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The Soviet Problem with Two "Unknowns": How an American Architect and a Soviet Negotiator Jump-Started the Industrialization of Russia, Part I: Albert Kahn

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Soviet industnalization was a complex economic and political undertaking about which much remains unclear. Rather than examine the process as a whole, this essay focuses on two fairly unknown players in the history of Soviet-Amencan relations — one Amencan firm and one Soviet negotiator — and their contnbution to the amazingly rapid Soviet industnalization of the early 1930s, emphasizing some human and business factors behind Stalin's Five-Year Plan. Saul G. Bron, dwring his tenure as chairman of Amtorg Trading Corporation in 1927-1930, contracted with hading Amencan companies to help build Soviet industnal infrastructure and commissioned the firm of the foremost Amencan industnal architect from Detroit, Albert Kahn, as consulting architects to the Soviet Government. The work of both played a major role in laying the foundation of the Soviet automotive, tractor, and tank industry and led to the development of Soviet defense capabilities, which in turn played an important role in the Allies' defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. Drawing on Russian and English-language sources, this essay is based on comprehensive research including previously-unknown archival documents, contemporaneous and current materials, and private archives.
Content may be subject to copyright.
THE JOURNAL OF THE SOCIETY INDUSTRIAL ARCHEOLOGY
CONTRIBUTORS .............................................................................96
COVER: Water-powered blast engine similar to that used at the Beckley furnace, East Canaan, Connecticut. See
“Meeting the Challenge of a Renewable Energy Resource,” pp 5–24.
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Volume 36, Number 2 2010
EDITORIAL ...................................................................................3
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Robert B. Gordon and Michael S. Raber...........................................................5
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John P. Johnson ..............................................................................25
Electrifying Independence Valley: Mining and Hydroelectricity in Nevada’s Northeastern Frontier (1896–1920)
Christopher W. Merritt and Jacob N. Pollock......................................................41
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”: How an American Architect and a Soviet Negotiator
Jump-Started the Industrialization of Russia, Part I: Albert Kahn
Sonia Melnikova-Raich ........................................................................57
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”:
How an American Architect and a Soviet
Negotiator Jump-Started the Industrialization
of Russia, Part I: Albert Kahn
Sonia Melnikova-Raich
57
Soviet industrialization was a complex economic and political
undertaking about which much remains unclear. Rather than
examine the process as a whole, this essay focuses on two fairly
unknown players in the history of Soviet-American relations––
one American rm and one Soviet negotiator––and their con-
tribution to the amazingly rapid Soviet industrialization of the
early 1930s, emphasizing some human and business factors be-
hind Stalin’s Five-Year Plan. Saul G. Bron, during his tenure
as chairman of Amtorg Trading Corporation in 1927–1930,
contracted with leading American companies to help build Soviet
industrial infrastructure and commissioned the rm of the fore-
most American industrial architect from Detroit, Albert Kahn, as
consulting architects to the Soviet Government. The work of both
played a major role in laying the foundation of the Soviet auto-
motive, tractor, and tank industry and led to the development
of Soviet defense capabilities, which in turn played an impor-
tant role in the Allies’ defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.
Drawing on Russian and English-language sources, this essay is
based on comprehensive research including previously-unknown
archival documents, contemporaneous and current materials,
and private archives.
Sonia Melnikova-Raich, “The Soviet Problem with Two ‘Unknowns’: How an
American Architect and a Soviet Negotiator Jump-Started the Industrialization of
Russia, Part I: Albert Kahn,” IA: The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology 36,
no. 2 (2010): 57–80.
© 2013 by the Society for Industrial Archeology. All rights reserved. Please
direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content
through the Society for Industrial Archeology’s website: www.sia-web.org/ia-
journal/siaia.html.
Soviet industrialization was a complex economic and
political undertaking about which much remains un-
clear. Few issues are more controversial and ideologi-
cally-laden than the intertwined questions about the
origin of Soviet “superindustrialization” of the early
1930s, the dual use of imported technology for civilian
and military purposes, and Stalin’s policies toward Nazi
Germany prior to its invasion of the Soviet Union. Even
though Stalin’s crimes against his people were exposed
in the 1950s by Khrushchev, it was—and for many in
Russia still is—sacrilegious to question his role in indus-
trialization and the Second World War, the Great Pa-
triotic War for people of the former U.S.S.R. who per-
ceived Stalin as their savior.2
But regardless of whether, in the 1930s, Stalin’s Russia
had been preparing for aggression, preventive war, or
defense, by the time of the signing of the Molotov-Rib-
bentrop Pact in 1939 Russia was not the weak, poorly-
armed ally described in 1924 by Hitler contemplating a
German-Russian war against Europe:
Editor’s Note: This is the rst half of a two-part article by on the relationship forged in the late 1920s between
American industrialists, especially Albert Kahn, the renowned factory architect, and the Soviet government,
which in the late 1920s and early 1930s sought the help of Americans to move the Soviet Union from a peasant
society to an industrial one. This rst part focuses on that phase of Soviet-American interaction from the per-
spective of Kahn’s architectural rm. The second part, which will be published in the next issue of IA (volume
37, nos. 1–2), will focus on the Soviet-American commercial relationship from the perspective of Saul G. Bron,
who headed the American Trading Corporation (Amtorg), the Soviet-controlled agency responsible for con-
tracting with the Americans.
“I listened to what people said they
wanted and gave it to them.”
—Albert Kahn1
Industrial Archeology Volume 36, Number 2, 2010
5858
Russia would completely drop out of this war as a technical factor.
. . . The universal motorization of the world, which will be over-
whelmingly decisive in the next war, could hardly be met by us. For
not only has Germany itself remained shamefully far behind in this
most important eld, but with the little it has, it would have to sup-
port Russia, which even today cannot call its own a single factory
in which can be manufactured a motor vehicle that really runs.3
However, by the time of the Nazi invasion in 1941, the
U.S.S.R. had turned itself from a weak country without
a single homemade truck into a powerful military force.
After the initial blitzkrieg advance, Hitler was stunned
to discover that the Red Army was much better armed
than he expected. In his broadcast to the German peo-
ple on October 3, 1941, he declared that the occupied
Soviet territories appeared to be “a single armaments
factory,” and that before the occupation he could not
have imagined how far the U.S.S.R. had progressed in
its preparation for war. The Soviet arsenal became a ma-
jor factor in the outcome of the War; but, one may ask,
from where had it all come?
The Problem: “A weak country,
unprepared for defense”
Until the 1930s the U.S.S.R. did not have its own tank
industry. It did not have automotive and tractor in-
dustries either. Before the revolution, there were less
than 500 tractors in all Russia.4 The absence of tractors
in particular was a catastrophic problem, and in 1921
American tractor brigades, organized by the Friends of
Soviet Russia Society and the Jewish Joint Distribution
Service, arrived in the U.S.S.R. equipped with Fordson
and Case tractors and other machinery to help revital-
ize Russia’s agriculture devastated by the revolution and
the three-year Civil War which followed.
The domestic tractor industry in the Soviet Union was
formally established by a decree of the Council of Labor
and Defense (STO) on March 4, 1923. Later in 1923
the Supreme Council on the National Economy of the
U.S.S.R. (VSNKh) created a special commission to de-
velop the production plan.5 Its rst task was to choose
the most appropriate type of foreign tractor for pro-
duction in the U.S.S.R. and identify domestic factories
capable of this production. After considering Interna-
tional Harvester, Holt, and several German models, in
May 1923 the commission selected Fordson.
Six years later, when Ford’s production director, Charles
Sorensen, came to the U.S.S.R., he visited the Krasny Pu-
tilovets plant in Leningrad and was shown the assembly
room. “I stopped in astonishment,” wrote Sorensen in
his memoirs. “There on the oor lines they were build-
ing the Fordson tractor!”6 What Sorensen saw was the
Fordson-Putilovets, a wheeled tractor which the Soviets
were still trying unsuccessfully to mass-produce. Later
Sorensen found out that while the Putilovets managers
claimed they were making two tractors a day, the true
rate was about twenty a month.7 “While the Russians had
stolen the Fordson tractor design, they did not have any
of our specications for the materials that entered into
the various parts. And you can’t nd that out merely
by pulling the machine apart,” wrote Sorensen. When
asked what could be done to improve the antiquated
plant, Sorensen responded that they should bring in a
barrel of dynamite and clear it out.
The 1923 plan, which anticipated domestic production
of 60,000 tractors over a ten-year period, was never fully
implemented due to the division of effort among sever-
al small non-specialized plants, a shortage of materials,
lack of equipment, and the high cost and poor qual-
ity of production.8 Instead, in 1925, the Soviet leader-
ship made the decision to build a large, modern plant,
with construction to begin within two years, to produce
20,000 tractors annually. The site for the future plant
was chosen just north of Stalingrad,9 650 miles southeast
of Moscow, but little else was done. The failure of the
domestic tractor program prompted the Soviet govern-
ment in 1926 to approach Ford with an offer to build a
tractor plant in Stalingrad as a concession. After spend-
ing ve months in the U.S.S.R. in April–August 1926,
Ford experts expressed a number of concerns, includ-
ing safety and efciency, but chiey the fate of foreign
companies whose plants in Russia had been national-
ized, making them less than condent that the same
would not happen again, especially in the absence of
diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.
Furthermore, VSNKh’s Main Concessions Committee,
Glavkonsesskom, asked Ford to advance credit to the
Soviet government for the purchase of manufactured
tractors at the government-set xed prices, in addition
to investing millions of dollars in a plant.10 Ford atly
declined this proposal. In September 1928 the site of
the future Stalingrad tractor plant, in the words of its
rst director Vassily I. Ivanov, was still a “vast melon
eld” in the middle of open steppe.11
In October 1928 Stalin announced the First Five-Year
Plan (piatiletka). The declared goal was to convert the
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”
595959
U.S.S.R. from an agrarian and backward country into
an “industrial and mighty country independent of the
caprices of world capitalism,” and to develop heavy in-
dustry “with machine building at its core” and with “all
the necessary technical and economic prerequisites for
increasing to the maximum its defensive capability to
enable it to organize decisive resistance to all and any
attempt at military intervention from outside.”12 The
supplementary notes to the Plan stated:
Machine-building in Russia prior to the revolution had hardly be-
gun to develop and the major part of the demand for machinery
was covered by imports. This condition has not changed greatly
up to the present time. . . . Automobiles and tractors, this brunch
of industry is practically non-existent.13
At the onset of the piatiletka, ninety percent of all trac-
tors in the Soviet Union were imported, mostly from the
U.S., which in 1930 was still its principal source of trac-
tors.14 But by 1931 construction of the rst giant Soviet
tractor plant had been completed and two more were
under way. American journalist, H.R. Knickerbocker,
the rst foreign correspondent to visit those sites, was
especially impressed by the plant under construction
at Chelyabinsk. Not only was its projected capacity go-
ing to be 50,000 ten-ton 60-horsepower crawler tractors
annually, but it also appeared to be “most immediately
convertible into military purposes,” and its products
were “so similar to tanks that they were in fact called
‘tank-type.’”15
In January 1933 Stalin declared:
We didn’t have a steel industry, the foundation for industrializa-
tion; now we have it. We didn’t have a tractor industry; now we
have it. We didn’t have an automobile industry; now we have it.
. . . Consequently, the Soviet Union has been converted from a
weak country, unprepared for defense, into a country mighty in
defense, prepared for every contingency, capable of producing
on a mass scale all modern weapons of defense and of equipping
its army in the event of an attack from outside.16
By the time of Hitler’s invasion in June 1941, the Red
Army indeed was equipped with 24,000 tanks domesti-
cally manufactured at three giant tractor-tank plants,
in Stalingrad, Kharkov, and Chelyabinsk. Soviet his-
torians hailed Stalin for this remarkable industrial
transformation. However, a crucial and largely un-
known role in making this possible was played by an
American architect from Detroit, Albert Kahn, and
by a Soviet negotiator, Saul G. Bron, who during his
tenure as chairman of Amtorg Trading Corporation
in 1927–1930, contracted with leading foreign compa-
nies to help build Soviet industrial infrastructure and
commissioned Kahn’s rm to become consulting ar-
chitects to the Soviet Government.
“Unknown” No. One: Albert Kahn
Albert Kahn, described by Time magazine in 1940 as a
“small, merry architectural genius,” was born in 1869
in Germany, the eldest of eight children of an impover-
ished rabbi. He was eleven when the family emigrated
to Detroit. Early on, Kahn showed talent in drawing, but
his formal education ended when the family emigrated.
To help support his family, he had to take odd jobs, in-
cluding a job as ofce boy for the architectural rm of
John Scott & Company. At the age of fteen he started
architectural training as an unpaid apprentice drafts-
man with Mason and Rice, where within seven years—
including a year-long study trip to Europe sponsored
by American Architect and Building News—he rose to the
chief designer position. In 1895, with two other Mason
& Rice designers, Kahn started his rst company, and in
1902, together with his younger brother, Julius, joined
later by Louis and Moritz Kahn, he started what would
become the most prolic architectural practice of its
time in the U.S.A. Besides his talent, Kahn’s personality
was to a great degree responsible for the rm’s success.
He was described as a self-motivated workaholic, hum-
ble yet determined, and was said to possess tremendous
energy and clarity of focus, combined with highly pro-
fessional attitude and outstanding loyalty to his clients,
regardless of the project. The latter may have a special
signicance for this story.17
Kahn’s rm pioneered standardization and modular
systems and developed a new type of industrial con-
struction in which reinforced concrete replaced timber-
frame and masonry. Kahn’s buildings were strong, re-
proof, inexpensive to erect, with wide-open inner space
unobstructed by columns, and with good lighting and
ventilation (they were often referred to as “daylight fac-
tories”). Built “all on one oor, all under one roof,” they
also were easily expandable. He called them “beautiful
factories” and believed that designing a building where
human beings work should not be treated differently
from designing a house, church, or library.
Kahn was mostly known as the “architect of Ford” but
he also built his “beautiful factories” for all the other
great Michigan automakers, including Chevrolet,
Oldsmobile, Cadillac, Packard, Hudson, Chrysler, and
Industrial Archeology Volume 36, Number 2, 2010
6060
De Soto, in addition to designing hospitals, banks, tem-
ples, libraries, clubs, and handsome mansions. By 1938
the rm handled about twenty percent of all architect-
designed industrial buildings in the U.S. and numerous
projects around the world. No other architect had a
greater inuence on the development of modern in-
dustrial architecture. Yet, several generations of Soviet
architects never heard Albert Kahn’s name, and in the
West little has been written or remembered about the
remarkable history of his work in Soviet Russia and the
impact it had.18
Kahn was noticed by the Soviet leadership in 1926 due
to his work on Ford’s River Rouge Plant. It could not
escape their attention either that Kahn’s rm designed
more than $200 million worth of wartime structures
during the First World War and that he was the rst
American architect who fully integrated his practice to
provide clients with what today would be called a one-
stop approach. He brought architects and engineers
under one roof, introduced teamwork in design, and
even maintained his own on-site foremen to oversee the
construction. The Soviet leaders appreciated Kahn’s
design centered on the assembly-line method of mass
production and his highly productive design process.
His staff of 400 could prepare the working drawings for
a major plant in less than a month and facilitate its con-
struction within ve months. And for the Soviet indus-
trialization program, time was of the essence. In 1928,
after a high-ranking commission of VSNKh had combed
the U.S. studying the American industrial scene, it paid
a visit to Kahn’s rm. This, according to Kahn, was fol-
lowed by an invitation to visit Saul G. Bron, the head of
the Russian trading company, Amtorg, in New York.19
Kahn’s trip resulted in his rm being offered a contract
for the design of a $4 million tractor plant, which, as it
was described to Kahn, was only part of a program for
$2 billion worth of industrial buildings.20
The development program presented to Kahn encom-
passed almost the entire industrial construction under
the rst and second Five-Year Plans. A signicant part
of the design of this construction would land on the
drawing boards of Kahn architects and engineers.21 The
Soviet government turned to Kahn’s rm because in
1929, despite fascinating avant-garde experimentation
by Soviet architects of the Constructivist movement,22 no
architectural organization in the U.S.S.R. possessed the
experience in large-scale construction required for a
task of such magnitude. Nor had any architectural rm
in the U.S. designed a comparable number of factories
or specialized in industrial construction to the extent
that Kahn had. Despite his dislike of Constructivist ar-
chitecture, Kahn’s industrial functionalism actually was
similar, although more pragmatic and devoid of an over-
arching theory. But architectural style was not the Soviet
government’s priority, but rather practicality, cost, and
speed of design and construction. While Soviet avant-
garde architects were heavily involved in debates on ar-
chitectural theory, Kahn’s solutions were grounded in
F.W. Taylor’s labor management theory combined with
the “magical powers” of Ford’s moving assembly line.
Despite their origin in capitalist enterprise, Soviets con-
sidered both Taylorism and Fordism to be “ideologically
neutral” techniques that could serve the cause of com-
munism as well as they had served capitalism.23 In fact,
Ford production methods became so popular in the
U.S.S.R. that in addition to Lenin’s electrication and
Stalin’s industrialization, the terms fordism and fordizat-
sia were coined and, ironically, often used in media and
propaganda slogans about the advantages of the Social-
ist system over capitalism.24
Two contracts: “A commercial
relationship of great magnitude”
Kahn was initially reluctant to accept the “dream job”
offered by the Soviets. He still had plenty of work in the
U.S. with many promising prospects ahead (the stock
market would crash six months later), and he “knew little
or nothing about the Russian Government.” But chiey
he was reluctant because the United States did not rec-
ognize the Soviet government. He knew that most of his
clients were strongly anti-communist and that anti-Sem-
ites in the U.S. “echoed what the Nazis were saying and
accused the Jews of fostering Communism.” And yet the
challenge fascinated him. He believed that “the Russian
people—regardless of their form of government—were
entitled to help after all their generations of suffering
under the czars. It was the right thing to do.”25
During the next three years, Kahn’s rm became en-
gaged in the industrial building program of the U.S.S.R.
under the Five-Year Plan. The work was rst done at the
Kahn headquarters in Detroit and later––in order to
handle a much greater volume of projects––in Moscow,
with assistance from the Soviet staff, for whom the Kahn
architects and engineers were providing training at the
same time. The work was done under two contracts, one
signed on May 8, 1929, to design the rst Soviet tractor
plant; another on January 9, 1930, to become consult-
ing architects for all industrial construction in the So-
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”
61
viet Union. The work done by the Kahn architects and
engineers under these contracts would make a major
impact on the ability of the U.S.S.R. to fulll its ambi-
tious plan for the country’s industrialization.
On May 8, 1929, through the agreement signed with
Khan by Amtorg President Saul G. Bron, the Soviet
government granted Albert Kahn, Inc., a monumental
contract to design a tractor plant in Stalingrad. Under
the agreement, Kahn’s rm, at its Marquette Building
ofce in Detroit, would prepare architectural and en-
gineering drawings of the main buildings, including
plumbing, heating, ventilation and electrical systems,
and road and railroad access. They would also assist
in procurement of American construction materials,
machinery, and equipment, as well as the installation
work. In addition Kahn’s contract called for providing
the key construction personnel—the chief construction
supervisor, installation specialists, and key foremen.
All the drawings and specications could be used for
construction of that plant only and would remain the
property of the rm. For its work on the project Kahn’s
rm would be paid $130,000 ($1,666,273 in 2012 dol-
lars), plus 4 percent of the cost of additional buildings.
All the plans had to be approved by Amtorg, which was
responsible for the payments.26
The New York Times described the contract as “the begin-
ning of a commercial relationship between the Soviet
Government and the Kahn architectural rm of great
magnitude.” It also quoted Henry Ford who, when he
learned about the contract, instructed Kahn to tell the
Russians that they could have all his patents, designs
and specications, and pledged to send his engineers
to Russia and to invite Soviet engineers into his plants
to learn about mass production. Said Ford: “No matter
where industry prospers, whether in India or China, or
Russia, the more prot there will be for everyone, in-
cluding us. All the world is bound to catch some good
from it.”27
In Russia the contract was announced in Torgovo-pro-
myshlennaia gazeta (Trade and Industry Newspaper),
which was running a regular front-page column under
the heading “Foreign Technical Assistance in Construc-
tion of the Industrial Giants.” It wrote that Albert Kahn
rm’s assistance “would guarantee that the plant would
be built on schedule and would benet from all Ameri-
can modern technical achievements.”28 And less than
two months after Kahn signed the contract, on June 30,
1929, the paper reported that the rst American con-
struction engineers, John K. Calder and Leon A. Swa-
jian, had arrived in Moscow with preliminary drawings
for the assembly building, foundry, and forge, and were
expected to depart for Stalingrad on July 2. Six weeks
later four more Americans followed with complete
plans.29
In April 1929, six months after Stalin announced the
Five-Year Plan and two weeks prior to signing the Kahn
contract, the chairman of the Council of People’s Com-
missars of the U.S.S.R. (Sovnarkom), A. I. Rykov, raised
an alarm about the technical preparedness of the coun-
try to meet the goals set by the Plan:
I feel alarmed by many issues related to our technique and our
technical cadres. . . . Shall we be able to cope with organizing
man-power, technical cadres, skilled labor? . . . Money alone is
not sufcient for the new construction work.. ..We also need
technical and organizing cadres, from skilled labor to engineers
of the highest qualication. . . . We have to make great efforts to
assimilate West European and American technique.30
But with the Kahn rm’s work now in progress, Stalin
could condently announce in a Pravda article “The
Year of the Great Turning Point” published to boost the
Soviet people’s spirit for the celebration of the twelfth
anniversary of the Revolution:
By the spring of the coming year, 1930, we shall have over 60,000
tractors in the elds, a year later we shall have over 100,000 trac-
tors, and two years after that—over 250,000 tractors. . . . We are
advancing full steam ahead toward industrialization. . . . We are
becoming a country of metal, a country of automobiles, a country
of tractors. And when we set the U.S.S.R. behind the wheel and
get muzhiks to drive tractors, then let the capitalists try to catch
up with us.31
When Stalin made this announcement, he certainly had
in mind more than a single plant. Negotiations with
Kahn about a contract on a much grander scale had al-
ready been under way since July 1929. On November 11,
1929, the chairman of VSNKh, V.V. Kuibyshev, reported
to the Central Committee that a major agreement with
Albert Kahn rm was approaching conclusion.32 On De-
cember 26, 1929, the Sovnarkom approved a draft for a
new agreement under which Albert Kahn, Inc., would
enter into a contract with the VSNKh’s Building Commit-
tee to provide consulting and supervision for design and
construction of buildings in all areas of light and heavy
industry, to which end the rm would install a design bu-
reau in Moscow under the direct control of Kahn archi-
tects and engineers. Kahn’s rm would supply standard
factory layouts, detailed drawings, specications, and
Industrial Archeology Volume 36, Number 2, 2010
62
other technical documentation “typical for architects
working in America,” which by the end of the contract,
together with site-specic designs developed by the rm’s
specialists while working in the U.S.S.R., would become
the property of VSNKh. Besides consulting and assis-
tance in organizing the design bureau, Kahn specialists’
responsibilities included direct involvement in preparing
the drawings and specications for the industrial projects
planned by VSNKh and on-site supervision in construc-
tion of these projects. Kahn personnel were to include a
chief architect; six architects specializing in various types
of industrial buildings; chief engineers for construction
and computation; chief engineers for equipment and for
heating, ventilation, plumbing, sewerage, electrical and
power systems, and a number of assistants. The contract
would be for two years and the Soviet government would
pay the rm annually $250,000 ($3,152,000 in 2012 dol-
lars), plus an average annual salary of $10,000 ($126,000)
to each Kahn specialist working in the U.S.S.R., tax free.
Eighty-ve percent of the rm’s fee would be paid in dol-
lars and 15 percent in Soviet 9-percent railroad bonds,
which would be paid out at maturity in convertible cur-
rency. Salaries of Kahn’s specialists would be paid 75 per-
cent in dollars and 25 percent in rubles. For the projects
designed in the Detroit ofce the rm would be compen-
sated separately.33
This seminal agreement, which made Albert Kahn, Inc.,
consulting architects for all industrial construction in the
Soviet Union, was signed on January 9, 1930.34 (gure 1)
Figure 1. Signing contract: left, Albert Kahn; right, Saul G. Bron,
President of Amtorg. Standing center, Moritz Kahn; left, N. Ol’khovsky,
and right, J. Michaels, attorneys at Amtorg. Detroit, 9 January 1930.
Photo courtesy of Albert Kahn Associates, Inc.
On January 11 the Times hailed the agreement between
Kahn’s rm and the Soviet Government. In total, the pro-
gram called for the expenditure of nearly $2 billion dol-
lars in 1930 alone and included the erection of four large
car, truck, and motorcycle factories; nine tractor and
farm machinery plants; and over 500 other plants and
factories for light and heavy industry.35 Albert Kahn em-
phasized the comprehensive nature of the project: “Not
only did the plants have to be designed, but machinery
had to be selected and ordered, process layouts had to be
prepared, and the very tools needed to build the plants
had to be ordered here and shipped over.”36
In his statement to the press, Moritz Kahn, vice presi-
dent of the rm, who negotiated the contract in Moscow,
emphasized that Kahn principles of standardized mass
production in industrial construction were intrinsically
compatible with centralized planning and government-
owned industry in the Soviet Union: “There will be but
one client to serve and but one centralized architectural
bureau.” All factory buildings for any one type of product
could be built on these standardized principles, resulting
in great savings in time and cost of design and construc-
tion. The Soviet state, operating through Amtorg as a
single super-buyer, ensured a unique bargaining position
in purchases of materials and equipment. Additional sav-
ings of millions of dollars would result from Kahn archi-
tects assisting in the revision of Soviet ultra-conservative
building codes. In conclusion, addressing American
manufacturers, Moritz Kahn reminded them that car-
rying out the Soviet industrialization program would re-
quire the importation by the Soviets of great quantities of
manufacturing, mining, railroad, agricultural, and other
machinery and equipment.37
On the Soviet side, describing the contract, Izvestia wrote
that its objective was “to adopt by means of practical
joint work of Soviet and American specialists the latest
methods and achievements of American technique.” It
also reported that Kahn’s Soviet counterpart, Stroiobye-
dinenie, was sending twenty-ve engineers to work at
Kahn’s ofce in Detroit to familiarize themselves with
all the rm’s projects and to study the latest methods of
construction technology.38 At the same time, as provided
by the contract, Kahn’s rm was sending the same num-
ber of experienced architects and engineers to set up
a special design bureau in Moscow and to take leading
positions at that bureau.39
This bureau, which by 1932 would employ two thou-
sand Soviet workers, was formed under the Building
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”
63
Committee of VSNKh, by a decision VSNKh made on
March 5, 1930. It was named Gosproektstroi (State De-
sign and Construction) and became the largest design-
ing organization in the U.S.S.R. It was an answer to the
prayers of the Soviet planners who, by 1929, realized
that in order to implement the Five-Year Plan, instead
of scattered small-scale design studios (masterskie), they
needed “one powerful organization” which would “em-
ploy American expertise in its work and at the same
time pass on this expertise to as many construction or-
ganizations and young Soviet specialists as possible.”40
A party of forty-ve Americans, headed by Moritz Kahn,
who was delegated by the rm to set up the Moscow
operation, left Detroit on March 20, 1930. The group
included twenty-ve specialists, their spouses, and an
eleven-year-old child.41 (gure 2) During a farewell par-
ty and press conference prior to their departure, Albert
Kahn refuted allegations of sympathizing with Bolshe-
vik Russia by stating that the politics of Russia did not
interest him and, as a professional man, his attitude to-
wards Russia was “that of a doctor toward his patient.”42
After stops in London and Berlin, and before boarding
a train for Moscow, a member of the group, George K.
Scrymgeour, mailed a card to Albert Kahn: “All happy
and ready for the task come what will.”43
Gosproektstroi: “A marvel of efficiency”
Kahn’s Moscow headquarters at Gosproektstroi opened
on April 15, 1930. It was housed in a ve-story building
at 2/10 B. Cherkassky pereulok, where two oors were
occupied by the architects, one by the structural engi-
neers, another by the mechanical engineers, and still
another by the detailers of structural steel. Moritz Kahn,
who stayed in Moscow for several months at a time, be-
came the head of the American advisory engineering
staff at Gosproektstroi; George K. Scrymgeour became
this organization’s chief engineer. The segment of Kahn
organization that was dispatched to Russia was “compe-
tent within itself to handle all general phases of con-
struction design and structural engineering.” As special-
ized problem arose, additional specialists were sent by
the Kahn rm to supplement the original group.44 In his
1934 report to the American Society of Civil Engineers,
Scrymgeour described that the Kahn group’s role was
“to control, teach and design all light and heavy indus-
try” planned by the Soviet State Planning Commission
(Gosplan), and that by the end of the second year, the
Kahn group completed the design of buildings costing
(according to Soviet gures) 417 million rubles.45
According to the annual report of Gosproektstroi, in
1931 Kahn specialists supervised 600 Soviet employ-
ees in Moscow, 300 in Leningrad, and 100 in Kharkov,
not counting students, and by that time 2,500 Soviet
workers had gone through Kahn training. By the end
of the second year, additional branches of Gosproekt-
stroi opened in Kiev, Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa, Sverd-
lovsk, and Novosibirsk, all using the same organiza-
tional setup and standardization methods, utilizing the
American standard system and details applied to Rus-
sian conditions, which was termed russko-amerikanskaia
sistema (the Russian-American system). Standard con-
Figure 2. Moritz Kahn, his staff, and their
spouses at Grand Central Station, New York,
en route to Moscow. Center, standing, Moritz
Kahn; to his right, his wife Edith. 6 March 1930.
Photo courtesy of Albert Kahn Associates, Inc.
Industrial Archeology Volume 36, Number 2, 2010
64
struction methods and details were developed in Mos-
cow and then distributed to all branches. At that time
Kahn specialists supervised over 3,000 Soviet designers.
The American group, together with thousands of Soviet
architects, engineers, and draftsmen, formed the larg-
est architectural organization in the world, its size and
scope surpassing Kahn’s operation in Detroit. It was a
marvel of organization, and, considering the fact that
the majority of the Soviet technicians were untrained, it
was a marvel of efciency.46
But they had to start from scratch. According to Albert
Kahn, the difculties at rst seemed insurmountable.
Soviet Russia lacked not only factories, but also the
pencils and drafting boards to design them. There was
only one blueprint machine in Moscow in 1930. The
language barrier and cultural differences presented se-
rious problems, not to mention that the Americans had
to adjust to metric units, the so-called “uninterrupted
working week,” an unfamiliar diet, and living conditions
that were, by American standards, less than adequate,
including a frequent lack of heat at home and in the
ofce during the long winter months. “The problem of
adjusting our regular practice to their requirements was
indeed an interesting and sometimes a difcult one.
Many materials we consider standard here are not to be
had in Russia, which necessitated much study to meet
existing conditions,” explained Kahn in the address he
delivered to Cleveland Engineering Society in 1930.47
Kahn noted that the Soviet architects and engineers ini-
tially looked at his men as intruders. Early in the pro-
cess, Moritz Kahn commented on what he thought was
a real cause of the trouble. He said that the Russians in
many instances had a superior education and theoretical
knowledge, whereas the Americans had the practical ex-
perience in getting the job done “in the American way,”
which often led to criticism on the part of the Russians.48
The greatest resistance was encountered by the Kahn en-
gineers, particularly those in charge of reinforced con-
crete design. Soviet engineers, who, according to Albert
Kahn, were well versed in it, were opposed to the Ameri-
can “short cuts,” especially their habit of forgoing some
minute calculations and rather relying on their experi-
ence. But gradually, as Kahn used to joke, they became
convinced that buildings designed by the Americans did
hold up in the States and that the chances were they
would, as well, in Russia, “irrespective of politics.”
In addition to their day jobs, Kahn specialists had to
run classes at night to train their Soviet colleagues in
the Ford-Kahn principles of factory design and to teach
drafting to their government-assigned assistants, most
of whom came directly from school and had no pro-
fessional training or experience. But perhaps remem-
bering his own beginning as an apprentice draftsman,
Albert Kahn praised his Soviet students: “These young
Russians are very gifted. They apply themselves inten-
sively, enthusiastically and earnestly. Hours mean noth-
ing to them.”49 Nevertheless, the lack of skilled help was
so dire that American specialists were often compelled
themselves to do work which should have been done
by Russian draftsmen.50 This shortage of skilled work-
ers was the result of a high rate of turnover created by
Soviet authorities to get as many workers as possible
through “American schooling.”
The shortage of materials of all kinds, frequent replace-
ment of the men in authority, orders and counter or-
ders, endless conferences, and exhausting discussions
created additional problems for the Americans. Able as
the Russians were in theory, remembered Kahn, “they
lacked system and the ability to organize.” Plans were
often drawn with the sites not yet determined, foun-
dation plans ordered and construction actually began
before the details of the main structure were nalized,
and there was constant struggle to meet the conditions
as they changed almost daily: “Today, sheet metal is lack-
ing and ready roong must be used. Tomorrow, steel is
not to be had and wood must be substituted.”51 Scrym-
geour added, “Nothing to speak of excepting delay in
delivery of drawings to and from branches or plants,
and the Russian workers habit of promising ‘zaftra’ (to-
morrow) and tomorrow never comes.”52
Interviews at the U.S. Consulate in Riga, Latvia, of nine
Kahn engineers returning from Moscow in late 1930
captured the reality of the daily work at Gosproektstroi.
They commented on their Soviet colleagues’ lack of
practical experience in projects of the magnitude they
were called upon to carry out and a certain reluctance
in adapting to American practice. According to them,
the Soviets lacked knowledge about modern norms of
building sanitation, and they resisted the introduction
of any aestheticism in design; even the beauty which
could be derived from simplicity and the straight line
was frowned upon as not consonant with revolutionary
art. The shortage of skilled labor and the tangle of bu-
reaucratic control over scarce construction materials, es-
pecially steel, were the main problems. The Americans
also commented on the political climate in the U.S.S.R.:
“We feel so free to be out [of the Soviet Union]. They
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”
65
Figure 3. Stalingrad Tractor Plant. Plot plan, rendering by Albert Kahn Architects and Engineers, 1929.
Photo courtesy of Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.
Figure 4. Stalingrad Tractor Plant. Assembly building, cross-sectional view, rendering by Albert Kahn Architects and
Engineers, 1929. Photo courtesy of Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.
Industrial Archeology Volume 36, Number 2, 2010
66
have such systems, resort to such methods! If there is
someone missing, one knows—political prison. Fearing
to raise suspicion people dare not to say a word.”53
Despite these challenges, between 1929 and 1932 Kahn’s
rm designed and equipped hundreds of industrial en-
terprises, nearly the total Soviet industrial base, span-
ning the entire map of the U.S.S.R. from Leningrad
to Yakutsk and ranging from tractor, automobile, and
aircraft plants to power plants, foundries, forges, steel-
making and rolling mills; metallurgical, ball-bearing,
aluminum, and asbestos plants; machinery and tools
manufacturing factories; textile mills and food process-
ing factories. At least $200 million worth of buildings
were designed by Kahn’s rm in Moscow and Detroit
during the rst year alone.54
For almost three years, American construction engi-
neers, foremen, and workers labored at remote sites
side by side with the Soviet workforce, struggling with
harsh climate, lack of necessities, and an impossibly
overloaded transportation system. They discovered that
sanitation did not exist outside of big cities and survived
(though not all of them) a typhus outbreak in Stalin-
grad.55 But most important, they labored deep inside
a country which was not recognized by their own, and
so they had no ofcial protection. Yet, on October 10,
1929, Moritz Kahn wrote to his elder brother Albert
from onboard the steamer Karl Liebknecht, sailing down
the Volga River to Stalingrad: “Here is a country of one
hundred and fty million people ghting for its exis-
tence, a people sorely needing our help; whether we
agree with them or not, we ought to help them get on
their feet if only for humanitarian reasons.”56 Added Al-
bert Kahn, after one of his visits: “I don’t believe that
the world can really get back on its feet until the other
peoples help the Russians in transforming themselves
into a modern industrial state, working in harmony with
the remainder of the world.”57
Stalingrad: “American tempo”
The Kahn projects in Russia were designed in two organi-
zations, Gosproektstroi operating in Moscow and Kahn
headquarters in Detroit. The major projects designed
in Detroit included the tractor plants in Stalingrad
and Chelyabinsk, the Avtostroi truck assembly plants in
Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod, Gospodshipnik roller-
bearing plant in Moscow, and the Stalmost structural
steel fabricating pant in Verkhnyaya Salda (near Nizhny
Tagil), built to meet the massive need in structural steel
for all the large-scale construction under the Five-Year
Plan. (gures 3–6)
The Stalingrad plant was the rst of three giant Soviet
tractor plants designed by Kahn’s rm in record time.
Frank D. Chase, R. Smith, and several other rms as-
sisted in the design of the auxiliary buildings; Interna-
tional Harvester provided the tractor design and the
technical advisers.58 A group of Soviet engineers was
stationed in Detroit to assist with the project. (gure 7)
There was particular need for speed in the preparation
of the drawings since the steel for the plant had to be
ordered and fabricated in the U.S. in time to reach Rus-
sia before the winter months. And extreme precision
had to be used in design to avoid any adjustments in the
eld 6,000 miles away.
The projected annual capacity of the plant, originally
planned to be 10,000 tractors, was subsequently in-
creased to 20,000, later to 40,000, and nally, to 50,000,
twice the capacity of the International Harvester Mil-
waukee plant on which it was modeled.59 All building
components, including glass-lled external walls and
buttery truss roof structures with saw-tooth skylights
(known as the Kahn Daylight System), as well as essen-
tial equipment and tools, were supplied by over 100
American rms. The structural steel elements (gure
8) were prefabricated in New York by McClintic-Mar-
shall Products (owned by the Bethlehem Steel Corp.),
then shipped in a knock-down state to Stalingrad, via
the Black Sea and the Volga River, and then by land,
in 252 carloads, to be assembled under the supervision
of a force of American builders and engineers selected
by Kahn’s rm.60 Long caravans of camels, horses, and
oxen were aiding the lines of motor trucks and the spe-
cial railroads (designed by the Kahn rm) in transport-
ing building materials from the docks. Abe L. Drabkin
acted as Kahn’s on-site representative; John K. Calder,
a former chief construction engineer at River Rouge,
served as general superintendent (also often riding
camels to and around the construction site). His assis-
tant was Leon A. Swajian, also from Ford’s River Rouge
plant. American engineers, communicating through in-
terpreters, supervised plumbing, heating, welding, and
electrical works. For every twenty to thirty Soviet work-
ers, there was an American foreman. Together with
about 380 American workers, who came to Stalingrad
with their families on a one-year contract, they formed
the largest American colony in the U.S.S.R.61 Most of
them came from Detroit, where a Traktorstroi recruit-
ing ofce opened at 255 West Congress Street.62
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”
67
Figure 5. Stalingrad Tractor Plant. Bird’s
eye view, rendering by Albert Kahn
Architects and Engineers, 1929. Photo
courtesy of Albert Kahn Associates, Inc.
Figure 6. Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant.
Bird’s eye view, rendering by Albert Kahn
Architects and Engineers, 1930. Photo
courtesy of Albert Kahn Associates, Inc.
Figure 7. Sitting, center, Albert Kahn; standing, center, Moritz Kahn; sit-
ting, left, Abe L. Drabkin, and unidentied Soviet and American engi-
neers at Albert Kahn ofces in Detroit with drawings for Stalingrad
Tractor Plant, 1929. Photo courtesy of Bentley Historical Library,
University of Michigan.
Figure 8. A truss (for the assembly building at Stalingrad Tractor
Plant) being fabricated in New York by McClintic-Marshall Products
before being dismantled and shipped to the USSR, 24 July 1929. Left to
right: Mr. Otto of Albert Kahn Architects and Engineers, M. Dmitrieff
of Amtorg, F.W.R. Snyder of Albert Kahn Architects and Engineers.
Photo courtesy of Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.
Industrial Archeology Volume 36, Number 2, 2010
68
The Soviet press at that time was quite open about Amer-
ican assistance and the acute shortage of specialists and
skilled workers; secrecy and denial would come later.
Every issue of Soviet Union Review, published for foreign
consumption, carried numerous pictures of American
tractors at Soviet collective farms and American workers
and engineers at Soviet plants. And at home VSNKh’s
newspaper Za industrializatsiiu wrote:
It is very important to note that the American specialists are not
just doing consulting; they are actually supervising the entire
construction. The shortage of our own qualied workers has
forced us to increase as much as possible the number of Ameri-
can technical specialists invited to work at the Stalingrad Plant.
Such a statement would certainly have landed the editors
in trouble during Stalin’s later campaign against “cosmo-
politanism,”63 but the campaign of “self-criticism” (samokri-
tika) in the Soviet press at that time was to be interpreted as
a manifestation of the strength of the economic system of
the U.S.S.R., which was not afraid to expose its shortcom-
ings to its own people and the world outside. In 1929, dep-
uty chairman of Gosplan, G. Grinko, admitted: “In making
our plans, we simply worked on the assumption that the
people to carry out these plans would be found. We must
more and more draw on the foremost technicians of other
countries to help carry out our program.”64 In 1929, in ad-
dition to engineers sent to the U.S.S.R. under the techni-
cal assistance contracts with foreign companies, the Soviet
government announced a policy of employing foreign
technical talent directly. In 1931, according to Economic
Handbook of the Soviet Union, 1,500 American engineers and
technicians were engaged in work in the U.S.S.R.65
The Soviet slogan “to catch up with and surpass America”
could be seen everywhere in Stalingrad along with calls
to keep up with the “American tempo.” Construction of
the Stalingrad tractor plant’s main buildings, where the
American parallel construction system was introduced
instead of the Soviet sequential construction method,66
was indeed completed in a record six months instead
of the planned eighteen (though it did not reach the
planned capacity until 1933). It was the largest plant in
the U.S.S.R. and comprised an assembly building 1,340
feet long and 315 feet wide, a forge shop 532 by 450
feet, and a foundry 680 by 440 feet.67 The rst tractor,
“International” (named after International Harvester
Farmall 15-30, of which it was almost an exact copy), was
assembled on June 17, 1930. (gure 9) Congratulating
the Soviet workers on the plant’s opening day, Stalin sent
a telegram: “Greetings and congratulations on their vic-
tory to the workers and leaders of the rst giant tractor
plant in the U.S.S.R. The fty thousand tractors which
you are to give our country every year are fty thousand
shells shattering the old bourgeois world.”68 A striking-
ly different telegram, in English, was sent to the Albert
Kahn engineers, thanking “our technical teachers, the
American specialists and technicians, who have helped
us in the construction of the plant.”69
The Stalingrad Tractor Plant70 was the rst of three giant
Soviet tractor plants that had the capability to produce
tanks. In May 1931, the Chain Belt specialist, Ellwood T.
Riesing, who was installing in Stalingrad a conveyor-belt
system (once branded by Lenin as the quintessence of
capitalist exploitation) would report that shortly before
he left, the preparations were being made at the plant
for manufacturing “small tanks.”71 In February 1932 an
American engineer from New York, A. Wishnewsky, af-
ter completion of his contract with Traktorstroi, would
report that in Stalingrad “emphasis was being placed on
production of tanks rather than tractors.” In his opin-
ion, “the development of tractor production there [had]
been designed to lead up to the production of tanks.”72
By the beginning of World War II, the Stalingrad Trac-
tor Plant had already partially switched to production of
T-34/76 tanks. During 1941 and 1942, it became the ma-
jor producer of T-34s, while the other tank manufactur-
ing plants from the European territory of the U.S.S.R.,
together with workers and machines, were being evacu-
ated beyond the Urals. Production continued until Ger-
man troops stormed the plant itself in late 1942.73 It be-
came one of the sites of the crucial Battle of Stalingrad
where, in January 1943, the Red Army’s victory over the
Nazis turned the tide of World War II.74 (gure 10)
Figure 9. Assembly line at Stalingrad Tractor Plant, 1937.
Photo courtesy RIA Novosti.
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”
69
In November 1942, a few weeks before Albert Kahn
died, Malcolm W. Bingay, the chief editor of the Detroit
Free Press and a good friend of Kahn’s, asked him wheth-
er he was surprised by the way the Russians had held
off the Nazis. Kahn said that when his Soviet customers
insisted that he build plants “with tremendously heavy
foundations and extra steel all through the construc-
tion,” he told them that it was not necessary, and when
they, smilingly, told him about the severe Russian win-
ters, he thought they “were all crazy.” Moritz Kahn was
the rst to gure out the reason for this requirement:
“Albert,” he said, “these people are not crazy. They are
building war-production plants and do not want us to
know about it.” As Kahn remembered it, “They were
kind and considerate but revealed nothing of their pur-
poses.”75 However, by the end of 1931, Albert Kahn must
have formed a reasonably good idea about the U.S.S.R.
preparing for a potential war. “There is no question
about Russia’s preparing herself as fully as possible for
such an event, nor is there any doubt that many of the
newer plants are planned for the production of war ma-
terials when needed,” Kahn reported in his 1931 pre-
sentation to the Detroit chapter of American Institute
of Architects.76
Kharkov: “Professors, police force,
and young bands of pioneers”
After completing their work in Stalingrad in 1930, many
American foremen and engineers moved on to the con-
struction sites of other tractor plants designed by Kahn’s
architects, one in Losevo, in the outskirts of Kharkov
in the Ukraine, and another at Chelyabinsk in Siberia.
The Kharkov plant, with a projected capacity of 50,000
to 60,000 tractors annually, was almost an exact copy of
the Stalingrad plant, with some improvements but also
with new problems caused by the drop in steel imports. It
was built largely of reinforced concrete, with the needed
steel coming from Germany, not prefabricated.
The construction started on January 28, 1930. In July
1930, Leon A. Swajian, who had just nished his job in
Stalingrad, became the general superintendent at Khar-
kov. (He would be awarded the Order of Lenin for this
work in 1933). In an interview in The Moscow News, Swa-
jian said that the Kharkov plant was pushed to comple-
tion more swiftly than any job he had ever done, and
none required so much construction in a single year.
It was especially hard for American engineers “accus-
tomed to a country where you can order anything you
like one day and get it the next.” He also described the
continuing shortage even of unskilled labor. Hundreds
of foreign workers and foremen were invited, and vir-
tually all men, women, and even children in Kharkov,
“professors, police force, and young bands of pioneers,”
were brought in by the hundreds every day to do unpaid
work on the construction of the plant.77 On the other
hand, when it came to production, the Kharkov plant
proted by receiving a large corps of trained workers
who had “graduated” at Stalingrad, while the Stalingrad
plant had been compelled to break in a mass of raw la-
bor, unacquainted with the machinery they had to learn
to use.78 The Kharkov Tractor Plant––the rst tractor
plant in the Ukraine and the largest in the U.S.S.R. at
the time––began operation on October 1, 1931, like the
Stalingrad plant, producing copies of the International
Harvester 15-30. By September–October 1941 (before it
was evacuated to Altai, in Siberia), the plant was build-
ing T-16 light tanks (KhTZ-16) and diesel tank engines.79
Chelyabinsk: “More universal”
On May 29, 1929, Sovnarkom decided to build yet anoth-
er Soviet industrial giant, a tractor plant in Chelyabinsk,
1,100 miles east of Moscow (further away from the west-
ern border than Stalingrad). The plant was expected to
produce at least 40,000 ten-ton 60-horsepower crawler
tractors annually. In June 1929, the future plant’s ad-
ministration, Cheliabtraktorstroi, was formed as a new
division at the State Institute for the Design of Metal-
lurgical Plants, Gipromez. In March 1930, after their
negotiations with Caterpillar for technical aid in tractor
design and production had fallen through, representa-
Figure 10. Soviet tank repair in the middle of battle, Stalingrad Trac-
tor Plant. August 1942. Vokrug Sveta, no. 1 (January 1983).
Industrial Archeology Volume 36, Number 2, 2010
70
tives of Cheliabtraktorstroi established an engineering
bureau in Detroit called “Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant,”
located on the 13th oor of the Union Trust Building
at 500 Griswold Street. (gure 11) It was headed by the
future director of the plant, Kazimir P. Lovin, and was
staffed by twelve American and forty Soviet engineers.
The American group was overseen by Warren Noble of
Noble Engine Company, Cleveland, and assisted by ex-
Caterpillar engineers, including Edward J. Terry. The
Soviet group consisted of future engineers and direc-
tors of the production facilities in Chelyabinsk and was
headed by the future deputy director and a chief en-
gineer of the Chelyabinsk plant, Eliazar I. Gurevich.80
An array of machinery parts to be tested by engineers—
including a disassembled Caterpillar tractor—lled the
rooms on Griswold Street.81 Based on these tests, con-
tracts were awarded by Amtorg for materials and equip-
ment to a number of American rms, many of them in
Michigan.
The Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant was designed at Kahn’s
Detroit ofce in consultation with the Soviet engineers
stationed there. Albert Kahn spoke highly of the Soviet
engineers with whom he interacted in Detroit: “The
men chosen to work with us here have been courteous,
eager to learn, men of the highest intelligence, delight-
ful to deal with, and remarkably informed.”82 However,
the preliminary design prepared by Gipromez was re-
jected by Kahn architects. Instead of a dozen scattered
individual workshops, the Kahn architects proposed
three colossal one-story modular structures housing the
foundry, forge, assembly, and all auxiliary shops, and
they replaced the reinforced concrete supports with
an exposed solid steel structure. This allowed for wider
spans and greater layout exibility, making the plant,
in Kahn’s words, “more universal.” A 1972 Soviet book
on the history of the Chelyabinsk plant contained, for
the rst time since the early 1930s, a brief mention of
Kahn’s involvement in the project. It described Lovin
putting his job on the line and risking arrest (“for un-
necessary ination of construction cost”) to support
Kahn’s proposal despite the increasing shortage of
steel. The book points out that using steel construction
allowed swift conversion of the plant in 1941 to produc-
tion of tanks, which weighed twice as much as tractors,
without the necessity of building new gantry cranes.83
The design of the plant was completed by June 7, 1930.
In order not to waste any time during the short Siberian
summer, the main specications, such as the principal
axis, grid reference, and buildings’ measurements, were
sent to Russia by telegram so that excavation for future
foundations could begin immediately. The construc-
tion began on August 10, 1930, initially without foreign
assistance. But on March 19, 1931, Za industrializatsiiu
published a letter signed by the plant’s engineers and
economists stating that the project was “on the verge of
collapse.” American engineers, including Calder,84 were
called in, and early in the fall of 1931 Leon A. Swajian
moved from Kharkov to become the general construc-
tion superintendent at Chelyabinsk. The chief consult-
ing engineer for tractor design from 1932 through 1933
was Edward J. Terry; former Caterpillar engineers also
supervised the beginning of operations.
The tractor plant in Chelyabinsk was even more impres-
sive than the plant in Stalingrad. With three times the
capacity of its model, the Caterpillar plant at Peoria,85 it
spread over a territory of more than 2,471 acres and in-
cluded approximately 1,780,000 square feet of covered
oor area comprised of an enormous assembly building
(1,500 by 650 feet and 40 feet high, with 100-foot-wide
spans), a foundry (770 by 650 feet), and a forge shop
(670 by 420 feet), all connected by a four-mile-long un-
derground tunnel.86 (gures 12–14)
On June 1, 1933, the rst Soviet crawler tractor, the
“Stalinets 60,” came off its production line. It ran on
naphtha and was an exact copy of the Caterpillar model
1925–31.87 (Through the mid-1930s most of the trac-
tors manufactured in the U.S.S.R. were copied from
American designs with no compensation to the patent
owners.)88 “The Chelyabinsk Plant was built on our own
money, through our own energy and with the aid of our
Figure 11. Soviet engineers at Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant office in
Detroit, 1930. Photo courtesy of Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant Museum.
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”
71
own constructors and engineers,” read the front page
of USSR In Construction, the whole issue of which was
devoted to the opening of the plant and featured doz-
ens of photographs of illuminated structures adorned
with portraits of Stalin and other party leaders (but
contained no references to Kahn and his architects). It
described “the grandiose shops ooded with light and
air” and especially praised the assembly and foundry
buildings, “the largest in the world,” that “neither Ford
nor Caterpillar can boast.” In his speech at the opening
meeting, a member of the Politburo and Central Com-
mittee, M.I. Kalinin, stressed the importance of tractor
production for Soviet agriculture and especially empha-
sized “the tremendous role the Chelyabinsk caterpillar
tractor would play in strengthening the defense of our
country.”89
“For the purposes of war”
In the 1930s, the Soviet Union was balancing economic
reconstruction and rearmament. While the immedi-
ate goal of piatiletka was to “get muzhiks to drive trac-
tors,” the ultimate goal was to make the tractor industry
“most immediately convertible into military purposes.”
In 1924–1925 People’s Commissar for Military Affairs,
M.V. Frunze, developed his doctrine, “Front and Rear
in Future War,” which was an early blueprint for the Red
Army’s vision of the Soviet economy. The task, accord-
ing to Frunze, was to enable the country, if needed, to
Figure 12. Construction of the assembly
building at Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant,
1930. Photo courtesy of Chelyabinsk
Tractor Plant Museum.
Figure 13. Forge shop at Cheliabinsk Tractor Plant, 1930s. Photo
courtesy of Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant Museum.
Industrial Archeology Volume 36, Number 2, 2010
72
quickly and easily switch to a military track.90 The im-
portant part of this doctrine was that tractors could be
designed to both plow elds and haul artillery. Frunze
never implemented his vision (he died in 1925), but his
ideas for full integration of military and economic de-
velopment, with civilian industry subordinate to military
needs, continued to circulate among the Soviet military
leadership.91 The decisions of the Soviet government at
the end of the 1920s reected these ideas. In Decem-
ber 1927 the XV Congress of VKP(b) set the course
for militarization of the Soviet economy. Commissar of
Defense, K.E. Voroshilov, declared that the country’s
industrial development, especially the automotive and
tractor industries, ought to reect the Army’s needs.92
In 1928 the Revolutionary Military Council (Revvoen-
kom) approved a document, “System of Tank-Tractor-
Armored Car Armaments of the RKKA,” which became
the basis of Soviet armor doctrine through the 1930s.93
The Politburo’s decision of July 15, 1929, “About the
Current State of Defense of the U.S.S.R.,” set the goal
by the end of the rst Five-Year Plan to equip the Red
Army with 1,500 operational tanks and create a reserve
of 1,500–2,000 tanks ready to engage at the beginning of
a war. On December 5, 1929, in the document, “About
Implementation of the Tank-Building Program,” the
Politburo reiterated the Army’s needs for powerful trac-
tors and tanks and specically emphasized the impor-
tance of the planned Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant.94
In 1931, Marshal-to-be, Mikhail Tukhachevsky, was put
in charge of the Red Army’s armament. His goal was
to modernize the army, replacing the cavalry with tank-
based troops. He believed that the number of tanks
needed in a future war would be in the tens of thou-
sands, not in the thousands as it had been in the last
war, and that most tanks could be built using the auto-
mobile and tractor industries, which needed to be able
to sustain this production. On June 19, 1930, he wrote
to Stalin:
Special military tanks can make up only about one third of the
entire eet and can be used only for special operations, such as
antitank artillery. The rest of the tanks, the second and third ech-
elons, can actually be armored tractors which we could produce
in great mass. . . . Military production can mostly be based on
civilian industry, with minimum expenses during peacetime and
the means for adaptation for the purposes of war.95
Attached to Tukhachevsky’s memo was a photo of a tan-
kette assembled at Krasny Putilovets, which essentially
was a Fordson-type wheeled tractor with 7-mm armor
and a mounted machine gun. The Soviet leadership’s
decisions in 1931 incorporated Tukhachevsky’s ideas
of utilizing the growing capacities of tractor plants in
Stalingrad and Chelyabinsk and the automobile plant
in Nizhny Novgorod96 to dramatically increase produc-
tion of tanks and tankettes. The revised tank-building
program of January 31, 1931, and the decision of the
special commission on tank industry headed by Tukh-
achevsky on July 5, 1931, set the wartime numbers for
production of tankettes at the plant in Nizhny Novgorod
at 20–25 percent of its automobile capacity. Given a ca-
pacity of 140,000 automobiles, 28,000–35,000 tankettes
Figure 14. Panoramic view of Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant, 1933. Photo courtesy of Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant Museum.
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”
73
could be produced in wartime. Likewise, wartime tank
capacity of the tractor plant in Stalingrad was estimated
at 12,000 T-26 light tanks.97
In his speech at the VII Congress of Soviet Councils,
the chairman of VSNKh and commissar of heavy indus-
try, G.K. Ordzhonikidze, stressed the urgent need for
conversion of the Chelyabinsk tractor from naphtha to
the more efcient and less ammable diesel fuel (espe-
cially important for tanks in battle).98 In 1936 Eliazar I.
Gurevich, now the chief engineer for conversion, trav-
eled again to the U.S. to place orders for the essential
equipment, which was manufactured by Ingersoll Ma-
chine Tools and several other plants in Rockford, near
Chicago.99 In 1937 the rst Soviet diesel tractor “Stali-
nets-65” was made in Chelyabinsk.
As predicted by Knickerbocker in 1931, the tractor plant
in Chelyabinsk proved to be the best prepared for mass
production of tanks. In 1939 it began production of the
artillery prime mover “Stalinets-2”; in 1940, the self-pro-
pelled heavy howitzer SU-152 and tank T-34; and in De-
cember 1940 it released the rst Soviet heavy tank KV
(Klim Voroshilov). In October 1941, as the German army
advanced into Soviet territory, the plant was combined
with several smaller plants evacuated to Chelyabinsk
from the European part of the U.S.S.R., including the
Kirov tractor plant from Leningrad (formerly Krasny
Putilovets) and diesel engine-building factory No. 75
from Kharkov. On October 6, 1941, the combined trac-
tor plant in Chelyabinsk was renamed Chelyabinsk Kirov
Plant.100 It became subordinate to the Commissariat for
Tank Industry (Narkomtankprom) and switched exclu-
sively to production of tanks; hence, the city of Chely-
abinsk was nicknamed Tankograd (Tank City). In 1943
the KV was replaced by the KV-85, and in November
1943 the IS (Iosif Stalin) replaced the KV-85. In Decem-
ber 1943 the plant started production of ISU-152 assault
guns. In record time, the Kirov Plant became one of the
main armories for the front, delivering 180 heavy tanks
and 100 T-34s per month by 1944. At the end of the war,
the Chelyabinsk plant was also producing V-11 and V-12
tank diesel engines. A total of 18,000 tanks, 48,500 tank
diesel engines, and over 17 million units of ammunition
were manufactured at the plant during the war years.
The plant’s ability to manufacture diesel engines for
tanks was especially important because Germany did not
succeed in developing a diesel-powered tank before the
end of World War II.101 (gure 15)
“Mad tempo” and a parting of the ways
For carrying out its Russian assignments, Albert Kahn’s
rm had to be paid in hard currency that the Soviets
mostly obtained from the export of wheat to the U.S.,
shipped at the height of the mass famine in Povolzhye
and the Ukraine. The Politburo decree of August 29,
1930, emphasized that “timely implementation of the
mandatory grain collection quota is vital for industrial
development in our country and most and foremost for
such industrial giants as Magnitostroi and Cheliabstroi.”
The decree was preceded on August 24 by a letter to
Industrial Archeology Volume 36, Number 2, 2010
74
V.M. Molotov from Stalin, from his vacation house at
the Black Sea, where he wrote:
Each day we are shipping 1–1.5 million poods [16–24 thousand
tons] of grain. I think this is not enough. We must immediately
raise the daily export quota to 3–4 million poods at a minimum.
Otherwise we risk being left without our new metallurgical and
machine-building plants. . . . In short, we must accelerate grain
export at a mad tempo.102
But despite the relentless pressure on the peasants to
meet unrealistic production quotas and drastic cutbacks
of all provisions in the cities, with the poor harvest in
the summer of 1931, the Kremlin’s hard currency re-
serves continued to decline. It was compounded during
the Great Depression by the sharp drop in prices of raw
materials other than grain exported by the U.S.S.R. On
August 20, 1931, the secretary of the Central Commit-
tee, L.M. Kaganovich, reported to Stalin about a shout-
ing match during a meeting of the Politburo over the
payments for completed orders and placement of new
orders in the U.S., and he asked Stalin for instructions.
He also reported that “the Germans [had] easily agreed
to lower the interest rate because they badly need our
orders.”103 Stalin responded on August 25 by telegram:
Due to difculties with hard currency and unacceptable credit
terms, I propose to ban placement of new orders in America, call
off any negotiations for new orders that have already begun, and,
wherever possible, terminate the contracts for orders which have
already been negotiated, transferring those orders to Europe or
our own plants. I propose to make no exceptions, neither for
Magnitostroi and Kuznetsstroi, nor Kharkovstroi, Dneprostroi,
AMO, and Avtostroi.104
Many of these “strois” were Kahn’s sites.105
Under this pressure, things indeed accelerated at a
“mad tempo.” Stalin wrote to Kaganovich on August 25,
1931:
The foreign currency shortage is not the only problem. The main
problem is that if we don’t drop the new orders placed in Amer-
ica on the draconian credit terms that America practices, we may
lose the preferential terms we have secured in Germany, Italy and
England (and will secure in France).
Kaganovich responded to Stalin on August 26:
We have received your telegram about the orders in America. It
solved our disagreements even more radically than we thought.
We immediately sent a telegram to America to stop all new or-
ders. Tomorrow we will review the orders portfolio and see which
can be placed in Europe and which in the U.S.S.R.
And Stalin to Kaganovich on August 30: “America aims
its efforts to devastate our foreign currency reserve and
fundamentally disrupt our currency situation. America to-
day is the main force in the nancial world and our main
enemy.” Kaganovich responded to Stalin on August 31:
Dear Comrade Stalin! We understood your suggestion about
America just as you meant it, as a great maneuver which must
force Americans to change their terms. We are in a much better
position to do it now, since the main orders for our industrial gi-
ants have been completed.
Figure 15. Assembled T-34 tanks at
Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant, 1943. Photo
courtesy of Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant
Museum.
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”
75
(Of course, what made this position even better was the
German-Soviet credit agreement signed on April 14,
1931, which provided for $75 million of long-term cred-
it on purchases of German products.) And nally, on
September 11, 1931, Kaganovich reported to Stalin: “It
turns out that 80–90 percent of orders for Cheliabstroi
could be obtained in England.”106
This meant the end of Soviet collaboration with Kahn,
who in Stalin’s eyes must have fullled his mission. On
March 25, 1932, Albert Kahn was in Moscow, negotiat-
ing a renewal of the contract which had ofcially ended
on March 1. The negotiations broke down when the
Soviets proposed to make the future payments not in
dollars but in rubles which had no value outside the
U.S.S.R. (By 1932 the Soviet government had stopped
paying foreign rms and workers in hard currency,
causing an exodus of American specialists and termina-
tion or failure to renew many foreign aid contracts.)
I could not meet their terms. I might have if I had been permit-
ted to send an entirely new group of men which of course are
easily had today at very low salaries. But they insisted on having
the same heads—most of whom cared little about staying at all
and certainly not at materially reduced wages,
wrote Kahn to his wife Ernestine from Berlin, on his way
back from Moscow. “One thing I am very glad of is that
our men did an excellent job, praised by everyone there,
and we left with the respect and acclaim of the country.”107
The New York Times commented:
This was one of the most useful jobs done there by any foreigner.
But the foreign exchange ‘economy axe’ sweeps wide and heavy
these days. . . . Its effect is to deprive the U.S.S.R. of the Ameri-
can aid best suited to Russian conditions and to replace it by still
inadequate native effort or by that of Europeans who, although
willing to accept ruble salaries, follow methods less appropri-
ate for that country and who naturally direct orders for foreign
equipment to their own homelands.108
On April 29, 1932, Kahn’s unit in Moscow stopped its
work and the staff returned to America. Through Au-
gust 1932, the People’s Commissariat for Heavy In-
dustry, Narkomtiazhprom (which in 1932 replaced
VSNKh), continued its attempts to bring Kahn’s rm
back on board. With great urgency they were trying to
impress on the Soviet government the importance of
the rm’s contribution designing plants under the rst
piatiletka and emphasized the great need for the Kahn
specialists’ continuing presence since the massive con-
struction of the plants designed at Gosproektstroi un-
der their supervision had only began in 1931. They re-
counted numerous innovations introduced by the rm
and were trying to convince the government to approve
a new two-year contract, emphasizing that preliminary
negotiations indicated there was a possibility that Kahn
would agree to a new contract with an annual fee of
only $75,000 paid in dollars ($1,185,550 in 2012 dol-
lars), plus salaries for 30 specialists, of which not more
than $4,000 would be paid in dollars (this would trans-
late into $200,000 per year instead of $480,000 per year
for the rst two-year contract, but it was 1932, after all).
However nothing came of it.109
By the time Kahn architects and engineers left Moscow,
several hundred plants and factories in twenty-one cities
had been designed and built or were under construction,
and over 4,000 Soviet architects, draftsmen, and engineers
had gone through Kahn training,110 including, according
to Kahn, a number of rst-class specialists who were now
“able to lead squads and do excellent work.”111 The con-
struction of the plants designed by Kahn’s rm continued
until the end of the 1930s, and the blueprints, calculations,
and specications the rm was required to leave behind
enabled Soviet architects to recycle them with minimal
adjustments for similar facilities around the country (a
process called priviazka). Therefore, while over 500 indus-
trial structures built in the U.S.S.R. using Kahn architects’
designs could be identied, the number of later priviazki
is impossible to estimate, especially because a complete list
of industrial facilities built during the rst and second Five-
Year Plans (many of which were later converted to mili-
tary production and classied as “state secret”) was never
published. In 1944, Louis Kahn, then President of Albert
Kahn, Inc., reported “design and construction of some
570 plants, the equipping of those plants, and supervisory
training of Russians to design and build them.”112 In addi-
tion, Kahn’s ideas formed the basis of the Soviet school
of standardization and prefabrication in industrial design.
His assembly-line design process became a universal work-
ing method in all Soviet architectural organizations, and
the engineering solutions developed at Gosproektstroi,
using the American standard system and details applied
to local materials and conditions, became standard in the
Soviet building industry for many decades.
In 1932 a monumental volume, Contemporary Archi-
tecture of Plants and Factories by V.D. Tsvetaev, was ap-
proved by the government as a textbook for all Soviet
industrial architects and engineers. The book created
a unique record of Albert Kahn’s Russian legacy with
a short reference mentioning that, at the time of writ-
ing, the author was sitting on Gosproektstroi’s technical
Industrial Archeology Volume 36, Number 2, 2010
76
council, which allowed him to closely study “the work
of the American corporation of Albert Kahn.” The
book drew extensively on the archives of Gosproektstroi
and, in addition to numerous references to “American”
methods and engineering solutions, it contained, albeit
without credits, detailed descriptions, photographs, and
pictures of renderings of the Chelyabinsk and Kharkov
tractor plants, KIM automobile plant, Gospodshipnik
roller-bearing plant, the Dneprostal’ foundry, the forge
shop and foundry in Nizhny Tagil—all designed by
Kahn architects. But by the end of the decade, Tsve-
taev’s book disappeared from Soviet libraries.113
In February 1932 Gosproektstroi became a part of
Metallostroiproekt, which was later absorbed by Prom-
stroiproekt. A propaganda campaign undermining for-
eigners’ role in Soviet industrial development became
especially vicious in the late 1930s because the new So-
viet ideology of “national industrial patriotism” could
not tolerate the notion that the West, and especially the
United States, played any role in realizing the objectives
of Stalin’s Five-Year Plans. In a recent series of articles
about the role of foreign architects in Soviet industrial
design, M.G. Meerovich, professor of architecture and
history at Irkutsk State University, writes:
In the history of Soviet industrial design Albert Kahn’s name had
been hidden without a trace under a thick layer of baseless criti-
cism and false accusations and under the shop sign of the Soviet
organization Gosproektstroi, created in 1930 specically to cast
exact molds of Kahn’s innovative designs proven in the USA.114
In October 1938, driving the last nail into the cofn
of Kahn’s Russian legacy and in response to an article
about Kahn’s work in the U.S.S.R. in The Architectural Fo-
rum, the Soviet journal Architecture in the USSR declared:
There has never been any ‘afliate’ of Albert Kahn’s rm in
Moscow. A group of American engineers was indeed invited in
1928 to Moscow under an agreement with Kahn’s rm, but they
worked at the Soviet organization Gorstroiproekt [sic] and their
activity was strictly limited to technical assistance. . . . Soviet en-
gineers, architects, and workers, inspired by the heroic ideas of
Socialism, have themselves created plants which overshadow the
best industrial facilities in the USA, and by doing so damaged the
commerce of Mr. Kahn, for whom architecture is ninety percent
business.115
Nevertheless, in 1942 Kahn’s name was still well-remem-
bered in the U.S.S.R. Philip A. Adler of The Detroit News
reported from Stalingrad in September 1942 that the
name of Albert Kahn was “known to every child in Stal-
ingrad.”116 In striking contrast to the ofcial line, a tele-
gram from one of the leading Soviet architects, Viktor
A. Vesnin, to Ernestine Kahn after her husband’s death
in December 1942 read:
Soviet engineers, builders, architects send you their sincere sym-
pathy in connection with the death of your husband Mr. Albert
Kahn who rendered us great service in designing a number of
large plants and helped us to assimilate the American experi-
ence in the sphere of building industry. Soviet engineers and
architects will always warmly remember the name of the talented
American engineer and architect, Albert Kahn.117
Partial list of industrial plants in the USSR
designed by or with participation of Albert Kahn
Architects and Engineers 118
Airplane parts and accessories plants: Kramatorsk,
Tomsk.
Aluminum plant: Leningrad (St. Petersburg).
Asbestos plant: Asbest near Sverdlovsk (Yekaterinburg).
Automobile parts and assembly plants: Chelyabinsk,
Gorky (Nizhny Novgorod), Moscow, Stalingrad
(Volgograd), Samara.
Chemical products plant: Kalinin (Tver’).
Forge shops: Chelyabinsk, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov,
Kolomna, Luberetsk, Magnitogorsk, Nizhny Tagil,
Stalingrad.
Foundries: Chelyabinsk, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov,
Kolomna, Luberetsk, Lugansk, Magnitogorsk,
Sormovo, Stalingrad, Verkhnyaya Salda.
Freight-car factory: Nizhny Tagil.
Heat treatment plants: Chelyabinsk, Dnepropetrovsk,
Nizhny Tagil.
Heavy machinery plants: Chelyabinsk, Kramatorsk,
Luberetsk, Nadezhdinsk, Podolsk, Stalingrad,
Uralmash in Sverdlovsk.
Machinery and machine tools plants: Kaluga,
Novosibirsk, Verkhnyaya Salda.
Power plant: Yakutsk.
Roller bearing plant: Gospodshipnik (Sharikopodshipnik)
in Moscow.
Steel plants and rolling mills: Kamensk-Uralsky,
Kolomna, Kulebaki, Kuznetsk, Magnitogorsk,
Nizhny Tagil, Sormovo, Verkhny Tagil.
Structural steel fabricating plant: Stalmost
(Stal’konstruktsia) plant in Verkhnyaya Salda .
Tractor plants: Chelyabinsk, Kharkov, Stalingrad.
Acknowledgements
The author is greatly indebted to Prof. V.V. Veeder QC
(King’s College, University of London), to Dr. Steve White,
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”
77
and to her husband David G. Raich, PhD, for their inspi-
ration, encouragement, invaluable help, and constructive
criticism. She is immensely grateful to Prof. Mikhail Y.
Mukhin (Institute of Russian History) and Prof. Boris M.
Shpotov (Institute of World History) of the Russian Acad-
emy of Sciences, as well as Prof. Victor E. Gurevich (The
Bonch-Bruevich St. Petersburg State University) for their
generous responses to her many inquiries. She also would
like to express gratitude to Albert Kahn Associates, Inc.,
and the archivists at the Bentley Historical Library (Uni-
versity of Michigan), Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant Museum,
and the Western Reserve Historical Society (Cleveland,
Ohio), as well as lmmaker Dieter Marcello and Ron Ro-
mano and the staff of the SFPL inter-library loan depart-
ment, for invaluable help in accessing remote and rare
resources. She would also like to extend special thanks to
Brian Kahn and the Bron family for allowing use of docu-
ments from their personal archives.
On translation and transliteration:
For the convenience of non-Slavist readers, the author
uses the Library of Congress system of transliteration with
some modications, including, for Russian names in the
body of the text, transliteration of Cyrillic letters in initial
and nal positions (e.g., Iu=Yu, as in Yudin; iia=ia, as in
Izvestia; nyi=ny, as in Krasny), and omitting hard and soft
signs. For well-known names of people and places, the
customary English spelling is retained (e.g., Chelyabinsk,
Nizhny Novgorod, Gorky). However, all bibliographic
notes preserve the standard Library of Congress system
of transliteration. On rst usage, the names of Russian
institutions are given in English translation followed by
a transliterated Russian acronym. When citing sources
from Russian archives, the standard citation convention
for these archives is used where every document is identi-
ed by its collection number (fond in Russian), the num-
ber of the record group (opis), the number of the le
(delo), and the page number (list), with the name of the
archive in the beginning of the citation (e.g., RGASPI, f.
558, op. 11, d. 739, l. 28.) All translations from Russian
are by the author, unless specied otherwise.
Notes
1. Maxine Block, “Albert Kahn,” in Current Biography: Who’s News
and Why (New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 1942), 17:431.
2. See, for example, Y.V. Yemelianov, Marshal Stalin, Creator of the
Great Victory (Moscow: Yauza, 2007), or “Volgograd renamed Stal-
ingrad for day as the Second World War battle remembered,”
The Telegraph, 2 February 2013, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
news/worldnews/europe/russia/9843929/Volgograd-renamed-
Stalingrad-for-day-as-the-Second-World-War-battle-remembered.
html (last accessed 2 February 2013).
3. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (New York: Reynal and Hitchcock,
1941), 958.
4. “Tractors in the Soviet Union,” Soviet Union Review 10, no. 2 (Feb-
ruary 1932): 35. Soviet Union Review was a monthly bulletin about
economic and cultural life in the U.S.S.R. published by Soviet
Union Information Bureau, Washington, DC.
5. Za industrializatsiiu, 11 April 1932 (cited in Norton T. Dodge and
Dana G. Dalrymple, “The Stalingrad Tractor Plant in Early So-
viet Planning,” Soviet Studies 18, no. 2 [October 1966]: 165). Za
industrializatsiiu (For industrialization) was a Soviet newspaper pub-
lished from 1930 to 1937 by VSNKh.
6. Charles E. Sorensen, My Forty Years with Ford (New York: W.W.
Norton & Co., 1956), 201–203.
7. Allan Nevins and Frank E. Hill, “The Russian Adventures,” in
Ford: The Times, the Man, the Company, 3 vols. (New York: Scribner,
1954), 2:678.
8. Dodge, “Stalingrad Tractor Plant,” 165 (see n. 5).
9.
Originally named Tsaritsyn, the city was named after Stalin in
1925; after Stalin’s death and during Nikita Khrushchev’s de-
Stalinization campaign, it was renamed Volgograd in 1961.
10. Report of the Ford Delegation to the U.S.S.R., 1926, Acc. 1870,
Box 1, 184–187, Ford Motor Company Archives, Dearborn, Mich.
11. Y. Ilyin and B. Galin, eds., Those Who Built Stalingrad as Told by
Themselves (New York: International Publishers, 1934), 29–31.
12. I.V. Stalin, “Itogi pervoi piatiletki,” in I.V. Stalin, Complete Works,
18 vols. (Moscow: Gospolitizdat, 1951), 13:172. For overall analy-
sis of Soviet industrialization under Stalin’s Five-Year Plans, see
E.H. Carr and R.W. Davies, Foundations of a Planned Economy 1926-
1929 (London: Macmillan, 1969) and David R. Shearer, Industry,
State, and Society in Stalin’s Russia, 1926–1934 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cor-
nell University Press, 1996). Alec Nove, An Economic History of the
USSR, 1917-1991, 3rd ed. (New York: Penguin, 1993), completed
just after the collapse of the U.S.S.R., makes for easy reading for
the academic and the lay reader alike.
13. Joseph M. Pavloff, The Upbuilding of Soviet Russia (New York: Am-
torg Trading Corporation, 1929), 18–19.
14. Saul G. Bron, Soviet Economic Development and American Business
(New York: Horace Liveright, 1930), 51.
15. Hubert R. Knickerbocker, The Red Trade Menace: Progress of the Soviet
Five-year Plan (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1931), 81.
16. Stalin, “Itogi pervoi piatiletki,” 13:178–180 (see n. 12).
17. Important analyses of Albert Kahn’s work include: Federico Bucci,
Albert Kahn: Architect of Ford (New York: Princeton Architectural
Press, 2002); W. Hawkins Ferry, The Legacy of Albert Kahn (Detroit,
Mich.: Wayne State University Press, 1987); Grant Hildebrand,
Designing for Industry: The Architecture of Albert Kahn (Cambridge,
Mass.: The MIT Press, 1974); George Nelson, Industrial Architecture
of Albert Kahn (New York: Architectural Book Publishing Company,
1939). The Michigan Society of Architects’ Albert Kahn Memorial
Issue, Weekly Bulletin 17, no. 13 (30 March 1943) is an important re-
source of contemporaneous tributes to Albert Kahn and his legacy.
Hildebrand’s book also offers Kahn’s overall biography. William R
Brashear, Albert Kahn and His Family in Peace and War (Ann Arbor,
Mich.: Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, 2008)
and Edgar Kahn, “Albert Kahn: His Son Remembers,” Michigan
History (July–August 1985) add personal touches.
18. Titles in English that address Albert Kahn’s work in Russia in more
detail include Milka Bliznakov, “The Realization of Utopia: West-
Industrial Archeology Volume 36, Number 2, 2010
78
ern Technology and Soviet Avant-Garde Architecture” and Anatole
Kopp, “Foreign Architects in the Soviet Union During the Two First
Five-Year Plans” in William C. Brumeld, Reshaping Russian Architec-
ture: Western Technology, Utopian Dreams (Washington, D.C.: Wood-
row Wilson International Center for Scholars and New York: Cam-
bridge University Press, 1990), 145–213; Bay Brown, “Albert Kahn:
The Russian Legacy,” Project Russia, no. 7b (1997): 92–96; Anatole
Senkevitch, “Albert Kahn’s Great Soviet Venture as Architect of
the First Five-Year Plan, 1929-1932,” Dimensions 10 (1996): 35–49.
Titles in Russian include I. Kasianenko, “Ispol’zovanie amerikan-
skogo opyta v period stanovleniia sovetskogo promyshlennogo
zodchestva,” in Vzaimodeistvie kul’tur SSSR i SShA XVIII-XX vv., ed.
O.E. Tuganova (Moscow: Nauka, 1987), 111–121; Igor A. Kazus’,
I. A. Sovetskaia arkhitektura 1920-kh godov: organizatsiia proektirovaniia
(Moscow: Progress-Traditsiia, 2009); Dmitry S. Khmelnitsky, “Tanki
za khleb: Amerikanskie korni sovetskoi voennoi promyshlennosti”
in Pravda Viktora Suvorova, ed. Dmitry S. Khmelnitsky (Moscow:
Yauza, 2007), 332–348; Mark G. Meerovich, “Al’bert Kan v istorii
sovetskoi industrializatsii,” Architecton (June 2009): 65–73.
19. Amtorg (American Trading Corporation) was a quasi-private
Russian-American joint-stock company based in New York. More
information about Amtorg and its chairman, Saul G. Bron, is pro-
vided in Part II of this article to be published in the next issue of
IA (volume 37, nos. 1–2).
20. The full projected cost of the plant including the equipment was
$30 million, with the cost of the buildings about $4 million. “Con-
tract for Design of Tractor Factory Concluded With American
Firm,” Economic Review of the Soviet Union 4, no. 11 (1 June 1929):
220. Economic Review of the Soviet Union was a semi-monthly survey
of Soviet economic developments and of trade between the U.S.
and the U.S.S.R. published by Amtorg. Also see Abe L. Drabkin,
“American Architects and Engineers in Russia,” Pencil Points 11,
no. 6 (June 1930): 438.
21. Albert Kahn, speech delivered at the Detroit Bohemian Club, 29
October 1930, Albert Kahn Associates, Inc.; “Industrial Buildings:
Albert Kahn,” The Architectural Forum 69 (August 1938): 89–90; Al-
bert Kahn, Inc., Industrial & Commercial Buildings (Detroit, Mich.:
Albert Kahn, Inc., 1936).
22. On the Constructivist movement in Russia, see Jean-Louis Cohen,
Christina Lodder, and Richard Pare, Building the Revolution: Soviet
Art and Architecture 1915-1935 (London: Royal Academy of Arts,
2011); Anatole Kopp, Constructivist Architecture in the USSR (Lon-
don: Academy Editions, 1985); Richard Pare and Jean-Louis Co-
hen, The Lost Vanguard: Russian Modernist Architecture 1922–1932
(New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2007).
23. Senkevitch, “Albert Kahn’s Great Soviet Venture,” 45 (see n. 18);
Lewis H. Siegelbaum, Cars for Comrades: the Life of the Soviet Automo-
bile (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2008), 40. On the early
Soviet planners’ fascination with the Taylor-Ford system of mass-
production, see Thomas P. Hughes, American Genesis: A Centur y of
Invention and Technological Enthusiasm (Chicago, Ill.: The Univer-
sity of Chicago Press, 2004), particularly Chapter 6, “Taylorismus
+ Fordismus = Amerikanismus.”
24. Alan M. Ball, Imagining America: Inuence and Images in Twenti-
eth-Century Russia (New York: Rowman & Littleeld Publishers,
2003); Boris M. Shpotov, Henry Ford: Life and Business (Moscow:
KDU, 2005).
25. Malcolm W. Bingay, Detroit Is My Own Home Town (New York: Bobbs-
Merrill, 1946), 308; “American to Build Soviet Auto Plants,” The
New York Times, 7 May 1929.
26. Agreement between Amtorg Trading Corporation and Albert
Kahn, Inc., for construction of the Stalingrad Tractor Plant,
The Russian State Archive of the Economy, Moscow (hereafter
RGAE), f. 7620, op. 1, d. 712, l. 25–28.
27. “Soviet Plans Factory to Build Tractors” and “American to Build
Soviet Auto Plants,” The New York Times, 5 and 7 May 1929.
28. “Agreement is signed about technical aid to Traktorstroi,” Torgovo-
promyshlennaia gazeta, 16 May 1929.
29. Dispatch 6265 from F.W.B. Coleman, Legation of the USA, Riga, Lat-
via, 10 July 1929, U.S. State Dept. Decimal File 861.602/Albert Kahn,
National Archives and Records Administration (hereafter NARA),
Washington, D.C.; Drabkin, “American Architects,” 438 (see n. 20).
30. A.I. Rykov’s speech at the XVI Congress of VKP(b), Pravda, 24
April 1929.
31. I.V. Stalin, “God velikogo pereloma,” Pravda, 7 November 1929
(incl. in Stalin, Complete Works, 12:118–135 [see n. 12]). Muzhik
is a slightly condescending Russian term for a peasant, implying
backwardness and ignorance. For Bolsheviks, peasants presented
the “cursed problem,” an unyielding mass left over from the tsar-
ist regime, threatening their vision for an industrialized Russia.
32. The Russian Centre for the Preservation and Study of Documents
of Most Recent History (hereafter RTsKhIDNI), f. 17, op. 2, d. 441
(incl. in S.S. Khromov, Industrializatsiia Sovetskogo Soiuza: novye do-
kumenty, novye fakty, novye podkhody, 2 vols. [Moscow: In-t rossiiskoi
istorii RAN, 1997], 1:267).
33. Agreement between the Construction Committee of VSNKh and
American Firm “Albert Kahn,” July–December 1930, The State
Archive of the Russian Federation (hereafter GARF), Moscow, f.
R5446, op. 11a, d. 448, ll. 1–18.
34. “Kahn Contract Signed,” Economic Review of the Soviet Union 5, no.
3 (15 February 1930): 55.
35. These included 6 asbestos, corundum, and graphite factories;
2 locomotive works; 15 machine tool and appliances factories;
24 cement factories; 126 sawmills; 106 woodworking plants; 27
glass factories; 35 spinning mills; 15 woolen mills; 13 clothing fac-
tories; 112 shoe factories; 15 paper mills; and 56 food product
plants. “Architects to Russia,” Time 15, Part 1 (20 January 1930):
18; “$1,900,000,000 Building by the Soviet in 1930“ and Albert
Kahn, Inc., Get Contract as Consulting Architects in Five-Year
Plan,” The New York Times, 11 January 1930.
36.
“Industrial Buildings: Albert Kahn,” 90 (see n. 21).
37.
“Moritz Kahn’s statement to press,” Economic Review of the Soviet
Union 5, no. 3 (15 February 1930): 55.
38. Izvestia, no. 35 (5 February 1930): 4. The group included a promi-
nent Soviet architect, Andrei Burov, who later designed residen-
tial development near the plant and taught at the Moscow State
Architectural Institute.
39. Dispatch from Louis Sussdorff, Legation of the U.S., 18 February
1930, Riga, Latvia, U.S. State Dept. Decimal File 861.602/Albert
Kahn, NARA; “Moritz Kahn’s statement to press,” 55 (see n. 37).
40. Kazus’, Sovetskaia arkhitektura, 228 (see n. 18); Resolution of
Sovnarkom “About measures for organization of major industrial
construction,” 1 June 1928 (incl. in Resheniia partii i pravitel’stva po
khoziaistvennym voprosam [Moscow: Politizdat, 1967], 1:724–742).
41. Among those in the initial group were George K. Scrymgeour,
Abe L. Drabkin, Frances Grossman (the only female architect
in the group), Stanley Walker, Robert Boreland, Derek Van Os-
senbruggen, John Willis, J. Gordon Turnball, Robert Mohr, R.B.
Wetzel, H.C. Hinez, M.J. McGowan, L.P. Quinn, Norman A. Rob-
inson, Arthur G. Thorpe, Gilbert Growcott, J.N. Hadjlsky, Robert
E. Linton, Halliday, Rasmussen, Eno Jolson, Edward Eardley, and
William H. Bruss. The latter returned in November 1931 after his
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”
79
contract was not renewed, and Arthur G. Thorpe died in Moscow
on 11 February 1931.
42. “Kahn Firm Sends His Ablest,” Detroit Times, 17 March 1930.
43. George K. Scrymgeour, postcard to Albert Kahn, March 1930, Box
13, Albert Kahn Papers, Scrapbook “Russia,” Bentley Historical
Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
44. Louis Kahn, memo, 7 February 1944, Box 13, Albert Kahn Papers,
Scrapbook “Russian Work,” Bentley Historical Library, University
of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
45. Scrymgeour, “Russian Life As I Saw It” (February 1934), Box 20, Fold-
er 37, p. 11, Hoover Institution Archives, Russian Subject Collection.
46. Annual report of Gosproektstroi, RGAE, f. 5741, op. 2, d. 149;
Moritz Kahn, “Work of Soviet Construction Designing Board,”
Economic Review of the Soviet Union 6, no. 14 (15 July 1931): 331; Al-
len B. Crow, “What Russia Got from Capitalist Detroit,” American
Affairs 8, no. 3 (July 1946): 216–218.
47. Albert Kahn, “Putting Architecture on a Business Basis,” address
delivered to Cleveland Engineering Society, 16 December 1930,
Box 1, Albert Kahn Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University
of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
48. “Disputes of Reds and Americans Revealed,” The New York Times,
27 October 1929.
49. Albert Kahn, “Our Work in Russia,” unpublished paper read to
the Detroit chapter of American Institute of Architects, 10 De-
cember 1931, Albert Kahn Associates, Inc.
50. Albert Kahn’s letter to VSNKh, 14 October 1930, Za industrializat-
siiu, 17 February 1931 (cited in Kazus’, Sovetskaia arkhitektura, 141
[see n. 18]).
51. Albert Kahn, “Putting Architecture on a Business Basis” (see n.
47); “An American Engineering Firm in the U.S.S.R.,” Economic
Review of the Soviet Union 6, no. 2 (15 January 1931): 41.
52. Scrymgeour, “Russian Life” (see n. 45).
53. “Conditions in Soviet Russia,” Dispatch 213 from John P. Hurley,
U.S. Consulate, Riga, Latvia, 27 November 1930, U.S. State Dept.
Decimal File 861.641/9, NARA.
54. Albert Kahn, Inc., Industrial & Commercial Buildings (see n. 21);
Kahn, “Our Work in Russia” (see n. 49).
55. In 1930–33, a typhoid epidemic swept Russia. On 7 November 1930,
The New York Times reported sixteen cases of typhoid among the
American workers in Stalingrad, two of whom died. The outbreak
most likely originated in the apartment houses southeast of the trac-
tor plant. Kahn’s rm was not involved in the design of the residential
houses and sewerage, but it prepared designs for the plant’s drinking
water purication facility and distribution system. On 22 November
1930, after Abe L. Drabkin was sent to conduct an onsite investiga-
tion, Moritz Kahn submitted a report to Amtorg pointing out that
according to the design, “the drinking water was to be obtained from
the city supply and not directly from the Volga River, and was to be
puried before it was distributed around the plant.” Evidently, this
had not been done. Albert Kahn, Inc., Report on Outbreak of Ty-
phoid Fever at Stalingrad, RGAE, f. 7620, op. 1, f. 712, ll. 1-5.
56. Moritz Kahn, letter to Albert Kahn, 10 October 1929, Albert E.
Kahn family archive.
57. “Kahn Predicts Soviet Success,” The Detroit Free Press, 1931.
58. Hughes, American Genesis, 272 (see n. 23). International Harvest-
er’s hay harvester factory in Lyubertsy near Moscow, operating
since 1911, was nationalized without compensation during the
1920s, but the company was still trying to maintain its presence in
Russia. Dodge, “Stalingrad Tractor Plant,” 165 (see n. 5).
59. “The Stalingrad Tractor Plant,” Economic Review of the Soviet Union
5, no. 7 (1 April 1930): 134–135; Walter S. Dunn, Jr., Stalin’s Keys to
Victory: The Rebirth of the Red Army in World War II (Mechanicsburg,
Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2007), 92.
60. “The Stalingrad Plant,” Economic Review of the Soviet Union 4, no. 19
(1 October 1929): 336–337; Kahn, “Our Work in Russia” (see n. 49).
61. Highly skilled American workers received from $200-$300 a
month paid into an American bank in dollars, plus 300-400 rubles
a month paid in Stalingrad. Russian workers who were paid on
piece work basis earned from two to ve rubles a day; ne me-
chanics earned up to ten rubles a day.
62. Drabkin, “American Architects,” 438 (see n. 20); The Iron Trade
Review 86 (1930): 101. See also “44 American Firms Are Aiding
Soviet,” The New York Times, 30 November 1930. In 1930 Amtorg
reported that it was receiving 125 applications for jobs in the
U.S.S.R. on average each day. In November 1930, the U.S. Depart-
ment of Commerce estimated that about 2,000 American work-
ers, including engineers and assistants with their families, were
living in the U.S.S.R. supervising the building of large manufac-
turing and electric plants.
63. The “anti-cosmopolitan” campaign of the late 1940s and early
1950s was steered by Stalin’s drive to isolate the country from for-
eign inuences after the war and to bolster the claim that the
Soviet Union was once again under threat from the “outside.”
The campaign especially targeted intelligentsia and Jews, accus-
ing them of “groveling before the West” and helping “American
imperialism.”
64. “Technical Help,” Soviet Union Review 7, no. 5 (May 1929): 72.
65. RTsKhIDNI, f. 17, op. 3, d. 698, ll. 3-4 (see n. 32); Resolution by
Amtorg on inviting foreign specialists to U.S.S.R., 23 April 1929,
RGAE, f. 5240, op. 18, d. 243, l. 218 (incl. in Russia and the USA: Eco-
nomic Relations 1917–1933, ed. G.N. Sevost’ianov and E.A. Tiurina
[Moscow: Nauka 1997], 286); Economic Handbook of the Soviet Union
(New York: American-Russian Chamber of Commerce, 1931).
66. The parallel system allows simultaneous construction of multi-
ple structures on the same site, with the construction time for
all buildings being equal to that of one. It is substantially faster
than the traditional sequential (linear) method where construc-
tion of each structure begins after completion of a previous one.
However, the parallel method requires a complete set of working
drawings and more workforce and resources.
67. Kahn, “Our Work in Russia” (see n. 49).
68. Pravda, 18 June 1930 (incl. in Stalin, Complete Works,12:234 [see
n. 12]).
69. Economic Review of the Soviet Union 5, no. 14 (1 August 1930): 314.
70. The plant was named after the head of Cheka/OGPU Felix E.
Dzerzhinsky. In 1961, as Stalingrad was renamed Volgograd, the
plant was renamed Volgograd Dzerzhinsky Tractor Plant; since
1992, when it was privatized, it became Volgograd Machine-Build-
ing Company VgTZ, Ltd.
71. “Stenographic report of interview with Ellwood T. Riesing,” Dis-
patch from John E. Kehl, American Consul General, Hamburg,
Germany (8 May 1931), U.S. State Dept. Decimal File 806.5017,
Living Conditions/248, NARA.
72. Dispatch from Robert D. Murphy, American Consul, Paris, France
(8 February 1932), U.S. State Dept. Decimal File 861.20/420, NARA.
73. Dunn, Stalin’s Keys, 36 (see n. 59).
74. On the Battle of Stalingrad and its signicance, see Geoffrey Rob-
erts, Victory at Stalingrad: The Battle That Changed History (London:
Longman, 2003).
75. Bingay, Detroit, 310 (see n. 25); Bingay, “Good Morning,” Detroit
Free Press, 16 July 1942.
76. Kahn, “Our Work in Russia” (see n. 49).
Industrial Archeology Volume 36, Number 2, 2010
80
77. Leon A. Swajian, “Building the Kharkov Tractor Plant,” Economic
Review of the Soviet Union 6, no. 18 (15 September 1931): 414.
78. “Tractors in the Soviet Union,” 35 (see n. 4).
79. M.N. Svirin, Bronevoi shchit Stalina. Istoriia sovetskogo tanka.
1937–1943 (Moscow: Yauza, 2006).
80. For more details on the work of the Soviet engineers in Detroit,
see Viktor E. Gurevich, Cheliabinskaia ballada ili kak eto delalos’ tog-
da (St. Petersburg: XXI Vek, 2007).
81. The Soviet designers were especially interested in the Caterpillar’s
design because the Caterpillar-Holt tractor suspension was adapted
for German tank A7V during World War I. See Sergei Ustiantsev,
Elita rossiiskoi industrii: Cheliabinskii traktornyi zavod (Yekaterinburg:
Nezavisimyi Institut istorii material’noi kul’tury, 2008), 12.
82. Albert Kahn, presentation at the Rotary Club of Bay City, Mich.,
20 May 1930.
83. L.S. Komarov et al., Letopis’ Cheliabinskogo traktornogo (1929–1945)
(Moscow: Prozdat, 1972), 23.
84. In addition to the plants in Stalingrad and Chelyabinsk, Calder
supervised the construction of the largest in the world blast fur-
nace at Magnitogorsk and a copper renery at Lake Balkhash. He
became the chief engineer of the Soviet Steel Trust, a singular
honor for a non-citizen and a non-Communist, which made him
a virtual director of ninety of the most important plants in Russia.
He also became a central character in the famous play Tempo by
Nikolai Pogodin. W.H.G. Armytage, The Rise of the Technocrats. A
Social History (London: Routledge, 1965), 222.
85. Dunn, Stalin’s Keys, 92 (see n. 59).
86. “The Opening of the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant,” USSR in Construc-
tion 8 (August 1933). USSR in Construction was a propaganda pic-
ture magazine published from 1930 to 1941 in the Soviet Union in
Russian, French, English, and German. Its declared purpose was to
“reect in photography the whole scope and variety of the construc-
tion work now going on in the U.S.S.R.” Propaganda aside, it be-
came an artistic gem, with oversized pages and multi-page fold-outs
offering great examples of early twentieth-century photography.
87.
Lennart Samuelson, Tankograd: The Formation of a Soviet Company
Town: Cheliabinsk, 1900s-1950s (U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000), 109.
88.
Dana G. Dalrymple, “The American Tractor Comes to Soviet Ag-
riculture: The Transfer of a Technology,” Technology and Culture 5,
no. 2 (Spring 1964): 197.
89. USSR In Construction 8 (August 1933).
90.
M.V. Frunze, “Front i tyl v voine budushchego,” Pravda, 31 August
1924.
91. The circumstances surrounding Mikhail V. Frunze’s premature
death in 1925 are rather mysterious. Stalin summoned Frunze to
Moscow, where he was ordered to undergo surgery for stomach
ulcers, from which he never recovered. His successor as commis-
sar for defense was Stalin’s old friend, K.E. Voroshilov.
92. The Fifteenth Congress of the VKP(b). Stenographic report. (Moscow:
Gosizdat, 1928), 886, 887.
93. Around the same time Krupp developed an experimental tank
with caterpillar traction called “large tractor” in order to disguise
its real purpose. It was equipped with a BMW engine and a gun
turret and would be tested between 1929 and 1933 by the Soviet
army. Harold James, Krupp: A History of the Legendary German Firm
(Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2012), 152-153.
94. M.Y. Mukhin, “Amtorg. Amerikanskie tanki dlia RKKA,” Otechest-
vennaia istoriia, May 2001, 56, 57; D. Sizov, “Stanovlenie Cheli-
abinska kak tsentra oboronnoi promyshlennosti,” Rodina, no. 2
(2008).
95. Russian State Military Archive (hereafter RGVA), Moscow, f.
33987, op. 3, d. 155, l. 91.
96. The story of construction of the automobile plant in Nizhny
Novgorod is described in Part II of this article (see n. 19).
97. RGVA, f. 33987, op. 3, d. 179, ll. 122, 123 (cited in Samuelson, Plans
for Stalin’s War Machine: Tukhachevsky and Militar y-Economic Plan-
ning, 1925–1941 [New York: St. Martin’s Press, Inc, 2000], 133).
98. Speech of G.K. Ordzhonikidze at the VII Congress of Soviet
Councils, Pravda, 2 February 1935.
99. Komarov, Letopis’ Cheliabinskogo traktornogo, 168 (see n. 83).
100. Originally named after I.V. Stalin, in 1958 the Kirov Plant was re-
turned to its original name, Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant (less “Sta-
lin”); in 1971 it was named after V.I. Lenin; and in 1992, when it
was privatized, it became ChTZ-Uraltrac, LLC.
101. Dunn, Stalin’s Keys, 36–37 (see n. 59); Samuelson, Tankograd, 259
(see n. 87).
102. Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (hereafter RGAS-
PI), f. 558, op. 1, d. 5388 (incl. in Pis’ma I.V. Stalina V.M. Molo-
tovu, 1925–1936. Collection of documents, ed. L. Kosheleva, et al.
[Moscow: Rossiia molodaia, 1995], 204).
103. RGASPI, f. 558, op. 11, d. 739, ll. 28–39 (incl. in Stalin i Kagan-
ovich. Perepiska. 1931–1936, ed. O.V. Khlevniuk, et al. [Moscow:
Russian Political Encyclopedia, 2001], 54–56).
104. RGASPI, f. 558, op. P, d. 76, ll. 33, 34 (incl. in Stalin i Kaganovich,
64 [see n. 103]).
105. Agreement for modernization and expansion of AMO (Moscow Au-
tomobile Joint-Stock Company, later Stalin Auto Plant or ZIS, then
Likhachev Auto Plant or ZIL, now AMO ZIL) was signed in 1929 be-
tween Avtotrest and Arthur J. Brandt Company of Detroit to assemble
trucks modeled after a prototype by the Autocar Company. Some
archival materials held at the Historic Bentley Library, University of
Michigan, suggest that structural engineering work was done by Al-
bert Kahn, Inc., under a separate agreement with Avtotrest.
106. RGASPI, f. 81, op. 3, d. 99, ll. 4–6; f. 558, op. 11, d. 739, ll. 48–55;
f. 81, op. 3, d. 99, ll. 12–14; f. 558, op. 11, d. 739, ll. 56–64 and 96–
105 (incl. in Stalin i Kaganovich, 65, 65, 72, 73, 94 [see n. 103]).
107. Hildebrand, Designing for Industry, 130 (see n. 17).
108. “Russians Lose Aid of Kahn, American Who Has Saved Soviet Mil-
lions,” The New York Times, 26 March 1932.
109. “About permission to extend agreement for technical assistance
in design of industrial enterprises with American rm ‘Albert
Kahn,’” July–August 1932, GARF, f. R5446, op. 13a, d. 873, ll. 1–5.
110. Bron, Soviet Economic Development, 67 (see n. 14).
111. Kahn, “Our Work in Russia” (see n. 49).
112. Louis Kahn, memo (see n. 44). According to Weekly Bulletin, Al-
bert Kahn Memorial Issue (see n. 17), Kahn engineers built not
less than 521 factories and trained some 4,000 engineers.
113. V.D. Tsvetaev, Sovremennaia fabrichno-zavodskaia arkhitektura (Mos-
cow–Leningrad: Gosstroiizdat, 1933).
114. Meerovich, “Al’bert Kan,” 65 (see n. 18).
115.
“Khlestakovskie otkroveniia Al’berta Kana,” Arkhitektura SSSR, no.
10 (1938), 89.
116. Philip A. Adler, “Stalingrad As I Saw It,” The Detroit News, 28 Sep-
tember 1942.
117. Viktor A. Vesnin, Western Union telegram to Ernestine Kahn, 16
December 1942, Box 1, Kahn Family Papers, Folder “Letters to
Ernestine,” Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan,
Ann Arbor.
118. Albert Kahn, Inc., Industrial and Commercial Buildings (Detroit,
Mich.: Albert Kahn, Inc., 1936).
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”:
How an American Architect and a Soviet
Negotiator Jump-Started the Industrialization
of Russia, Part II: Saul Bron
Sonia Melnikova-Raich
5
Abstract
Soviet industrialization was a complex economic and
political undertaking about which much remains
unclear. Rather than examine the process as a whole,
this essay focuses on two fairly unknown players in the
history of Soviet-American relations––one American
firm and one Soviet negotiator––and their contribu-
tion to the amazingly rapid Soviet industrialization
of the early 1930s, emphasizing some human and
business factors behind Stalin’s Five-Year Plan. Saul
G. Bron, during his tenure as chairman of Amtorg
Trading Corporation in 1927–1930, contracted with
leading American companies to help build Soviet
industrial infrastructure and commissioned the firm
of the foremost American industrial architect from
Detroit, Albert Kahn, as consulting architects to the
Soviet Government. The work of both played a major
Sonia Melnikova-Raich, “The Soviet Problem with Two ‘Unknowns’: How an
American Architect and a Soviet Negotiator Jump-Started the Industrialization
of Russia, Part II: Saul Bron” IA: The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology 37,
nos. 1–2 (2011): 5–28
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role in laying the foundation of the Soviet automotive,
tractor, and tank industry and led to the development
of Soviet defense capabilities, which in turn played an
important role in the Allies’ defeat of Nazi Germany
in World War II. Drawing on Russian and English-
language sources, this essay is based on comprehensive
research including previously unknown archival docu-
ments, contemporaneous and current materials, and
private archives.
“We have before us in the Soviet Union
an engineering problem of
tremendous proportions.”
— Saul G. Bron1
“Unknown” No. Two: Saul G. Bron
While it is surprising how little is known about Albert
Kahn’s role in the creation of Soviet industry, even less
is known about Saul G. Bron, who was instrumental in
bringing Kahn and his expertise to the U.S.S.R. On
June 17, 1929, Time wrote: “Information on Amtorg’s
Editor’s Note: This is the second half of a two-part article by Sonia Melnikova-Raich on the relationship forged
in the late 1920s and early 1930s between American industrialists and the Soviet government, which sought the
help of Americans to move the Soviet Union from a peasant society to an industrial one. The first part, pub-
lished in the previous issue of IA (volume 36, no. 2) described the state of the Soviet tractor and tank industries
at the onset of the First Five-Year Plan in 1928 and provided a detailed account of the work in Soviet Russia of
the firm of Albert Kahn, including some of the most important Soviet industrial giants, designed to manufacture
domestic tractors and by the beginning of WWII converted to production of tanks. This second part is focused
on the early Soviet-American commercial relationship and the role played by Saul G. Bron, who in 1927–1930
headed the American Trading Corporation (Amtorg) and, in addition to Albert Kahn, contracted with many
leading American companies, including the Ford Motor Company, The Austin Company, and the General Elec-
tric Company. It also describes the Stalin purges of the Soviet industrial elite and the tragic fate of Soviet special-
ists engaged in Soviet-American trade and technical aid contracts.
Industrial Archeology Volume 37, Numbers 1 and 2, 2011
6
tive Socialist Republic, also called Soviet Russia or sim-
ply Russia), headed the Soviet grain exporting agency,
Exportkhleb, was a director of the Russian Bank for
Foreign Trade, Roskombank (later Vneshtorgbank of
the U.S.S.R.), and in 1926 began his work for the Peo-
ple’s Commissariat for Foreign Trade of the U.S.S.R.
(When in the summer of that year Stalin picked a
regional party leader from the North Caucasus, A.I.
Mikoyan, as the next commissar for foreign trade,
he assured the hesitant candidate that to help him,
the leader would dispatch some experienced people,
including Bron, who could “boost any commissariat.”)2
In 1926 the Soviet Union was still not recognized by
the United States government, and the Commissar for
Foreign Affairs, G.V. Chicherin, who was closely watch-
ing the political situation in Washington, was con-
vinced that the time was right to take advantage of the
favorable views of some American officials toward the
Soviet Union, especially Senator William Borah, then
chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Chicherin suggested delegating to America a person
capable of conducting unofficial discussions with U.S.
representatives and at the same time promoting com-
merce between the two countries. This role would be
assigned to a new chairman of Amtorg Trading Corpo-
ration. In March 1927, following an urgent request by
the Commissariat for Foreign Trade, the Central Com-
mittee appointed Bron chairman of Amtorg.3
Amtorg Trading Corporation, a quasi-private Russian-
American joint-stock company, was established in 1924
by merging Armand Hammer’s Allied American Cor-
poration (Alamerico) with Products Exchange Corpo-
ration (Prodexco) and Arcos-America.4 Amtorg’s pur-
pose was to seek out prospective business opportunities
in the U.S. and facilitate trade between the U.S. and
the U.S.S.R. (where foreign commerce was a monopoly
of the state) by playing the practically exclusive role
of intermediary between American companies and
Soviet industrial and trading organizations.5 Although
Amtorg was an American corporation and hence sub-
ject to United States laws, it occupied a unique posi-
tion in business as the single purchaser for a com-
munist state. As a seller, it had to compete with other
sellers of similar goods; but as a buyer, it represented
an enormous single purchaser whose orders were at
times and for some firms the largest they had ever
been offered.6 Even though Amtorg did not officially
represent the Soviet government, it was controlled by
the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Trade and prior
6
Board Chairman Bron’s pre-Soviet period is extremely
vague, inasmuch as very few of the individuals now
prominent in Russia were famed members of tsarist
society.” Indeed, as a part of Lenin’s war on the intelli-
gentsia in 1922–23, hundreds of individuals prominent
in pre-revolutionary Russia’s arts, literature, jurispru-
dence, diplomacy, and industry, were either sent into
exile to Siberia or were forced to emigrate, despite
their value to a country still mostly rural and poorly
educated. A few years later the Soviet government was
scraping to find those left who possessed education
and experience to lead industrialization and represent
the state in its struggle for foreign trade and diplo-
matic recognition. It was specifically looking for those
who had lived abroad and knew foreign languages.
Saul Grigorievich Bron was just such a man. (figure 1)
Born on January 25, 1887, in Odessa, Bron began his
higher education at the Kiev Institute of Commerce,
but was expelled for involvement in the social-demo-
cratic movement, which was popular among secular
Jews in the Ukraine as a reaction to tsarist anti-Semi-
tism. He continued his education in Germany, France,
and Switzerland, where he studied the grain trade and
earned a doctorate in economics from the University
of Zurich. In 1921–1923 Bron acted as commissioner
for foreign trade for Ukraine and after formation of
the U.S.S.R. in 1922, served on the Supreme Economic
Council of the R.S.F.S.R. (the Russian Soviet Federa-
Figure 1. Saul G. Bron, 1930s. Photo courtesy
the Bron family.
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”
777
to the establishment of diplomatic relations between
the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. in 1933, served as a de facto
trade delegation and a quasi-embassy.
Amtorg handled almost all imports from the U.S.S.R.,
comprising mostly lumber, furs, flax, bristles, and cav-
iar, and all exports of raw materials and machinery for
Soviet industry and agriculture. It also provided Ameri-
can companies with information about trade opportu-
nities in the U.S.S.R., and supplied Soviet industries
with technical news and information about American
companies. The headquarters was located in Manhat-
tan, at 165 Broadway, and after 1929, at 261 Fifth Ave-
nue, with several branch offices, including at different
times, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Francisco,
and Seattle. At the time of Bron’s taking office in 1927,
Amtorg had more than one hundred full-time employ-
ees, many of them Russian immigrants, supervising
and assisting about the same number of non-Russian-
speaking representatives. The corporation had a board
of seven directors, most of whom were former Soviet
officials, with at least one director at any time (in order
to comply with New York law) being a citizen of the
United States. The stock was issued in the names of the
board members, and it was said that as an additional
precaution, prior to being dispatched to America,
newly-appointed directors were required to sign per-
sonal notes for double the face value of their shares.7
Bron and his family arrived in New York on June 8,
1927. Bron was the third chairman of Amtorg. He
replaced A.V. Prigarin, who managed Amtorg for
about a year after replacing the first chairman of
Amtorg, I.Y. Khurgin, who in 1925, less than a year
after his appointment, drowned in a lake in upstate
New York in an odd kayaking accident.8 One of
Amtorg’s American directors, J.M.T. Feinstein, noted
that Bron was the first president of Amtorg whose com-
mand of English enabled him to negotiate without the
aid of interpreters (he was also fluent in German and
French).9 Time magazine, which closely followed the
arrival of the new head of Amtorg, didn’t spare expres-
sive adjectives, describing Bron as “affable,” “heavy-
set, but not gross,” “potent,” “untidy,” “jovial,” and
“shrewd,” and calling him an “able Russian financier”
with “all the emphasis at his booming command.”
When Bron took over as chairman of Amtorg in 1927,
sales of Soviet goods to the United States amounted
to a mere 0.3 percent of American imports, and total
Soviet purchases in the U.S. amounted to only 1.15
percent of exports by all American companies.10 This
was soon to change. In a statement issued shortly after
his arrival in the U.S., Bron emphasized: “Industrial
leaders in the Soviet Union are fully awake to the value
of utilizing American technical and industrial skill to
assist in developing the rich natural resources of the
country and promoting its industrialization.”11 As for
the U.S. government, it was holding an ambiguous
position. On the one hand, the Coolidge administra-
tion announced that it would not formally recognize
the Soviet government and imposed various restric-
tions on trade with the U.S.S.R., but on the other
hand, it did not prevent private entrepreneurs from
entering into business relationships with the Soviets.
Such was the thorny situation when Saul G. Bron
entered the scene.
Bron’s arrival in the U.S. nearly coincided with the Brit-
ish government’s breaking of diplomatic and trade rela-
tions with the U.S.S.R. following Scotland Yard’s raid of
Arcos in London on May 12, 1927. This event profound-
ly affected Soviet-American trade relations, as well. Nev-
er before had the American press published so eagerly
and fully any news about Soviet-American trade, with
over 200 national and local newspapers quoting Bron’s
statement about the prospects of this trade.12 “The So-
viet indus trial program, the increase in orders placed
here, and the curtailment of trade with Britain, all show
the direc tion to be taken by Soviet trade with the Unit-
ed States,” predicted Bron in his statement to the press,
explaining that the break with England would facilitate
the effort by Soviet industrialists to trade directly with
American rms, through the authorized trading com-
panies in the U.S., such as Amtorg, eliminating the Eu-
ropean middle-man, and to enter into “closer relations
with the American technical world.”13
“A ruble in the hand”— plus electrification of the
whole country
Less than one year after Bron’s arrival in the U.S., a
new peak in trade between the United States and the
U.S.S.R. had been reached. By the end of March 1928,
the total trade was estimated at $80,000,000, against
$34,000,000 for the corresponding six months the year
before.14 A year later, under the headline “A Ruble in
the Hand,” Time wrote: “It is not so many years since
‘Bolshevik’ was a popular synonym for a low, rufanly
fellow and ‘ruble’—for the ultimate in worthless money.
But though the U.S. Department of State remains un-
Industrial Archeology Volume 37, Numbers 1 and 2, 2011
88
aware of the existence of the Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics, U.S. industry is now inclined to believe that
Russians habitually pay their bills and that a ruble in the
hand is as good as 51½¢ in the bank.” Time listed the
contracts with American corporations recently signed
by Amtorg. Besides Albert Kahn, Inc.,15 these included
Hugh L. Cooper and Company, Inc., for a $100 million
hydroelectric power plant, Dneprostroi, then the larg-
est in the world; Freyn Engineering for design of steel
mills; Stuart, James & Cooke for building and equip-
ping coal mines; E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Nitro-
gen Engineering for construction of fertilizer factories;
and other major American companies.16 (gure 2)
Time’s list was oddly missing two extremely important
contracts with the International General Electric Com-
pany (I.G.E.): one signed by Bron on May 24, 1929, for
assistance in the development of the electrical power
industry, and an earlier, highly signicant six-year con-
tract he negotiated with General Electric’s chairman,
Owen D. Young, I.G.E. president Clark Minor, and
I.G.E. director, S.A. Trone (the latter had experience
in managing hydroelectric projects in pre-revolution-
ary Russia).17 Under this contract, signed on October
9, 1928, I.G.E. would establish a technical bureau in
Moscow to supervise the installation of the equipment
and maintain direct contacts with Soviet electrical proj-
ects. The contract also set an important precedent by
Figure 2. Signing contract: sitting left to right, Albert Kahn; Saul
G. Bron, President of Amtorg; standing left to right, N. Ol’khovsky,
attorney at Amtorg; Moritz Kahn, and J. Michaels, attorney at
Amtorg. Detroit, 9 January 1930. Photo courtesy Albert Kahn
Associates, Inc.
Figure 3. Signing contract for hydraulic turbines and generators for
Dnieper River Hydroelectric Power Plant (DneproGES), 1929: sitting
left to right, Col. Thomas B. Whitted, Vice-President of NewportNews
Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co.; H.H. Dewey, Vice-President of
International General Electric Co.; Saul G. Bron, Chairman of
Amtorg; A.V. Winter, Chief Engineer; and Col. L. Cooper, Consulting
Engineer for Dneprostroi. Economic Review of the Soviet Union 4, no. 7
(1 April 1929): 131.
providing for ve-year credit for purchases of electri-
cal equipment up to $26,000,000, with only a 25 per-
cent down payment. Finally, the contract provided for
settlement by the end of six years of G.E.’s $1.75 mil-
lion claim against the Soviet government (the value of
its interests in Russia that were nationalized after the
revolution) achieved by charging “supplementary inter-
est” over the rate normally extended by the company
to its best customers. (Although the interest rate was
higher than G.E. might have required of another buyer,
it was much lower than the Soviets had until then re-
ceived elsewhere on long-term credit.) This clause had
special signicance since the refusal to pay Americans
about $800 million for conscated property and pre-
revolution debts remained the main reason for the U.S.
administration’s unwillingness to recognize the U.S.S.R.
and for American banks’ refusal to extend credits and
loans critical for the further development of Soviet-
American trade.18 (gure 3)
The importance of the General Electric contract in So-
viet industrialization is hard to overestimate. It was a key
element in carrying out the electrication plan of the
Soviet Union, GOELRO.19 In addition to the company’s
involvement in the major electrication projects in
the U.S.S.R., including Dneproges,20 and the electricity
generated by G.E. equipment in Soviet power stations,
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”
9
thousands of G.E. motors and other electrical equip-
ment were used in Soviet plants and factories all over
the country. No signicant branch of Soviet industry de-
veloped in the 1930s without assistance from the Gen-
eral Electric Company.21
Interest in American technical achievements in the
U.S.S.R., according to Bron, was so keen, even among
the general public, that the words “modern” and “Amer-
ican” had become virtually synonymous, and modern-
ization of Soviet industry became practically equivalent
to “Americanization of industry.”22 Despite the decline
in the total volume of Soviet foreign trade during that
period, in the 1927–28 scal year, the volume of Soviet-
American trade totaled about $120,000,000, compared
to $92,600,000 for 1926–27 and $48,000,000 for 1913.23
Commenting on this remarkable growth in trade be-
tween the two countries in the absence of a formal po-
litical or economic agreement, Louis Fischer wrote in
1930 that “the greatest improvement in Russia’s foreign
position during 1928 and 1929 was the favorable trend
of relations with the United States. In the absence of
diplomatic relations, a kind of extra-diplomatic rela-
tions has come into existence which are occasionally as
satisfactory as some of the Soviet Union’s usual diplo-
matic contacts with European countries.”24
Ford: “Helping the Russians to help themselves”
Following the historic agreement with Albert Kahn and
groundbreaking contract and settlement with General
Electric, Bron secured numerous other contracts with
leading American companies. But the main focus re-
mained the tractor and automobile industries. Just as
the domestic tractor industry at the onset of the Five-
Year Plan in 1928 was practically non-existent, the con-
dition of the auto industry was rudimentary and the
system of highways insignicant, considering the enor-
mous expanse of the country. “Mud is knee deep, bridg-
es are damaged, horses are exhausted, and the drivers
strain themselves so much that one might think they
are trying to drag their own cart,” admitted U.S.S.R. in
Construction, an illustrated Soviet propaganda maga-
zine.25 There were only two pre-revolution auto facto-
ries: the AMO factory in Moscow, built during WWI and
equipped with American machinery, which was produc-
ing 600 trucks, and the Yaroslavl factory, with annual
output of 200–300 three-ton trucks.26 “If we do not de-
velop our automobile industry, we are threatened with
the heaviest losses, if not defeats, in a future war,” wrote
Pravda on July 20, 1927.
On July 13, 1928, the Soviet Council on Labor and
Defense (STO) determined to develop an automobile
industry in the U.S.S.R. When deciding on the type of
automobile, American models were to be considered
rst and foremost, with two criteria in mind: 1) the fu-
ture Soviet automobile must have the lowest cost and
simplest design, and 2) considering the state of Russian
roads, it must be the hardiest vehicle possible. A special-
ly-appointed commission––headed by the vice mayor
of the Moscow City Council, M.I. Rogov, and including
M.L. Sorokin, the director of Moscow Automobile Trust
(Avtotrest), and I.A. Khalepsky––was instructed that the
supplier of component parts must furnish a complete
set of working drawings for the chosen model and, in
exchange for the massive order (6–7 million rubles a
year for 3–4 years), would provide technical assistance
in construction of a new plant and its further opera-
tion.27 On August 30, 1928, Bron brought the Rogov
commission to the U.S. The next day’s New York Times
mentioned the commission among the passengers ar-
riving on the Mauretania and quoted them as saying
that they came to study the tractor and truck industry
with a view to building plants in Russia. “The program
in which they are interested calls for an expenditure of
$40,000,000,” wrote the Times, also quoting the Russians
as saying that they were mostly interested in trucks and
tractors because their people were too poor for plea-
sure vehicles.28
After a year-long study, on March 4, 1929, VSNKh cre-
ated the state automobile trust, Avtostroi, to facilitate
development of the automotive industry, and on April 6
of the same year it decided to build another industrial
giant, an automobile plant 250 miles east of Moscow,
near Nizhny Novgorod (soon renamed as Gorky).29 The
plant would have the capacity to produce 100,000 au-
tomobiles per year by the end of 1932. At the time of
this decision, the U.S.S.R., with its rapidly growing in-
dustries, possessed only 20,000 cars and trucks––half of
them not in working condition, amounting to 5 percent
of the trafc on Soviet roads.30 It was no wonder then
that Moscow was “thrilled” by the news from New York
that Ford was considering technical assistance to the
Russian automobile industry and was actually advocat-
ing recognition of the Soviet government. “Cheap mass
production is a Soviet goal, more precious from the
practical standpoint than world revolution,” the New
York Times’ Walter Duranty reported from Moscow. In
Soviet eyes, Ford was “the arch-mogul of that achieve-
ment.” Reporting her impressions of Russia ten years
after the October Revolution, the New York Times corre-
Industrial Archeology Volume 37, Numbers 1 and 2, 2011
10
spondent, Anne O’Hare McCormick, wrote: “The word
for industrialization in Russia is Americanization, and
the passion to Ford-ize the Soviet Union is even stron-
ger than the passion to communize it.”31
But Bron’s task in Dearborn was not easy. Getting Albert
Kahn on board certainly “broke the ice” and even left
Ford feeling somewhat left out, as he had de facto relin-
quished his interest in the Soviet tractor industry.32 The
idea of “helping the Russians to help themselves” evi-
dently was more attractive to Ford than building a plant
as a concession, as had been offered to him in 1926.33
(Just as he had feared, most of the foreign concessions
in the U.S.S.R. were cancelled at the end of the decade.)
But Ford certainly still remembered the scathing 1926
report by his experts and the failed attempt to offer him
at that time a contract to build a tractor plant as a conces-
sion, and a more recent attempt to approach Ford had
been a complete asco. The Soviet commission that had
arrived in Dearborn in early 1928 seemed to have had lit-
tle idea of how to conduct negotiations, especially since
none of its six members could speak English. As Ford’s
production director, Charles Sorensen, remembered,
“Not only words had to be translated, but working princi-
ples of private enterprise had to be explained to uncom-
prehending Communists. I might just as well have been
talking to a delegation from Mars.” After two months of
tiresome discussions, the delegation left without reach-
ing any agreement. “Much to my surprise,” continued
Sorensen, “another Soviet commission came over in the
later part of 1928.”34 Besides Bron, this group included
vice chairman of the VSNKh, Valery I. Mezhlauk, and
chairman of the State Bank of the U.S.S.R., A.L. Shein-
man, dispatched by Stalin to strengthen Bron’s position
in the negotiations by demonstrating that he was fully au-
thorized to make a major nancial commitment and that
the Soviets meant business.35
Nevertheless, the negotiations moved slowly and since
the outcome was not obvious, Bron continued the nego-
tiations he had started in 1928 with the General Motors
Company, which seemed to be open to the concession
scenario and to providing credit.36 Stalin watched the
progress of both negotiations with great impatience. He
instructed Bron that the Soviet Government would pre-
fer Ford, but that the absence of credit was an obstacle.
General Motors’ vehicles, on the other hand, cost more
and the company was less inclined to take full responsi-
bility for construction of the future plant. On February
8, 1929, he sent an urgent coded telegram to Amtorg:
Figure 4. After signing contract for technical assistance in building
the Nizhnii Novgorod (Gorky) Automobile Plant: left to right,
Valery I. Mezhlauk, Vice Chairman of the Supreme Council of
the National Economy of the USSR; Henry Ford; Saul G. Bron,
President of Amtorg. Dearborn, Mich., 31 May 1929. Photo
courtesy of the Bron family.
“Greatly displeased with the delay in the negotiations
on the auto plant. Command to speed up the business
and report the results of negotiations with [General]
Motors.” And on February 11: “We repeat. Command
acceleration in negotiations with Motors not to miss the
construction season. Command regular information on
the progress of negotiations with Ford and Motors.”37
On May 31, 1929, after complicated negotiations and
despite the absence of ofcial relations between the two
countries (and thus without full legal protection for
American entrepreneurs), the largest Soviet contract
with an American rm was signed by Henry Ford, Ford
Motor Company Vice-President Peter E. Martin, Saul G.
Bron for Amtorg, and Valery I. Mezhlauk on behalf of
VSNKh for assistance in building near Nizhny Novgorod
a colossal automobile plant with projected annual ca-
pacity of 70,000 trucks and 30,000 cars. (gure 4) The
agreement was to run for nine years, including techni-
cal cooperation between the Ford Motor Company and
Avtostroi for ve years after the completion of the plant,
which was expected to go into operation within four
years. It involved the purchase of $30,000,000 worth
of Ford cars and parts with in four years and specied
VSNKh’s desire “to erect in the U.S.S.R. an automobile
plant or plants for the manufacture of passenger auto-
mobiles similar to the Ford Model ‘A’ and commercial
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”
11
trucks similar to the Ford Model ‘AA’ with all improve-
ments which may be embodied therein by the Ford
Company during the term of this agreement.”
The contract also granted VSNKh the right to use all
present and future Ford patents and inventions for
materials, component parts, and methods of produc-
tion for these models. It also granted VSNKh the full
rights to make, sell, and use Ford units throughout the
U.S.S.R. and to make and use all River Rouge plant
tools and machinery. Further, Ford agreed to permit
access to his plants in Detroit and Dearborn to up to
fifty Soviet engineers, foreman and other employees of
VSNKh per year, “for the purpose of learning the meth-
ods and practice of manufacture and assembly in the
Company’s plants,” and to send his own “experienced
and competent technical personnel” to Russia to help
install the equipment and train the working force.38
Nizhny Novgorod:
“Where Russian Fords are produced”
In the beginning Ford “A” cars and “AA” trucks were
assembled, using parts shipped from Detroit, at two
smaller prototype plants (assembly plants No. 1 and 2):
a conversion of the old Gudok Oktyabrya (“Whistle of
October”) factory in Kanavino near Nizhny Novgorod
for assembling 12,000 vehicles a year, and a new KIM
plant in Moscow for assembling 24,000 thousand ve-
hicles. Both plants would be designed by the Albert
Kahn rm. In mid-August 1929 the rm mailed detailed
drawings of the KIM plant from Detroit to Russia so that
construction could start before the cold weather. As
was done for the tractor plant in Stalingrad, the struc-
tural steel elements were prefabricated in the U.S. by
McClintic-Marshall Products and disassembled down to
nuts and bolts for shipment to Moscow. On February
1, 1930, the rst Soviet Ford “AA” truck, a 1.5-ton polu-
torka, rolled off the conveyor belt of the Assembly Plant
No. 1 (Gudok Oktyabrya) in Kanavino. (gure 5) On
November 6 of that year Assembly Plant No. 2 (KIM) in
Moscow began delivering the same model.39 (gure 6)
Meanwhile, the Ford company provided complete sets
of working drawings and specications for the cars
and trucks, furnished a general layout and technologi-
cal project of the main plant in Nizhny Novgorod, and
shipped 72,000 knocked-down Fords for assembly dur-
ing the rst four years of the plant’s operation, after
Figure 5. First Soviet Ford AA truck leaving Assembly Plant No. 1
“Gudok Oktyabrya” in Nizhni Novgorod, 1930. Photo by Max Alpert,
courtesy of RIA Novosti.
Figure 6. Conveyor belt at Assembly Plant No. 2 (KIM) in Moscow,
1931. Economic Review of the Soviet Union 6, no. 4 (15 February 1931).
which it would gradually switch to Soviet-made compo-
nents.40 The architectural and engineering design and
on-site construction supervision of the main plant in
Nizhny Novgorod, as well as of a nearby city to house
35,000 workers and their families, was done by the Aus-
tin Company of Cleveland, Ohio.
Following a visit by Austin engineers to the proposed
site, the company signed the initial contract with Av-
tostroi on August 23, 1929.41 This contract was supple-
mented by the typical three-way Amtorg contract signed
Industrial Archeology Volume 37, Numbers 1 and 2, 2011
12
by Saul G. Bron with the Austin vice president, George
A. Bryant, and the head of Avtostroi, S.S. Dybets, on Oc-
tober 30, 1929.42 It was the largest single foreign contract
awarded by the U.S.S.R., for which the Austin Company
was to receive $40,000,000 in gold. If the work was n-
ished in fteen months, as the company promised (the
Soviet preliminary calculation was four years), it would
receive a bonus. The Soviet organizations Avtostroi
and Metallostroi were to supply construction materials,
equipment, and the workforce.
Over 100 Austin staff in Cleveland worked on the draw-
ings during the winter of 1929–1930, while 120 Soviet
engineers and technicians, stationed in Dearborn and
assisted by Ford engineers, were preparing specica-
tions for equipment. The Soviet workers occupied of-
ces on the second oor of a building on Miller Road,
within the River Rouge complex, and had access to ev-
erything that went on there during the next six years,
until 1935. So much a part of the Ford organization had
they become that they even had stationery printed with
the Ford Motor Company address. Ironically, in 1932,
in the midst of the Great Depression, when Commu-
nist “hunger marchers” stormed the plant, the Soviet
engineers, whose number had grown from fty a year
to almost four times that number, watched the demon-
stration from their ofce windows and stayed on to con-
tinue their study of Ford methods.43
On May 1, 1930, the rst Austin engineers, including
George A. Bryant and Allan Austin, son of the com-
pany president, Wilbert J. Austin, arrived on the site
of the future “Ford” plant, a deserted stretch of land
between the rivers Volga and Oka, near the village of
Monastyrka, twelve kilometers from Nizhny Novgorod.
The company aimed at having as much work done as
possible during the summer months, when the days in
the area are long and the climate is very much like the
northeastern United States. Winter conditions are quite
different. (gure 7) From November until April the sun
is up for only six hours and the temperature is always
below freezing, reaching 22 degrees below zero Fahren-
heit, with frost up to six feet deep, presenting many con-
struction problems not encountered in milder climates.
The construction process was also ridden with problems
caused by the lack of skilled workers and conicts be-
tween the Austin Company and its Soviet counterparts,
and between the counterparts themselves.44 But despite
all these difculties, by November 1, 1931, just a few
days before the fteen-month deadline, the automobile
plant in Nizhny Novgorod was mostly completed. The
last Austin engineer left the site on December 1, 1931,
and on January 1, 1932, the manufacture of automobile
parts began, supervised by American machine opera-
tors. (gures 8–10)
Originally called Nizhny Novgorod Automobile Plant
(NAZ), in 1933 it was renamed Gorky Automobile Plant
(GAZ), and from 1935 to 1957, the Molotov Automo-
bile Plant (ZIM). It was the largest automobile plant
in Europe, second only to Ford’s River Rouge plant,
designed by Albert Kahn, after which it was modeled
(as had been stipulated by Ford). It consisted of twenty
completely equipped structures with steel or reinforced
concrete frames, masonry and steel sash walls, insulated
wood roofs, and wood block oors. It covered an area
of 600 acres, with approximately 3,000,000 square feet
of oor space, and was surrounded by a modern sys-
tem of reinforced concrete highways. The dimensions
of the largest structure, the assembly building, all steel
and glass, which included six assembly lines, was 1,800-
ft. long and 350-ft. wide. The cost of the plant with
equipment was $120 million. Its projected capacity was
94,000 1.5-ton trucks and 50,000 cars a year. (This goal,
though, was never fully achieved.)45
The rst truck rolled off the NAZ assembly line on Janu-
ary 29, 1932. (gure 11) By the time the construction
and equipment of the plant were completed, a total of
102 American rms had supplied tools and machinery.
A later memo by the Austin company, describing the
Nizhny Novgorod project and listing all the machinery,
equipment, and their manufacturers, stated:
Figure 7. Building of Nizhnii Novgorod (Gorky) Automobile Plant.
USSR in Construction, no. 1 (1933).
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”
13
Figure 9. Panoramic view of Nizhnii Novgorod (Gorky) Automobile Plant. USSR in Construction, no. 1 (1933).
Figure 8. Automobile Plant and Worker’s City in Nizhnii Novgorod (Gorky).
General plan, rendering by The Austin Company, 1929. Photo courtesy of the Western Reserve Historical Society.
Industrial Archeology Volume 37, Numbers 1 and 2, 2011
14
Figure 10. Construction of assembly shop at Nizhnii Novgorod
(Gorky) Automobile Plant. USSR in Construction, no. 3 (1933).
Figure 12. Assembling T-70 tanks at Molotov (Gorky) Automobile
Plant, 1942. Photo courtesy of the State Political Archive of the
Nizhny Novgorod Region.
Figure 11. First Ford AA truck rolling off the main conveyor at Gorky
Automobile Plant, 1932. Photo from the GAZ Group archive.
. . . [A]lthough, at no time, during the construction period, was
there any serious discussion of other possible use than for its
original intended purpose, it seems logical to assume that such
a well equipped plant—just as has recently been done in the
U.S.A.—could easily be converted to the manufacture of many
implements of war.46
As early as 1935 the plant started production of an ar-
mored truck which would be extensively used during
WWII. In 1935, it manufactured a number of T-38 light
tanks and in 1938, several BT tanks. During the war the
plant switched almost fully to military production. The
Ford AA engines and their Soviet analogues GAZ-AA
and GAZ-M were installed in T-37, T-38, and T-40 tanks.
In June 1941the plant was making T-60 light tanks and
later T-70s. In October 1943 the plant switched to mak-
ing the SU-76 self-propelled vehicles used for anti-tank
artillery, producing 380 of them per month by Septem-
ber 1944. Components of Ford’s Model AA were used
in the three-axle BA-I armored cars, made at Gudok
Oktyabrya in Kanavino, and in production of tankettes
at the KIM plant in Moscow, where its engine and trans-
mission were also used in building the T-41 and T-37
amphibious tanks.47 (gure 12)
Great Depression and “Red Business”
The arrangement with Ford created a powerful impres-
sion on the American business and political world, serv-
ing to convince a large number of hesitant rms that
the Russians were good customers. Soviet-American
trade, facilitated by Amtorg under Bron’s leadership,
more than doubled during 1928 compared with 1927
and reached a high of $128,793,000 in the scal year
1929–1930.48 According to the U.S. Department of
Commerce, by early 1930 exports to only the European
part of the U.S.S.R. ranked sixth among the markets
for American products, compared to twentieth place in
1928, with industrial equipment amounting to 80 per-
cent of all purchases.49 By March 1, 1930, 1,700 Ameri-
can rms sold goods to Amtorg, more than 400 rms
were involved in an ongoing trade with the U.S.S.R.,
and 104 technical assistance contracts with foreign
companies, most of them American, were in operation
in Soviet industries.50 (Only a year earlier Germany had
held the leading position in the U.S.S.R.’s imports.) In
many cases these contracts were saving American jobs,
and after the beginning of the Great Depression the
U.S. government was especially reluctant to block mil-
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”
15
lions of dollars in purchases from American companies
promised by Bron following the Soviet break with Great
Britain. If the U.S. government did not respond favor-
ably, it could be logically expected that the Soviet buy-
ers would turn to Germany which had the advantage of
proximity as well as regular diplomatic relations and a
trade treaty that included extensive government-backed
long-term credits.
American businesses, concerned about keeping their
factories in operation, were eager to tap into vast So-
viet markets despite the continuing warnings by the
State Department that due to the lack of diplomatic
representation in the U.S.S.R., the U.S. government
was unable to provide security to Americans conduct-
ing business there, and any companies transacting such
business “must do so at their own risk.”51 Feinstein de-
scribed that in 19291930 representatives of the larg-
est American companies “cooled their heels” in the re-
ception rooms of Amtorg with the hope of obtaining
contracts.52 “What are we going to do about the Russian
menace anyway? Shall we stop selling them machinery
and equipment?” asked vice president of General Mo-
tors, James D. Mooney. “I visited a great variety of mines,
factories and powerhouses in Russia and I saw very little
machinery and equipment that could not be duplicated
out of European countries, and that these countries
would not be glad to sell Russia.”53
As all Amtorg’s commitments on purchases were met,
the manufacturers extended direct credits, euphe-
mistically termed “scheduled partial payments.” The
contracts of I.G.E. and General Motors, for example,
allowed that payment for goods would be made in 25
percent installments at the time of delivery, and then six
months, one year, and eighteen months after delivery.54
Even though the U.S. government was less exible when
a proposed deal would involve credits rather than pro-
curements, long-term credits were also becoming more
frequent, and ofcials had no complaints as long as the
arrangements did not turn into loans.55 Ninety percent
of the orders placed in 1929 involved credits. Besides
the ve-year credit Bron secured from I.G.E., complete
equipment for a power plant for the Stalingrad Trac-
tor Plant was ordered on a ve-year credit from the
Westinghouse Electric International and International
Combustion Engineering.56 “Not only has the number
of American rms granting credits to Soviet purchas-
ing organizations increased,” Bron was quoted in the
Soviet press, “but the terms have become more favor-
able. Credits of three years or more were received by
Amtorg from a number of leading rms during 1929.
Credits for one year or more were extended by nearly
200 companies.”57
On September 23, 1929, in “Big Red Buyers,” Time
wrote: “Reviewing the Soviet-U.S. trade situation last
week, big, jovial, loosely clad Comrade Saul Bron,
Chairman of the Amtorg Trading Corp., observed that
his organization alone purchased for the Soviet Gov-
ernment two years ago $2,500,000 worth of U.S. goods,
bought $11,000,000 last year, is buying $25,000,000
worth in 1929.” According to Bron, more than 2,000
American firms were trading with Soviet Russia by that
time. Time also commented:
[W]hen he first came to Manhattan three years ago, cheerful
Comrade Bron used to ask business acquaintances why the U.S.
did not recognize Soviet Russia. Today he considers that ques-
tion of academic and rather secondary importance. Commercial
recognition of the Soviet Union by U.S. industry is now whole-
hearted, enthusiastic.
Bron’s correspondence with Moscow, though, makes it
clear that he did not consider the issue of recognition
to be of secondary importance. However, as he must
have realized early on, it was rather difcult to balance
the promotion of Soviet commercial interests with in-
volvement in the pursuit of the Soviet political goals.
In December 1927, while advising on the prospects for
normalization of Soviet-American relations, Bron ex-
plained in a letter to the Commissar for Foreign Affairs,
G.V. Chicherin, and Commissar for Foreign Trade, A.I.
Mikoyan, that the sensitive position of Amtorg in the
United States did not allow for explicit engagement in
political discussions.58 Although he was a participant in
many such discussions behind the scenes, Bron’s main
focus remained on trade and technical assistance con-
tracts with American rms, which he believed would
inevitably pave the road to recognition. In 1929, refer-
ring to the Department of State’s positive statement on
the status of Soviet-American relations in connection
with Ford’s contract on the one hand, and the Hoover
administration’s philosophy of “development of good
business relations and cultural understanding in the ab-
sence of recognition” on the other, he wrote that “the
serious public here understands better and better the
absurdity and inconsistency of the ofcial position. Do-
ing big business is the only method of bringing this ab-
surdity to the logical limit.”59
And big business he did. In his book Soviet Economic De-
velopment and American Business, published in New York
Industrial Archeology Volume 37, Numbers 1 and 2, 2011
16
in early 1930,60 Bron assessed the results of the rst years
of the Five-Year Plan. Reviewing the book, an American
critic wrote that he was especially impressed by “its reve-
lation of the extent to which American business is aiding
the Russians, in a technical and material way, adapting
the methods of American mass-production to a com-
munistic state of society.”61 Using this as the basis of a
plea for U.S. recognition of the Soviet Union and for es-
tablishing normal trade relations, Bron cited the three-
fold increase in trade from 1927 to 1929, with American
exports to the U.S.S.R. during the rst nine months of
1929 valued at $91,768,531. According to Bron, in ad-
dition to the forty-four leading American companies
providing technical assistance to Soviet Russia (as was
reported that year by Amtorg to the Department of
Commerce), more than fty additional technical assis-
tance contracts in almost all important industries were
under negotiation. Three years after Bron took ofce
in 1927, with still no diplomatic relations between the
two countries, the Soviet Union was America’s seventh-
largest customer and its largest foreign purchaser of in-
dustrial machinery.62
However, investments by Americans in the development
of Soviet Russia were still impossible, because the U.S.
government banned foreign countries that had not set-
tled their debt to the United States from offering securi-
ties for sale in the U.S. Quoting Bron’s book, Time wrote
under the heading “Everybody’s Red Business”:
Comrade Bron’s logical conclusion: The U.S. will sooner or
later, and probably sooner, extend full diplomatic recognition
to Soviet Russia, because American manufacturers and finan-
ciers are beginning to realize that the real possibilities of Soviet-
American trade cannot be attained under the present abnormal
relations.63
Bron’s conclusion echoed Moritz Kahn’s belief expressed
in his October 1929 letter from Russia to Albert Kahn:
“Although communism can thrive in Russia, it can never
thrive in America, because the economic conditions
of the two peoples differ so radically. But I believe that
sooner or later America is bound to recognize Russia,
and if so, then why not sooner than later?”64
It would take another three years before diplomatic
relations between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. were es-
tablished in 1933.65 By that time Kahn architects had
already left Russia and Bron had been transferred to
London, where, in early 1930, after diplomatic relations
between Great Britain and the U.S.S.R. were resumed
in October 1929, he was appointed chairman of Arcos
and head of the U.S.S.R. Trade Delegation. In review-
ing the development of Soviet-American trade before
his departure, Bron said:
The rapid growth of Soviet-American trade is shown by the fact
that the business of the Amtorg has doubled since 1927. From a
comparatively insignificant organization formed six years ago,
the Amtorg Trading Corporation has developed into probably
the largest exporting organization for American industrial and
agricultural equipment. In leaving this country I wish to say that
it has been my privilege to work with a number of your leading
men in the field of business and it is, to a great extent, their
wholehearted cooperation that has made possible the notable
development of Soviet-American business relations.66
“What more do we need as business men?”
After a successful term as head of Amtorg in New York,
Bron was energetically pursuing a similar policy in
Great Britain, and by June 1930 had already negotiat-
ed several large contracts. Most important, the British
government had agreed to guarantee $150,000,000 in
credits for business with the U.S.S.R. during the next
two years. On April 11, 1930, soon after the Anglo-Sovi-
et Trade agreement was signed, Bron signed contracts
with Imperial Chemical Industries to supply fertilizers
and with Armstrong-Vickers to supply tractors—both
on a credit basis. On November 17, 1930, he signed an
agreement with the Associated British Machine Tool
Makers (the largest contract this company had ever en-
tered into with a single buyer), and on April 28, 1931,
with Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Company for tech-
nical assistance in the manufacture of steam turbo-
generators and industrial motors. At a luncheon at the
Russo-British Chamber of Commerce, held on July 17,
1930, British Secretary for Overseas Trade, George Gil-
lett, quoted Bron reporting that the value of manufac-
tured products exported by the United Kingdom to the
Soviet Union during the rst half of 1930 was double
the 1929 exports.
In Fighting the Red Trade Menace, H.R. Knickerbocker
recounted Bron’s visit to Manchester shortly after his
arrival in England. He described Manchester as “a per-
fect example of a divided personality” typical of Western
business groups when brought in commercial contact
with Soviet Russia, “with its lure and with its threat,”
pointing out that Manchester was caught in the tension
between the manufacturers of textile machinery, hap-
py with their prot from sales of their machines to the
U.S.S.R., and the textile manufacturers, fearing losses
from increased Soviet competition resulting from the
export of these machines. According to Knickerbocker,
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”
17
it was proof that “Manchester wanted to have its cake
and eat it too.” (The last observation could probably
also describe the U.S. State Department’s attitude to-
wards Amtorg’s procurements in the U.S.)
In welcoming Bron at the crowded session of the Man-
chester Chamber of Commerce devoted to Russia for
the rst time since before WWI, the Chamber’s presi-
dent, Herbert W. Lee, stated that Manchester now be-
lieved that the potential for safe and protable trade
with Russia had signicantly improved and that “if Rus-
sia places large orders, if she keeps to the spirit as well
as the letter of her contract, what more do we need as
business men?”
Continued Knickerbocker:
Bron, be it said, has accomplished a job reminding one that
the Soviet foreign trade monopoly not only has all the well-
known advantages of a trust but disposes over diplomatic tal-
ent of a high order. His task was to take over an organization
“Arcos,” that had been literally dynamited out of existence by
British authorities in the famous raid that led to the break in
diplomatic relations in 1927, and as that organization’s head to
regain the confidence of the British trading public. Plainly, no
easy assignment, but Bron has achieved something when a Man-
chester business man says of him as he did to me, “He made a
good impression, an honest man; a capable fellow who puts his
case well.”
As we now know, the British trading public’s confi-
dence would be put to the test many times during the
following decades. But at that time, in the words of
Knickerbocker, “When Lancashire textile machinery
manufacturers met Lancashire textile manufactur-
ers in the Club, the most frequent remark heard was,
‘Well, if we didn’t, somebody else would.’”
Knickerbocker concluded his book with a prophetic
analogy: “We have never experienced a ve-year plan
before. We have never witnessed the effect upon our-
selves of a nation, Communist or otherwise, operating
under a planned national economy. . . . If this is cryptic
it is because the Five-Year Plan is cryptic and only Marx-
ists claim the future can be mapped.”67
History of “History of Factories and Plants”
This mapped future, however, was not a part of the
personnel policy of one Marxist named Stalin. Despite
Bron’s achievements in the U.S. and Great Britain to-
ward the industrialization of his country, on September
20, 1931, the Politburo adopted a decision to recall
Bron back to the U.S.S.R.68 In Stalin’s eyes Bron, like
Kahn, had fullled his mission. The Soviet ambassador
in London informed His Majesty’s government that
“Mr. Saul G. Bron has left London on a temporary visit
to Moscow.”69 He never came back.
Bron’s recall coincided with correspondence between
L.M. Kaganovich70 and Stalin about the selection of an
editorial board for the monumental project, “History
of Factories and Plants,” initiated by Maxim Gorky who
wrote in his article about the project that “to better un-
derstand the present, we need to learn about the past.”71
The project’s objective was to take over the “amateur”
initiatives that had started sprouting at the factories
and, as described in the decisions of the Politburo and
the Central Committee of September 5 and October 10,
1931, “to portray the entire picture of development of
old and new plants and their role in the country’s econo-
my.”72 The original list of chief editors for this ambitious
series on the history of industrial enterprises across the
U.S.S.R., including all the industrial giants built under
the First Five-Year Plan, was prepared by N.I. Bukharin
and was comprised of well-known Soviet writers, indus-
trial leaders, and several party leaders. Kaganovich pre-
sented to Stalin his own list, which excluded Bukharin
and added Mezhlauk and G.M. Krzhizhanovskii (then
head of the energy commission at the Commissariat for
Heavy Industry). But Stalin removed both Mezhlauk
and Krzhizhanovskii and suggested adding more high-
ranking state ofcials and members of the Central Com-
mittee, including Kaganovich himself.73 This important
project could not be left without close ideological cen-
sorship and Party control. Publication of the series was
entrusted to the Association of State Book and Magazine
Publishers, OGIZ, founded in 1930 and subordinated
to the Council of People’s Commissars (Sovnarkom),
thus establishing the state monopoly over publishing in
the U.S.S.R. By putting high-ranking Party and state of-
cials in charge of the “History of Factories and Plants”
project, Stalin de facto started the process of the ideo-
logical monopolization of Soviet history, as well.
After his return to Moscow, Bron remained for some
time a member of the Collegium of the Commissariat
for Foreign Trade. He and his family even moved in at
2/20 Seramovich Street, known as Dom pravitel’stva
(“Government House”), the recently built residence of
the upper echelons of the Soviet hierarchy described
by Yuri Trifonov in his novel, House on the Embankment.
In 1933 Bron was appointed chairman of the Chamber
of Commerce of the U.S.S.R., mostly a ceremonial posi-
Industrial Archeology Volume 37, Numbers 1 and 2, 2011
18
tion, but in 1935 he was further demoted and given a
job as a deputy to the head of OGIZ, Mikhail P. Tom-
sky,74 a far cry from his position as president of Amtorg
or head of the trade delegation in London.
Returning from his trip to Russia in 1936, the head of
the Trades Union Congress in Great Britain, Sir Wal-
ter Citrine, described his meeting in OGIZ with Tom-
sky, who had been recently deposed as the head of the
Trade Unions of the U.S.S.R., and Bron, whom he had
met a good deal in England: “We had a long chat to-
gether, in the course of which both impressed upon me
that the Revolution had proved worth while.” Citrine
was amazed that both Tomsky and Bron were so enthusi-
astic despite their own bitter experience. “Then again,”
added Citrine, “I did not know what the position of our
interpreter was. He might conceivably be a GPU man,
and they might quite well know this.”75
Citrine was right; if there was a place in Soviet Russia
where one could hide from the Stalin-OGPU-NKVD
omniscient eye, OGIZ certainly was not such a place. On
August 23, 1936, during the rst Moscow show trial,76 af-
ter realizing that he was about to be arrested, Tomsky
committed suicide. Bron then remained in charge of
OGIZ until the end of October 1937. One of his respon-
sibilities was to oversee the publication of the “History
of Factories and Plants” series.
In November, the new director, Pavel F. Yudin, in line
with Stalin’s unfolding vigilance campaign against
“alien elements,” declared that OGIZ was contaminated
with members of “Trotskyist-Bukharinist, Cadet, Social
Revolutionary, Menshevik, Bundist, and German-Japa-
nese organizations,” and “traitors and spies beginning
with . . . Tomsky and Bron.” He demanded that “all this
scum be kicked out, burned out with a red-hot iron”
and ordered the heads of divisions to submit lists of all
foreigners working there, even if they had lived in the
Soviet Union for fteen years, and everybody who had
been in any opposition parties or lived abroad. This was
followed on November 5 by a memo to Stalin from the
Commissar of Defense, L.Z. Mekhlis (nicknamed “Red
Army Inquisitor”), which read: “Comrade Yudin submit-
ted a list of 29 employees. Most of them have already
been expelled from the Party or arrested. But there still
are dozens of questionable people in OGIZ who are hos-
tile to the Soviet government.” A handwritten note on
the rst page of Mekhlis’ memo read: “To Com. Yezhov.
Must arrest all this OGIZ scum. I.Stalin.”77
Bron had been arrested on October 25, 1937. (gure
13) Three months later, in January 1938, publishing
of the “History of Factories and Plants” was discontin-
ued, the editorial section of OGIZ responsible for the
project was closed, and its archive and 267 manuscripts
prepared for publication were conscated by NKVD;
much of it was destroyed.78 Only thirty manuscripts had
been published by that time. The reasons for termina-
tion of the series were complex, most immediately be-
cause editing and rewriting of the texts could not keep
up with the changes that were taking place in the So-
viet approach to history and with the disappearance of
the people, described in these texts, because of their
arrests. Gorky’s idea of the necessity of learning about
the past had given way to the Stalin ideology of revising
that past.
“Traitors, spies, wreckers, and saboteurs”
By the end of the second piatiletka, industrial develop-
ment had slowed, with industrial growth falling from
28.8 percent in 1936 to 11.8 percent in 1938.79 But Stalin
and other Soviet leaders, reluctant to acknowledge how
much the rst ve-year plan depended on foreign tech-
nical aid, refused to recognize that among the reasons
for the Soviet industrial deceleration in the mid- and
late-1930s was the nation’s inability to continue import-
ing Western technology and expertise at the high rates
of the early 1930s. Instead, they attributed the econom-
ic problems to alleged subversive activity, espionage,
and anti-Soviet conspiracy orchestrated from abroad.
Figure 13. Saul G. Bron’s photo from NKVD le after his arrest.
Lubyanka prison, Moscow, 25 October 1937. Photo courtesy of the
Bron family.
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”
19
Stalin’s remedy for all shortcomings was even greater
repression. The entire Soviet industry became impaired
by Stalin’s purges; the mass arrests and executions of
experienced managers and their replacement with in-
experienced ones disrupted production and addition-
ally contributed to the country’s industrial slowdown.80
On January 23, 1937, the second in the series of infa-
mous Moscow show trials began. It became known as a
trial of the industrial elite. Most of the accused were the
Soviet industrial leaders from the most important com-
missariats, including heavy industry, transport, energy,
and coal and chemical industries. The defendants were
accused of a conspiracy to “violently overthrow the So-
viet government” in order to “restore capitalism” and to
weaken the U.S.S.R. to bring its defeat in a future war
through “wrecking, diversionary and spying activities.”
The trial ended with death sentences for thirteen of the
accused, and long-term sentences to prison and hard
labour for four others. In February 1937, watching the
sweeping arrests and executions of industrial managers
at all Soviet plants built under his leadership, the Com-
missar of Heavy Industry, G.K. Ordzhonikidze, commit-
ted suicide.81
The situation became especially grave in the automo-
bile industry which, largely due to shortages of steel
that was badly needed for military production, did not
prove to be as successful as tractor production. To make
things worse, Ford’s contract was terminated in Novem-
ber 1934, ve years sooner than anticipated, after a suc-
cession of disagreements and in accordance with the
new Soviet policy of discontinuing foreign aid (with a
$578,000 loss to Ford). By 1935 no American special-
ists remained in Gorky to train Soviet workers to handle
the imported machinery. On October 7, 1937, as a part
of Stalin’s campaign against ”spies, wreckers, and sabo-
teurs,” Pravda ran an article accusing the Gorky plant of
“deplorable” work: the expensive imported machinery
stayed idle or was broken due to negligence and lack of
proper maintenance. (Out of fear of severe punishment
for not meeting the demands of the production plan,
Soviet foremen often kept exhausted machinery run-
ning rather than stopping an assembly line for repair.)
During the rst six months of 1938 alone, 407 special-
ists at the plant were arrested. It was not a coincidence
that so many “wreckers” and “spies” were found at the
plant which was built with the help of foreign experts
and where most of the engineers and skilled workers
went through training abroad. Virtually every Soviet
engineer who had any connection with Detroit was ar-
rested, most of them were accused of espionage. Follow-
ing the arrests, productivity plummeted.82 (A grim joke
was that if the factories had as many engineers as were
held by GPU-NKVD, they would have the job done.)
The American workers, who had come to the U.S.S.R.
in great numbers during the Depression, had been dis-
appearing from Gorky, too. By 1937 most of them had
either returned to the U.S. or been arrested. Some of
them never returned, evidently perishing in the Gulag,
while others managed to return to America only de-
cades later.83
Along with repressions against foreigners and those
who went through training in the U.S., Stalin’s machine
inevitably turned to those who facilitated Albert Kahn’s
and other westerners’ contributions to Soviet industrial
development. During the second wave of Stalin’s show
trials, those who worked at the commissariats for for-
eign trade became particularly vulnerable. Technical
intelligentsia, including highly qualied specialists who
had been trained in pre-revolutionary times or abroad,
also were among the primary targets. A prolonged stay
or frequent visits abroad and regular contacts with for-
eigners became sufcient cause for accusations of espio-
nage.84 Under the headline “Red leaders feared victims
of cleanup,” The New York Times reported on November
30, 1937, that ve high Soviet ofcials had disappeared
from pub lic life, and that among those missing was Saul
G. Bron. The news was especially alarming in light of
the 704 executions on charges of treason, spying and
sabotage during the previous four months. A dispatch
from the American Embassy in Moscow, dated Janu-
ary 7, 1938, contained a list of over a hundred promi-
nent Soviet gures who had recently suffered from the
purge, specically naming ofcials who had been con-
nected with the U.S. “through the nature of their work.”
Besides Saul G. Bron and his successor at Amtorg, Peter
A. Bogdanov, the list also included Ivan L. Arens, for-
mer Soviet Consul General in New York, and Valery I.
Mezhlauk, former vice chairman of the VSNKh.85
During the interrogations at the Lubyanka prison Bron
was initially accused of overpaying for imported ma-
chinery and of revealing in 1935 to a visiting English-
man facts about the famine in the Ukraine, repressions
against the “Trotskyites,” and other negative informa-
tion about conditions in the U.S.S.R. As interrogations
continued, the accusations grew more ominous. After
ve months in prison, on April 21, 1938, Bron was tried
in a closed session by the troika (the three-member Mili-
tary Collegium of the Supreme Court of the U.S.S.R.).
Industrial Archeology Volume 37, Numbers 1 and 2, 2011
20
According to the minutes, the trial started at 16:45 and
ended fteen minutes later, at 17:00. The sentence stat-
ed that since 1928 Bron had been “an active member
of a right-wing anti-Soviet diversionary terrorist organi-
zation and an associate of one of its leaders, Tomsky,
together with whom he was engaged in subversive ac-
tivity by publishing Trotskyite counter-revolutionary lit-
erature”; that he was “preparing a terrorist act against
Comrade Stalin”; and that he was “an agent of British
intelligence.” He was sentenced to death by ring squad
and was executed the same day. His wife, Klara Bron,
died in a labor camp for wives of “enemies of the state.”86
Saul G. Bron, the largest “Red Buyer,” was buried in a
mass grave at Kommunarka, Butovo, near Moscow, one
of the sites of mass executions during Stalin’s terror
in the 1930s–50s. (He would be posthumously reha-
bilitated by Khrushchev in 1956 but would remain “un-
touchable” by Soviet historians.) Also at Kommunarka
rest the remains of Valery I. Mezhlauk, Bron’s neighbor
at 2/20 Seramovich Street, who together with Bron
signed the contract with Ford in 1929. Bron’s two other
neighbors and his travelling companions, who in 1928
arrived with him in New York on the Mauretania, In-
nokentii A. Khalepsky and Mark L. Sorokin, lie there,
as well. It is estimated that one-third of the Government
House residents, about 700 people, including Marshal
Tukhachevsky, became victims of Stalin’s repressions.
Also buried at Kommunarka are Sergey Dyakonov, the
rst director of the Gorky Auto Plant, who received a
photograph signed “from American Ford to the Soviet
Ford”; Stepan Dybets, the head of Avtostroi, who signed
the Austin contract; and Eliazar I. Gurevich, who once
worked at the Cheliabtraktorstroi ofce in Detroit and
later became a chief engineer of the Chelyabinsk plant.
Most of the specialists and workers at the plant who
worked at 500 Griswold Street or went through train-
ing in Detroit became victims of Stalin’s repressions in
the late 1930s.87 The rst director of the Chelyabinsk
Tractor Plant, Kazimir P. Lovin, who set up the tractor
construction bureau in Detroit, and the rst directors
of the Stalingrad and Kharkov plants, V.I. Ivanov and
P.I. Svistun, were executed, too.
While the “economy axe” ended Kahn’s cooperation
with the U.S.S.R., it was a real axe that was in store for
most of his Soviet counterparts. Practically everybody
who was involved in securing the foreign aid contracts
and purchasing equipment for construction of the indus-
trial giants of the rst Soviet ve-year plan, who traveled
abroad or worked side by side with foreign specialists in
Russia, perished during Stalin’s purges. Their liquidation
helped to conceal the truth about the origins of the ear-
ly stages of accelerated industrialization in the U.S.S.R.
which was supposed to go into history as an unparalleled
achievement of the brilliant genius of the “great architect
of Communism,” Comrade Stalin. In his speech to the
Central Committee on results of the Five-Year Plan on
January 7, 1933, Stalin recited three basic forces respon-
sible for this historic achievement: the enthusiasm of the
workers, the leadership of the Party, and the advantages
of the Soviet economic system.88
“National suicide” or joint victory?
In 1944, in a conversation with the president of the
American Chamber of Commerce, Eric Johnston, Stalin
admitted that “about two-thirds of all the large indus-
trial enterprises in the Soviet Union had been built with
United States material aid or technical assistance.”89 As
this study shows, the crucial share of this aid and assis-
tance was secured by Saul G. Bron during his tenure as
chairman of Amtorg and brought to fruition during the
Albert Kahn rm’s three-year term as consulting archi-
tects to the Soviet Government,laying the foundation
for the entire Soviet automobile, tractor, and tank in-
dustries. During the following decade, the Soviet Union
accomplished what E.H. Carr later described as “a mon-
umental achievement at a monstrous price.”90 Millions
of Soviet citizens and hundreds of thousands of foreign-
ers gave their labor, and often lives, to the industrializa-
tion effort. Still, the goal was achieved. By the end of the
1930s, Soviet leaders could declare that the U.S.S.R. was
one of world’s major industrial powers, competing with
such industrial giants as the United States, Germany,
and Great Britain.91 And hundreds of industrial enter-
prises that were built in the 1930s east of the Volga River
and beyond the Urals, far from the future front line,
constituted the industrial base for military production
that would become a decisive factor in the Soviet victory
over Nazi Germany.
Albert Kahn died in 1942. Late in life he recalled, prob-
ably with a twinkle in his eye: “When I began, the real
architects would design only museums, cathedrals, capi-
tols, monuments. The ofce boy was considered good
enough to do factory buildings. I’m still that ofce boy
designing factories. I have no dignity to be impaired.”92
Being forgotten by Soviet historians did not impair his
dignity either. Sixty of Kahn’s buildings are listed in
the American National Register of Historic Places. His
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”
21
many awards included the Chevalier légion d’honneur,
a gold medal at the Paris International Exposition of
Arts and Sciences; a silver medal of the Architectural
League; and a special award by the American Institute
of Architects for his outstanding contribution to the
nation’s WWII effort, including the Chrysler Tank Ar-
senal, the Ford Willow Run Bomber Plant, and Wright
Aeronautical “Plant 7” in Wood Ridge. To some degree,
in meeting the challenge of building the defense indus-
try of his country during 1938–1942, Kahn utilized the
experience of building this industry ten years earlier for
Soviet Russia, with his plants building tanks and aircraft
“in every Allied industrial stronghold from Detroit to
Novosibirsk,” his Soviet tanks attacking the Nazi from
the East, and his Liberator bombers from the West.93
Twice in his life Kahn happened to be the right man in
the right place at the critical time. If in 1903 Detroit was
to become the center of the automotive industry, it may
have been inevitable that it would produce a new indus-
trial architecture. Yet it was the emigration of a poor
rabbi’s family from Germany to Detroit that resulted in
the Ford-Kahn collaboration—and twentieth-century
industrial architecture was born.If in 1928 Russia was
to move “from a plow-horse to a horsepower economy,”
itmay have beeninevitable that itwouldturn to Ameri-
ca for assistance. But it was the combination of two men,
both excised from Soviet history in the country they
helped to build, both Jewish, one American and one
Russian, one a capitalist who believed that “it was the
right thing to do,” the other a Bolshevik who believed
in the power of “American technique”—those two men
turned out to be the catalyst, and industrialized Russia
was born.
Sadly, both Kahn and Bron during their lifetimes were
unfairly accused of being traitors in their home coun-
tries (with the consequences for the former, fortunately,
far less tragic than for the latter): one for providing pro-
fessional services to the ideological enemy, the other, as
a result of providing these services to his own people.
In 1944, Louis Kahn, then President of Albert Kahn, Inc.,
wrote about Kahn’s plants in Russia: “What those plants
have meant to the democracies in turning back Hitler’s
hordes is a story only the postwar world will hear.”94 But
it was more than a quarter century after WWII when
the rst investigation of the Kahn rm’s role in Soviet
industrialization was done by historian Antony C. Sut-
ton in his books Western Technology and Soviet Economic
Development 1917–1930 and National Suicide: Military Aid
to the Soviet Union.95 Sutton’s research, however, conduct-
ed during the height of the Cold War, focused only on
the negative effect on the U.S. of its technology transfer
to the U.S.S.R., exploring Kahn’s Russian legacy in that
context and claiming that by giving the U.S.S.R. the ca-
pacity to produce military vehicles, the U.S. committed
“national suicide.”
Now in the post-Soviet era, we can objectively appreci-
ate the historical signicance of Kahn’s work in Russia.
As we now know, it did not result in America’s national
suicide, and despite all the transferred technology, the
U.S.S.R. collapsed in 1991, short of the seventy-fth an-
niversary of the Bolshevik revolution. Instead, at the
time of the Nazi threat to the world, Kahn’s work in both
countries ultimately led to strengthening the U.S.S.R.
and the Allies in their ght against the common enemy.
Postmortem: Only one such account
The architectural rm Albert Kahn, Inc., continues to
exist today. The ink-on-linen drawings for the Stalin-
grad, Chelyabinsk, and other Russian plants designed
in Detroit by Albert Kahn architects are now in the
collection of the Bentley Historical Library, Univer-
sity of Michigan. Promstroiproekt in Moscow, formerly
Gosproektstroi, where Kahn architects and engineers
worked in 1930–1932, was dissolved as a state-run orga-
nization in 1990 and is now a private company. Amtorg
Trading Corporation, surrounded by controversy, sur-
vived the Cold War but did not survive the collapse of
the Soviet Union, quietly disappearing in 1998.
Russia’s oldest car manufacturer, the automobile plant
in Nizhny Novgorod, is today the key holding of the
privately-owned GAZ Group. Except for the trucks and
off-road vehicles for military use assembled under the
U.S. Lend-Lease Program during WWII, the plant never
produced foreign models after the Ford contract had
been terminated. But in 2012, eighty years after the rst
Soviet Fords rolled off its assembly line, as if mirroring
that historic contract, the plant began manufacturing
the Skoda Yeti under a contract with Volkswagen. It
also contracted with Daimler to manufacture Mercedes-
Benz Sprinter and—nally—with General Motors to as-
semble the new Chevrolet Aveo. (gure 14)
The Kahn-designed tractor plant in Stalingrad was com-
pletely destroyed during WWII but rebuilt in 1944. The
plant was privatized in 1992, went through a bankrupt-
cy in 2005, and was reborn as the joint-stock Volgograd
Industrial Archeology Volume 37, Numbers 1 and 2, 2011
22
Tractor Company. At the time of this writing, it is part
of the multinational enterprise Concern Tractor Plants,
Russia’s largest tractor producer in a joint venture with
AGCO Corporation. (gure 15)
The AZLK “Moskvich” (formerly KIM) auto plant in
Moscow, following privatization in 1991, went bankrupt
and ceased production in 2002. A portion of the aban-
doned plant, now owned by Renault, is producing Lo-
gan and Sandero models. (gure 16)
Chelyabinsk, in 1930 a typical provincial Russian town
with nothing but decrepit wooden houses, has become
a thriving industrial center. The Chelyabinsk Tractor
Plant, now ChTZ-Uraltrac, is still the main manufactur-
er of powerful crawler tractors in Russia. However, the
legendary facility, still one of the largest in the world,
has fallen on hard times in recent years due to out-
dated equipment and lack of funds for modernization.
In 2011, coming full circle since 1930, the plant’s new
owners secured the aid of an American company, Cat-
erpillar, to provide investment and expertise for joint
production of industrial machinery. (gure 17)
* * *
Soviet industrialization was a complex economic and
political undertaking about which much remains un-
clear due in large measure to a deliberate policy dur-
ing the Soviet era of replacing the facts about one of
the most important periods of Soviet history—from the
early days of industrialization to the beginning of the
Great Patriotic War, including American involvement in
Figure 14. Gorky Automobile Plant in Nizhny Novgorod (GAZ),
2011. www.skyscrapercity.com.
Figure 15. Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) Tractor Plant, 2011.
www.volganet.ru
Figure 16. AZLK “Moskvich” (formerly KIM) auto plant in Moscow,
1970s. www.mzma- club.ru
Figure 17. Interior of the assembly building at Chelyabinsk Tractor
Plant, 2007. Photo from S. Ustiantsev, Elita rossiiskoi industrii:
Cheliabinskii traktorny zavod (Nezavisimyi Institut istorii material’noi
kul’tury, 2008).
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”
23
Soviet industrial development––with censored or fabri-
cated accounts. Throughout the Cold War years neither
country was willing to publicly admit reaching out to the
other during the Great Depression: the Soviet Union
would have to admit that to build Socialism it needed
to turn for help to the world’s utmost capitalist country;
the United States, that it provided help to the Bolshe-
viks in order to keep some of its own factories working.
Regrettably, the resistance to restoration of this history
persists in modern-day Russia where many still see such
restoration as a threat to Russia’s national self-image
and international prestige, somehow detracting from
Russia’s role in defeating Nazi Germany. It is hoped that
the full account of the origin of the Soviet industrial gi-
ants, including the role of foreign aid in their creation,
will one day paint a complete and accurate picture of
the history of the industrialization of Russia, and that
this story of two men and of their contribution to bring-
ing the Russian economy into the modern industrial
age will serve as one such account.
* * *
Main trade and technical assistance contracts between
Amtorg and American manufacturing and engineering
companies signed from 1928 through March 1, 193096
Akron Rubber Reclaiming Company, Akron, Ohio—
Technical assistance in construction of a rubber recla-
mation plant.
Allen and Garcia Company, Chicago, Illinois—Techni-
cal assistance in design and construction of coal mines
in Donbass in the Ukraine and Kuzbass in Siberia.
The Austin Company, Cleveland, Ohio—Technical as-
sistance in design and construction of automobile plant
and adjoining workers’ city in Nizhny Novgorod.
E.B. Badger & Sons, Boston, Massachusetts—Technical
assistance in chemical industry for dry wood distillation.
Arthur J. Brandt, Detroit, Michigan—Modernization
and expansion of AMO automobile plant in Moscow.
Brown Lipe Gear Company, Syracuse, New York—Tech-
nical assistance in automobile and tractor industry.
Burrell-Mase Engineering Company, Pittsburgh, Penn-
sylvania—Modernization and expansion of gas and oil
industry in Grozny, Southern Russia.
Hugh L. Cooper and Company, Inc., New York, New
York—Consulting engineers for construction of
Dnieper Hydroelectric Power Plant (Dneproges, ex-
tended in 1928).
Arthur P. Davis, Lyman Bishop & Associates, Oakland,
California—Consulting engineers for irrigation proj-
ects in Central Asia and Transcaucasia.
Frank E. Dickie, Detroit, Michigan—Technical assis-
tance for Aluminum Plant Construction Bureau.
DuPont de Nemours & Company, Wilmington, Dela-
ware—Technical assistance in chemical industry and
construction of nitric acid and fertilizer plants.
Eastman Construction Engineering Company, Philadel-
phia, Pennsylvania—Technical assistance in production
of cellulose.
Electric Auto-Lite Company, Toledo, Ohio—Technical
assistance in production of electrical equipment for au-
tomobiles and tractors.
Hardy S. Ferguson and Company, New York, New
York—Technical assistance to Severoles in construction
of a paper mill near Archangelsk.
Ford Motor Company, Detroit, Michigan—Technical
assistance in construction and operation of Nizhny
Novgorod (Gorky) automobile plant and production of
cars and trucks.
Freyn Engineering Company, Chicago, Illinois—Con-
sulting engineers to Gipromez in designing and equip-
ping 18 new metallurgical plants, including Kuznetsk
Metallurgical Plant, and re-equipping 40 other plants
(extended in 1928).
Harry D. Gibbs, Hyattsville, Maryland—Technical assis-
tance in chemical industry in production of aniline.
Goodman Manufacturing Company, Chicago, Illinois—
Technical assistance in manufacture of coal-cutting
equipment in Donetsk, Ukraine.
T.G. Hawkins, Jr., New York, New York—Technical as-
sistance in modernizing coal industry.
Hercules Motor Company, Canton, Ohio—Assistance
in production of engines for trucks at AMO automobile
plant.
Industrial Archeology Volume 37, Numbers 1 and 2, 2011
24
John J. Higgins, East Orange, New Jersey—Technical as-
sistance in electro-technical industry.
International General Electric Company (I.G.E.), Sche-
nectady, New York—Technical assistance in develop-
ment of electrical industry.
Irving Air Chute Company, Inc., Buffalo, New York—
Technical assistance in aviation industry.
Albert Kahn Architects and Engineers, Inc., Detroit,
Michigan—Designing buildings for the Stalingrad Trac-
tor Plant and general contract for consulting services in
industrial construction.
Koppers Construction Company, Pittsburgh, Pennsyl-
vania—Technical assistance in designing and installing
coke ovens.
Lockwood-Green and Company, New York, New York—
Technical assistance in design and construction of tex-
tile mills.
Lucas & Luick, Chicago, Illinois—Technical assistance
in construction of a gas plant in Moscow.
McDonald Engineering Company, Chicago, Illinois—
Technical assistance in construction of industrial plants.
Arthur G. McKee and Company, Cleveland, Ohio—
Technical assistance in design and construction of Mag-
nitogorsk Metallurgical Plant in the Urals.
Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company,
Newport News, Virginia—Technical assistance in con-
struction of hydraulic electric turbines and generators.
Nitrogen Engineering Corporation, New York, New
York—Technical assistance in construction and opera-
tion of a large synthetic ammonia and fertilizer plant.
Oglebay Norton & Company, Cleveland, Ohio—Tech-
nical assistance in design, construction and operation
of iron mines near Krivoi Rog in Southern Ukraine.
Radio Corporation of America, New York, New York—
Technical assistance in radio communication.
Radiore Company, Los Angeles, California—Technical
assistance in non-ferrous metal industry for exploration
of ore deposits.
Roberts & Schaefer Company, Chicago, Illinois—Tech-
nical assistance in mine construction for coal industry
in Donbass.
C.F. Seabrook Company, New York, New York—Techni-
cal advisors in road-building near Moscow.
Seiberling Rubber Company, Akron, Ohio—Technical
assistance for design and construction of a tire plant in
Yaroslavl.
Southwestern Engineering Corporation, Los Angeles,
California—Technical assistance in non-ferrous metal
industry for design, construction and operation of con-
centration plants.
Sperry Gyroscope Company, Brooklyn, New York—
Technical assistance in manufacture of sonic detectors,
directoscopes, gyroscopes, and other instruments.
Stuart, James & Cooke, Inc., New York, New York—
Technical assistance for modernization of coal mines
in Donbass in the Ukraine (Donugol), Kazakhstan, and
near Moscow.
Timken-Detroit Axle Company, Detroit, Michigan—
Technical assistance in automobile and tractor industry.
E. Waite, Walpole, Massachusetts—Technical assistance
in manufacture of asbestos products.
Westvaco Chlorine Products, Inc., Charleston, West Vir-
ginia—Technical assistance in production of chlorine.
Archer E. Wheeler and Associates, New York, New
York—Technical assistance in copper and other non-
ferrous metals industry.
Winkler-Koch Engineering Company, Wichita, Kan-
sas—Technical assistance in oil industry, supplying
equipment for cracking plants.
J. C. White Engineering Co., New York, New York—
Consulting services for Svir Hydroelectric Plant near
Leningrad.
Norman D. Wimmler—Technical assistance in non-fer-
rous metal industry.
W. A. Wood—Technical assistance in non-ferrous metal
industry.
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”
25
Acknowledgements
The author is greatly indebted to Prof. V.V. Veeder QC
(King’s College, University of London), to Dr. Steve
White, and to her husband David G. Raich, PhD, for
their inspiration, encouragement, invaluable help, and
constructive criticism. She is immensely grateful to Prof.
Mikhail Y. Mukhin (Institute of Russian History) and
Prof. Boris M. Shpotov (Institute of World History) of
the Russian Academy of Sciences, as well as Prof. Victor
E. Gurevich (The Bonch-Bruevich St. Petersburg State
University) for their generous responses to her many
inquiries. She also would like to express gratitude to
Albert Kahn Associates, Inc., and the archivists at the
Bentley Historical Library (University of Michigan),
Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant Museum, and the Western
Reserve Historical Society (Cleveland, Ohio), as well as
lmmaker Dieter Marcello97 and Ron Romano and the
staff of the SFPL inter-library loan department, for in-
valuable help in accessing remote and rare resources.
She would also like to extend special thanks to Brian
Kahn and the Bron family for allowing use of docu-
ments from their personal archives.
On translation and transliteration:
For the convenience of non-Slavist readers, the author
uses the Library of Congress system of transliteration
with some modications, including, for Russian names
in the body of the text, transliteration of Cyrillic letters
in initial and nal positions (e.g., Iu=Yu, as in Yudin;
iia=ia, as in Izvestia; nyi=ny, as in Krasny), and omitting
hard and soft signs. For well-known names of people
and places, the customary English spelling is retained
(e.g., Joseph Stalin, Chelyabinsk, Nizhny Novgorod,
Gorky). However, all bibliographic notes preserve the
standard Library of Congress system of transliteration.
On rst usage, the names of Russian institutions are
given in English translation followed by a transliterated
Russian acronym. When citing sources from Russian
archives, the standard citation convention for these ar-
chives is used where every document is identied by its
collection number (fond in Russian), the number of
the record group (opis), the number of the le (delo),
and the page number (list), with the name of the ar-
chive in the beginning of the citation (e.g., RGASPI, f.
558, op. 11, d. 739, l. 28.) All translations from Russian
are by the author, unless specied otherwise.
Notes
1. Address by Mr. Saul G. Bron, Chairman of Board of Directors, Amtorg
Trading Corporation, at the luncheon meeting of Export Managers’ Club
of New York. November 27, 1928 (New York: Amtorg Trading Corpo-
ration, 1928), 7.
2. Mikoyan begged Stalin to excuse him from the appointment ex-
plaining that he did not have enough education (“could not put
two words together in writing,” in his own words) and had a short
temper not conducive to the position. See Mikoyan’s letter to Sta-
lin, 27 July 1926, and Stalin’s letter to Mikoyan, 10 August 1926,
RGASPI, f. 558, op. 11, d. 34, ll. 87, 102, 105 (cited in S.S. Khro-
mov, Po stranitsam lichnogo arkhiva Stalina [Moscow: Moscow State
University, 2009], 97, 99).
3. Archive of the President of the Russian Federation (hereafter AP
RF), f.3, op. 66, d. 283, ll.39–40 (cited in G.N. Sevost’ianov, Mos-
cow-Washington, The Road to Recognition. 1918–1933 [Moscow: Nau-
ka, 2004], 89); Memo from the People’s Commissariat of Foreign
Trade of the U.S.S.R. to I.V. Stalin, 28 March 1927, AP RF, f. 3, op.
66, d. 276, l. 40 (incl. in Moscow-Washington, Policy and Diplomacy
of the Kremlin, 1921-1941. Collection of documents in 3 vols., ed.
G.N. Sevost’ianov [Moscow: Nauka, 2009], 1:322–333); Norman E.
Saul, Friends or Foes? The United States and Soviet Russia, 1921–1941
(Lawrence, Kans.: University Press of Kansas, 2006), 134.
4. Arcos-America was a division of Arcos (All-Russian Cooperative
Society) which was acting as a Soviet trade mission in Great Britain
from 1920.
5. The few exceptions included the All-Russian Textile Syndicate,
agricultural cooperatives Tsentrosoiuz and Sel’skhosoiuz, and sev-
eral fur trading companies which later were absorbed by Amtorg.
6. Ernest C. Ropes, “The Shape of United States-Soviet Trade, Past
and Future,” Slavonic and East European Review 22, no. 2 (August
1944): 91–92.
7. J.M. Tatcher Feinstein, Fifty Years of U.S.-Soviet Trade (New York:
Symposium Press, Inc., 1974), 55.
8. It was suspected that Khurgin’s death might have been collateral
damage and that the accident was arranged by Stalin’s long arm
to remove Khurgin’s guest, Ephraim Sklyanskii, who was Trotsky’s
closest companion and supporter.
9. Feinstein, Fifty Years, 40 (see n. 7).
10. M.Y. Mukhin, “Amtorg: Nelegal’noe torgpredstvo,” Poligon, no. 2
(2000): 31–34.
11. “New Head of American-Soviet Trading Organization,” Soviet
Union Review 5, no. 6 (June 1927): 92. Soviet Union Review was a
monthly bulletin about economic and cultural life in the U.S.S.R.
published by Soviet Union Information Bureau, Washington, DC.
12 “Economic Conditions in the United States,” a memo by the Peo-
ple’s Commissariat of Foreign and Domestic Trade of the U.S.S.R.,
AP RF, f. 3, op. 66, d. 468, ll. 19–27 (incl. in Moscow-Washington,
Policy, 1:341 [see n. 3]).
13. “Amtorg Head Says Orders Are Coming Here That Would Have
Gone to England,” The New York Times, 4 June 1927; “Mr. Bron on
Soviet-American Trade,” Soviet Union Review 5, no. 7–8 (July–Au-
gust 1927): 121.
14. Frederick L. Schuman, American Policy Toward Russia (New York:
International Publishers, 1928), 251.
15. See Sonia Melnikova-Raich, “The Soviet Problem with Two ‘Un-
knowns’: How an American Architect and a Soviet Negotiator
Jump-Started the Industrialization of Russia, Part I: Albert Kahn,”
IA: Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology 36, no. 2 (2010):
57–80.
Industrial Archeology Volume 37, Numbers 1 and 2, 2011
26
16. “A Ruble in the Hand,” Time, 17 June 1929.
17. The fascinating story of Solomon A. Trone, a Latvian-born Jewish
engineer who worked for General Electric and negotiated the 1928
I.G.E. contract with Bron, and who was involved in construction of
the Dnieper Hydroelectric Power Plant (Dneproges), is told in a
documentary by M. Chanan, “The American Who Electried Rus-
sia” (2009). DVD and streaming are available from Artlms.com.
18. Direct Settlement with General Electric Company, U.S. State De-
partment Decimal File, 861.51/2566-2735, Financial Conditions,
Foreign Credits/468, U.S. National Archives and Records Admin-
istration (hereafter NARA); Letter from S.G. Bron to A.I. Mikoyan
about signing of the agreement with General Electric Company, 17
October 1928, AP RF, f. 3, op. 66, d. 288, l. 87; Agreement between
Amtorg and International General Electric Company, 9 October
1928, Archive of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation
(hereafter AVP RF), f. 0129, op. 5, P. 125, d. 309, ll. 17-24; Owen
D. Young’s letter to Amtorg, 9 October 1928 (reproduced in Louis
Fischer, The Soviets in World Affairs: A History of the Relations Between
the Soviet Union and the Rest of the World, 1917–1929 (London: J.
Cape, 1930), II:766–767.
19. GOELRO (State Commission for Electrication of Russia), the rst
Soviet plan for economic recovery announced by Lenin in 1920
under the slogan “Communism is Soviet power plus the electrica-
tion of the whole country.”
20. The Dnieper Hydroelectric Station, also known as Dneprostroi
Dam, the largest hydroelectric power station in Europe at the time
of its construction and one of the largest in the world. It was con-
structed under the direction of Col. Hugh L. Cooper; GE engi-
neers took part in the construction, and the rst ve giant genera-
tors were manufactured by General Electric.
21. Alan M. Ball, Imagining America: Inuence and Images in Twentieth-
Century Russia (Oxford, UK: Rowman & Littleeld Publishers, Inc.,
2004), 133.
22. “American and German Technique in the U.S.S.R.,” Economic Re-
view of the Soviet Union 4, no. 6 (15 March 1929): 114. More on Sovi-
et fascination with American industrial progress, see Hans Rogger,
“Amerikanizm and the Economic Development of Russia,” Com-
parative Studies in Society and History 23, no. 3 (July 1981): 382–420.
Economic Review of the Soviet Union was a semi-monthly survey of So-
viet economic developments and of trade between the U.S. and the
U.S.S.R. published by Amtorg.
23.
The Soviet Union: Facts, Descriptions, Statistics (Washington, DC: So-
viet Union Information Bureau, 1929), 161.
24. Fischer, The Soviets, II:806 (see n. 18).
25. USSR in Construction 1 (1933). USSR in Construction was a propa-
ganda picture magazine published from 1930 to 1941 in the Soviet
Union in Russian, French, English, and German to “reect in pho-
tography the whole scope and variety of the construction work now
going on in the U.S.S.R.” Propaganda aside, it became an artistic
gem, with oversized pages and multi-page fold-outs offering great
examples of early twentieth-century photography.
26. “Development of Automobile Trafc in the U.S.S.R.,” Soviet Union Re-
view 6, no. 7–8 (July–August 1928): 117–118. AMO (Avtomobil’noe
Moskovskoe Obshchestvo) was founded in 1916 as Moscow Auto-
mobile Joint-Stock Company. It became Stalin Auto Plant (ZIS)
after reconstruction and modernization with American assistance
under the contract between Amtorg and Moscow Automobile Trust
(Avtotrest); later it became Likhachev Auto Plant (ZIL) and now
it is AMO-ZIL. Structural design of the forge was done by Albert
Kahn company. (See Melnikova-Raich, “The Soviet Problem,” 80, n.
105 [see n. 15].) The forge was fully manufactured in the U.S. (by
Lehigh Structural Steel Co. in Allentown, Pa) and shipped to the
U.S.S.R. (V.D. Tsvetaev, Sovremennaia fabrichno-zavodskaia arkhi-
tektura [Moscow–Leningrad: Gosstroiizdat, 1933]: 59).
27. Resolution of the Soviet Council on Labor and Defense on devel-
opment of automobile industry in the U.S.S.R., The State Archive
of the Russian Federation (hereafter GARF), f. R5446, op. 4, d.
536, l. 2 (incl. in S.S. Khromov, Industrializatsia Sovetskogo Soiuza:
novye dokumenty, novye fakty, novye podkhody, 2 vols. [Moscow: In-t
rossiiskoi istorii RAN, 1997], 2:37–40).
28. “Mauretania Here After a Fast Trip,” The New York Times, 31 August
1928. It’s worth mentioning that one of the members of the Com-
mission, I.A. Khalepsky, likely had an additional agenda. He was a
leading Soviet tank expert and a close associate of Tukhachevsky,
and his inclusion on the government commission appears consis-
tent with a working agreement that in June 1928 Amtorg was re-
quired to sign with the Red Army’s Procurement Administration,
which for obvious reasons could not directly contract with Ameri-
can rms. In 1930 Khalepsky, by then the head of the Red Army’s
Mechanization and Motorization Directorate (UMM RKKA),
would arrange the purchase and shipment of two Christie M-1930
tanks, complete with detailed working drawings and accompanied
by a Christie’s engineer. See I.A. Khalepsky, Report of a business
trip abroad, 6 June 1930, Russian State Military Archive (RGVA), f.
31811, op. 1, d. 7, ll. 35–47; M.Y. Mukhin, “Amtorg. Amerikanskie
tanki dlia RKKA,” Otechestvennaia istoriia (May 2001): 55.
29. The city was named Gorky after the famed Soviet writer, Maxim
Gorky. In 1990 the name was changed back to Nizhny Novgorod.
30. “Ford Company to Aid Development of Soviet Automobile Indus-
try,” Economic Review of the Soviet Union 4, no. 12–13 (1 July 1929):
231; “The Nizhny Novgorod Automobile Plant,” Economic Review of
the Soviet Union 6, no. 23 (1 December 1931): 531.
31. Walter Duranty, “Talk of Ford Favors Thrills Moscow,” The New York
Times, 17 February 1928; Anne O’Hare McCormick, The Hammer
and the Scythe: Communist Russia Enters the Second Decade (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1928), 26. On Ford’s history in Russia, see Allan
Nevins and Frank Ernest Hill, “The Russian Adventures,” in Ford:
Expansion and challenge, 1915–1933 (New York: Scribner, 1954);
Mira Wilkins and Frank E. Hill, American Business Abroad: Ford on
Six Continents (Detroit, Mich.: Wayne State University Press, 1965).
32. Malcolm W. Bingay, Detroit Is My Own Home Town (New York: Bobbs-
Merrill, 1946), 309; Christine White, “Ford in Russia: in pursuit
of the chimeral market,” in Henry Ford: Critical Evaluations in Busi-
ness and Management, ed. John Cunningham Wood and Michael C.
Wood (New York: Routledge, 2003), 2:64.
33. The failure of the domestic tractor program prompted the Soviet
government in 1926 to approach Ford with an offer to build a
tractor plant as a concession. After spending five months in the
U.S.S.R. in April–August 1926, Ford experts expressed a number
of concerns, chiefly the fate of foreign companies whose plants in
Russia had been nationalized, making them less than confident
that the same would not happen again, especially in the absence
of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. Further-
more, VSNKh’s Main Concessions Committee, Glavkonsesskom,
asked Ford to advance credit to the Soviet government for the
purchase of manufactured tractors at the government-set fixed
prices, in addition to investing millions of dollars in a plant; Ford
flatly declined this proposal. Report of the Ford Delegation to
Russia and the U.S.S.R., Acc. 1870, box 1, Benson Ford Research
Center, The Henry Ford, Dearborn, Mich. See Melnikova-Raich,
“The Soviet Problem,” 58 (see n. 15).
34. Charles E. Sorensen, My Forty Years with Ford (New York: W.W. Nor-
The Soviet Problem with Two “Unknowns”
27
ton & Co., 1956), 194.
35. RGASPI, f. 558, op. 11, d. 726, ll. 105–106 (incl. in Khromov, Po
stranitsam, 274–275 [see n. 2]). Sheinman did not stay through
the negotiations; he was called back to Moscow but instead, in
the words of Sorensen, “for reasons of his own,” on the way back
defected in Berlin. Sheinman’s “own reasons” probably had to do
with the news he received from Moscow about the April 1929 Ple-
nary Meeting of the Central Committee, where Stalin defeated the
moderate (or right) opposition in the Communist Party.
36. Saul G. Bron’s letter to A.I. Mikoyan about American business circles’
attitude towards the U.S.S.R., 9 February 1928, RGAE. f.5240. op.18,
d. 241, ll. 202-203 (incl. in Russia and USA: Trade-Economic Relations
1900–1930, ed. G.N. Sevost’ianov [Moscow: Nauka, 1996], 257).
37. RGASPI, f. 558, op. 11, d. 726, ll. 7, 13 (incl. in Khromov, Po stran-
itsam, 276 [see n. 2]).
38. Agreement Between the Ford Motor Company, the Supreme
Council of National Economy, and the Amtorg Trading Corpora-
tion, 31 May 1929, Amtorg Records 1929–1930, Acc. 199, box 1a,
Benson Ford Research Center, The Henry Ford, Dearborn, Mich.
39. A.A. Dzerzhkovich, “Amerikanskaia proektirovka zheleznykh
konstruktsii. Avtosborocnaia v Moskve,” Stroitel’stvo Moskvy, no. 2
(1930): 3. Gudok Oktyabrya factory was later incorporated into the
Gorky Automobile Plant. KIM (Communist Youth International)
auto plant in 1939 became MZMA (Moscow Compact Car Facto-
ry), before changing its name in 1969 to AZLK (Lenin Commu-
nist Youth League Automobile Factory); after WWII, it became the
manufacturer of a small Moskvich passenger car. More on the KIM
auto plant, see Kenneth M. Straus, Factory and Community in Stalin’s
Russia: The Making of an Industrial Working Class (Pittsburgh, Pa:
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998).
40. “Technological project” is a document in which the engineers de-
scribe in detail all the items related to the technological process.
41. State Archive of Nizhny Novgorod Oblast’, f. 2431. op. 1, d. 187, ll.
3–12 (incl. in Russia and USA, 367–381 [see n. 36]).
42. Supplemental Agreement between Avtostroi and the Austin Com-
pany with an attached letter signed by the President of Amtorg
Trading Corporation, Saul G. Bron. Austin Company Records,
MSS 5040, Container 19, folder 22, Western Reserve Historical So-
ciety, Cleveland, Ohio.
43. W.J. Austin, “Technical Assistance in Building the Nizhny Novgorod
Automobile Plant,” Economic Review of the Soviet Union 6, no. 9 (1
May 1931): 207–208; “Detroit Engineers Direct Soviet Industrial
Revival,” Michigan Manufacturer and Financial Record 45, no. 16 (19
April 1930). Wilkins, American Business, 221 (see n. 31).
44. On building the Gorky Auto Plant and the adjacent city, and a
detailed account of disputes between the Austin Company and
Avtostroi, see Richard Cartwright Austin, Building Utopia: Erecting
Russia’s First Modern City, 1930 (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University
Press, 2004). More on the history of the Austin company in the
Soviet Union, see Martin Greif, The New Industrial Landscape: the
Story of the Austin Company (Clinton, N.J.: Main Street Press, 1978).
45. Philip K. Davis, Engineer, the Austin Company, “The Building of
Molotov Where Russian Fords Will Be Produced,” Journal of Worces-
ter Polytechnic Institute (April 1932): 83–88; “The Fifteenth Year Be-
gins,” Soviet Union Review 9, no. 11 (November 1931): 204.
46. “Automobile Plant and Workers’ City ‘Avtozavod,’ Nizhni Novgorod
(Gorki) U.S.S.R.,” Austin Company Records MSS 5040, Container
19, folder 18, Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio.
47. Walter S. Dunn, Jr., Stalin’s Keys to Victory: The Rebirth of the Red Army
in World War II (Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books 2007), 35;
Robert Scoon, “Those Communist Model A’s,” The Restorer 14, no. 6
(March-April 1970):19; M.N. Svirin, Bronia krepka. Istoriia sovetskogo
tanka. 1919–1937 (Moscow: Yauza, 2005), 143-154.
48. Economic Handbook of the Soviet Union (New York: American-Russian
Chamber of Commerce, 1931), 125.
49. “American Exports to Soviet Union Show Large Increase,” Econom-
ic Review of the Soviet Union 5, no. 10 (15 May 1930): 208.
50. “Foreign Technical Aid in the U.S.S.R.,” Soviet Union Review 8, no.
5 (May 1930): 86.
51. “44 American Firms Are Aiding Soviets,” The New York Times, 30
November 1930.
52. Feinstein, Fifty Years, 62 (see n. 7).
53. J.D. Mooney, “Soviet Trade and the United States,” Economic Review
of the Soviet Union 6, no. 10 (15 May 1931): 223.
54. Feinstein, Fifty Years, 62 (see n. 7).
55. Katherine A.S. Siegel, Loans and Legitimacy: The Evolution of Soviet-
American Relations, 1919–1930 (Lexington, Ky.: University Press of
Kentucky, 1996): 103–104; Ropes, “The Shape of United States-
Soviet Trade,” 91–92 (see n. 6).
56. “Amtorg Purchases in July Exceed $20,000,000,” Economic Review of
the Soviet Union 4, no. 16–17 (1 September 1929): 278.
57. Interview with S.G. Bron, Ekonomicheskaia zhizn’, Moscow, 1 June 1928.
58. Saul G. Bron’s letter to G.V. Chicherin and A.I. Mikoyan, 6 De-
cember 1927, AVP RF, f. 04, op. 3, p. 14, d. 195, ll. 124–126 (incl.
in Soviet-American Relations. Years of non-recognition. 1927–1933, ed.
G.N. Sevost’ianov and J. Haslam [Moscow: Mezhdunarodnyi Fond
“Demokratiia,” 2002], 81–82).
59. Saul G. Bron’s letter to A.I. Mikoyan, 12 June 1929, RGAE. f. 5240,
op. 18, d. 243, ll. 147–148 (incl. in Russia and USA).
60. Saul G. Bron, Soviet Economic Development and American Business
(New York: Horace Liveright, 1930).
61. Jon Carter, “Russia Again!,” Outlook and Independent 155 (May 21,
1930): 108.
62. Bron, Soviet Economic Development, 99, 144–146 (see n. 60); “44
American Firms,” (see n. 51); Economic Review of the Soviet Union
5, no. 22–23 (1 December 1930): 471; Economic Handbook (1936),
352 (see n. 48).
63. “Everybody’s Red Business,” Time, 9 June 1930.
64. Letter from Moritz Kahn to Albert Kahn, 10 October 1929, Albert
E. Kahn family archive.
65. The rst ofcial trade agreement between the U.S.S.R. and U.S.A.
would be signed on July 14, 1935.
66. Soviet Union Review 8, no. 2 (February 1930): 30–31.
67.
Hubert R. Knickerbocker, Fighting the Red Trade Menace (New York:
Dodd, Mead & Co., 1931), 150–157, 294–295.
68. Letter from Kaganovich to Stalin, 11 September 1931, Stalin i Ka-
ganovich. Perepiska. 1931–1936, ed. O.V. Khlevniuk et al. (Moscow:
Russian Political Encyclopedia, 2001), 97, n. 12.
69. “Russian Trade Representation in the United Kingdom,” The
Chemical News and Journal of Industrial Science 142 (1931): 186.
70. Lazar M. Kaganovich (1893–1991), one of Stalin’s main associates,
was secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party
from 1928 to 1939.
71. Maxim Gorky, History for Factories and Plants, rst published in Prav-
da, 4, 7 September, 1931.
72. Archive of Russian Academy of Science (RAN), f. 359, op. 2, d.
421, ll. 4–6 (cited in S.V. Zhuravlev, Fenomen “Istorii fabrik i zavodov”:
gor'kovskoe nachinanie v kontekste epokhi 1930-kh godov [Moscow: In-
tut rossiiskoi istorii RAN, 1997]), 5; Russian State Archive of Socio-
Political History (hereafter RGASPI), f. 17, op. 162, d. 846, l. 2, and
d. 853, l. 12 (cited in Stalin i Kaganovich, 86 [see n. 68]).
73. Letter from Kaganovich to Stalin, 20 September 1931, and Letter
Industrial Archeology Volume 37, Numbers 1 and 2, 2011
28
from Stalin to Kaganovich, 21 September 1931, RGASPI, f. 558, op.
11, d. 76, l. 73 (incl. in Stalin i Kaganovich, 110, 112 [see n. 68]).
74. Mikhail P. Tomsky (1880-1936), member of the Politburo and Cen-
tral Committee of VKP(B), leader of the All-Russian Central Coun-
cil of Trade Unions. In the 1920s, Tomsky, Bukharin, and Rykov
represented the moderate (or right) wing of the Communist Party
that helped Stalin, during the power struggle that followed Len-
in’s death in 1924, to purge the left opposition led by Trotsky, Ka-
menev, and Zinoviev. In 1929 Stalin moved against his former allies
and defeated them, forcing Tomsky to resign from his position in
the Politburo and as leader of the Soviet trade unions.
75. Sir Walter Citrine, I Search for Truth in Russia (Boston: E.P. Dutton,
1936), 133–135.
76. The Moscow show trials were a series of three trials held between
1936 and 1938 as a part of Stalin’s Great Purge. The defendants,
many of whom were sentenced to death and executed, included
most of the surviving Old Bolsheviks who were charged with con-
spiring with the western powers to assassinate Stalin and other
Soviet leaders, dismember the Soviet Union, and restore capital-
ism. The most recent and detailed account of Stalin’s Great Purge
and show trials can be found in Karl Schlögel, Moscow 1937 (Cam-
bridge, U.K.: Polity Press, 2012).
77. Stenographic record of the meetings at OGIZ, 10 November–27
December 1937, GARF, f. R4851, op. 1, d. 18, ll. 2–9, 13–17, 41–43
(cited in Obshchestvo i vlast', 1930-e gody: povestvovanie v dokumen-
takh, ed. A.K. Sokolov [Moscow: ROSSPEN, 1998], 178–179, 228);
“Memo by L.Z. Mekhlis to the secretaries of the Central Committee
of VKP(b) about the situation in OGIZ,” AP RF, f. 3, op. 24, d. 325,
ll. 162, 163.
78. GARF, f. 4851, op. 1, d. 11, l. 128; d. 937, l. 4; f. 7952, op. 1, d. 24,
ll. 44, 52, 54. (cited in S.V. Zhuravlev, Fenomen, 13, 39, 74–77 [see
n. 72]).
79. Vadim Z. Rogovin, Stalin’s Terror of 1937-1938: Political Genocide in
the USSR (Oak Park, Mich.: Mehring Books, Inc., 2009), 116.
80. Roberta T. Manning, “The Soviet economic crisis of 1936–1940 and
the Great Purges,” in John Arch Getty, Roberta T. Manning, eds.,
Stalinist Terror: New Perspectives (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge Uni-
versity Press, 1993), 137–138. More on the Stalinist repressions in
industry, see Donald A. Filtzer, Soviet workers and Stalinist industrial-
ization: the formation of modern Soviet production relations, 1928–1941
(London, U.K.: Pluto Press, 1986), and Moscow 1937, 411–432 (see
n. 76].
81. The ofcial version was death from a heart attack, although there
is some evidence, if ultimately inconclusive, that Georgy (Sergo)
K. Ordzhonikidze might have been murdered at Stalin’s orders.
82. E. Podrepny, E. Titkov, Nizhegorodskie mashinostroiteli—Krasnoi Armii
(Arzamas: AGPI, 2010).
83. On the work and fate of American workers in the U.S.S.R., see
Tim Tzouliadis, The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin’s Russia
(New York: Penguin, 2009); Vincent E. Baker, “American Workers in
the Soviet Union Between the Two World Wars: From Dream to Disillusion-
ment,” thesis (Morgantown, W.Va.: West Virginia University Press,
1998); and John Scott and Stephen Kotkin, Behind the Urals: An
American Worker in Russia’s City of Steel (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana
University Press, 1989).
84. V.N. Khaustov, The Lubyanka: The Soviet elite in Stalin`s Golgotha:
1937–1938. Documents (Moscow: Mezhdunarodnyi fond “De-
mokratiia,” 2011), Doc. No. 9.
85. “The Continuation of the Purge,” Dispatch No. 856 from the
U.S. Embassy in Moscow, U.S. State Department Decimal File
861.00/11711-11787, Political Affairs/271, NARA.
86. Saul G. Bron’s file from the Central Archive of the Federal Secu-
rity Service of the Russian Federation (TsA FSB RF); Reports by
Commissar for Internal Affairs (NKVD) Ezhov to Stalin about the
testimonies by the accused, 30 November 1937 and 16 February
1938, AP RF, f. 3, op. 24, d. 404, ll. 1–35, and d. 405, ll. 33–40; and
TsA FSB RF, ASD R 9869 (incl. in Khaustov, Lubyanka [see n. 84]).
87. Sergei Ustiantsev, Russian industrial elite: Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant
(Yekaterinburg: Nezavisimyi Institut istorii material’noi kul’tury,
2008), 35–36.
88. I.V. Stalin, “Itogi pervoi piatiletki,” in I.V. Stalin, Complete Works, 18
vols. (Moscow: Gospolitizdat, 1951), 13:213.
89. Eric Johnston, Telegram, 30 June 1944, U.S. State Department
Decimal File, 033.1161, NARA.
90. E.H. Carr and R.W. Davies, Foundations of a Planned Economy 1926–
1929 (London: Macmillan, 1969 ), 2:451.
91. David R. Shearer, Industry, State, and Society in Stalin’s Russia, 1926–
1934 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996), 9.
92. Helen C. Bennett, “You Can’t Build Skyscrapers with Your Head
in the Sky,” interview with A. Kahn, American Magazine 108 (16 De-
cember 1929): 121.
93. Adrian Fuller, “Detroiter’s Key to Defense Speed,” Detroit Free
Press, quoted in “Albert Kahn—Defense Builder,” Western Architect
and Engineer 147–148 (February 1942): 25; “Art: Industry’s Archi-
tect,” Time, 29 June 1942; “Architect of Victory,” The Detroit News,
10 December 1973.
94. Memo by Louis Kahn, 7 February 1944, Albert Kahn Papers, Scrap-
book “Russian Work,” box 13, Bentley Historical Library, Univer-
sity of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.
95. Anthony C. Sutton, Western Technology and Soviet Economic Develop-
ment 1917–1930 (Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 1972;
National Suicide: Military Aid to the Soviet Union (New Rochelle: Ar-
lington House, 1973).
96. Economic Review of the Soviet Union 7 (1 April 1930): 131–132.
97. Dieter Marcello (director), “Albert Kahn: Architekt der Moderne”
(Marbach: Suedwestlm, 1996). A documentary tribute to Albert
Kahn lmed on location in Detroit, Russia, Italy, and Germany.
The lm includes rare 1902–1945 footage from U.S. and Soviet
lm archives. DVD is available at www.amazon.de and at the Art,
Architecture & Engineering Library, University of Michigan.
... Secondly, he designed large-area windows on the facade and the roof, which provided good day lighting and ventilation. Finally, he finished designing this workshop's external form with a futuristic sense of geometric aesthetics [22]. The external form and the section of the main workshop of the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant are shown in Figure 11 and Figure 12, respectively. ...
... The external form of the huge workshop of the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant. Source:[22]). ...
... The section of the huge workshop of the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant. ( Source:[22]). ...
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If capitalist cities are dense, hierarchical, and exploitative, how might socialist space be differently organized to maximize productivity, equitability, and collectivity? That question—central to early Soviet planning specialists—is the basis of this dissertation, which investigates the origins and evolution of the socialist spatial project from land nationalization to the end of the first Five-Year Plan (1917-1932). This dissertation asserts that socialist urban practices and forms emerged not by ideological edict from above, but through on-the-ground experimentation by practitioners in collaboration with local administrators—by praxis, by doing. Existing scholarship on early Soviet architecture and planning relies on paper projects of the Moscow avant-garde—radical, exciting, and yet largely unbuilt. This dissertation, based on new empirical research, uncovers the untold origins of socialist urban practice through the brick and mortar, steel and concrete projects that defined Soviet urban praxis in the 1920s and 30s. Through interweaved stories of three so-called “socialist settlements” in Baku, (Azerbaijan), Magnitogorsk (Russia), and Kharkiv (Ukraine) this study explores how Soviet physical planners and their clients addressed unprecedented socioeconomic requirements. Provisions like affordable housing near the workplace, robust municipal transportation and evenly distributed social services emerged from these experiments to affect far-flung sites in the Soviet sphere for decades to follow. Material gathered from now accessible archives—including architectural briefs, bureaucratic memos, drawings and photographs—finally permits deep inquiry into these significant years and projects. It draws the Soviet case into dialogue with scholarship on industry, urbanization, and social modernization in Europe and the United States, and highlights the contributions of Soviet designers to devise viable alternatives to the capitalist city.
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Fordism, adopted worldwide in the 20's as the new industrial religion crystallized in the young Soviet Union, where the fourth Russian edition of the memoirs of Ford included an introduction which stated that "Fordism is a system whose principles have been known for some time, and had already been established by Marx". Such was the acceptance that Stalinism makes postulates Ford, that in 1928, with the beginning of the first Five Year Plan , Russian representatives visited Detroit and the firm Albert Kahn. Inc. was contracted to build a number of industrial facilities in the Soviet Union, including the new Fordson tractor factory in Stalingrad. Moritz Kahn moved with a team of engineers and architects to form a project office of about 4,500 employees in Russia, in a paradoxical confluence between capitalism and communism that would end in 1932, after constructing around 550 great scale industrial facilities. The importance of this legacy to the Soviet architecture includes extensive accomplishments as those of Stalingrad, Nihi Tagil,Magnitogorsk and Cheliabisk, and is supported by the appearance of documentary photographs of these works in numerous publications, including the magazine SA, Ginzburg’s "Functional method and form" and numerous writings and letters of the time. This influence is otherwise undervalued in modern historiography, for it seems that only worked in Russia architects committed to the socialist cause as Mendelsohn, May, Stam or Lurçat, forgetting the main actors of the episode, the authors and builders of the most important Soviet-era "Social Condensers", the factories. We analyze the morphological and conceptual convergence between Ford and Kahn postulates for its industrial achievements and actual plannings and utopian proposals for new Soviet cities, resembling huge technical objects where the mechanized performance and construction, the importance given to the flows of materials and people, the similarity to the Fordist assembly line layout and the nodal role of new factories as "Work Palaces" demanded a new relationship with the geography and the readjustment of the socialist way of life.
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…. I became interested in Russia professionally as it seemed the only country where any large scale chemical development was to be expected during the depression.