On April 19, 1919 a repair shop was
founded in Riga by the Department of Post and Telegraph,
named "Pasta un Telegrāfa Virsvaldes Galvena Darbnica" (PTVGD).
The repair shop was servicing telephones, telegraphs
and equipment for sending telegrams. In 1922 they
started with the manufacture of telephones themselves.
In 1924 VEF started making radios. The first
receiver was named Lācītis (Bear), because of the growling
sounds that emerged during tuning. The first radio was offered
to the first President of Latvia, Jānis Čakste. Foreign
companies were excluded, due to high import duties and domestic demand could only just be met
by the Latvian companies.
The factory was housed in a large number of
different buildings that together formed a complete district of
the city of Riga.
In February 1932, the company name was changed to
"State-owned Elecrotechnical Factory", or in Latvian: "Valsts
Elektrotehniskā Fabrika" (VEF).
VEF was a versatile company and spread her wings.
In 1935, the company had offices in Tallinn (Estonia), Kaunas (Lithuania),
Helsinki, Zurich and London. In the same year it had begun
making aircraft (33 different types) and in 1936 the first model
of the Minox spy camera was made. From 1933 to 1938 they even
made a small cheap car.
Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940
and just when the first Russian radio tubes arrived for the
production of Russian radios, the company was taken over again in 1941 after the invasion of the German army. From
July 7th, 1941 until October 1944 the name was changed to AEG Ostlandwerk
GmbH. The plant produced mainly for the German army during that
After the war the factory was
deprived of key equipment and supplies. However, it soon
started reconstruction and at the end of 1945/early 1946,
the first radios were already being produced again. The
Soviet Union remained the largest consumer of products,
including telecommunications equipment, telephones,
telephones and radios. After the fall of the Soviet
Union the company went downhill. VEF had 20,000 workers
in 1991, but they could not compete with the West. Only
a number of smaller companies still exist.