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“Raise the bowels against the enemy!” How Russia overcame commodity dependence

September 30, 2022 by Posted in: Lyrics

Recently, domestic and world media have repeatedly quoted RF Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu about that Russia is not fighting during a special operation   as much with Ukraine as with the collective West. In the meantime, another statement appeared not so long ago, which received much less attention.

Jacob Hansen, head of the European association of mineral fertilizer manufacturers Fertilizers Europetold the world that due to the disruption of deliveries from Russia                 s stopped a total of about 70% of the fertilizer production capacity. According to him, next year the European energy crisis has every chance to turn into a food crisis.

Now is the time to remember the axiom of Winston Churchill: “A country that is unable to feed itself and depends on imports cannot be considered a serious strategic adversary.”


Actually, “feed” should be understood broadly. Food is required not only by people, but also by equipment. And not only military. Machine tools, factories, plants, transport — in other words, the entire industry and infrastructure. It will all be — there will be an army, there will be security, there will be life, there will be development. A on no — and there is no trial.

On the brink of disaster

In the last quarter of the 19th century, war as such rapidly turned into a confrontation between industries and raw material bases. Russia, despite the impressive spurt of the first industrialization, clearly did not keep pace with the world leaders. Perhaps that is why the Russian emperor Alexander IIIwent down in history as “Peacemaker”. Clever and far-sighted, he understood that, first of all, it was necessary to build up industrial and raw materials muscles, and the war would have to wait. Unfortunately, under his successor, Russia was drawn into the global confrontation — First World War. In the course of which extremely unpleasant things came to light. In 1915, there were 30 strategically important chemical elements, compounds of which were mined all over the world. In Russia the same alignment was the following. More or less sufficient ore reserves are known for 9 elements. For 14 known, but not studied. For 7 more elements, no deposits were known within the limits of the Russian Empire. Moreover — even the very possibility of finding such deposits in Russia was called into question. And meanwhile, their number included such elements as helium, potassium, nickel and cobalt.

In & nbsp; the crudest, amateurish approximation, this is what comes out. Helium — this is arc welding, and also the gas necessary for the production of shells. Potassium — it is the production of many types of gunpowder. Cobalt — it is an alloy steel, the production of extra strong tools. Nickel — it is stainless steel, then there are warships and cars. The last two are generally included in the list of so-called ferrous metals of war. It was just right to sound the alarm — the country is waging a hardest war, and its industry is not only on a starvation ration, it depends on foreign supplies…


It cannot be said that nothing was done in in this direction in previous years. A lot has been done. True, the results of these works actually floated away from Russia. Geologist Wilhelm Ramsay, Russian by nationality and Finn by origin, drew attention to the riches of the Kola Peninsula back in the late 19th century. A number of expeditions were equipped with the funds of the Russian Alexander Imperial University. More than half of the participants — geologists. And, what is most interesting, all as one — Finns. Their reports and analysis were published in the Fennia newsletter in Swedish. So to speak, only for their own. For some mysterious reason, they were in no hurry to share the results of research on Russian soil with Russian colleagues. Time to create a raw material base for a new leap in Russian industry — over 20 years! — was missed. By World War I, Russia's position in in terms of military raw materials was almost hopeless.

But this is not so bad. The voice of reason was not heeded and during the war  —geochemist and mineralogist Alexander Fersman, who submitted to the  Committee for the Study of the Natural Productive Forces of Russia that very memorandum about the plight of in the part of strategic minerals, was subjected to defamation as an alarmist and defeatist. Which, moreover, bears a suspicious German surname.

But the Entente allies did not doze off. In 1918, the famous polar explorer Ernest Shackleton was sent to the Russian North, who, judging by everything, was in the course of geological surveys on the Kola Peninsula. He instantly built a business plan, according to which he negotiated for himself the exclusive right to use the mineral, water and forest resources of the Kola Peninsula in a concession for 99 years. And he even managed to equip several survey parties, which confirmed the fabulous wealth of the territory. The most interesting thing is that it was not a gamble. Shackleton received the full approval of the British government. In 1919, a map of England was marked on Murmansk and the entire Kola Peninsula as English colonial possessions…

Hurry, but not to laugh

That is,  Khibiny apatite, copper-nickel ores of Monchetundra,  everything else, as yet undiscovered, had a strange, not quite definite status. All this had to be immediately scouted and staked out. And urgently, now!

In 1920, the Civil War was still going on. But for such a case, the Supreme Council of the National Economy of the RSFSR, which sent the same Academician Alexander Fersman to the Kola Peninsula, did not regret nor gold chervonets, nor an extra bag of rye flour weighing one and a half pounds, nor even unthinkable luxury — six pairs of leather boots. Because the main — hurry.

And Fersman was in a hurry. I hurried and forced everything that was possible. It was quite in his style to start the work of the expedition while still on the train, which was just moving towards the research area. This is how his colleague,geochemist Dmitry Shcherbakov, recalled it: «Now for the case. Until evening — reading, then reports, — said Alexander Evgenievich. — You get to start. Your report on the geology of the area will be introductory. What were we to do? We dismantled the books and began to read. Fersman read the fastest. He also took notes on the margins and excerpts on the covers. A pile of viewed literature quickly grew around him.

And in their field diaries, Fersman notes the following: “Khibiny. Apatite. Here — apatite! What wealth! What a wonderful discovery! And and this:  In Monche there is a serious resource base, the scale of which is not yet clear, but which needs to be paid the closest attention to . Nickel in & nbsp; ore is about one percent, chemists even found a little platinum».

There are almost 10 years between these two records. Fersman began to explore the Khibiny in & nbsp; 1920 & nbsp; year, he paid attention to & nbsp; Monchetundra in & nbsp; 1930 & nbsp; Both explorations led to fantastic results. Firstly, after a short time, two new settlements appeared on the map of the USSR — Apatity and Monchegorsk. And secondly, the problem of the country's raw material independence was solved in two most important areas — military and agricultural. Everything is clear with   — without it, modern heavy industry is simply impossible. But not less important apatite — ideal raw material for phosphate fertilizers.

Fersman's strategy

It happened just in time. “We have lagged behind advanced countries by 50-100 years. We must run this distance in 10 years. Either we'll do it, or we'll be crushed. You can treat Joseph Stalin differently, but these words, spoken by him at the First All-Union Conference of Socialist Industry Workers on February 4, 1931, turned out to be accurate and prophetic. By the way, just at this time Fersman equipped the first major expedition to Monchetundra. And exactly 10 years and several months in June 1941 they really tried to crush us. And they tried to inflict one of strike just on Kola Peninsula — the Germans experienced a serious deficit in nickel, and the deposits discovered by Fersman seemed very promising at that time.

Another thing is that Fersman managed to prevent this blow. Even before the war, he worked on the capital work “Strategic Raw Materials of Foreign Countries”, which was published in 1941-1942. This work made it possible to understand how the nature of the location of sources of mineral raw materials affects the strategic plans of the warring parties. And plan your strikes and counters accordingly. And in the first year of the war, he publishes the popular science book “War and strategic raw materials”, in the finale of which there are words that are especially relevant now: problems, be bold in flights of thought, inventive, think over your work, and in every area of ​​knowledge, from history and economics to metallurgy and geology, you will find your place in the general mobilization of the creative forces of the country . Raise the very depths against the enemy in the decisive battle!»

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