John Hughes

by Valerii from Dnepropetrovsk

John Hughes
John Hughes

The Welshman John Hughes was the first to build ironworks in Ukraine and the first to use coke in the metallurgical process in the Russian Empire.For the sake of objectiveness, the Welshman started his business career quite traditionally. At the age of 28 he became the owner of the shipbuilding yard. At 36, he acquired a foundry and a metallurgical plant in his native Wales. From that start, he then focused on the production of metals and alloys. The risky decisions Hughes made allowed him to produce high-quality armored sheets for the battleships of the Kingdom.But there was not enough space for the successful businessman in England. Hughes was attracted by the countless coalfields and iron fields in the southeastern Ukrainian steppe. These riches were being slowly explored by Ukrainian and foreign businessmen. Russians traditionally preferred to invest in their "favorite", the Urals. John Hughes recognized the southeast of Ukraine as his "niche" and managed to make his plan come true, primarily owing to his engineering talents. The Englishman was very energetic while he was building his new enterprise. In 1869, the foundation of the first blast furnace was laid. John started building a workmen's village. At the same time John was creating his own capital Yuzovka ("Yuz" being a Russian or Ukrainian approximation of Hughes). He dreamed of turning the workmen's village into a cozy town.

The businessman invested his capital for these purposes. In 1873, Yuzovka's metallurgical plant switched to the so-called complete cycle: pig iron to steel. In one year John Hughes was the biggest producer of metal in the Russian Empire. In the middle of the 80s his enterprise became the multifunctional industrial complex and tripled its output. This required additional labor force. Sir John solved the labor problem in a simple way. He paid his workers higher salaries: Yuzovka's metallurgists and miners earned 28 rubles per month at a time when a suit from the best fabric cost 3 rubles.

Thousands of peasants were taught working professions at Hughes's plants, as they were both free and available after the abolition of serfdom in 1861. Sir John skillfully combined thriftiness and charity. In 1870, when the blast furnace was being built, John Hughes insisted on the construction of a plant hospital, a school for the workmen's children and an Orthodox Church.

After the death of Sir John, his heirs followed his major principle: the prospect of business comes first, the profit comes second. The secret of the legendary John Hughes lies in that simple rule. During the Revolution of 1917, all plants belonging to the family of Hughes were expropriated by the Soviet government. The modern owners of the Donbas metallurgical plants cannot hope for the success of the legendary Englishman. They are destined to oblivion just like many other Hughes's contemporaries - Ukrainian, German, and Belgian businessmen of the 19th century who based their business in Ukraine on immediate profits only. The village of Yuzovka, which later became a city, later bore the name Stalino after the dictator. In 1961 the city received its final "neutral" name Donetsk. Today, this fourth largest Ukrainian city is known all-over the world for its industrial, cultural and sport potential. In 2004, John Hughes returned to his city as a dissident from the communist regime. A monument to Sir John was erected on the central street of Donetsk. Like the legendary American Henry Ford, John Hughes belongs to the constellation of those businessmen who can count their money but who are also able to invent and apply their know-how. Ukraine probably lacks such managers today.

After his death in 1889 at the age of 75, this entrepreneur from Wales continued to be a legend in the southeastern part of Ukraine for decades. This Ukrainian territory, better known as Donbas (Donets Basin), is a center for heavy industry and has a population of over five million people.

Page created on 12/23/2014 1:48:26 PM

Last edited 1/4/2017 10:31:21 PM

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Valerii from Dnepropetrovsk