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Prominent Russians: Savva Morozov

February 15, 1862 - May 26, 1905

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Savva Morozov was a famous Russian industrialist and theatrical patron. At the beginning of the 20th century some 25 families comprised the select pride and glory of the Moscow mercantile industry. Seven of these bore the surname Morozov, and were related.

Early years

Savva Morozov was born into the richest and most well-known textile manufacturing and merchant family in Russia. The Morozovs owned several of the largest cotton textile mills, which employed, at the time Savva was born, some 39 thousand people. They were, indeed, millionaires. Savva’s family belonged to the Orthodox Raskolniks, or dissenters, which meant that Savva was brought up in the spirit of religious asceticism and deference of Old Russian customs and traditions.

The family business had, initially, been started by Savva's grandfather, an ignorant, illiterate, but, undeniably enterprising and thrifty peasant. His son, Timofey, Savva's father, significantly increased his family’s fortune and enjoyed a great deal of respect and authority in Moscow's business circles. He was the first to receive the honored title of textile mill Counselor. Unlike his grandfather, Savva Morozov's father was literate albeit moderately. However, he frequently donated large sums of money to various educational establishments. As for Savva Morozov, he belonged to a generation of merchant families in which youngsters were taught grammar, music, foreign languages and high society manners by tutors. This does not imply that the old merchant methods of upbringing were forgotten though. As Savva Morozov recalled, he was once “flogged for his negligent attitude to English language studies.”

Education and the development of many interests

From the age of 14 Savva and his brothers were sent to study at a gymnasium. Upon graduating, Savva, who had a talent for natural science, entered the Department of Physics and Mathematics of the MoscowStateUniversity. However, as a person of varied and broad interests, he also made a point of attending lectures in history and studying political economy and philosophy. Savva also studied abroad for some time at CambridgeUniversity, where he went in for chemistry, specializing in dyes. Later on he even registered a number of patents in this sphere. While in Great Britain, Savva Morozov developed an interest for the textile business and even worked for a period of time at a textile mill in Manchester. Upon his return from England, he brought with him some of the state-of- the-art equipment of the time for the family factories.

In 1887, after his father fell ill, Savva took over the family business. An excellent engineer and manager, he demonstrated great zeal in renovating his father's factory. Besides attending to the technical side of it all, he gave a good deal of thought to labor conditions and the daily lifestyle of the workers.

Patron of culture and art

Some time later the idea of helping the needy and other worthwhile projects took the form of generous donations to culture and the arts. Savva Morozov's life became closely interwoven with that of the theater. Konstantin Stanislavsky wrote of Savva Morozov: “This incredible person was destined to play in our theater the important and noble role of Patron of the Arts, capable of not just sharing his personal wealth, but serving the Arts with all his heart, neglecting selfish ambitions, vanity or profit. Besides supporting us financially, we all basked in the warmth of his congeniality, drawing strength and inspiration from his buoyant nature.”

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While living in Moscow, Savva  dealt with the two theater directors Konstantin Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, who trained actors and organized plays at the poorly funded Moscow theaters. That was how the famous Moscow Drama Theater was born. Once Savva, who had a profound love for the theater, bought a ticket for one of the performances, but had no ready cash on hand to pay for it. Afterwards he repaid the debt in full, donating 10,000 rubles for Stanislavsky and Danchenko's new project for a drama theater, on the condition there would be no higher control or influence exercised over it. Then Morozov offered the staff to hire merchant Zianozov's mansion in Kamergersky Lane, in the heart of Moscow, which at the time housed a gambling center. To restore the building, Morozov called in his close friend, the famous art nouveau architect Fyodor Shekhtel,who had, by then, already built a mansion for Morozov himself. The main principle for designing the new theater was “convenience for meditations,” meaning no gold, velour or plush luxury inside.

The MoscowArtTheater

In 1902 Morozov financed the construction of a permanent theater in the art nouveau style and equipped it with the latest lighting technology and a revolving stage. Morozov personally participated in the construction process, trying his hand at painting and decorating. Most probably the theater was the best venue for the growth of friendly relations with the theater “crowd.” Stanislavsky recalled, “All the theaters had red imitation velvet curtains with gold tassels. Such bright coloring killed the scenery and we decided to replace them with curtains of subdued colors.” Savva asked the theater authorities to entrust him with the stage lighting. With all the fervor of his life-asserting nature, he channeled his energies into the invention of different lighting effects. In his laboratory he experimented with various shades of paints for lamps, bulbs and glass. Thus, he achieved a broad palette of colors and tints, as well as a technique, all of his own, for lighting the stage. Savva Morozov spent a total of 500 thousand rubles on the MoscowArtTheater, a colossal sum in those days. However, Morozov had given the theater far more than just money. He had laid his heart on the altar of the theater.

The theater opened in 1898 as the Moscow Publicly Accessible Art Theater. Within a few seasons, financial difficulties and lack of government funding forced the founders to raise ticket prices and drop the “Publicly Accessible” part, reluctantly accepting the patronage of the wealthy Savva Morozov. The audience was excited in anticipation of something new and unusual. But they hardly realized that they were attending an event the world's cultural public would mark 100 years later.

Maria Andreeva, Bolsheviks and risks

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Savva's private life was closely linked with the theater. One day he met Maria Andreeva , an actress of the ArtTheater, and fell hopelessly in love with her. She was not happy in her marriage. Still, she continued to live with her husband for the sake of the children. Maria was constantly in touch with the Bolshevik Party, seeking money for the theater. Thus, Savva found himself donating a large amount to the Bolsheviks, too. Under his support, the “Iskra” Bolshevik paper was published. Savva Morozov made donations to the Red Cross and to the organization for liberating political prisoners from exile. He also contributed to the publishing of literature for local party organizations. At Andreeva's request, he bought fur jackets for exiled students sent off to the harsh Siberian region. Also at her request, he hid runaway Bolsheviks in his own house.

Family: factories, strikes and troubles

All this help for the Bolshevik Party, however, did not save Savva Morozov from the trouble brewed by strikes at his own factory, the Nikolskaya textile mill. The reason for these strikes is hard to understand, considering how concerned Savva had always been for the workers and their comfort. Savva Morozov's father did not approve of his son's policy regarding his workers, considering it too liberal. “Savva, you'll be the ruin of yourself!” he would grumble. They worked in spacious and well-lit shops, with excellent ventilation and up-to-date machinery. The living quarters were steam heated, air-conditioned, with individual kitchens, laundries and bathrooms. At the factory hospital the workers could receive treatment and care free of charge. There was also a maternity ward and a retirement home at the factory. The Sanitary Committee of the factory, headed by Savva himself, was in charge of the quality of food products for the workers at the factory store. Savva paid a bonus to all those workers who attended gratis higher qualification courses. Upon graduation from these courses, all those who had studied well received a higher wage. Those who had particularly distinguished themselves were sent off for a trainee period to Germany or England, and upon returning, could look forward to more distinguished and higher paid employment. There were asphalt roads in the factory workers' village, a very good library, a theater and a choir. Savva Morozov was greatly respected by the workers, despite being very strict, with a demand for discipline and proper work. He also abhorred smoking, and forbade the workers to do so. Nonetheless, despite all the good he did for his workers, they came out on strike, demanding an eight-hour work day and higher pay. Morozov was prepared to meet their demands, yet he was not the sole owner of the factory. Not content with words alone, his father bequeathed a major part of his shares to his wife Maria.

Last years

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Though Savva was the director of the factory on paper, his mother was the actual owner. When he asked his mother to hand the rights to the factory over to him, not only did she refuse, but even had him completely removed from factory management. His mother then went on to threaten him, saying she could have him admitted to a mental hospital. The Medical Committee declared Savva Morozov was suffering from acute nervous exhaustion. It was recommended that he go abroad to heal his nervous system and fight depression. Savva Morozov went to Cannes. On 13 May 1905 he shot himself at the age of 43 in his hotel there. The motivation for Morozov’s death was attributed to politics and big money but the official reason remained suicide.

Morozov and Zimina

We also recall the name of the businessman Savva Morozov when we gaze at the grayish-white mansion in pseudo-Mauritanian style, standing on Arbat Street in the heart of Moscow. This exquisite mansion was Savva Morozov's wedding gift to his dearly beloved wife Zinaida Zimina. In the 1880s Savva fell passionately in love with the wife of a relative, Zinaida, and promptly stirred up quite a scandal, claiming her for his own and whisking her away from her family. His wife bore him four children. However, there was no real happiness in their household. The fiery passion eventually burnt out. Zinaida was vain, ambitious and spendthrift. Young, clever and pretty, she basked in the constant admiration of all around her. Savva, on the other hand, was quite modest and unpretentious, a man of plain tastes.

By the time she was 40 Zinaida Zimina-Morozova-Reinbot had already divorced two husbands and buried a third. She had three surnames, 1.5 million rubles, an unbelievable sum of money by her day’s standards and dressed in Paris. Later, after Morozov’s death Zinaida also inherited much of Morozov’s real estate, securities, factories, mines and estates. 

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As a 17-year-old girl she married Sergey Morozov who would often prefer his friends’ company to that of his young wife. Once, as everyone was dressing up for a Christmas ball, Sergey went off hunting and Zinaida went to the ball alone ignoring the gossipers whispering behind her back. It was then and there that she met her husband’s uncle, Savva Morozov, who later admitted he had fallen in love with her the very moment they met. Discarding the harsh dictums of religious morals, Zinaida divorced her husband and married Savva. Her father said he would rather see her dead than marrying for a second time. In Savva’s house Zinaida was immediately handed to the care of tutors, tailors and hairdressers and before long the smart young merchant woman turned into a real lady. In the posh Moscow mansion presented to her by Savva, Zinaida entertained popular actors, singers and lawyers with parties and balls. Fully aware of the fact that her money had much to do with the love and respect lavished on her by her guests, Zinaida, dark-skinned and brown-eyed and not exactly in line with the beauty standards of her time, focused more on such strong points as intelligence, sense of purpose and hard-headedness.

Zinaida and Savva lived together for 19 years until Savva’s death in 1905. Zinaida inherited her late husband’s wealth. All of her children received good education and she was an avid collector of china and engravings. After the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution Morozova-Reinbot was miraculously spared prosecution but lost all her estates. To make ends meet she sold her family jewels and personal effects. Zinaida Morozova died in 1947 and was buried in the Morozovs’ family vault in Moscow. 

Legacy

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The workaholic and manufacturer Morozov taught future generations of wealthy businessmen to share and to support culture and art. Thus he will live for centuries. Morozov was a truly gifted at earning money, and very smart at spending it.

Written by Tatyana Klevantseva for RT

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