Did you know...? #13

Did you know that Cockerill exported to Russia in the 19th century?

With the objective of offsetting a major economic depression in the 1880's, the Cockerill company sets out on a new expansion strategy, and decides to open out to the world and to new markets which are appearing. Eugène Sadoine, the former Director General, thus identifies major potential in a southern region of Russia. On March 16th1886, Cockerill participates in the founding of the 'Société Métallurgique Dniéprovienne du Midi de la Russie', whose shareholding is principally Belgian. The selected region, part of the Ukraine of today, has the advantage of being on the banks of the River Dniepr and of being close to mining activities such as Krivoï-Rog. As success soon came, Cockerill wishes to develop this installation by, in particular, constructing the Nicolaïeff naval shipyards. Other Walloon steelmakers come to the country of the Czars, bringing with them over 20,000 workers. Very quickly, the city of Iékaterinoslav becomes known as 'the Russian Seraing'. In 1900, Belgium has become the largest foreign investor in Russia.

Despite a massive industrial and social installation, the Belgian companies will not survive the violent crisis which hit Russia at the very beginning of the 1900's. Russian stocks on the Brussels stock exchange slump dramatically, and Belgian companies fall, one after the other, giving in to their Russian creditors. By 1918, following a short but historic visit, almost all the Belgian workers had returned to their native Belgium.