year they smelted 32 thousands of tons of pig iron (while UK factories only 21 thousand tons) and 800 tons of copper.
Alexandrian state plant, beginning of XX century
By the way, it was in the middle of the XVIII century in Russia in connection with the metallurgical production, which then required massive deforestation, the first “environmental” law was adopted - the daughter of Peter I, Empress Elizabeth, issued a decree “to protect forests from destruction” to close all metallurgical manufactories within a radius of two hundred miles from Moscow and move them east.
Thanks to the construction begun by Peter I, the Ural has become a key economic region of the country in just half a century. In the XVIII century, it produced 81% of all Russian iron and 95% of all copper in Russia. Thanks to the factories of the Urals, our country not only got rid of the centuries-old iron deficiency and expensive metal purchases abroad, but also began to massively export Russian steel and copper to European countries.
Iron Age of Russia
The war with Sweden will deprive Russia of its previous supply of high-quality metal from this country and at the same time will require a lot of iron and copper for the army and fleet. But the new factories of the Urals will not only overcome the shortage of their own metal - already in 1714, Russia will begin to sell its iron abroad. That year, 13 tons of Russian iron were sold to England for the first time, in 1715 they sold 45 and a half tons, and in 1716 - 74 tons of Russian iron.
Metallurgical Plant "Tata", Scunthorpe, England
In 1715, the Dutch merchants, who had previously brought metal to Russia, removed 2846 pounds of “rod” Russian iron from Arkhangelsk. In 1716, for the first time, the export of metal from St. Petersburg began - in that year, the British ships took out the poods of iron from the new capital of the Russian Empire. Thus began the penetration of Russian metal into the European market.
Then the main source of iron and copper for Europe was Sweden. Initially, the Swedes were not too afraid of Russian competition, for example, in the 20 of the 18th century, in the largest English market in Europe, Swedish iron accounted for 76% of all sales, and Russian - only 2%.
However, with the development of the Urals, the export of Russian iron continuously grew. Over the 20 of the 18th century, it grew from 590 to 2540 tons annually. Iron sales from Russia to Europe grew with each decade, so in the 40s of the XVIII century, on average, exports were exported from 4 to 5 thousand tons per year, and in the 90s of the same century Russian exports grew almost tenfold to 45 thousand tons of metal annually.
Already in the 70-ies of the XVIII century, the volume of supplies of Russian iron to England exceeded the Swedish. At the same time, the Swedes initially had great competitive advantages. Their metallurgical industry was much older than the Russian, and the natural qualities of Swedish ores, especially in the mines of Dunnemura, well-known throughout Europe, were higher than those of the Urals.
But the most important thing is that the richest mines in Sweden were located not far from the seaports, which made logistics much cheaper and cheaper. While the location of the Urals in the middle of the Eurasian continent turned the transportation of Russian metal into a very difficult task.
Mass transportation of metal could be provided exclusively by water transport. The barge, loaded with Ural iron, went on the voyage in April and only reached the Petersburg by the fall.
The path to Europe of Russian metal began in the tributaries of the Kama on the western slopes of the Urals. Further downstream, from Perm to the confluence of the Kama and the Volga, here began the hardest part of the journey - up to Rybinsk. The movement of river vessels against the current was provided by barge haulers. The cargo ship from Simbirsk to Rybinsk, they dragged a half or two months.
The “Mariinsky Water System” began from Rybinsk, and with the help of small rivers and artificial canals it connected the Volga basin with St. Petersburg via the White, Ladoga and Onega lakes. Petersburg at that time was not only the administrative capital, but also the main economic center of the country — Russia's largest port, through which the main flow of imports and exports passed.
Miners before descending into the mine at the Lugansk plant
Despite such difficulties with logistics, Russian metal remained competitive in the foreign market. The selling prices for export lane iron in Russia in the 20 – 70s of the 18th century were notable for their stability - from 60 to 80 kopecks per pound. By the end of the century, prices rose to 1 rubles 11 kopecks, but the ruble exchange rate at that time fell, which again did not lead to significant changes in the currency prices for iron from Russia.
At that time, more than 80% of Russian export iron was bought by the British. However, from the middle of the 18th century, deliveries of Russian metal to France and Italy began. On the eve of the French Revolution, Paris annually bought an average of 1600 tons of iron from Russia. At the same time, about 800 tons of iron per year were exported from St. Petersburg to Italy, by ships around the whole of Europe.
In 1782, only iron exports from Russia reached 60 thousand tons, yielding revenues in excess of 5 million rubles. Together with revenues from exports to the East and West of Russian copper and Russian metal products, this gave a fifth of the total value of our country's total exports that year.
During the 18th century, copper production in Russia grew by more than 30 times. The closest global competitor in copper production — Sweden — by the end of the century was three times behind our country in terms of production.
Two thirds of the copper produced in Russia went to the treasury - this metal was particularly important in military production. The remaining third went to the domestic market and for export. Most of the Russian copper exports then went to France - for example, in the 60 of the 18th century, French merchants exported over 100 tons of copper from the Petersburg port every year.
For most of the 18th century, Russia was the largest metal producer on our planet and its leading exporter in Europe. For the first time, our country supplied to the external market not only raw materials, but also significant volumes of products of a complex, high-tech for the era of production.
As of 1769, the 159 iron and copper smelting plants operated in Russia. In the Urals, the world's largest blast furnaces up to 13 meters high and 4 meters across were created with powerful blower devices powered by a water wheel. By the end of the 18th century, the average productivity of the Ural blast furnace reached 90 thousands of pounds of iron per year, which was one and a half times higher than the most modern at that time in England.
It was this developed metallurgical base that provided the unprecedented rise of the power and political significance of the Russian Empire in the 18th century. True, these achievements were based on serf labor - according to the lists of the Berg-Collegium (created by Peter I, the supreme body of the empire under the leadership of the mining industry) over 60% of all workers at metallurgical plants in Russia were serfs, "bonded" and "purchased" peasants - that is, forced people which were "attributed" to the plants by royal decrees, or purchased for works by the factory administration.
The end of the Russian Iron Age
At the very beginning of the XIX century, Russia still remained the world leader in the production of metals. The Urals annually produced about 12 million pounds of pig iron, while the closest competitors - the metallurgical plants of England smelted no more than 11 million pounds per year. The abundance of metal, as a base of military production, was one of the reasons that Russia not only survived, but also won in the course of the Napoleonic wars.
However, it was at the beginning of the 19th century that the real technological revolution took place in metallurgy, which Russia, unlike successful wars, lost. As already mentioned, previously all metal was smelted solely on charcoal, the existing technologies did not allow obtaining high-quality iron using coal.
Fire extinguishing in the yard of a metallurgical plant in Yuzovka, Donetsk region, 1930 year. Photo: George Selma / RIA News
The first more or less successful experiments with the smelting of pig iron on coal were held in England at the beginning of the XVIII century. Its forests, as raw materials for charcoal, in the British Isles were not enough, but the coal was abundant. The search for the correct technology for the smelting of high-quality metal on coal occupied almost the entire 18th century and by the beginning of the next century they were crowned with success.
And it gave an explosive increase in metal production in England. Forty years after the end of the Napoleonic wars, Russia increased metal production by less than twice, while England increased the smelting of pig iron in 24 in the same time — if in 1860, Russian production barely reached 18 million pounds of iron, in the British Isles for the same year, 13 was produced more times, 240 million pounds.
It cannot be said that during this period industrial technologies of serf Russia stood still. Separate achievements were. In the same months, when the Guards officers in St. Petersburg were preparing the “Decembrists”, very close to Petrozavodsk at the Aleksandrovsky State Plant, the first rolling mills for iron production (the first in Russia and among the first in the world) were prepared for launch.
In the 1836 year, with only a few years lagging behind the advanced technologies of England, the Vyksa Steel Works in the Nizhny Novgorod province conducted the first experiments of the “hot blast” —when pre-heated air was pumped into the blast furnace, which significantly saves coal consumption. In the same year, the first Russian “puddling” experiments were carried out at Ural plants. If ore was previously mixed with coal, then using the new “puddling” technology, iron was produced in a special furnace without contact with fuel. It is curious that the very principle of such a metal smelting for the first time in stories humanity was described in China two centuries before our era, and was rediscovered in England at the end of the eighteenth century.
Already in the 1857 year, exactly one year after the invention of this technology in England, in the Urals, the specialists of the Vsevolod-Vilva plant carried out the first experiments of the "Bessemer" method of producing steel from cast iron by blowing compressed air through it. In 1859, Russian engineer Vasily Pyatov designed the world's first rolling mill for armor. Prior to that, thick armor plates were obtained, shackling thinner ones, and the Pyatov technology made it possible to produce solid armor plates of a higher quality.
However, individual successes did not compensate for the system lag. By the middle of the 19th century, all metallurgy in Russia was still based on serf labor and charcoal. It is significant that even the armored rolling mill, invented in Russia, for several years was widely introduced into the industry of Britain, and at home remained for a long time experimental production.
At the metallurgical plant in the Donetsk region, 1934 year. Photo: Georgiy Zelma / RIA News
By the year 1850, in Russia, pig iron per capita produced a little more than 4 kilograms, whereas in France, over 11 kilograms, and in England, over 18 kilograms. Such a lag in the metallurgical base predetermined the military and economic lag of Russia, in particular, did not allow to switch to the steam fleet in time, which in turn caused the defeat of our country in the Crimean War. In 1855-56, numerous English and French steamboats dominated the Baltic, Black and Azov seas.
From the middle of the XIX century, Russia again from an exporter of metal turns into its buyer. If in the 70s of the 18th century, up to 80% of Russian iron was exported, in 1800, only 30% of the produced iron was exported, in the second decade of the 19th century - no more than 25%. At the beginning of the reign of Emperor Nicholas I, the country exported less than 20% of the metal produced, and by the end of the reign, exports decreased to 7%.
Mass railway construction, which had begun at that time, again gave rise to the iron deficit in the country that had been forgotten in a century and a half. Russian plants could not cope with the increased demand for metal. If in the 1851 year Russia bought 31680 tons of iron, iron and steel abroad, over the next 15 years such imports increased almost 10 times, reaching 1867 in 312 year thousands of tons. By the 1881 year, when the "People of the People" killed Tsar Alexander II, the Russian Empire bought 470 thousand tons of metal abroad. For three decades, imports of iron, iron and steel from abroad have grown 15 times.
It is significant that from 11362481 rubles 94 kopecks received by the tsarist government from the USA for selling Alaska 10972238 rubles 4 kopecks (that is, 97%) was spent on buying equipment abroad for railways under construction in Russia, above all, a huge number of rails and other metal products . Money for Alaska was spent on imported rails for two railroads from Moscow to Kiev and from Moscow to Tambov.
In the 60-80 years of the XIX century, almost 60% of the metal consumed in the country was bought abroad. The reason was already blatant technological backwardness of the Russian metallurgy.
Until the last decade of the XIX century, two thirds of the pig iron in Russia was still produced on charcoal. Only by 1900, the amount of pig iron smelted from coal will exceed the amount obtained from the monstrous mass of the burned wood.
Very slowly, in contrast to the Western European countries of those years, new technologies were being introduced. So, in 1885, from 195 blast furnaces in Russia, 88 were still in the cold blast, that is, in technology from the beginning of the XIX century. But even in 1900, such furnaces with an almost century-long lag in the technological process still made up 10% of the blast furnaces of the Russian Empire.
In 1870, 425 of new “puddling” furnaces and 924 of “hot hearth” on the old technology of the beginning of the century worked in the country. And only by the end of the 19th century, the number of “puddling” furnaces would exceed the number of “flashy horns” created by the hands of serf workers.
Donbass instead of the Urals
From the time of Peter the Great, for almost a century and a half, the Urals remained the main center of production of Russian metal. But by the beginning of the 20th century, at the other end of the empire, he had a powerful competitor, thanks to which Russia was able to at least partially overcome the lag behind the metallurgy of Western countries.
Azovstal Iron and Steel Works, Mariupol, 1990 year. Photo: Tass
If the industry of the Urals was based on charcoal, then a new industrial area originally originated on deposits of coal. Surprisingly, Tsar Peter I also became an ancestor here. Returning from the first Azov campaign in 1696, he inspected samples of a well-burning black stone near the modern city of Shakhty near the borders of Donbass.
"This mineral, if not to us, then to our descendants, will be very useful to ours," the words of the tsar-reformer saved the documents. Already in 1721, on the orders of Peter I of Kostroma, the peasant Grigory Kapustin conducted the first search for coal deposits in the future Donbas.
However, to master the first smelting of ore with coal and begin to settle the steppes of the Azov Sea could only by the end of the XVIII century. In 1795, Empress Catherine II signed a decree “On the establishment of a foundry in the Donetsk district at the Lugani River and on the establishment of the breaking of coal found in that country”. This plant, whose main task was the production of iron guns for ships of the Black Sea Fleet, marked the beginning of the modern city of Lugansk.
Workers for the Lugansk plant came from Karelia, from the cannon and metallurgical manufactories of Petrozavodsk, and from the metallurgical plant founded by Peter I in Lipetsk (there for a century they cut down the surrounding forests for charcoal for the domain and the production became unprofitable). It was these IDPs that initiated the proletariat of the future of Donbass.
In April, the first coal mine in the history of Russia earned 1796 for the Lugansk plant. It was located in the gully Lysicheya and the village of miners eventually became the city of Lysychansk. In 1799, under the direction of the masters hired in England, the first in Russia experienced metal smelting of local coal from local ore began at the Lugansk plant.
The problem of the plant was a very high production cost compared to the old Ural fortress factories. Only the high quality of the melted metal and the need to supply the Black Sea Fleet with guns and cores saved the plant from closing.
The rebirth of the Donetsk industrial center of Russia began in the 60s of the 19th century, when, in addition to military products, a mass of steel rails was needed for the construction of railways. It is curious that economic calculations and geological surveys of coal and ore for future plants of Donbass were done by Apollon Mevius, a mining engineer from Tomsk, from the father’s line he descended from Russia to the descendants of Martin Luther, the ancestor of European Protestantism, and from the motherland from Siberian Cossacks schismatics.
At the very end of the 19th century 60, the right to build industrial enterprises in the Donbass (he was then part of the Ekaterinoslav Governorate) was given to a friend by Tsar Alexander II, Prince Sergei Kochubey, a descendant of the Crimean Murza, who had once run to the Zaporozhye Cossacks. But the Russian prince of Cossack-Tatar origin was most fond of marine yachts, and in order not to waste time on boring construction business, in 1869 for the huge amount of 20 in those times, he sold all the rights to build and develop the bowels of the British industrialist from Wales, John James Hughes.
John Hughes (or as he was called in the Russian documents of those years - Hughes) was not only a capitalist, but also an engineer and inventor who had grown rich on creating new models of artillery and ship armor for the British fleet. In 1869, the Englishman ventured to buy the rights to build a metallurgical plant in the then undeveloped and poorly populated New Russia. Ventured and did not lose.
Jorn Hughes Corporation was called the Novorossiysk Society of Coal, Iron and Rail Production. Less than three years later, as in 1872, a new plant, built next to the rich deposits of coal near the village of Aleksandrovka, smelted the first batch of pig iron. The village quickly turns into a working village Yuzovka, named for the British owner. From this village the modern city of Donetsk leads its genealogy.
Following the plants in the future, Donetsk, there are two huge metallurgical production in Mariupol. One plant was built by engineers from the United States and belonged to the Nikopol-Mariupol Mining and Metallurgical Society, which was controlled by French, German and American capital. However, according to rumors, the all-powerful then Minister of Finance of the Russian Empire, Count Witte, also had a financial interest in this enterprise. The second of those metallurgical giants under construction in Mariupol belonged to the Belgian company Providence.
In contrast to the old factories of the Urals, the new metallurgical productions of Donbass were originally built as very large by the standards of that time, with the most modern, equipment purchased abroad. The commissioning of these giants almost immediately changed the whole picture of Russian metallurgy.
The production of iron and iron over the 1895-1900 years has generally doubled throughout the country, while in Novorossia it has almost quadrupled over these 5 years. Donbass promptly replaced Ural as the main metallurgical center - if in the 70 of the XIX century Ural plants produced 67% of all Russian metal, and Donetsk only 0,1% (one-tenth percent), then by 1900, the Urals share in the production of metals decreased to 28 %, and the share of Donbass reached 51%.
Non-russian russian metal
On the eve of the 20th century, Donbass produced over half of the total metal of the Russian Empire. Production growth was significant, but still lagged behind leading European countries. So by the end of the XIX century, Russia produced 17 kilograms of metals per capita per year, while Germany - 101 kilograms, and England - 142 kilograms.
With the richest natural resources, Russia then gave only 5,5% of the world pig iron production. In 1897, the Russian factories produced 112 million poods of it, and almost 52 million poods were bought abroad.
True, that year our country led the world in terms of mining and export of manganese ores necessary for the production of high-quality steel. In 1897, Russia produced 22 millions of poods of this ore, which accounted for almost half of all world production. Manganese ore was then mined in Transcaucasia near the city of Chiatura in the very center of modern Georgia, and in the area of the city of Nikopol on the territory of the modern Dnipropetrovsk region.
However, by the beginning of the 20th century, the Russian Empire was seriously lagging behind in the production of copper, a very important metal for many military and civilian technologies of that time. At the beginning of the 19th century, our country was one of the leading exporters of copper to Europe; in the first quarter of the century, thousands of poods of Ural copper were sold abroad for 292. The whole bronze industry of France then worked on copper from the Urals.
Workers are present at the grand launch of the blast furnace of the Alapaevsk Metallurgical Plant, 2011 year. Photo: Pavel Lisitsyn / RIA News
But by the end of the century, Russia itself had to buy imported copper, since the country produced only 2,3% of the global production of this metal. Over the last decade of the XIX century, the export of Russian copper amounted to less than 2 thousand pounds, while from abroad imported over 831 thousands of pounds of this metal.
The situation with the extraction of zinc and lead, equally important metals for the technologies of the beginning of the 20th century, was even worse. Despite the wealth of its own subsoil, their production in Russia then made hundredths of a percent in world production (zinc - 0,017%, lead - 0,05%), and all the needs of Russian industry were completely satisfied by imports.
The second defect of the Russian metallurgy was the ever-growing dominance of foreign capital. If in 1890, foreigners owned 58% of all capital in the metallurgical industry of Russia, then 1900, their share has grown to 70%.
It was not by chance that at the dawn of the 20th century, Mariupol County was the second city in Russia after Moscow in terms of the number of foreign consulates - modern industry, which was booming in the Russian Empire, mostly belonged to foreign capital, and Mariupol was not only one of the largest centers of metallurgy, but also the main trading port for a large industrial area with factories and mines of Donbass.
In the first place among the foreign owners of the Russian metal were the Belgians and French (they controlled, for example, the extraction of manganese ores in Russia), followed by the Germans, then the British. At the beginning of the 20th century, a Russian economist, Pavel Ol, calculated that the share of foreign capital in the mining industry at that time was 91% ‚and in metal processing - 42%.
For example, by 1907, 75% of all copper production in Russia was controlled by German banks through the Copper syndicate. On the eve of World War I, the situation only worsened - by 1914, German capital controlled 94% of Russian copper production.
But precisely because of the large foreign investments in 25 years before the First World War, the metallurgical and mining industry in Russia showed impressive growth - iron production grew almost 8 times, as well as coal production increased 8 times, and iron and steel production increased 7 times.
In 1913, the kilogram of iron in Russia was worth an average of 10-11 kopecks on the market. At current prices, this is about 120 rubles, at least twice as expensive as modern retail metal prices.
In 1913, Russian metallurgy occupied 4-th place on the planet and on key indicators was approximately equal to the French, but still lagged behind the most developed countries in the world. Russia in that reference year smelted steel in 6 times less than the United States, three times less than Germany and two times less than England. At the same time, the lion's share of ore and almost half of the metal of Russia belonged to foreigners.