'From Chips to Pulp in Minutes': Innovations and Continuous Pulp Cooking in the Soviet Union in the 1940s-1950s
Posted: 26 Nov 2014 Last revised: 4 Mar 2015
Date Written: November 26, 2014
The 1940s – mid-1960s saw rapid developments in the chemical and cellulose industries internationally. In this period, a number of attempts to introduce new technologies were taken by industrial scientists and engineers, some of which happened in different countries simultaneously. In the late 1930s, Swedish engineer Johan Richter proposed the Kamyr digester project to industrialists, and after roughly ten years it succeeded in implementing the technology at an industrial scale. Several years earlier, Soviet engineer Leonid Zherebov proposed a project different from the Swedish one in some technical parameters, but with the same purpose – increasing the production of pulp. This initiative, however, was not introduced as planned. Instead, after more than 20 years, Soviet industry mostly produced pulp using Kamyr digesters purchased from abroad. Following the question raised by historian Loren Graham as to why Russian innovations often remained isolated ideas, this article seeks to investigate the nature of Soviet innovation by examining Soviet modernization through a case study of continuous pulp cooking. It will focus not only on the technological specifics of the innovation, but on social and political conditions. In so doing, this paper will examine the activities of engineers and the interactions of institutions within the Soviet pulp and paper industry.
Keywords: innovation, Soviet, technology, pulp and paper industry, technological development
JEL Classification: N64
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