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E. Zablotski


Published: E.Zablotski. Russian Mining History. - Industrial Heritage, 2001, vol.27, No4. Pp.27-34.

The mining in Russia became significant on the state level during the ruling of Peter I. In 1700 according to the Tsar’s order a special state institution (The Mining «Prikaz») was created and there began the building of the iron-works in Ural (Nevyanski and Kamenski works) and on the west bank of the Onega lake in the Olonets district (the Petrovski works which later gave the name to the city of Petrozavodsk). The specialists from Great Britain take part in the building of the first Ural mining-works (i.e. the blast-furnace of the Nevyanski works in 1703).
The administration of the mining industry from 1719 became the charge of the Berg-College headed by the feld-zeichmeister (later field-marshal) Y.V. Bruce [1], the closest associate of Peter the Great. The main purpose of the mining works was to produce the armament as cannons, guns and shells. Due to the building of those works and factories Russia could be able to provide its needs in iron and copper and even to export them abroad.
The role of the German experience in the creation of the Russian administrative structure of mining as well as its practical development is widely known. But nevertheless one of the stages of the Russian mining development can be called the English period without any exaggeration. This period began at the end of the 18th century with the invitation of the British specialists for the modernization of the iron-works and the arms factories of the Mining Department. That decision was made by the proposal of Admiral S. Greig, the Scottish sailor on the Russian service [2]. The decision was dictated by the necessity to enforce the Russian Navy and the Artillery under the conditions of the armed conflicts with Turkey after the annexation of the Crimea Peninsula by Russia in1783.
The mission of the invitation in 1786 was given to Adam Armstrong who was a graduate of the Edinburgh University and served as the house teacher in the Greig’s family and, from 1785, – in the Olonets State Palata that directed the mining works [3]. While in Britain Armstrong succeeded to arrange the removal to Russia of Charles Gascoigne who was a significant mechanic specialist and served as the director of the famous Carron iron-works near Falkirk in Scotland. Gascoigne arrived to Kronstadt on May 26 1786 with foremen and machines. The contract with him was signed on September 1786 and the works on the rebuilding of the Alexandrovski cannon-works (founded in 1774 in Petrozavodsk) according to the Carron methods began under his direction. The same reconstruction was made in the Konchezerski works that were founded in 1707. Gascoigne was a director of the Alexandrovski works till 1798. In 1793 he became also a director of the Kronstadt foundry and from 1798 he served as a director of all the Olonets and Kronstadt works. In 1797 he founded in the South of Russia, the Lugansk foundry. The work of the Lugansk foundry was of extreme significance for the armament of the Russian Navy and the fortresses on the Black Sea, especially during the Russian-Turkish War (1828-1829) and for the defend of Sevastopol in 1854. Near St. Petersburg Gascoigne built the Admiralty’s Izhorski works (1801) and rebuilt the Kolpinski works (founded by Peter the Great in 1804). Gascoigne’s great knowledge was of a great use in organizing the mining of the coal in the South of Russia. From 1789 he received the rank of the Actual State Counselor (suitable to the General Major).
After Gascoigne’s death in 1806 Adam Armstrong was appointed as a director of the Olonets and St. Petersburg works. He was appointed in 1807, untill then he worked on the Alexandrovski cannon-works under Gascoigne’s direction (except his army service period in 1790-1791). Armsdrong’s direction of those works that were to provide the Russian Army and Navy with arms and metal production overlapped a very hard period of the Russian history. It was during the next Russian-Turkish war (1806-1812), the Peace of Tilzit (1807), Russia’s joining (against its own will) to the continental blockade of Britain [4], Russian-Swedish war (1808-1809) and at last The Patriotic War against Napoleon in 1812. On the greatest cannon-works – Alexandrovski – Armstrong achieved «an extreme success in casting of cannon and shells» in spite of the great difficulties connected with deterioration of the equipment, little amount of the workers and the shortage of the coal. Armstrong overcame this last difficulty by suggesting to use pine-tree wood instead of coal for fusing cast-iron. The required experiments were carried out for more than a year and then the new method was implemented in all the works and gave a great save of the resources. The cast-iron casting itself distinguished by its « perfection, thoroughness and skill of accomplishment». It concerned both cannon and shells and some functional and decorative details that adorned the palaces and the bridges of St. Petersburg. Armstrong was granted the rank of ober-berghauptman (suitable to the General Major) and continued to direct works till his death in 1818.
British mechanics’ authority in Russia was very high [5]. Among those who served during the Gascoigne’s period there were some British foremen that had arrived to Russia earlier than he. For example Alexander Smith who had worked in Kronstadt from 1783 on the setting up and managing the steam engine, Alexander Davy «the mining technician from Scotland» who was at the Russian service in Tsarskoye Selo [6] from 1784 as a skillful metal worker. Both of the masters were transferred to Alexandrovski cannon-works: Smith in 1793 and Davy in 1790. Smith continued to work as a mechanic and a supervisor of the engines and Davy worked as a metal worker and a blacksmith till 1806 when he was transferred to the St. Petersburg foundry. Alexander Davy was a founder of the great dynasty of the Russian mining engineers of the English origin whose service lasted till the beginning of the 20th century (see below).
Some mining technicians came to Russia to work in the Alexandrovski works with Gascoigne: Basil Clarke (in 1808 he carried out the experiments on caste-iron fusing together with Armstrong, see above; from 1822 he served as a manager of the Alexandrovski works), Timothy Roper ( a manager of the fusing and blast-furnace sections of the Alexandrovski works, from 1809 – worked in the mining-works of the Goroblagodatski district in Ural), Thomas Drury ( worked with the steam machine of the Voyitski mine in the Olonets district, from 1795- a comissioner of Olonets, St. Petersburg and Kronstadt works), and one Glen. Then came the younger brother of Alexander Smith - Adam (in 1790 to the carpenter’s section of the Alexandrovski works) and the younger brothers of Basil Clarke – Matthew (in 1792 to the Kronstadt foundry as a metal worker and a blacksmith) and Charles (in 1809 to the Olonets works). Later Adam Smith worked in the coal mining (from 1796 in Luganski foundry) in the Mint (from 1815) and in the St. Petersburg foundry (from 1818). Matthew Clarke worked for some time in the Alexandrovski cannon-works (1795-1800) and then was transferred to the St. Petersburg works. He was a mechanic of the Military settlements and of the St. Petersburg Arsenal (from 1824). In 1835 he became a director of the St. Petersburg foundry and ended his carrier with the rank of ober-berghauptman of the 4th grade (suitable to the Major General rank). As to Charles Clarke he worked later in the St. Petersburg foundary (from 1814) then he was transferred to the Lugansk foundary (in 1825) and from 1835 he served as a manager of the St. Petersburg foundary.
At the end of the 18th- beginning of the 19th century in Russia also worked: George Stratern (blacksmith, metal worker, turner and varnish worker in the St. Petersburg foundary), Basil Retallik (in the Alexadrovski works at the drawing works), the mechanics Francis Crafford and Robert Seymour ( with steam engines of the St. Petersburg foundary), the brothers (?) Alexander and Joseph Major (mechanics in the Ural mining-works), Alexander Walter ( manager of the Petropavlovski mining-works in Ural), Jacob Duncan (mechanic of the St. Petersburg Mint) and some others (see the table).
The sons of the English mining specialists also went to the Russian service. The three sons of Basil (Vasilij Jegorovich) Clarke – Jegor, Alexandr and Roman and Thomas Drury’s son Vasilij worked at the St. Petersburg and the Olonets works.
Adam Armstrong’s son – Roman Adamovich [7] – from 1813 was an inspector (a supervisor) of the fusing and hammer sections and of the klins at the Alexandrovski cannon-works, from 1824 he was a manager and from 1833 - a mining director of the Olonets works. Later he became a director of the St. Petersburg Mint (in 1843) where he implemented many technical innovations (level-presses, wire-mills). In 1850 he replaced the expensive platinum dishes which were used to dissolve silver with the cast-iron ones. The mining carrier of Roman Adamovich Armstrong was one of the longest in Russia and his mining rank (received in 1858) was among the highest (General Lieutenant).
The mining service became an age-old tradition in the family of Alexander (Alexandr Ivanovich) Davy. His sons Peter and Christophor as well as his numerous grandsons and great grandsons studied in the Mining Institute in St. Petersburg and served as mining engineers mainly in Ural (see fig. 1-B). Peter Alexandrovich Davy was an assistant of the mining director of the Olonets workss (from 1843), then an adviser of the Ural Mining Administration (from 1850) and received a rank of Colonel. Christophor Alexandrovich was a manager (from 1839) and then a director (from 1847) of a famous Zlatoust arms factory in Ural. His son Alexey also served as a manager of this factory in 1865-1873. Peter Alexandrovich’s sons were assistants of the director of the Ural mining-works – Peter Petrovich in 1890-1895 and Michail Petrovich – from 1910. They both received a rank of Actual State Counselor (suitable to General Major). Peter Petrovich at the end of his carrier (from 1895) was a director of the Caucasus Mining Administration. To the ten mining Davies we should add the six sons of Peter Davy’s daughters (the grand daughters of Alexander Ivanovich Davy). His daughters Margarita and Jelizaveta both married mining engineers (Margarita’s husband was A. P. Ivanov and Jelizaveta’s – O. G. Moskvin).
In 1840s the amount of the mining specialists of the British origin significantly descended (see fig. 1-A) [8]. From the beginning of 1820s Russia had stopped the invitation of the British specialists. It was apparently concerned with a certain saturation of the Russian mining with the native specialists - the graduates of the Mining Kadet Corpus (the Mining Institute) which was founded in 1773 in St. Petersburg (fig. 2). Possibly it was also a result of the changes in the political climate in Rissia during the ruling of Nicholas I. Among the graduates of the Mining Institute besides Davies we can also see Clarkes [9] and Thomsons. The mechanics Thetes worked in Ural by the contract (see the table). But as a whole the «English Period» in the Russian mining history that was connected with the development of the most important Russian foundries and cannon-works mainly by the British specialists came to the end.
But nevertheless an English experience was still taken into consideration by the Russian mining authorities. As earlier the most successful graduates of the Mining Institute were directed to specialization in Germany and Great Britain. We also know about the official journeies of the Russian mining engineers to Great Britain for making acquaintance with technical equipment of mines and factories and with the methods of the geological mapping. The reforms of 1860s opened a way to the capitalization of the Russian economy. The outcome of the mining engineers sharply increased (fig. 2) and the mining industry became to develop rapidly with the closest participation of the businessmen - both from Russia and from abroad including the English ones.


1. A son of Colonel William Bruce who served in the Russian Army and was a descendant of the Scottish kings.
2. Sir Samuel (Samuil Karlovich) Greig (1735-1788) was in Russia from 1764, excelled in the sea battles in the Russian-Turkish war (Chesmen Gulf, 1770) and in the Swedish war (near the Gogland Island). He was a naval engineer, an author of the Sea Rules and of the first system of the sea signals in Russia. His son Alexis (Alexey Samuilovich) Greig was also Russian admiral. His grandson Samuil Alexeyevich Greig (1775-1845) took part in the defense of Sevastopol , was an associate of the Minister of Finance (from 1866) then he became the Minister of Finance (1878-1880) and the member of the State Council.
3. The difficulty of this mission was that in Britain it was prohibited to export machines and to induce the foremen to leave abroad.
4. Trade with Great Britain was very important for the work of Russian mining-works as Russia imported coal from England.
5. In Russia they were also aware of the activity of James Watt and he was also invited to move to Russia in 1773.
6. The summer residence of Russian tsars.
7. R. Armstrong received an education in the Edinburgh University where he was a close friend of Walter Scott.
8. On the graph that shows the amount in each year it can be higher during 1840-1845 because the author had no sufficient data about those years.
9. The mining engineers Clarkes (see table) were the descendants of Basil Clarke Junior who was marksheider in the Russian service and was apparently related to the brothers Clarke that came from Great Britain. Alexander Vasil’jevich Clarke Junior was a manager of the Yugovski works near the town Perm in Ural. Dmitrij Vasil’jevich Clarke was an assistant of the manager of the Zmeyinogorskij mines and the works in Altay and he also was a famous chess player.

Sources (in Russian):

1. Arsen''jev,1830.The Description of the Olonets Mining-works.-Trans.Mineral.Soc., p.I, 1830.
2. Kozlov,1981.The Creators of the Science and Technology at Ural, XVII-beginning XX century. The biographical Reference Book. Sverdlovsk.
3. Kulibin,1900. The List of Russian Mining-figures.-Mining Journal, v.3.
4. List: The List to Generals, Staff- and Ober-officers of the mining-engineeres''s Corps. St Petersburg, 1835-1865; the List to Mining-engineeres. St Petersburg, 1868-1915. (year-books).
5. MHG: The Materials on History of Geology in USSR. The bibliographical Dictionary. Issues 1-6. Moscow,1965-1972.
6. RBD: The Russian Biographical Dictionary. St Petersburg, 1896-1913.
7. Skal''kovski,1900. The Letter to the editorial Staff.-Mining Journal, v.3.
8. Versilov,1902. Alexej Christoforovich Davy (the Obituary).-Mining Journal, v.4, n.11.
9. RGIA: The Russian State Historic Archives in St Petersburg; numbers of keeping-units: fund-list-file.

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