Enemies or Allies? The Crimean War and British-Russian Technical Cooperation in the Urals


  • Olga Ermakova Institute of History and Archaeology, Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Ural Federal University




This article studies one aspect of British-Russian cooperation between the 1840s and 1850s, involving the exchange of technical staff. The research is based on clerical records and act sources, deposited in archival materials of central and local governmental bodies of the Russian mining industry. The specific features of cooperation are illustrated by examples of service of Englishmen at Ural factories. The author analyses circumstances of recruitment and conditions of work of high-qualified engineers as well as of ordinary masters. During the period in question, Englishmen were the most requested specialists because they were thought to possess advanced technological experience and knowledge. Such a perception extended to all, not just to the representatives of professions requiring the highest education and qualification. In the second half of the 1840s – early 1850s, a team of shipbuilders led by the engineer, James Carr, worked in the Ural plants. During this period the Russian government actively invited mechanics, hammer workers, molders and masters of puddling. Englishmen often were appointed to higher positions to deal with the technical part of Ural state factories. The exchange of experience was carried out during the common work of British and Russian engineers and masters as well as in the process of training. The paper displays the ambiguity of such interaction and difficulties, which arose due to faults of either one or the other side. The sources, documenting recruitment and dismissal of foreigners, describe cases when the hiring of invited specialists did not bring the expected results. The author reveals the reasons and consequences of failed attempts of using British technological experience at Russian plants. Among them include technical unpreparedness of the Ural industry, the inconsistency between the qualification of foreigners and the tasks for which they were invited and finally insufficient awareness of the Russian side concerning the recruited technicians’ professional skills. Biographies of English specialists (engineers, mechanics, etc.) are considered in the context of international conjuncture, which at the time was characterized by an increase in tension in English-Russian relations and the upcoming war. The paper demonstrates that the attitude of some British men towards their service in the Urals changed for the worse because the Crimean war had begun. Others continued their contract work in the Urals in spite of the military confrontation between Russia and England. The activity of British technical specialists in the Urals was a reflection of peculiarities in English-Russian relations, in which cooperation in economic and technological spheres could coexist with a drastic deterioration of political relations.

Author Biography

Olga Ermakova, Institute of History and Archaeology, Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Ural Federal University



Bondarenko, F. V., Mikityuk, V. P. & Shkerin, V. A. (2009). Britanskie mehaniki i predpinimateli na Urale v XIX – nachale XX v. [British Mechanics and Entrepreneurs in the Urals in the 19th – Early 20th Centuries]. 86 p. Yekaterinburg, Bank kul′turnoj informacii.
Central′ny′j gosudarstvenny′j arhiv Udmurtskoj respubliki [Central State Archive of the Udmurt Republic]. F. 4; F. 212.
Cross, A. G. (1997). “By the banks of the Neva”: chapters from the lives and careers of the British in eighteenth-century Russia. 474 p. Cambridge & New York, Cambridge University Press.
Erofeev, N. A. (1982). Tumanny′j Al′bion: Angliya i anglichane glazami russkih. 1825–1853gg. [Foggy Albion: The English in the Eyes of Russians. 1825–1853]. 319 p. Moscow, Nauka.
Gosudarstvenny′j arhiv Sverdlovskoj oblasti [State Archive of Sverdlovsk Region].F. 43.
Hobsbawm, E. J. (1976). Industry and Empire : From 1750 to the Present Day. (The Pelican Economic History of Britain. Vol. 3.). 384 p. Harmondsworth, Penguin books.
Kozlov, A. G. (1981). Tvorczy′ nauki i tehniki na Urale. XVII – nachalo XX veka [Creators of Science and Technology in the Urals. 17th – Early 20th Centuries]. 224 p. Sverdlovsk, Sredne-Ural′skoe knizhnoe izdatel′stvo.
Metallurgicheskie zavody′ Urala XVII–XX vv.: E′nciklopediya [Metallurgical Plants of the Urals: 17th – 20th Centuries: An Encyclopaedia]. (2001). 535 p. Yekaterinburg, Akademkniga.
Rossijskij gosudarstvenny′j istoricheskij arvhiv [Russian State Historical Archive].F. 37
Shkerin, V. A. (2011). Inostrancy′ v XIX v. kak agenty′ rasprostraneniya innovacii [Foreigners in the 19th Century as Distributors of Innovations]. In Alekseeva, E.V. (Ed.). Diffuziya tehnologij, social′ny′h institutov i kul′turny′h cennostej na Urale (XVIII – nachalo XX v.) 405 p. Yekaterinburg, UrO RAN.
Zejfert, V. (2000). Poslanczy′ tumannogo Al′biona na Urale i v Ekaterinburge [Envoys of Foggy Albion in the Urals and Yekaterinburg]. In Uralskaya starina (Iss. 4, pp. 295–313). Yekaterinburg, Akademkniga.



How to Cite

Ermakova, O. (2015). Enemies or Allies? The Crimean War and British-Russian Technical Cooperation in the Urals. Quaestio Rossica, (3), 67–77. https://doi.org/10.15826/qr.2015.3.112



Vox redactoris