Final Proposals

Final Project Proposal: Economic Development in the Russian Empire, 1700-1913

Image result for building trans-siberian railway
Trans-Siberian Railway, c. 1900

RUSCORP is a database of corporations in the Russian Empire founded between 1700 and 1913. The project of Thomas C. Owen at Louisiana State University, the data was compiled through the analysis of corporate charters granted by the Russian government from the time of Peter the Great until the outbreak of World War I and subsequent collapse of the Russian Empire. The database is composed of fifty-two machine-readable text files, divided into six separate file categories analyzing 4,539 corporations, 14,245 founders, and 5,243 managers. This information documents the rise of capitalism in Tsarist Russia, tracking its progress through Russia’s industrialization in the late 19th century and the demise of the empire in the early 20th century.

For the purposes of my project, I will be utilizing the first two file categories of the database: File A (Master File) and File B (Characteristics of Corporations). These two files will help to analyze the development of these corporations economically, geographically, and politically.

File A sorts information into the following columns: PSZ serial number (assigned to corporate charters), SURP serial number (supplemented PSZ serial number from 1863 onward), date founded, headquarters code (4 digit code), headquarters location, English name of company, and Russian name of company. These basic traits will help to obtain a sense of where companies based their operations, as well as if and how these centers of operations shifted geographically over time.

File B contains more specific information on the characteristics of each corporation, divided into the following columns: PSZ serial number, type of corporation, new or developing enterprise, functions of the corporation (three separate columns), amount of capital in charter, type of ruble used in charter, basic capital in standard ruble account, number of shares issued, price per share, ability to issue bonds, location of primary operations, secondary geographical location of operations, tertiary location of operations, property restrictions, management restrictions, staff restrictions, share sale restrictions, and ownership restrictions. Though not all of this information will be relevant to the project I am pursuing, it will give a wider sense of the geographic and economic traits of these corporations.

The first and most significant challenge of using this data will be transferring the machine-readable text files into a workable csv file, which I am in the process of doing. After that is complete, the attached codebook can be used to translate digit codes into workable text. Given the format of the coded data, I do not anticipate significant errors or inconsistencies in spelling or other information.

Data Cleaning Steps

  1. Compile and covert text files 1-26 into two separate csv file
  2. Rename columns according to database designs for File A and File B
  3. Merge csv files for File A and File B into one document
  4. Using codebook, substitute digit codes for qualitative figures in the following columns:
    • Type of corporation
    • New or developing enterprise
    • Function 1
    • Function 2
    • Function 3
    • Type of ruble
    • Ability to issue bonds
    • Location 1
    • Location 2
    • Location 3
    • Management restrictions
    • Staff restrictions
    • Sale restrictions
    • Ownership restrictions

Selected Bibliography

Blackwell, William L. The Industrialization of Russia: An Historical Perspective. Arlington Heights, Ill.: Davidson, 1994.

Falkus, M. E. The Industrialisation of Russia, 1700-1914. London: Macmillan, 1979.

Gregory, Paul R. “Russian Industrialization and Economic Growth: Results and Perspectives of Western Research.” Jahrbücher Für Geschichte Osteuropas 25, no. 2 (1977): 200–218.

Hillmann, Henning, and Brandy L. Aven. “Fragmented Networks and Entrepreneurship in Late Imperial Russia.” American Journal of Sociology 117, no. 2 (2011): 484–538.

Owen, Thomas C. “A Standard Ruble of Account for Russian Business History, 1769-1914: A Note.” The Journal of Economic History 49, no. 3 (September 1989): 699–706.

Owen, Thomas C. Russian Corporate Capitalism from Peter the Great to Perestroika. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Owen, Thomas C. “The Population Ecology of Corporations in the Russian Empire, 1700-1914.” Slavic Review 50, no. 4 (1991): 807–26.

Research Questions – RUSCORP

How did the industrialization of Russia in the late 19th century impact economic development in the borderlands of the rapidly expanding Russian Empire?

To what extent did economic development occur outside of Russia’s industrial core regions (Central, Ural, Volga)?

How did the rise of capitalism in Tsarist Russia manifest across various regions of the empire?

How did the diverse geography of Russia impact the development of particular industries during the late 19th and early 20th centuries?


  • Interactive map showcasing the location of corporate headquarters and operations throughout the 19th century
  • Pie & bar charts indicating the geographic distribution of Russian corporations and economic activity throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • Write up of the identified trends and possible implications of patterns of economic development observed in the visualizations.


Description Date to be completed by
Data cleaning Monday, April 1st
Secondary reading & background research Wednesday, April 3rd 
Finalize visualization types & functions Thursday, April 4th
Project Wireframe Tuesday, April 9th
Interactive Map Visualization Tuesday, April 16th
Misc. Visualizations Thursday, April 18th
Thesis and introduction Tuesday, April 23rd
Descriptive Essay Tuesday, April 30th
Revision of Essay Saturday, May 4th
Publish Finished Product Friday, May 10th

One Comment

  • Maeve Kane

    What kind of information is in the function columns? Is that industry?

    How is your project going to differ from Owen’s?

    If Owen hasn’t already done this, you should look into whether headquarter location makes a difference to operations locations, eg, does having headquarters in Moscow make a firm more likely to have operations in the Urals vs headquarters in St Petersburg is more likely to have operations in the east.

    Do you have any information about the development of transportation networks for your period? That may make a difference to dispersal.