вторник, 13 октября 2009 г.


By Elena Bashilova

Mikhail Yakovlev, born into a peasant family in 1786, was the first in the line of the Ryabushinsky dynasty of millionaire industrialists. His parents lived at a place called Ryabushinsky in the Kaluga province that lies about 300 kilometers south of Moscow. They were, together with all their neighbors, known as Ryabushinsky. Thus the place name turned into a family name.

Neither papers nor portraits of Mikhail Yakovlev-Ryabushinsky have survived till nowadays. But this is what we know.

Mikhail became a salesman’s apprentice at the age of 12. Four years later, in 1802, he set off for Moscow where he joined the 3rd, that is lowest, of the Russian merchants’ guilds. He had to put up 1,000 to 5,000 rubles to be able to join it and it is not clear where the 16-year-old peasant got that money. He may have got it from his elder brother Artemy who is said to be engaged in trade operations, also in Moscow. One way or another, the new member of the merchants’ guild, Mikhail Ryabushinsky, started selling fabrics for sewing.

He was lucky to meet and marry Yefimiya Skvortsova who was daughter of a rich merchant, landlord and owner of a tannery.

The French invasion and the destructive fire of 1812 ruined many a merchant, including the founding father of the Ryabushinsky empire. Mikhail checked with the Merchant Authority in 1813, to say that he could no longer be known as a merchant. The heavy damages he suffered from the enemy made it impossible for him to pay an interest on capital investment, which was why, he wrote, he wanted to be known as a commoner.

Mikhail Ryabushinsky was a commoner for a stretch of ten years. An ability to wait without wailing was his inborn quality. Trials and tribulations failed to break his spirit and luck again turned his way. He managed to save 8,000 rubles and joined the 3rd guild of Russian merchants in December of 1823.

He had, by that time, purchased a house at Yakimanka Street, near the Kremlin. And he had five children: two daughters and three sons.

The opening, in the mid-40’s, of two textile factories in the Kaluga province spelled the beginning of the Ryabushinsky empire. In 1856, Mikhail Ryabushinsky opened a third factory near the place he lived at. In Moscow, the Kaluga factories turned out semi-woolen fabrics while the Moscow one made use of English and Russian wool yarn. In 1857, Ryabushinsky opened one more factory in his old home province. He reaped fabulous sums of profits. His capital was estimated at 2 million rubles in 1858, the year of his death.

But it was not for money, power of glory that he expanded his empire. He simply loved doing what he did. “Everything for the business and nothing for myself” was his motto.

His second son, Pavel, kept the fires burning after Mikhail’s death. Pavel was a resourceful, easy-going and outspoken person, totally different from his younger brother Vasily. The eldest son, Ivan, was cut off with a penny for marrying against his fathers’ will. He opened a business company of his own.

The three brothers were taught home and started running business errands as soon as they turned 14 or at most, 16. They were introduced to the secrets of bookkeeping, toured, together with their mother, places where they could sell and buy fabrics. Little by little, they accumulated experience and learned to use their own brains.

The Ryabushinskys were devout believers of the Orthodox rite, which helped them run their factories. Pavel’s children said there was a special room for prayer at their place, where old icons adorned the walls and where church books were kept. Sometimes formal church services were held in that room. They were frequently visited by nuns and monks.

Well, Pavel who took the helm after his father’s death was a successful businessman. He had a nose for business endeavors and a rare gift for defining the real worth of prospective business partners. And he was as cautious as anyone in the choice of business partners.

He could have carried on just like his father did. But he made a crucial decision that left a lasting imprint on the industries.

Steam engine machinery came to replace the handlooms of the textile factories of Moscow in the 1850’s and 1860’s. Mikhail Ryabushinsky relied on menial labor. His son Pavel had to either brace up for modernization or go off stage. He knew that the technical overhaul of an old factory would cost him more than opening a new factory. Ryabushinsky's mansion in Moscow

Pavel Ryabushinsky, who kept an eye on technical innovations and paid frequent visits to technologically advanced Britain, decided to buy a cotton mill in the Tver region that borders on the region of Moscow. His new factory was positioned near a railroad and was equidistant from the two capitals of Russia, Moscow and St. Petersburg.

He got rid of his other mills and invested exclusively in his new acquisition. A year had hardly gone by before he got the gold medal of a nationwide fair of woven fabrics.

And, twelve years later, he won the right to brand his fabrics with the state emblem of the Russian Empire.

He kept expanding production. What used to be a Tver cotton mill, by the year 1887 had come to bring together five factories that specialized in weaving, spinning, dyeing, bleaching and finishing. It was about time to start calling it a business corporation. Little by little, though, this business corporation became active in the banking sector. Its four commercial banks and a merchants’ credit society were, of course, incapable of meeting the financial demand of Moscow. One of Pavel’s sons would write that “theirs always was a blend of banking business and industrial production.”


And yet, the industrialist prevailed over the banker. Pavel Ryabushinsky had a knack for business management. By the end of the 19th century, his factories came to play an important role in the textile industry of Russia. A whole town grew around the shops. A sawmill opened near it in 1897. (Ryabushinsky had more than 30,000 acres of forests). Electricity, then almost uncommon in the country, was taken to the shops.

A few words about the private life of Pavel Ryabushinsky who got married at a fairly advanced age and under unusual circumstances. In 1870, Pavel intended to arrange a match between his brother Vasily and the daughter of a rich merchant. But he liked the girl so much that she got to marry him, instead of his brother. The girl Alexandra was thirty years younger than Pavel but they lived happily together and their union was blessed with many children. Pavel and Alexandra had 16 children.

Pavel Ryabushinsky died on the threshold of the 20th century, in 1899, leaving a fortune — 20 million rubles — to his offspring. His sons inherited his business company.

“By the time the World War I, the Ryabushinsky empire had more than 4,500 employees,” staff worker of the Museum of Russian Business Enterprise Darya Zhavoronkova says. “Its annual volume of production was put at 8 million rubles. Its banking sector and industrial board were headquartered in a 1.5 million-ruble building erected in the art nuveau style by fashionable architect Fyodor Shekhtel, in downtown Moscow. That building is a brick-and-stone business card of the turn-of-the-century industrialists.”

In 1915, Pavel Junior was, in recognition of his leading role in business, elected to chair the metropolitan stock exchange committee. Pretty soon after that he was elected to chair the military-industrial committee of Russia.

A church service was held on the day after the cornerstone of the first plant of the metropolitan Automobile Society was laid at Moscow’s Tyufeleva Roshcha. The plant was to have put out 150 one-and-a-half-ton FIAT trucks by the spring of 1917. The difficulties of the war years, coupled with the shortage of necessary machinery, frustrated Ryabushinsky’s plans in that field. But the Italian-made component parts of FIATs were put together when the unfinished plant became public property and the Ryabushinskys were no longer living in Russia. As many as 472 trucks rolled off the car plant’s assembly line in 1917, to be followed by 779 in 1918 and 108 in 1919, although the plant focused, in the first years of Soviet rule, on the reparation of cars, trucks and other things.

Source:The Voice of Russia

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