Peat Industry

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Peat Industry


the branch of the fuel industry concerned with the exploitation of peat deposits and the extraction and processing of peat for various purposes. The peat industry is important in the Soviet economy because peat is a native fuel. Peat is increasingly used as an organic fertilizer (in combination with other substances), bedding for cattle, and greenhouse soil, as well as raw material for the production of pots for plants, nutrient briquettes and blocks for growing plants, and antiseptic substances for preserving fruit. It is also used to make heat-insulating materials and as raw material for medicines, growth stimulants, and protein preparations.

Peat has been used as a fuel since ancient times. It has been extracted in Scotland and Holland since the 12th and 13th centuries and in France, Sweden, and Germany since the 16th and 17th centuries.

In Russia, Peter I the Great was the first to realize the importance of peat extraction, which was first practiced near the Alexander Nevsky Monastery in St. Petersburg in 1789. Peat deposits were worked in Smolensk Province in 1793. The Company for the Development of Peat was founded in 1839 in Moscow, where the government appointed the Committee for the Promotion of the Use and Development of Peat in 1851. A pilot peat works was built by the government in the Pal’tso bog near Briansk in 1875 under the direction of L. A. Sytin. Peat extraction in prerevolutionary Russia reached a maximum of more than 1.7 million tons in 1914. Peat works served as auxiliary shops for textile factories, brickyards, and sugar mills.

The cutting and elevator methods of extraction, which relied on manual labor, were used until the 1920’s. The hydraulic method of extracting peat was developed in the early years of Soviet power by R. E. Klasson and V. D. Kirpichnikov. Peat works were built in Shatura, Moscow Oblast, after the Apr. 21, 1918, decrees of the Council of People’s Commissars On Peat Fuel Works and On the Main Peat Committee. The GOELRO plan called for the construction of five large regional power plants to be operated on peat, and research on the country’s vast peat deposits was begun. In the late 1920’s, production processes and complexes were developed, and the excavation and milling methods of extraction were introduced by I. A. Rogov, M. N. Karelin, and others. The milling method was completely mechanized by the end of the l940’s.

The Central Scientific Research Institute of the Peat Industry (Instorf) was organized in the 1920’s and the All-Union Institute for the Mechanization of the Peat Industry in 1935. In 1941 these institutes were combined to form the All-Union Research Institute of the Peat Industry in Leningrad. The Peat Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Byelorussian SSR was founded in 1933.

By 1940 all the electric power plants in Yaroslavl, Ivanovo, Vladimir, and Kalinin oblasts and in Byelorussia were operating on peat fuel. Peat constituted 19 percent of the fuel used by facilities under the raion board of power system management in Moscow Raion, 40 percent in Leningrad Raion, and 65 percent in Gorky Raion.

Peat is most abundant in Western Siberia and the Northwest European USSR; these regions contain almost 90 percent of the country’s total peat reserves. In the USSR, 1.09 million tons of peat were extracted in 1918, 5.3 million tons in 1928, 32.1 million tons in 1940, 27.1 million tons in 1946, 59.2 million tons in 1965, and approximately 90 million tons in 1975 (all figures for peat with 40 percent moisture content).

In addition, in 1975 the various organizations of the Union for Agricultural Technology and the Ministry of Land Reclamation and Water Use Management extracted approximately 150 million tons of peat with high moisture content. Despite the overall increase in the amount of peat extracted, the percentage of peat in the fuel balance dropped to 1.4 percent in 1975. In 1974, 79 power plants with capacities rated at more than 4,000 megawatts were operating on peat.

The commercial extraction of peat increased substantially in Kirov and Kalinin oblasts, northwest European Russia, Western Siberia, Byelorussia, and other regions during the years of the five-year plans. Peat enterprises in the USSR produce approximately 300,000–500,000 tons annually. The largest enterprises in 1975 were Mokeikha-Zybinskoe in Yaroslavl Oblast (2.1 million tons), Riazanovskoe in Moscow Oblast (1.3 million tons), Ozer-etskoe in Kalinin Oblast (1.4 million tons), Orshinskoe-1 in Kalinin Oblast (1.15 million tons), and Gusevskoe in Vladimir Oblast (1 million tons). Considerable progress has been made in the modernization of the peat industry, resulting in a 76.5-percent increase in the degree of mechanization of labor. Labor productivity in 1975 was 2.2 times higher than in 1960.

The world production of peat with a nominal 40-percent moisture content is approximately 200 million tons annually (1974). Most is extracted in Ireland, the Federal Republic of Germany, and Poland.

Peat is used as a fuel in a few foreign countries, chiefly Ireland, the Federal Republic of Germany, and Finland. In foreign countries it is also used in growing fruits, flowers, and vegetables; weakly decomposed peat is especially suited for these applications. There is a general tendency abroad to increase peat production for plant growing.

International peat congresses have been held since 1954. The International Peat Society was founded by a resolution of the Second International Peat Congress in 1963. The third, fourth, and fifth congresses were held in Canada (1968), Finland, (1972), and Poland (1976), respectively.


Torfv narodnom khoziaistve. Moscow, 1968.
Torfianaia promyshlennost’ SSSR. Leningrad, 1971.
The Proceedings of the Fourth International Peat Congress, Otaniemi, Finland, June 25–30, vols. 1–5. Helsinki, 1972–73.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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