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The History of Altai Region

XVII-XVIII centuries. The origin of Altai metallurgy

Russian settlement in the Upper Ob region and the foothills of Altai began in the second half of the XVII century. Development of Altai became faster after building the Beloyarsk (1717) and Bikatunsk (1718) fortresses in defence from warlike nomads Dzungars.

Long Great Northern War with Sweden had set a number of problems before Russia, one of which was getting their own metals and especially copper, necessary for manufacture of guns, mintage, casting of bells. Before the war Russia imported from Sweden over 17 thousand tons of copper annually, but those time the government of Peter I had to turn to their own natural resources. To that end search parties were equipped, private initiatives were encouraged.

Altai long has been known as an area of metal mining. The largest Urals factory owner Akinfy Demidov took the opportunity - September 21, 1729 the first manufacture of Altai metallurgy began to work – Kolyvano-Voskresensk Plant. Bowels of Altai were rich of silver. In 1744 Demidov’s bailiffs began the silver-refining manufacture. The result of Akinfy Demidov activity in Altai was the creation of a feudal mining industry based on serfdom labor of bonded peasants and workmen.


The map of Demidovs possessions in Altai

In 1747 the Empress Elizaveta Petrovna issued a decree which passed Altai to personal property of Russian Tsars - the former Demidov manufactures came under the authority of the Tsars Cabinet, under the direction of which the subsequent commercial operation of silver deposits of the region was carried out. Over the next five years in Altai were smelted more than 750 pounds of silver and more than 20 pounds of gold, which was estimated at 150 thousand rubles - an enormous sum for those times. The tomb of Alexander Nevsky weighing 90 pounds was made of Altai silver, now it is located in Hermitage.

Barnaul Plant of Akinfy Demidov. 1747. Restoration of M. Yudin

By the end of the XVIII century 8 mining and metallurgical plants operated in the region. Annual output of silver was 1000 poods. In the second half of the XVIII and early XIX century Zmeinogorsk mine was the main supplier of silver ores.

The Tomb of Alexander Nevsky made of Altai silver.
Leningrad, Hermitage

Formed in the second half of the XVIII century Kolyvano-Voskresensk (since 1834 - Altai) Mining District - a huge territory of the total area more than 500 000 km² included modern Altai Region, Novosibirsk and Kemerovo, a part of Tomsk region and a part of East Kazakhstan region. The reigning monarch was the owner of Altai factories, mines, lands and forests, the main management was exercised by the Cabinet, which was in St. Petersburg. The local backbone of management was mining officers. Kolyvano-Voskresensk mountain board was located in Barnaul - the administrative center of the district.

The plan of Barnaul plant and its surroundings showing the location of major buildings, roads, plowed fields and meadows made by non-commissioned shihtmaster I. Polzunov and geodesy student P.Popov. 1757

At the end of the XVIII century in Altai all the important deposits of semi-precious stones were opened, which brought the region worldwide fame: Korgon, Remnevsk, Beloretsk and Goltsovsk. Since 1786 in the region stone cutting industry was developed (grinding mill at Loktevsk plant, since 1802 - grinding mill in the village Kolyvan). It was specialized in production of large goods: vases, chandeliers, fireplaces and other products. The famous “Queen of Vases” made of remnevsk jasper that adorns one of the halls of Hermitage was manufactured there.

The picture of a chandelier made of grey-purple jasper. The author of the project an architect Galberg (1827)

The Mint of Suzun copper works manufactured Siberian copper coins since 1766 till 1781, the coins were used only in Siberia; and since 1781 till 1847 the Mint manufactured all-Russian coins.

Siberian copper coins minted at the factory of Suzun

All-Russian copper coins minted at the factory of Suzun



XVIII-XIX centuries. Agriculture - the foundation of the regional economy

At the first half of the XIX century Altai took the first place in Russia in production of silver, the second in production of copper, the third in production of gold. It became the second industrial area in the east after the Urals. In 1806 Barnaul along with Ekaterinburg officially was recognized as a mountain town.

The picture of Barnaul Emblem approved by the Emperor Nikolai I, May 8, 1846

After the reforms of the 60-70s years of the XIX century feudal remnants in Altai were kept to the highest degree than in the centre of the country and other Siberian regions. Belonging of mining region to tsars remained inviolable, and this fact determined many features of Altai development in the post-reform period. After 1861 mining industry being the major economic sector of the region entered the period of economic crisis. Since the beginning of 1870s unprofitability of manufactures increased steadily, and by the end of the century almost all of them were closed.

Panorama of the city of Barnaul. The second half of the XIX century

In the post-reform Altai private gold mining was the mostly developed. The largest companies in gold mining were Altai gold mining business and Southern Altai gold mining business. By the end of the XIX century there were 70 mines and up to 100 pounds of gold were mined annually. Private manufacturing industry was represented by mills and granular mills, distilleries, felt boots shops and sheepskin-skin coats workshops. Black sheepskin coats made in Barnaul were famous everywhere in Russia.

The map of Altai area with indication of minerals localities. 1908

At Karakachinsk mine [The beginning of the XX century]

Gradually agriculture became the basis of Altai economy. Along with the cultivation of grain crops (wheat, oats, rye) planting of potatoes increased, beekeeping got a significant development. At the beginning of the XX century dairy farming and butter industry were put in the forefront. Altai butter was even exported to Western Europe countries.

Degreasing shop at a private sheepskin skin coat factory. 1912

By 1915 Altai railway was built connecting Novonikolayevsk, Barnaul and Semipalatinsk. Water transport was improved too.

Stolypin land reform gave rise to the resettlement movement in Altai, which contributed to economic upturn of the region.

1917-1941. Industrialization of Altai Region

The events of 1917-1919s led to the establishment of the Soviet power in Altai. In June 1917 Altai province was formed with the center in the city of Barnaul. It existed till 1925.

The map of Altai province showing the boundaries of uyezds and volosts drawn on the map of Altai region [1920-1925]

Since 1925 till 1937 the territory of Altai was included in Siberian region, since 1930 till 1937 - into West Siberian region. On September 28, 1937 the USSR Central Executive Committee decided to divide West Siberian region into Novosibirsk region and Altai Region with its center in the city of Barnaul.

Throughout the 1920s Altai remained an agrarian region and therefore the fundamental political and socio-economic processes were connected with the development of village. By early 1930s the collectivization of farms was completed.

The construction of Turkestan-Siberian railway had an influence on the economic development of Altai province in late 1920s. For the processing of Central Asian cotton Barnaul Melange Plant was constructed - the first large textile enterprise in Siberia. Its construction began in June 1932; in November 1934 the first stage of the plant was put into operation. In 1940 the plant had reached its estimated capacity.

The construction of the main building of Barnaul Melange Plant. 1933

In Barnaul, Bisk, Kamen-na-Obi grain elevators were built; in Bisk and Aleisk - sugar mills, in Bisk, Rubtsovsk and Pospelikha - meat processing and packing factories. Metal-working and construction materials production were rising rapidly, transportation network was improved. By the end of the 1930s Altai had become one of the largest agro-industrial regions of Siberia.

Filling barrels with butter at Butter-Cheese Making Plant of Altai butter-making Artel, village Altaiskoe [1930]

1941-1945. Altai Region during the Great Patriotic War

The beginning of the Great Patriotic War demanded restructuring of the entire economy. Altai Region received more than 100 enterprises which were evacuated from western parts of the country, including 24 factories of national significance, plants of agricultural machinery, tractors, tractor equipment, mechanical presses; mechanical equipment, car building, two boilers and others. The war substantially changed the economic character of the region, giving a powerful impulse to the development of its industry. Evacuated enterprises were located in Barnaul, Bisk, Slavgorod, Rubtsovsk, Chesnokovka (Novoaltaisk). At the same time the region remained one of the main granaries of the country, being the major producer of grain, meat, butter, honey, wool and other agricultural products and raw materials for industry.



1945-1990. Region formation as an agro-industrial region

The first postwar decade was a period of mass development of new technology. Rates of industrial growth in the region were six times higher than average in the country. Altai diesels were exhibited at the World Industrial Exhibition in Berlin, Leipzig and other cities, where they received high marks and awards. At Altaiselmash in the mid 1950s the countrys first automatic production line of plowshares began operating. Bisk Boiler Plant for the first time in the history of boiler manufacturing applied production line for manufacturing of barrels of boilers. Barnaul Mechanical Presses Plant introduced the design of new stamping presses with pressure of 1000-2000 tons.

Meeting virgin landers at the station of Topchikha. 1954

By early 1960s Altai produced more than 80% of tractor plows, over 30% of freight cars and steam boilers, manufactured by this time in Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.

Priority development of industry typical for post-war decades affected the agriculture, which continued to develop extensively. The key problem for the region was the grain problem. Temporary way out of the situation was the development of virgin and fallow lands. Collective and state farms of the region cultivated 2619,8 thousand hectares of virgin and fallow lands, 20 virgin farms were organized in the region. In October 1956 Altai Region was awarded the Order of Lenin for successful development of virgin lands, the increase in grain production (the second Order of Lenin Altai Region was awarded in 1970). As a result of soil erosion further cultivation of virgin lands turned into losses of areas under crops. In these circumstances the necessity to intensify agricultural production, turning it into a complex closely linked to processing industries became urgent.

In the 1970s and 1980s there was a transition from a separate operating enterprises and industries to the formation of production complexes: agro-industrial units, manufacturing and production - scientific associations. Rubtsovsk-Loktevsk, Slavgorod-Blagoveshensk, Zarinsk-Sorokino, Barnaul-Novoaltaysk, Aleisk, Kamensk, Bisk agro-industrial complexes were created with their centres in major towns.

The Coke Plant in Zarinsk: workshops on assembling and recycling of coke gas. 1989

In February 1972 the construction of Altai Coke Plant began and in December 1981 the first coke was produced.

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