Northern Illinois University Press

Coal and Politics in Late Imperial Russia

Memoirs of a Russian Mining Engineer

Aleksandr I. Fenin

Translated by Alexandre Fediaevsky

Edited by Susan P. McCaffray

Driven from his homeland by forces of revolution, Aleksandr I. Fenin, formerly a leader in industry, in exile set out to tell the story of his career as a mining engineer in late Imperial Russia. Published in Prague in 1938, his remarkable memoirs, now translated into English by his grandson, Alexandre Fediaevsky, render a vivid portrait of the era of rapid industrialization and provide a rare middle-class view of Russia during the final decades of the tsarist regime. Included in this unique document is Fenin's firsthand account of the economic and social conditions that launched industrialization, his portrayal of increasing tensions between labor and managers, and his assessment of the impact of revolutionary tides on the lives of the Russian people.

Brought up in the graceful surroundings of the landed gentry, Fenin renounced his father's world and became a part of Russia's fledgling middle class when he took on, as he often puts it, the "creative economic work" of a mining engineer. During his career in Russia from 1883 to 1920, Fenin was a strong supporter of the growth of industry. His work as a manager of some of Russia's largest mines and as a leader of the influential Association of Southern Coal and Steel Producers drew him into the conflicts between management and labor and into the growing turmoil within the tsarist society.

Fenin's observations on the rapid industrialization of Russia contain a wealth of information about the daily lives of workers and problems of management. Poor conditions for laborers in the coalfields, responses by fellow managers to increasing labor unrest, and landmark events—such as provincial zemstvo meetings where a constitutional government is demanded, the railroad workers' strike of 1905, and the creation of a parliament for the first time in Russia—are all thoughtfully described. Although Fenin eventually fled Russia to avoid the fate met by many of his colleagues, he maintains in his memoirs a rarely heard voice of moderation from the last turbulent years of the Russian Empire.

(1990) 250 pp., illus.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-153-7
cloth $35.50

Table of Contents

Translation Notes
Fenin and His Memoirs: An Introduction
1 Student Days
2 My Early Career in the Donets Basin of Yesteryear
3 Russian Heavy Industry in the Old Days
4 The Constructive Revival of the Basin
5 Directing an Industrial Enterprise, 1899-1906
6 My Neighbors and Colleagues
7 Echoes of Political Struggles at the Mines
8 The Revolution Approaches
9 A Brief Survey of Russia's Economic Situation at the Turn of the Century and of Alexander III's Reforms

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-153-7
cloth $35.50