Country of Manufacture

I dare to say that hardly anybody knows any goods from Belarus and wonder if they are producing anything except refining gas and oil from Russia on the transit to Europe. But in fact, they are producing a lot - but for a completely different market. Anyway, again I found out that there are some similarities regarding Austrian and Belarusian companies producing specific goods – even though on completely contrary premises.

I already mentioned that after the break up of the Habsburg monarchy Austria hardly featured relevant industry and producing companies and literaly had to start from zero. That's why on the one hand side tourism got such an important sector for income quite early. On the other hand side people and/or companies had to find a niche and/or product where they could survive and sell. In Austria there were never companies producing TVs, radios, refridgerators in huge numbers. These goods were already served by German, French, Italian etc. companies. In face of these problems, there are still many Austrian companies which got big and/or world market leaders, because they specialised, focused and found their business.

Whereas for Belarus it was the opposite. After the devastations caused in defending the country during the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet government (in Moscow) decided to reconstruct and develop the Belarussian Socialist Soviet Republic in establishing numerous factories there. The BSSR got the assemby hall of the USSR and produced for a huge market of about 260 mio. people.
Within a union with shared market this is no problem – but gets one when the union disintegrate and the market gets cut over night... Because now, even though not a small country, factories are far to oversized for the new and now independent, yet small country with about 10 mio. citizens. Suddenly you have factual borders, taxes, conflicts and in addition a catastropic economic situation in the former market of the post-Soviet space and beyond (the former allies of the now non existent Eastern Block) – imagine and compare it with the (economic) world situation caused by the corona-virus...

Factories in Belarus, the whole Belarusian economy had to cope and deal with this new situation. I do not know the situation in detail, but what I could find out in researching the still existing companies/factories, they downsized and/or could conquer „old“ markets back, meaning the post-Soviet space, being now the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). I can only have a guess here, but reorientating (to new markets e.g. in the West) was never an option. The markets there were already occupied by the „traditional western companies“ and due to differences and inequalities in quality, marketing and price? And the break up of the USSR was a gold rush for expanding western companies, not eastern ones...
That's also the reason why there is still this „traditional“ link to the East and old „allies“: It's easier to communicate with people who understand you instead of trying to talk with someone who always want to tell you how you have to do this and that and impose rules of behaving for the whole country before allowing any kind of economic exchange...

Factories and Companies

Now I'd like to present companies and factories which are important for Belarus and they are pretty proud of - and found often an Austrian counterpart. I summarised the information to make it easier to imagine the tradition and difficulties they had or still have to go through.
What I do not specifically list here are Austrian companies, which are quite active in Belarus, like:

  • A1, Raiffeisenbank, Red Bull


or construction companies such as:

  • Strabag or Porr

which are pretty big players (turnover in billions), because I don't know if there are Belarusian equivalents. In case someone knows, please feel free to contact me.

At the end are Belarusian assembling firms for goods like ovens, fridges etc., where I cannot compare with Austrian ones because Austria was never that active there. Nevertheless I tried to find equivalents, even though they are busy in different business areas.

I'll begin with the automotive industry, although they are difficult to compare. In the USSR Belarus was chosen to function as assembly hall for the whole union, whereas Austria became the supplying industry for the big German automobile companies. Nevertheless there was production. For example Steyr-Daimler-Puch (so with cooperation of a German firm but still), having a variety of different automotive products, what could be compared with MAZ (see below). But it was split end of the 1980s into separate and independent branches with different owners, so it makes no sense to compare them. I'll only list now the still existing branches and where they are specialised:

  • Steyr Motors (Thales, French company, producing diesel engines)

  • Steyr-Daimler-Puch Spezialfahrzeug (owner: General Dynamics Corporation, USA, producing armored vehicles for armies)

  • Steyr Mannlicher (Austrian, producing guns, arms)

  • Puch-Werke: for the bike brand the owner is J. Faber GmbH (Austria). For cars produced under this brand it is Magna Steyr which produces for several different international known car brands. Magna Steyr itself is owned by Magna International, which is a Canadian company (founded by an Austrian who emigrated to Canada).

Buses are not produced any more, but were from 1949 on and at the end (1990s-2000) assembled by Volvo. The production of trucks was completely taken over by MAN (GER). The only still existing and comparable factory for tractors are following below. And for MAZ I took a somewhat comparable company:

In Austria everybody knows KTM which is especially in motorsports quite successful. The Belarusian equivalent is Aist which at least was connected with M1nsk Motorbikes, but here I could not find reliable information if this is still the case or not.

One of the first local brands I got in contact with. I was never into watches and I can remember how my father tried to get me used to watches ^^ but I could not get used to wear them - what changed here completely :)

Regarding the Austrian counterpart, I was until recently not aware that there is one :-o Even though I have to say that I know the brands name but thought that it is, like always, from Switzerland or the like.

In Belarus is still a quite active textile industry existing. I heard that they also produce for the western market respectively in their order e.g. Italian brands. They seem to be based in the south-east of the country and exceptionally not in the capital.

Austria once also had a bigger textile industry, being massed in Vorarlberg, next to Switzerland. But also here, since end of the 1980s, latest beginning of 1990s they disappeared. As I observed production shifted first to Italy and then to the nowadays known countries like Turkey, Bangladesh and China. But there are still some left, having doubts how much of "production" is still left in AUT.

I heard that within the USSR the BSSR was also the base for computing and programming. So it is no wonder that programmers come from there. So there is a bigger company for hardware and one for programming existing. Austria is or was in a similar situation, except that JoWood, which also programmed and/or published popular games, went bankcrupt:

When you travel sweets are often a nice and easy way to buy as a travel gift. Luckily there are still indepentend ones not owned by either Nestle or Mars... Zotter and Manner are family names. Even though a joint stock company Manner is widely family owned and Zotter is completely family led:

When it's about juices, Austrian companies succeeded in being successful here. What I observed for Eastern Europe, Coca-Cola bought existing producers or founded some themselves; what is the same about ordinary water. Nevertheless, I could find a local one but I don't know how known it is. I haven't seen it yet...

Austria is more specialised in making beer but there is Stroh known for spirits, especially rum.

I can remember that already as kid I recognised the bottles because of the specific label (below), but until now never tried it. In addition, I wondered what straw (=Stroh) has to do with this spirit, until I found out that this is the family name of the founder :)

Beer has not such a history in the East but gets more and more popular. As you can see at Stiegl, some are really really old and that's why there is such tradition „here“ (GER/AUT and leading to those beer feasts and what almost everyone knows: Oktoberfest).

By the way, beer in plastic is very uncommon in Austria and is regarded as uncultivated ;)

Consumer Goods

When you come to Belarus, but also any other country in the post-Soviet space respectively in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and see/use a fridge, washing machine, microwave or another electronic device, chances are high to have an АТЛАНТ (Atlant), Horizont and/or Gefest.
Primarily they produced for the huge Soviet market and their allies and sometimes beyond but had to cope with the complete break-down of the market beginning of the 1990s. Somehow they survived and are still producing. And they succeeded in conquering back the „old markets“ and export their goods again successfully within the CIS and beyond.

To find an Austrian equivalent is not really possible because as I already explained, Austria was never in the business area of producing consumer goods. This was then covered for e.g. by (well known) German companies like Siemens, Miele, Bosch etc. I can only remember Elektra Bregenz (the name already tells that it was based in Bregenz, Vorarlberg, producing washing machines) but it was taken over by a turkish company and does nowadays only exist as a brand name and completely moved to Turkey.
When something was produced I'd say that it was stopped step by step latest beginning of the 1990s, maybe already 1980s, and completely outsourced because production in Austria is claimed to be too expensive.
Austrian electronic companies had to find their way. In fact there are only really small (very) specialised companies existing, or really big global (industry) players and hardly anything in-between. The first group can be found under the umbrella of FEEI (Fachverband der Elektro- und Elektronikindustrie) which is only a simple, non binding organisation and I guess more for exchanging information. The second group are companies like Andritz AG, Voestalpine, Kapsch or IGO Industries which are highly specialised for big sites, facilities and complexes in the steel industry (Voest), construction sites (IGO) and Pulps/Paper, Hydro etc. (Andritz). Kapsch once was also producing telephones but focuses now on telecomunications IT. There is also Doppelmayr specialised in building ropeways and people movers for ski areas, urban transport etc. When you use such a lift or transport system, chances are high that you are using a Doppelmayr ;) and also the one in Silovichi is from Doppelmayr!
These companies are active all over the world, having (except Doppelmayr) turnover of billions and ten thousands of employees. So I won't go into details here. However, except Voest, which is the youngest, the other 3 have a long history. In case you're interested in, please follow the link bellow or start to research.

Andritz: 1852, Graz, Styria:

Voest Alpoine: 1938, Linz, Upper Austria:

IGO: 1903, Innsbruck, Tyrol:

Doppelmayr: 1892, Wolfurt, Vorarlberg:

Kapsch: 1892, Vienna: