“Before the war, our Plant called then Stalmost was located in the town of Verkhnayay Salda in Sverdlovsk Region. It was a small timber-built town with a modest steel works dating back to the times of Demidov. Stalmost was situated on the outskirts, quite near to the forest and the river Chernushka…” –Elena Ryzhkova (Lugovskikh), the Plant veteran, recalls in her memoirs.
In fact, Stalmost Plant, designed for a never-before-seen in Russia enormous output of structural steel using a state-of-art technology, was founded on the outskirts of an old workers’ camp of the former Demidov plant in early thirties.
Russia has always been a leader among other countries in terms of structural steel fabrication. It is the Urals, where the first-in-the-world all-forged flooring structure of Nevyansk Tower is located just 30 kilometers to the Stalmost plant being constructed. Buildings of Demidov steel works facilities of 19th and early 20th century had exquisite flooring structures manufactured by forgers and architects from the Urals.
However, the large-scale industrialization could not depend on individual and custom-completed construction. Stalmost Plant was purchased from the USA in 1930, because by that time the Americans had had the most advanced technology of line production of steel structures, as well as a genuine system of technical documentation.
Vasiliy Pavlovich Pshenichniy, whose memoirs will be often cited, says:
“Construction of the Plant in Verkhnyaya Salda was completed in 1936. The designed capacity was 100 000 tons of structural steel per year, whilst the indoor area was 110 000 sq. meters, including preparation shops for maintenance, forging and fasteners, electrodes, and other aspects…”
The Plant start-up was facilitated by personal attention and care from then People’s Commissar for USSR industry, a prominent statesman Sergo Ordzhonizidze (12.10.1886 – 18.02.1937), who visited the constructed Plant August 13, 1934.
Isidor Grankovskiy sais: “The People’s Commissar first greeted each worker by shaking their rough scale-filled hands. Some of the workers felt ashamed to give a dirty hand to the People’s Commissar, but he joked: “Did you want to build socialism and keep your hands clean?”
Immediately after the meeting with the managers, the People’s Commissar issued red-lined orders for motor cars, tractors, rail cars to be delivered from new factories in Gorky, Chelyabinsk and Odessa. Besides, in order to motivate the distinguished workers, bicycles, watches, record players and sports equipment were awarded. All these things were delivered in two weeks… It was an admirable sort of response.”
Then V.H. Pshenichniy states: “In 1936-39, the Stalmost Plant output reached 2 500 to 2 700 tons per month; afterwards, following some organizational reforms, the Plant gave 5 700 tons in December 1939, the planned output being 4 200, thus reaching 50% of the design capacity…”
It should be pointed out that in those prewar years the Plant employed prominent engineers, who became the industry leaders afterwards, such as A.V. Krylov, B.A. Khokhlov, and B.I. Belyaev. In after years, the latter used to supervise all the steel structure factories across Russia and generated many inventions and study materials in the field.
But Vasiliy Pavlovich Pshenichniy was a distinguished person among this mighty team, as a strong-willed and high-skilled manager, who established a special leadership style.
Andrey A. Abarinov says in his memoirs: “When the new Director arrived to the Plant in 1939, the team felt rather confused. When he gathered the party and the production leaders, he informed he was coming from the jail…”
Previously, he had worked in Ukraine as a construction expert, and was affected by 1937-1938 events. He was under prosecution… After he was released by S.Z. Ginzburg, the People’s Commissar for Construction, he was sent to our Plant, where he proved himself as a real Director. His determination and strong will made him a person capable of taking the responsibility, without bowing to any sort of authority… V.P. Pshenichniy was able of addressing firm warnings and criticism even to E.O. Paton, member of the Academy…”
Thus, by early 1941 Stalmost Plant became an established facility with developed production and high-skilled personnel capable of completing the most sophisticated challenges posed by the industry and the country.
For a significant contribution made to the country’s economy development, the Plant was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor.