The “Years of Hardship” of the First Russian Manufacturer Andrei Denisovich Vinius
Keywords:17th-century Russian history; Andrei Denisovich Vinius; publication of sources; armament of the Russian army; 17th-century trade
This article considers an unstudied episode in the life of Andrei Denisovich Vinius, a Dutch entrepreneur and founder of the first metallurgical plant in Russia. Previously, researchers had no information about Vinius’ business activities connected with the establishment and management of the metallurgical plant. The sources available to researchers did not prove the hypothesis that the Dutch merchant continued his trading activity. Such data can be found among Prikaz records reflecting results of trials. Andrei Vinius was a defendant in these cases. Documents found by the authors in the Russian State Archive of Ancient Acts help conclude that Vinius did not stop his trading activity even when his major efforts were aimed at founding a metallurgical plant near Tula. However, the period between 1630 and 1640 was a hard time for the Dutch entrepreneur. It was characterised by a tense situation in the international arena, where his plant had to compete with firearms imported from Europe. In the late 1630s and early 1640s, Muscovy was facing a possible conflict with the Ottoman Empire and the Crimean Khanate. As a result, the country had to quickly fortify its borders, build new protective walls, and increase the garrisons in the towns of the steppe zones, which required the mass production of small arms. Due to the peculiarities of the Russian domestic resource market, Vinius’ arms were nearly a third more expensive compared to small arms imported from Sweden and Germany. Vinius’ trading activity led to losses and conflicts with the Russian law. Trying to make up for the losses incurred, he started dealing in tobacco, which was prohibited in Russia. All these factors gradually made Vinius stop his commercial activity and join the Russian civil service. His legal conflict with Nazary Chisty, a clerk of the State Prikaz, and their later reconciliation also allowed Vinius to establish useful connections in government circles.