Time tested: Moscow factories with centuries-long history

January 19
Economy and entrepreneurship

The global COVID-19 pandemic has given Moscow manufacturers new rules and restrictions. Some companies were able to adapt to the production of new items. For example, perfume and cosmetics plants started turning out antiseptics, and light industry began making protective masks, overalls, overshoes and caps for doctors. Other companies moved to online delivery service and adopted a more personalised approach.

For some companies in Moscow, COVID-19 is far from the first upheaval. Some older companies saw the turbulent 1990s, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the hardships of WWII, and even the October revolution and the abolition of serfdom.


This mos.ru story will look at companies with centuries-long history, their past, present and future.

From workshops to large plants

Moscow has always been home to many craftsmen. Some places in the city are still named after certain crafts, including Myasnitskaya (Butchers’), Kozhevnicheskaya (Tanners’) and Sadovnicheskaya (Gardeners’) streets, plus Ovchinnikovskaya (Sheepskin Dressers’) Embankment and Kadashevskiy (Coopers’) Pereulok.

Industries began cropping up in Russia in the 17th century, and by the end of the next century Russia had dozens of industrial companies. Industrial development reached a peak in the late 19th century when Moscow had more than 250 plants and factories employing over 27,000 people,  and by the end of the century Moscow was second to St Petersburg as an industrial centre. Some of these original production facilities are still functioning.

View of the Moskva River, the Kremlin and the Zamoskvorechye District from the Great Ustyinsky Bridge. Late 19th - early 20th centuries. Moscow Main Archive Directorate

Sweet factories

Several candy factories were founded in the early 19th century. Babayevsky among them. It traces its history from a family workshop opened by serf peasant Stepan in 1804. He made apricot jam and pastille, and some say these sweet names brought him his surname Abrikosov (Apricot) in 1811.

As time went by, his grandson Alexei turned this family business into Russia’s major company. It was named A.I. Abrikosov & Sons Partnership in 1880. People in Moscow and other cities liked the candy from Abrikosov packed in beautiful boxes. And in 1899 the company won the honorary status of “Purveyor to His Majesty’s Imperial Court.”

After nationalisation in 1917 the company was renamed State Confectionary Factory No. 2, and in 1922 it was named after revolutionary Pyotr Babayev. During the Great Patriotic War, the factory produced concentrated food for the armed forces.

Today, Babayevsky is a major Moscow company, which turned 215 in 2019.

“The company successfully combines modern technology and century-old production traditions. The facilities are regularly upgraded and supplemented with state-of-the-art digital equipment, which enables the automation of many operations — from raw materials delivery to product packing into corrugated boxes. Output is consistently increasing, new products are worked out, and more items are exported,” said Executive Director Mikhail Zaichenko.

The Rot Front factory has also grown from a small family confectionary to a big enterprise. Commoner Sergei Leonov started to produce caramels and sell them at outdoor festivals and fairs in 1826. Later his son opened a confectionary and grandson Georgy and his wife quickly started to expand their family business. They purchased nearby land for new buildings and new machines for the factory. They established the Leonov Trading House, a large confectionary business whose products were loved in Moscow and elsewhere. However, after the revolution of 1917 their business dropped off and they decided to sell it to the All-Russian Central Union of Consumer Societies (Tsentrosoyuz). This was how Tsentrosoyuz candy factory was named.

It got its modern name in 1931 after a visit by Ernst Thälmann, a German Communist Party leader. He was an organizer of Roter Frontkämpferbund (Alliance of Red Front-Fighters) and as a sign of working people’s solidarity Factory No. 7 of the Mosselprom Trust was renamed as Rot Front.

Even during the war, while the factory was relocated to Alma-Ata, chocolate production did not fall. However, products for the front – from cereals and biscuits to dehydrated cooked meals – were a priority. And in the 1980s the factory was among the first facilities to produce chewing gum, in time for the Olympics.

Since 2016 the factory enjoys the status of an industrial complex and in 2019 it launched a production line for cocoa bean processing as a raw material for the confectionary industry. Cooperation with the city helps it adopt cutting-edge technologies and create new jobs.

Another confectionary company – Red October – marked its 170th anniversary in 2019. The founder, Ferdinand Theodor von Einem, supplied its pastries to His Majesty’s Russian Imperial Court. He launched his business from a small workshop on Arbat Street, where he traded in chocolate and lump sugar, in 1851. In less than 20 years it grew to be the famous Einem Partnership of Steam Factory of Chocolate, Candies and Tea Biscuits. The factory was famous not only for its sweets but also for its bright advertising posters, which made Einem’s products and the name more recognizable.

After the revolution the factory was nationalised and the current name appeared in 1922. In addition to dehydrated cooked meals the company produced flash suppressors for aircraft and colored smoke grenades for the Navy during the war. And in 1942 they started production of Gvardeisky (Guards) chocolate bars to be included in the pilots’ and submariners’ ration kits.

“Our factory has been producing candies for almost two centuries; our great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers liked our candies and regarded them as a dream gift. Now we have up-to date production facilities on seven floors churning out almost 40 brands of candies, chocolates and biscuits,” noted the company’s Director of Economics, Yury Yegorov, who has been working there for over 45 years.

Cosmetics and perfumery

Russia’s oldest perfumery factory Novaya Zarya (New Dawn) was established in 1864. Actually, it had many names: first it was Brocard’s Empire named after its founder Henri Brocard, from 1893 to 1917 it was Brocard & Cie, and then it was Zamoskvoretsky Perfumery and Soap-Making Integrated Works No. 5. So, how did the perfumery become a soap-making plant? In fact, the name returned to the original because initially the factory produced rare fragranced soap. In the 1870s the factory switched to perfumes and aux de cologne production, and in 1918–1919, when the Civil War was raging in the country, soap turned to be a most needed product so the company returned to this product.

The Zhirkost Trust, which incorporated several former cosmetic and perfumery companies, was established in 1921. It included the Brocard factory. The Council of People's Commissars decided to use its old building for the mint and they relocate the facilities to a former wallpaper factory.

Brocard & Cie. Advertising label. 1870s

The factory was named Novaya Zarya (New Dawn) when it was decided to give it a second life in November 1922. The name was approved by Mikhail Kalinin, a high-up Soviet party leader. He ordered repairs for the building. Its carton workshop was constructed from scratch by its workers who used bricks from destroyed buildings.

Brocard perfumery’s style was manifest in the perfume, The Empress’ Favourite Bouquet of Flowers, created for Empress Maria Feodorovna in 1913. How did it smell? Actually, every person who smelled the Krasnaya Moskva (Red Moscow) perfume would know it. Legend has it that it was always the same perfume and that changes were only made because of the lack of certain raw materials used initially. Noteworthy is that the French perfumer – Auguste Michel – created both scents. Amazingly, the perfume created to mark the 300th anniversary of the Romanov House became an icon in the Soviet Union (though under a different name).

The factory did not miss big events. It presented Krasny Mak (Red Poppy) perfume for the 10th anniversary, in 1927, of the October Revolution and devoted its perfumes The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish, The Tale of Tsar Saltan, The Queen of Spades and powder Eugene Onegin to Alexander Pushkin’s anniversaries. Between 1979 and 1980 perfumers worked on fragrances devoted to the Olympic Games and created such scents as Olympic Souvenir, Olympian and the Mishka (Bear) in a flask shaped like the Olympic logo.

Krasnaya Moskva has been in production up until the present day. The modern company cooperates with French experts in this aromatic field.

Frenchman Alphonse Rallet, then a man of 24 unknown to anybody, who arrived to Moscow in 1843, founded a factory, that later was given its current name, Svoboda (Freedom). Its expertise was in so called winter perfumes: beautiful women of those times called them “perfumes for the fur.” They dabbed it on their gloves, hats and fur. In cold weather the plume of their scent accompanied these women as they walked the streets or rode in horse-drawn coaches. The winter perfume fashion trend quickly spread not only in Moscow and St Petersburg, but to other European cities as well.

In 1856 Rallet sold the business to his partners, Frenchmen Emile Baudrand and Baudran Byuzhon, with the condition that the company would continue to bear the Rallet name. As for Rallet, he went to France because of lung problems.

During the 1917 revolution  A. Rallet & Co. was nationalised and renamed State Soap Works No. 4. Rallet’s factory met the same destiny as that of Brocard’s: after the revolution and the Civil War the country needed just soap, not elaborate perfumery.

In those days many factories were named with numbers, which the workers did not like. After numerous complaints the Council of People's Commissars decided to rename such companies: so it became Svoboda (Freedom) State Soap and Cosmetics Factory. Its range of products changed in the 1930s. Soap was supplemented with personal hygiene products, skin care cosmetics, products for athletes and even makeup for actors. It heralded the appearance of decorative cosmetics in the Soviet Union.

The factory’s 100th anniversary fell during the war.  Svoboda’s products had to be adapted once again: they put out glycerin for aviation, explosives, cartridge casings, grenade fuses, and boxes for gas mask anti-dimming sticks.

After the war the factory enjoyed quiet times and the status of a major business in Russia and Europe. The factory turned out several million pieces every day: from shaving cream to shampoo and tooth paste.

Today, the factory employs about 600 people in three areas of production: soap, cosmetics and shampoos. The range of products includes over 450 items.

Transformers and helicopter parts

Moscow residents are familiar with Elektrozavodskaya metro station as well the street name, bus stops, bridge and other facilities of the same name. Some infrastructure facilities are named after the first Soviet transformer works.

The works was established in 1928 to perform the GOELRO (State Commission for Electrification of Russia) plan. During the war, it put out rockets for Katyusha multiple rocket launcher, transformers and repaired T-34 tanks. Its workers were members of the local militia.

The works played a significant role in the country’s electrification and industrialisation. It supplied transformers to newly built power stations, manufacturing plants and major construction projects, such as the Moscow Metro and the Moskva-Volga Canal.

Today, Elektrozavodskaya is a leading Russian producer with extensive experience in developing various types of transformer-reactor equipment for many applications, including electric energy engineering, metallurgy, transport, housing and utilities, shipbuilding, defence and oil and gas industry uses.

Another long-time factory is Vperyod (Forward) plant, the oldest aircraft parts plant in Russia. It was built in 1931, however, initially it made very different products — pipes and structural elements. Starting in 1933, Plant No. 3 produced quality furniture at the request of the Council of People's Commissars and Red Army clubs.

It changed its name and specialisation during the war. State Plant No. 383 of the People's Commissariat for the Aircraft Industry turned out over 6,000 sets of blades and over 40,000 integral propellers for combat aircraft. In 1945 its workers mastered production of wooden blades for windfarms.

In 1951 the plant switched to helicopter equipment. It got the order for anti-torque rotors once Kazan helicopter works launched production of Mi-1 choppers. By that time the plant already had vast experience in air propeller production and the requisite equipment.

In 1963 the plant was renamed again? This time to Vperyod Moscow Machine-Building Plant, and since 2004 it has been part of the Oboronprom Corporation Helicopter-Building Holding Company. Now it is a Dinamika Group enterprise.

The plant facilities, currently employing 1,200 people, received industrial complex status in 2020. It manufactures anti-torque rotors and blades for Mil helicopters, propellers for planes and some products for Russian Railways.

Source: mos.ru

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