Deutschbaltische Unternehmer in Rußlands Handel und Industrie

Erik Amburger


Under the reign of Tsar Peter I and after the foundation of the town of St. Petersburg there was an inflow of German inhabitants from the conquered provinces of Estonia and Livonia into the new capital and the old territories of the Russian empire, at first under compulsion, but later they came voluntarily hoping to gain fortune and influence. Here only the part of these people - who are called „Baltic Germans" today -in the Russian economic life is of interest; their homelands in Estonia, Livonia and since the end of the 18th Century also Courland will not be taken into regard here.
At first they came as merchants and settled mainly in Petersburg; some of them founded also manufacturies. Among them was Jakob Wolff from Narva who gained in special importance. Under Catherine II, several Baltic Germans began to participate in the financial transactions of the government. Under the reign of Alexander I, W F. Wistinghausen from Reval went beyond this scope, a man Coming from England who was appointed by the tsar to the management of imperial factories. During the whole of the 19th Century, German-Baltic merchants founded commercial firms and industrial enterprises in Petersburg, which partly existed for decades, some of them even until 1918. Actual free enterprise developed particularly in the public limited companies which have been founded in larger numbers in Russia only since 1827. Also ministers, generals and naval officers not only invested money but also had taken considerable part in founding them, mostly shipping and railway companies. Karl v. Meck, Rudolf Baron Steinheil and several members of the family of Baron von Ungern-Sternberg devoted their time especially to the railway construction. The counts of Stenbock inherited great mining companies in Ural and owned them until the First World War. Another field of activity of German-Baltic employers was the south-Russian sugar beet industry, which is described in detail. Towards the end of the 19th Century, two men from Estonia, general Wiener and Woldemar von Rennenkampff, started the produetion of gunpowder in the factories of Nikolskoe and Schlüsselburg in some distance from Petersburg. In this connection also Baron Korffs founding activities are mentioned and the fact that he construeted the Irinovka railway which during the siege of Leningrad in the Second World War was not only the only line of supply - the so-called „road of life" - but also the way of rescue for the civilians.