Mapping key advances for Russian glassmakers

British Glass Information Officer, Theresa Green highlights some of the key changes realised by the Russian glass industry during the 1960s. This information is based on translated extracts taken from the Russian language publication, Steklo I Keramika 1961, part of an extensive library of information maintained by British Glass.

In 1900, there were 212 glass manufacturing factories in Russia, producing glassware equivalent to the value of over 25 million roubles. When World War One broke out in 1914, however, there was a drop of 34% in the number of operating glassworks and the volume of production on account of disruption to the country’s economy, general destruction and a sharp decline in individual purchasing power.

The outbreak of war took the country back decades in terms of production output and level of technology. Subsequently, during the years of the civil war, the glass industry underwent still greater decline. The catastrophic fuel situation, lack of raw materials, extreme dilapidation of technical equipment and destruction of many enterprises brought the industry down to just 66 factories. In 1922, however, nationalisation of the industry began and the first programme was developed for the rehabilitation and development of this declining vital industrial

Gradually, the situation improved and by the 1960s, the Russian glass sector was no longer in decline but had begun to increase and was back up to around 115 enterprises. 

Exciting Applications

The Russian technical glass journal, Steklo I KeramikaDuring this decade, the industry was focussed on a variety of exciting applications for glass. The Russian technical journal, Steklo I Keramika, Vol 18, 1961, spoke of the expansion in the potential use of glass in dwellings, industrial and other building applications, noting “building practice has become very accustomed to the use of glass blocks and glassconcrete panels without fear.” Architects and builders were beginning to use glass doors in their buildings, with new types of glazing for windows and such apertures finding wide acceptance.

The 22nd Congress of the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) had just taken place, where N S Khrushchev praised workers, for their “heroic struggles”, as they “fulfilled and exceeded their duties in production and socialistic obligations.” 

Bold experiments with the use of glass for external facing of large areas had been carried out, when plates of aluminised coloured glass of 500mm x 800mm in size were used for facing the spires of the Moscow State University in the Lenin Hills.

Glass as a facing material was being diversified. Besides the wellknown enamel-covered tiles, use was being found for glass mosaics for external façade work and multilayered coloured panels in order to make Russian towns “well organised and beautiful.” The State Institute of Glass developed a method for making glass mosaics producing trial batches of different colours and sizes.

Production Innovations

The Russians were also working on alternative methods of melting coloured and colourless glass without stopping the tank furnace. Separately, plans to convert furnaces to heating with natural gas were well underway. At one specific plant, Lisichansk, the measure increased the yield of finished products from 95.8 to 100.2m2 of furnace area per day, sharply reducing specific fuel consumption from 800 to 442kg/tonne of finished products. Gas-fired furnaces were so much more economic that it was stated the cost of fuel expended on one standard box of window glass dropped from 90 to 23 kopecks.

The Russian glass industry believed science would play a major role in creating a material-technical base. The recently established State Research Institute for Glass, the  NIIStroikeramika and other industries had completed a number of investigations which they deemed “possess great national significance.” Increasing production across all sectors was a priority, as it was estimated it would be necessary to more than double efficiency over the coming 10 years and furthermore, increase it by four-five times within 20 years. New scientific research centres were under construction – the Institute of Glass and the Institute of Glass Machine Building. These centres would focus on the mechanisation and automation of batch processes and quality issues and improving the design and performance of glass furnaces.

One particular problem was the ‘inconvenience’ caused by the use of ‘friable, powdery batches’ – separation of the constituents, dusting, destruction of refractory, complexity of transport and loading the batch into the furnace. To eliminate these drawbacks, attempts were made to briquette the batch. However, briquetting of glass batch had not been widely used in the industry, so most carried on using the method of granulation – the only reliable method of obtaining ‘hard’ batch.

Steklo I Keramika, November 1961 commented:

The Soviet people could see clearly the beautiful future and a bright tomorrow of their country – but bold and resolute steps need to be taken to use these new methods of forming and processing glass – floatless drawing and double-sided grinding and polishing. Producers of glass containers, electro-vacuum glass and general glass wares should use high output automatic glass forming based on complex mechanisation and automation of the main and auxiliary processes.

Valuable Asset

The massive collection of articles that comprises Steklo I Kermika over many decades is an invaluable asset to any glass or research establishment. British Glass holds
several volumes, covering the period from 1960 to 1990. Its library is open by appointment to any member who wishes to take advantage of this collection of some of the most important pieces of literature covering the glass industry ever published.

Reproduction of this published material is provided courtesy of Glass Worldwide -

Published in Glass Worldwide - Issue 48, July 2013.

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