Below is a “rough draft” of the data I’ve cleaned and analyzed on economic development in the Russian Empire, 1700-1913. This information was compiled using data from RUSCORP: A Database of Corporations in the Russian Empire, which contains information from the charters of over 4500 corporations within the empire in the aforementioned years. At the end, I will specify my next steps as well as elements that are currently in the works.
The primary aim of this project is to trace the development of industry in the Russian Empire between 1700 and 1913, with a particular focus on the peripheral regions of the empire. It is most commonly assumed that the vast majority of Russia’s economic development, particularly its industrialization in the latter half of the nineteenth century, took place in the so-called “Russian Heartland,” a term used to refer to the core regions of Central Russia, Northwestern Russia, the Volga Region, and Southern Russia. While there is undoubtedly a degree of accuracy to this statement, this projects seeks to explore the degree to which economic development occurred in Russian borderlands, what types of industries developed in these areas, and the level of investment that was put into corporate activities in the empire’s periphery.
For the purposes of this project, I have identified fifteen regions within the Russian Empire. It is noteworthy that not all regions were under the rule of the Russian Empire for the entirety of the identified time period, which is reflected in the temporal aspect of Russian corporate development. Nonetheless, even regions outside of the domain of Russian rule were often subject to considerable Russian influence, with the empire serving as a dominant economic power in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia for most of its existence. The identified regions of the Russian Empire are the Arctic, Baltic Region, Belarus, Caucasus, Central Asia, Central Russia, Crimea, Far East, Northwestern Russia, Poland, Siberia, Southern Russia, Ukraine, Ural Region, and Volga Region.
Additionally, Russian corporations developed bases of operations outside of the empire itself, reflecting a degree of foreign investment on the part of Russia. Regions outside of the Russian Empire in this database include Africa, the Balkans, East Asia, Western and Central Europe, Scandinavia, South Asia, and Western Asia.
One measure by which the spread of capitalism in the Russian Empire can be analyzed is through the locations of corporate headquarters. While this view does not give a complete analysis of Russian economic activity, it does help to identify the primary regions of Russian commercial development.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of Russian corporate headquarters existed within the regions of Central and Northwestern Russia, based around the empire’s largest cities of St. Petersburg and Moscow. Likewise, the somewhat sizable number of corporate headquarters in Ukraine is not unlikely, given Kiev’s historical significance as the site of the first Russian state. What is more intriguing is the level of corporate development in the Kingdom of Poland and the Baltic Region, given that these were not part of the original Russian Empire until its conquest of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1793.
However, this only provides information on corporate headquarters. For commercial and financial industries like banking, retail, trade, and the service sector, this information is likely sufficient, given that many of the operations of these companies took place in those regions. However, for extractive industries and manufacturing, a closer look into the location of operations gives a sense of the geographic distribution of investment.
While this visualization suggests a majority of economic development in the Russian Heartland, it does highlight notable economic operations in the Baltic Region, Caucasus, Crimea, Poland, and Siberia. Furthermore, some of these regions became the site of industrial activities that were not widespread in the empire’s core.
As the graph above indicates, certain regions were dominated by particular industries. One noteworthy case involves Petroleum extraction and manufacturing in the Caucasus. 85 corporations with petroleum extraction and manufacturing as their primary function developed operations in this region, surpassing development of this type in any other region. Likewise, the Baltic Region became a center for the manufacture and operation of water transportation, notably shipbuilding. This region contained the largest number of corporate operations in this field, with 47 separate corporations conducting business in the area. This likely came as a result of the availability of warm-water ports accessible year-round, a feature notably absent in much of the Russian Empire. The Volga Region comes in at a close second, with 39 corporations engaged in the manufacture and operation of water transport. Again, this can likely be attributed to the geography of the region, with the Volga River serving as an important transportation route in the Russian interior.
Examples such as these highlight the diversity of natural resources across the vast Russian Empire, indicating substantial value of lands beyond Central and Northwestern Russia.
Next Steps: I am planning to include a section on levels of available capital (noted on the map below), measuring degrees of financial investment in these regions beyond the Russian core. I am also planning to include a temporal element, either in its own section or within the previous maps/graphs; I am currently working on figuring out the best way to do so.
I am also working on solidifying my argument, which will be noted in the introduction. I have outlined my research questions, but need to analyze the data further to bring my argument to a close. I am aware of this dynamic and should have it completed within the week.