Industrial epoch

Industrial epoch

At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Centuries Riga became one of the major industrial centres of Russia. Riga was the base for the most modern industries at that time: aviation, automobile and electrical engineering. In 1913 there were already three companies producing aircraft and two car factories. Car manufacture started in 1909 in the ‘Russo-Balt’ works. In the years 1909 to 1914 it produced more cars than for example Fiat in the first six years of its existence.

Along with the development of industry and trade the importance of Latvian sea ports for Russia’s internal trade increased too. In 1904 – 1905 Latvian ports accounted for around 20% of imports and 22% of exports in the Russian Empire. The growth in income from industry and transport led to the development of housing construction. In 1913 alone, almost 7,000 apartments were built in the city. Entire streets in the city were built in the famous Riga Jugendstil (Art Nouveau).

There were several reasons for the economic boom of that time. The multi-national population of Riga also played a significant part. A large German community enabled economic and scientific contacts to be made with Germany, one of the most advanced countries at the time. Raw material was brought by sea to Riga and finished products could be sold without limit or customs barriers throughout the territory of the Russian Empire. Available raw materials and a large Russian market attracted western as well as Russian capital. Thanks to investments the largest enterprises in the city developed – Russo-Balt, Provodnik, Phoenix, Union and others. The rapid development of industry required new working hands. From 1867 to 1913 the city’s population rose by almost 5 times, caused chiefly by the migration of Latvian and Russian workers. A high concentration of the proletariat in Riga gave rise to the active involvement of Latvia’s residents in three Russian revolutions at the beginning of the XX century.

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