Chemical industry is one of the leading sectors of the Russian economy, which not only produces a large amount of products for the domestic market, but also possesses a distinguishable share in the structure of exports. In particular, the share of the chemical industry in Russia’s GDP amounts to 5.6%, and such is its share in the total volume of Russian exports.
The chemical industry employs over 800 thousand people, and approximately the same amount is employed in related industries. Chemical industry substantially ensures the efficiency of agricultural sector, automotive industry, pharmaceutical and many other industries.
At present chemical industry ensures the production of acids, alkalis, fertilizers, various plastics, dyes, household chemicals, paints and varnishes, rubber, photochemical and chemical and pharmaceutical products.
Brief Historic Reference
The emergence of the chemical industry is attributed to the same period as the Russian industry as such — to the 18th century. The economic reforms carried out by Peter the Great, as well as a large number of wars, that the Russian Empire was engaged in throughout the whole century, conditioned a great demand for chemical products, albeit in the form of relatively simple substances in terms of their chemical composition — gunpowder, a number of dyes and suchlike.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the chemical industry in Russia remained at a low level in terms of volume of production and the degree of development. Only after the reforms of the second half of the XIX century and the rapid economic growth, i.e. at the beginning of the 20th century, Russia witnessed active development of domestic chemical industry. By the beginning of the World War I the Russian Empire already possessed the eighth largest chemical industry in the world in terms of production, although a significant contribution to the total volume of production was attributed to artisanal and semi-artisanal production, and almost all state-of-the-art enterprises were either foreign or jointly owned. However, the level of training of Russian chemists was highly recognized all over the globe — suffice it to recall D.I. Mendeleev, a Professor at the St. Petersburg Technological Institute, who discovered the Periodic Law of Chemical Elements.
Nevertheless, the industry developed so rapidly, that it is not just the growth has not stopped with the outbreak of World War II, but also actively continued, not only in the military but also in civilian applications. It is quite understandable, that the production of gunpowder and explosives, rubber products, chemical warfare agents and other military products increased, however, for example, Karbolit, the first factory for the production of synthetic resins and plastics, was put into operation in Orekhovo-Zuyevo in 1915, furthermore, the first plant for the production of nitric acid from ammonia was commissioned in 1916. Other manufacturing enterprise were constructed as well.
With the establishment of Soviet government and the end of the Civil War the Russian chemical industry received a new impetus to its development — Soviet Russia was cut off (both because of political constraints and because of poverty) on imports of chemical products, and this fact, coupled with the necessity to modernize the economy, led to large-scale construction of new chemical plants across the country, which is reflected in the first-ever Soviet Plan for National Economic Recovery and Development (GOELRO). In particular, a number of plants, for example Okhtinsky chemical plant in 1931 or Karbolit plant in Kemerovo in 1932 were reconstructed or rebuilt for the production of synthetic resins and plastics. Apatite mining and chemical plant, which subsequently became one of the largest producers of phosphates in the world, started its operation in 1931. Solikamskiy potash plant, which was rebuilt, covered the country’s demand for potash fertilizers. By the beginning of World War II, the chemical industry of the USSR hit the 5th place in the world.
The chemical industry has become one of the fundamentals of economics in the post-war era, and the new manufacturing complexes, located in the central part of the country, in the Volga region, the Urals and Siberia, created favorable conditions for a significant increase in the production of the entire range of products. For example, Kursk, Engels and Ryazan plants for the production of chemical fibers were commissioned in 1960, numerous plants for the production of paints and varnishes were constructed, new industrial sites for the production of tires, chemicals, fertilizers, and other products were emerging as well. The Soviet chemical industry has become one of the largest in the world, at the same time, it ranked first in the world according to a number of indicators, such as the production of mineral fertilizers.