Topic 3. Foreign Entrepreneurship in Russia

Read: McKay, John P. “John Cockerill in Southern Russia, 1885–1905: A Study of Aggressive Foreign Entrepreneurship.” The Business History Review 41, no. 3 (1967): 243-256.

The story of two ventures undertaken by the Belgian company John Cockerill reveals some of the major challenges experienced by foreign enterprises in the late period of the Russian Empire. Comparing histories of The South Russian Dnieper Co. and The Almaznaia Coal Co., the author concludes that advanced technology was crucial. However, to achieve entrepreneurial success, it had to be combined with connections to the local business and political groups. The author argues that the story of Cockerill’s triumph and defeat in Russia represents all foreign entrepreneurship in the country in miniature. The case study explains the Russian context in which foreign entrepreneurs and investors operated.

Questions for preparation:

1. How did Cockerill Co. use technologies (information technology, technology transfer, state-of-the-art processes and equipment, advanced job configurations) to its advantage in the Russian Empire?
2. How did foreign companies exploit the opportunities and overcome the problems of operating outside their home country?
3. What business strategies did foreign industrialists use to become rich?
4. What role did the Russian government play in attracting and controlling foreign companies?
5. What was the role of financial institutions, domestic and foreign, and of foreign investment in the economic development of Russia in 1870–1914?