Foreign Nationals in Yekaterinburg: At the Dawn of the City’s Social Organisation
The intensive development of metallurgy in the Urals in the 1720s is closely associated with the construction of Yekaterinburg, which became not only the largest and most diversified metallurgical plant city in Russia, but also the administrative centre of the mining industry in the east of the empire. The construction of the city under the leadership of an outstanding specialist and personal representative of Peter the Great, Georg Wilhelm de Gennin (Wilim Ivanovich Gennin), took into account the latest Western trends in industrial and fortification architecture. This affected the spatial planning and functional zoning of this mining city. It also had an important impact on its social organisation. A striking feature of Yekaterinburg was the high concentration of immigrants from European countries. Foreign nationals worked in the local administration and held a majority among the officers who commanded army units during the construction of the plant city. Also, the first doctors, the founders of the medical service in the Urals, were non-Russian. However, most specialists dealt with metallurgy and mining. Yekaterinburg became both their place of residence and a staging post on their way to other factories and mines in the region. The contribution of these people to the formation and development of the industry in the region can hardly be overestimated. Nevertheless, there is still no special comprehensive study of this population category in early Yekaterinburg. This article is an attempt to consider the history of foreign immigrants as a social whole in Yekaterinburg society during the first decade of its existence. The author identifies their features and the factors that promoted and hindered intra-community integration, concluding that by the end of the first decade of Yekaterinburg’s life, it had failed to form an influential and relatively homogeneous colony of foreign nationals: their number had noticeably decreased compared to the 1720s. The formation of a full-fledged community was hampered by marked differences in the legal status of foreigners and a lack of corporate privileges. Other factors were a minimised sphere of private life (which made it impossible for them to create stable internal organisation) and internal professional competition. However, the most important thing was high geographic mobility, which gave rise to quantitative and qualitative instability in the community.
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