Kreenholm Manufacturing Company 1940-2010

In the summer of 1940 Estonia became part of the Soviet Union. On 29 July 1940 a decree was passed to nationalise the Kreenholm Manufacturing Company, with Konstantin Grigoryevich Kosko appointed as the first Soviet director. At that time the mill complex had 2,172 employees. The nationalisation resulted in a total loss of the European markets. The Kreenholm Manufacturing Company began reorientation towards the Soviet Union market, which at the time was experiencing shortages of all fabric types. It was decided to restore old production levels as soon as possible, reactivating the recently unused facilities. By September of the same year there were 110,000 spindles and 500 looms in operation. In April 1941 the New Spinnery E.F. mill resumed work.

But the Soviet authorities failed to resume the Kreenholm Manufacturing Company operation in full because on 18 August 1941 Narva was captured by the German troops. In the 29 August 1941 issue of the Põhja Kodu (Northern Home) newspaper the new administration of the Kreenholm Manufacturing Company invited all former workers wishing to be re-employed to register at the head office on 30 August and 1 September.

The Kreenholm Manufacturing Company continued operation under the German occupation, producing bandages among other items. As of 1 October 1941 there were between 1,500 and 1,600 employees. The Kreenholm Manufacturing Company was managed by Technical Director Härmann and Head of the Trade and Economics Department Henrichsen.

On 26 July 1944 units of the Red Army entered Narva. The town was already entirely destroyed, but the Kreenholm area had suffered less damage. Yet the Kreenholm Manufacturing Company facilities had been rendered completely inoperative. The mill complex sustained a total loss of about 250 million roubles (based on 1940 prices). Despite that the Soviet State Defence Committee decided to restore the Kreenholm Manufacturing Company. In February 1945 the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Estonia passed a resolution “On restoration of the industry and municipal services of the town of Narva”, emphasising that restoration of the Kreenholm Manufacturing Company was a priority. The importance of that task for the industrial sector of Estonia and the Soviet Union on the whole is illustrated by the fact that on 19 June 1945 the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR passed a special resolution “On restoration of the Kreenholm Manufacturing Company”. The main accompanying slogan: Kreenholm is Narva, Narva is Kreenholm.

In 1945 the Kreenholm Manufacturing Company had just 208 employees, 58,368 spinning spindles and 42 looms. In that year the Joala Mill produced 183 tonnes of yarn and 23 thousand metres of rough fabrics. 10 years later the Kreenholm Manufacturing Company had 9,360 employees, 222,516 spinning spindles, 35,872 twisting spindles and 4,091 looms. The output reached 15,814 tonnes of yarn and 98,014 metres of fabrics.

In 1960 Taisia Marchenko, a weaver from the Kreenholm Manufacturing Company, gained recognition for her outstanding work achievements, receiving the Hero of Socialist Labour title, the Order of Lenin and the Medal of the Sickle and the Hammer. Taisia Marchenko was elected deputy to the 5th and 6th Supreme Soviets of the USSR (1958-1966).

By the end of 1961 the Kreenholm Manufacturing Company was fully restored to its pre-war state. In 1963 the new Georgiyevsky Weaving Mill appeared, fully dedicated to production of terrycloth towels and jacquard fabrics. On 5 March of that year the first Kreenholm Manufacturing Company art workshop was opened there. The Finishing Plant was added in 1967. On 3 January 1968 another art workshop was opened there. Those art workshops provided the Kreenholm Manufacturing Company with own professional designs for fabric patterns and images, which had been previously copied from samples created at factories in Moscow, Ivanovo and so on. The Kreenholm Manufacturing Company evolved into an enterprise with a complete production cycle, its fabrics also receiving a trademark. The company’s product range expanded as well. The Kreenholm Manufacturing Company became one of the largest textile enterprises of the Soviet Union, employing approximately 12.5 thousand people.

From 1981-1985 the Kreenholm Manufacturing Company facilities were restructured: despite a reduction in the number of looms, the output capacity increased and the working conditions improved. In 1985 the Kreenholm Manufacturing Company produced 106.2 tonnes of yarn and 214.3 million metres of fabrics, while the range comprised 292 products. Almost 11 thousand people of about 40 nationalities worked at the mill complex.

In 1985 the Council of Ministers of the USSR passed a resolution on conducting an economic experiment at three enterprises subordinated to the Ministry of the Consumer Goods Industry of the Estonian SSR, including the Kreenholm Manufacturing Company. The company was allowed both independent entry to foreign markets and usage of export profits to purchase new equipment. Furthermore, the product range was reviewed and expanded. That resulted in increased export sales, reaching 4 million dollars in 1989 and 1990.

When Estonia regained independence in 1991, the Kreenholm Manufacturing Company entered a difficult period of searching for new sales markets and reviewing of production and management strategies to adapt to the introduced market economy system. In 1992 the Government of the Republic of Estonia founded the Kreenholm Manufacturing State Enterprise. In the same year sewing production commenced, consisting of two factories manufacturing a wide range of products that included bed linen, tablecloths, napkins, curtains, terrycloth towels, bathrobes, etc. The primary buyers were located in America, Germany, France, Sweden, Finland and Norway.

In 1994 the privatisation process began across Estonia and the Kreenholm complex was among the first enterprises to be privatised. On 1 January 1995 it was acquired by the Swedish company Borås Wäfveri AB. The new owners turned the existing Kreenholm factories into independent joint-stock companies owned by the Kreenholm Valduse AS group. Thus appeared Kreenholmi Kudumise AS, Kreenholmi Frotee AS, Kreenholmi Viimistluse AS, Kreenholmi Ketruse AS, Kreenholmi Õmbluse AS and Kreenholmi Tekstiil AS.

2000 saw the market economy period sales peaking at 1,240 million Estonian kroons, allowing the enterprise to reach the 7th place among turnover leaders of the Estonian economy. The Kreenholm employees numbered 4,863.

But soon the Kreenholm enterprise, its previous success having been based on a combination of cheap labour and quality output, began to lose its prominent position in the textile industry. Asian countries were offering even cheaper labour. The Kreenholm production facilities and output volumes began to dwindle. In December 2007 first mill closures were announced. On 17 June 2008 the last loom was stopped, marking the end of weaving work. The finishing and sewing factories operated for two more years. On 30 November 2010 the Viru County Court declared bankruptcy of Kreenholm Valduse AS. The enterprise that had existed for over 150 years was no more.

In 2007 the Narva Gate private limited company paid 350 million Estonian kroons to purchase 61 hectares of land that included the Kreenholm facilities. Since then a detailed plan has been developed for a Kreenholm plot of 30.3 hectares, as well as an ambitious project to build the Manufacture Cultural Quarter.