“When two soldiers had climbed up the telephone poles, a mob of about 30-40 well-dressed men and women suddenly approached, threatened us with revolvers and ordered us to stop the work. The soldiers climbed down from the poles but the mob then turned against Mr Englund, demanding surrender of the weapon he was carrying. He handed this over to the soldiers but still intended to go on with the work. The mob struck him violently a few times and knocked him out and then left.” (Quotation from the newspaper Russkoje Slowo)
Sandberg went on working energetically and successfully in St. Petersburg and Englund in Moscow up until the October Revolution in 1917. After the 1905 uprising, when the first soviets (workers’ councils) were established, they both found themselves maneuvering through three years of world war and the February Revolution in 1917 when the tsar was deposed. In a letter to the head office in Stockholm in November 1914, Englund describes how his car has been confiscated for military service. He was compensated with 85 percent of its value, “which was not too bad; it wasn’t worth any more than that”.
The October Revolution and the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in 1917 forced both Sandberg and Englund to return to Stockholm after 16 years in leading positions in Russia. By then the St. Petersburg factory had 3,500 employees, twice as many as the factory in Stockholm.
BRUTAL EFFECT ON ERICSSON
The new regime was to have a brutal effect on Ericsson. As recently as 1917, Ericsson and SAT had formed a new joint company to operate telephone systems in Russia; in 1918 this company and Ericsson’s St. Petersburg company were nationalized by the Bolsheviks. A few other Swedish companies that met a similar fate eventually managed to regain their Russian factories or compensation for them, but SAT and Ericsson had no chance of doing so despite negotiations going on for many years.
The factories were operated by their new masters without interruption under the management of the Russian engineers that SAT and Ericsson had progressively employed. “It was easier to continue the work in a fully equipped and operating factory than to fit out a newly built, or perhaps half-built, factory with machinery, tools, prototypes and the like,” was Hemming Johansson’s comment.
In 1922 Russia became a soviet republic as part of the new Soviet Union.
On his return to Sweden, Sandberg was appointed sales director at Ericsson’s telephone factory in Stockholm. This meant he was in touch with Ericsson’s markets all over the world.
Englund was to go on leading adventurous projects for many years, constructing networks in Italy, Greece, Portugal, Turkey and elsewhere. In the 1920s, he managed to renew his contacts with the Russian market and was one of those involved in the introduction of Ericsson’s newly developed 500-selector system in Moscow and Rostov.
Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn