Move to Russia?
Increasing limitations in the domestic market also spurred a more fundamental change of strategy. It might become necessary to shift the main base of operations to another country. In that case, Russia lay closest to hand. At the end of the 19th century, there were many Swedish entrepreneurs active in Sweden’s eastern neighbor, which was also the largest country in Europe. Scandinavians were particularly well represented in the Russian capital, St. Petersburg, where they formed an expatriate community who also met privately and discussed business.
A conquest of Russia would not, however, be easy. For one thing, the Russian postal and telegraphic administration, which purchased equipment mainly from Ericsson, was of the definite opinion that its equipment should be manufactured in Russia. Among Ericsson’s competitors, Siemens & Halske had already set up a telegraph factory in St. Petersburg.
In the summer of 1896, Ericsson decided in principle to buy a site in St. Petersburg for a factory and accommodation. Production started a year later in rented premises on Wassilij-Ostrow: this included assembling telephones from parts supplied by the parent factory. In 1900, these operations moved to the new factory on Samsonevski Prospekt. A modern five-story factory building and a three-story apartment block had been erected there for what was in those days the considerable sum of 1 million Swedish crowns.
Lars Magnus took a deep interest in the Russian company and often visited St. Petersburg. A Finnish businessman told the Technical Museum’s Anders Lindeberg-Lindvet how as a child, when Finland was part of the Russian empire, he once sat in Lars Magnus’s lap while he and his father were discussing business. When employing new staff at the parent company, Lars Magnus often asked if they could consider moving with the company to St. Petersburg, if it should prove necessary to relocate the entire business there. Nor was it by chance that Lars Magnus was not to be found in the Swedish pavilion at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900, but rather at the Russian pavilion under the name of the Russian company.
Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn
Russia, 1897, St. Petersburg Plant