Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Generation Keeps Trade Alive

Andrea von Knoop came to Russia with a famous name.

"Tam gde tserkov, tam i pop, a gde fabrika, tam Knoop," or "Where there is a church, there is a priest and where there is a factory, there is Knoop," went a Russian saying.

Knoop's late husband was related to Ludwig von Knoop, a textile manufacturer in 19th century Russia who was made a baron by the tsar for his services to industry. He was so famous that the rhyme about his name is still heard.

Andrea von Knoop is continuing this business tradition. She has been coming to Russia for over 30 years and she is now head of the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce in Russia and chairwoman of the German Business Association.

Her "love story" with Russia f as she puts it f began in 1965, when as a student at Cologne University she participated in the first international exhibit ever conducted in the Soviet Union devoted to chemistry.

"Russia is my second homeland. Sometimes it is difficult to live here. It's probably my fate f I am really attached to this country," Knoop said in almost flawless Russian.

Since that first visit to Moscow, Knoop has lived in Russia a total of 15 years. In 1970, when there were practically no scientific exchange programs between the Soviet Union and West Germany, she came to Moscow State University to work on a thesis on East European history.

She spent a year in Moscow, living in a student dormitory, sitting up late at the Lenin Library and making friends, some of whom she still keeps in touch with.

Her friends included a daughter of writer Ilya Erenburg and the widow of composer Sergei Prokofyev.

Since training as a banker in the mid '70s, Knoop has worked for three big German banks and then for Arthur Andersen, a consulting firm, living by turns in German and Russia. During one of her periods in Germany, she married, but her husband died tragically of cancer the day before his 40th birthday.

In 1993, Knoop was offered the job of head of the newly created Delegation of German Industry and Commerce in Russia, a nongovernmental organization that tries to promote trade and investment. Two years later, Knoop became chairman of the German Business Association in Russia, lobbying for German companies working in Russia.

Speaking from her bright office at Kazachy Pereulok, Knoop was proud that Germany was now Russia's No. 1 trading partner, having recently surpassed Ukraine. According to Knoop, total trade between Russia and Germany leapt 43.5 percent last year and it rose 30 percent more in the first half of this year.

The latest crisis has, of course, dealt a heavy blow to the German business community, including the 1,000 companies with offices in Moscow.

"But despite the fact that orders have fallen from 30 percent to 70 percent, the majority of German companies are not going to abandon the Russian market, because they came here not to make "fast" money, but hoping for long-term cooperation," she said.

In addition to her love for classical music, one more passion has survived from her student days. In the Soviet period it was forbidden for a foreigner to visit many beautiful sites in the Moscow region. So Knoop now relishes the chance to leave the city and stroll around the parks and palaces near Moscow.

"Sometimes it seems to me that Andrea understands the Russian way of living and the peculiarities of the so-called Russian soul so well that it has become a part of her own nature. She is German and not German at the same time," said Viktor Vereshchagin, deputy director of the Expert Institute, Knoop's colleague and friend.