Imperial Russian Technological Society

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In the era before the revolution, the Imperial Russian Technical Society (IRTS) was the most important and oldest technical organization in Russia. Founded in 1866 in St. Petersburg on the model of similar societies across Europe, it brought together scientists, engineers, and other people interested in promoting technological development. Subsidized by the Ministry of Public Education, the Ministry of Finances, and other government agencies, and by industry, it focused on inventions and the application of technology in order to further the development of Russia's manufacturing and production industries and foster the country's overall industrial and economic growth. Headed by scientists such as chemist Dmitry I. Mendeleyev and military engineer and chemist Count Kochubei, IRTS encouraged greater cooperation between government and the world of science, technology, and industry.

The members of IRTS were concerned about the output of Russia's weak private sector and felt that the technology policy of the tsarist state was inadequate, especially in the military sphere. This view was confirmed by the Russo-Japanese War (19041905), and in fact it was not until then that the government began to encourage IRTS in its support of aviation. World War I provided IRTS with another opportunity to demand greater state support for scientific and technological research.

From the outset IRTS was strongly committed to the dissemination of technical education, favoring the polytechnic model at the university level rather than specialized institutes, because students in schools of the former type would be more creative and flexible in their future jobs. In addition to technical schools and special classes, it conducted night schools for adults. It also tried to popularize technological development by organizing a technical library, a technical museum, and an itinerant museum, and by publishing science books for technical schools. As early as 1867 IRTS started publishing a magazine, Notes from the Imperial Russian Technical Society (Zapiski IRTO ), and organizing meetings on technical subjects and on technical and professional training. Finally, it distributed awards and medals in support and reward of inventions and research and applications in the field of technology.

IRTS was a national organization and had a network of correspondents throughout Russia. Starting in the 1860s it had offices in many provinces. By 1896 there were twenty-three of these, some of which published their own magazines. In 1914 IRTS had two thousand members, four times as many as when it began. The Russian Technical Society continued its activities until 1929, when it was eliminated on the grounds that it was an organization of bourgeois specialists.

See also: academy of sciences; mendeleyev, dmitry ivanovich; moscow agricultural society; science and technology policy


Bailes, Kendall E. (1978). Technology and Society under Lenin and Stalin. Origins of the Soviet Technical Intelligentsia, 1917-1941. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Balzer, Harley D. (1980). "Educating Engineers: Economic Politics and Technical Training in Tsarist Russia." Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania.

Balzer, Harley D. (1983). "The Imperial Russian Technical Society." In The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History, edited by Joseph L. Wieczynski, Vol. 32, 176-180. Gulf Breeze, FL: Academic International Press.

Balzer, Harley D. (1996). "The Engineering Profession in Tsarist Russia." In Russia's Missing Middle Class: The Professions in Russian History, edited by Harley D. Balzer, 55-88. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.

Blackwell, William. (1968). The Beginning of Russian Industrialization. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Martine Mespoulet

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Imperial Russian Technological Society

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