VEF ("Valsts Elektrotehniskā Fabrika" or State Electrotechnical Factory) was a state-owned electronics factory in Riga, Latvia that played a significant role in the industrial development of the Latvian SSR (Soviet Socialist Republic) during the Soviet era.
Above: VEF Riga Latvia, picture by Mārtiņš Bruņenieks
The factory was founded in 1919 and initially produced a variety of electrical and mechanical products, including generators, electric motors, and transformers. In the 1920s and 1930s, VEF expanded its operations to include the production of radios and other consumer electronics. The factory was a major producer of radios during World War II and played an important role in meeting the demands of the Soviet military.
During the 1950s and 1960s, VEF continued to expand its production capabilities and began producing a wide range of electronic equipment, including televisions, telephones, and calculators. Some say VEF even produced the first computer made in the Soviet Union (but who made what and when did this or that become declassified?). VEF's success was also due to its focus on export, which helped the factory to earn valuable hard currency for the Soviet Union. VEF products were exported to many countries around the world, and the factory became one of the most important exporters in the Soviet Union.
The factory was also known for its innovative design and for the high quality of its products. VEF was the first factory in the Soviet Union to use automated assembly lines and many of its products were considered to be among the best of their kind in the Soviet Union.
However, as the Soviet Union began to collapse in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the demand for VEF's products decreased and the factory's operations were scaled back. In the end, it was shut down in the late 1990s after 80 years of operation.
Nowadays / The legacy of VEF
VEF played a major role in the Latvian SSR and it was one of the most important industrial enterprises in the country during the Soviet era. The legacy of the factory is still remembered by many Latvians as it was a big part of their daily life and economy. The factory buildings are still standing in Riga and are used for different purposes today. The whole district of former VEF buildings, is either occupied with new factories like Mikrotik (computer components, routers etcetera), or bars, offices, and even Christian movements. Some buildings are still empty. One of the largest blocks are now turned into a supermarket.
Here's some more information about VEF on Wikipedia. The link opens in a new window.
So why this whole history lesson about "an old factory in the old days"? We've found something interesting on one of our trips!
The personnel of the factory needed so called "work safety posters"
On our trip to Riga we visited a poster / vintage art dealer. He showed us some original handmade posters (1960s), which (he told) were made by the design department or some sort of graphic design studio inside or connected to VEF. The posters depicted all sorts of work safety information for factory workers. As the VEF was one of the biggest, or just say 'the biggest', employer in those days it's not hard to believe these posters were actually designed to be printed in larger volumes – to keep the workers safe... What makes these posters unique is: the posters are really hand made, stenciled, with paint on cardboard. We recon there are no re-prints, as these are produced to check with superiors and after all boxes were ticked only then prints would be made...
Collecting work safety posters from the Soviet Union / Eastern Bloc countries? Do you want a historic graphical art piece on your wall?
If you want to see more posters, connected to the VEF Riga factory, please have a look at our work safety poster collection. Check for the cardboard-like posters with 1960s old-style Cyrillic typography.