The term промышленник described individuals seeking furs and the employees of 1700s and 1800s fur companies such as Shelikhov-Golikov and the Russian-American Company. Those workers were involved in a variety of business activities not limited to trapping and trading for furs, but also including punitive attacks on natives and the management of enslaved hunters. Some of them held shares or part shares in the fur expeditions.

Because of this exotic context and the passage of two centuries, the word does not mean quite the same thing today. My question is about its implications at the time the fur companies were operating.

  • Did the term imply that промышленники were risking their own capital on the venture?

  • Were sailors for the fur companies also промышленники?

  • промышленники were members of which Imperial social classes?

  • Промышленники were neither hunters, nor entrepreneurs, they were mere robbers and criminals with a license to kill, they robbed the peoples of Siberia, usually by taking hostages and making the tribe of the hostages pay the ransom in furs.
    – Yellow Sky
    Sep 6, 2017 at 22:23
  • @YellowSky yes, that is the sense which precedes in time the one I am asking about. when those merchants started funding oceangoing fur expeditions towards America, they mostly forced natives into servitude instead of collecting iasak. Sep 7, 2017 at 4:00

2 Answers 2


The word промышленник is derived from the word промысел which means both (1)hunting/fishing and (2)handcraft. And, in fact, it was used in both meanings (professional hunter and craftsman) for a long time (at least, midst of the XIX century), until it was totally replaced with (1)промысловик, and (2)ремесленник (derived from ремесло, which is another word for handcraft). So only then (and it was the time of the capitalist industrialization in Russia too) the word промышленник became the (almost) exclusive meaning of an industrialist / business person.


  1. No, because in the XVIII century the word промышленник still retained its primary meaning (a worker), even though, in some context, it could also mean a business owner;
  2. No, except if they were directly involved in hunting (which is quite possible, I say);
  3. Just commoners. I believe, if some merchant had a big share in a such company in the XVIII century, then he still was simply "a merchant", and not "промышленник".
  • i'd argue that 18-th / 19-th century "промысел" was probably very close to modern English "business" and "small enterprise", See "Отхожий промысел" for example ( ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/… )
    – Arioch
    Sep 4, 2017 at 8:37
  • Also as a verb промыслить себе что-то it was close to добыть. To gain, to get, to acquire...
    – Arioch
    Sep 4, 2017 at 8:38
  • 1
    @Arioch Я указал "ремесленник" как одно из возможных значений. Ещё возможно наёмный рабочий, перебивающийся разовыми заработками, в т.ч. с резко отрицательной коннотацией (низкое социальное положение, склонность к криминалу). Собственно с "бизнесом" это слово стало ассоциироваться достаточно поздно.
    – Matt
    Sep 4, 2017 at 9:17
  • "низкое социальное положение, склонность к криминалу" - гастарбайтер, короче :-D
    – Arioch
    Sep 4, 2017 at 9:29
  • 1
    @AaronBrick (1) Yes, I forgot to add this one: although the word "промысел" is rooted from "мысль" (thought, thinking), so originally it could be virtually any process of getting smth. by using mindwork, but in modern (and semi-modern) language it has only 4 meanings: Divine providence; handcraft; hunting/fishing; and extractive exterprises (usually plural form only). So, indeed, "промышленник" as an (extractive) enterprise owner dates back to XVII-XVIII centuries, but the process of acquiring the modern meaning took about two centuries.
    – Matt
    Sep 5, 2017 at 8:37

My gut feeling (native speaker reporting) is that промышленники is here used not in the modern sense. This is about a bit dated language, right? The action of somewhat industrial hunting is older Russian is called промысел. Hence, these people were hunters, not entrepreneurs.

  • thanks Oleg. yes, quite dated! i don't yet understand where hunting comes into it. in my Russian-English dictionary (Müller, 1944), the translations given are manufacturer, trader, and a lot of derivative terms about industries. Sep 2, 2017 at 0:03
  • The dictionary still lists the modern usage. A trace of the older meaning is, e.g. in "русские народные промыслы" – the folk artisanship. The typical usage was for some kind of hunting, e.g. "рыбный промысел" – fishing, see wiktionary, Ushakov. Same dictionary says "2. Занимающийся каким-нибудь промыслом (устар. и обл.)." for "промышленник", that's the usage you have here. Sep 2, 2017 at 0:13
  • @AaronBrick, "Промысел" has the meaning of the process of retrieving (as a sort of business, not hobby) natural resources. In modern language it is used for fishing and oil extraction, but in the past hunting was also included. Hence, "промышленник" - a fur company owner or a hunter working for such a company.
    – AlexVB
    Sep 2, 2017 at 7:41
  • 1
    The optimal translation of промысел is "venture", I think. It's semantics is close to trade and business (naturally includes activity and risk). Ремесло, ремесленник - this carries semantic of skilled work - but less of venture and none of adventure.
    – ddbug
    Sep 7, 2017 at 13:25

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