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Interview with Natalya Mironova

Natalya Mironova, expert on public administration, told Russia Today about the difficulties that Chelyabinsk region industry had to overcome in the post-Soviet period.

Russia Today: Can you describe what that time was like?

Natalia Mironova: First of all, I’ve been living in Chelyabinsk for a  long time and I work for a military scientific institute. I started to work in the nuclear field when I was elected to the regional parliament and then invited to the regional government. So, the first problem that we tried to solve was the conversion of the military industry, military production, to a civilian one. I remember that time. There was a great amount of debate about how to do it and how it was possible. Industrial production facilities which provide high-tech, military high-tech, were very difficult to transform to, for example, the production of spoons. And this was a problem for the top management and, maybe, not for workers. But a lot of workers lost their jobs as a result of that conversion. We have the example of our very large tractor producer, which produces tractors and tanks.  When state orders for the tanks were decreased, they started producing more tractors, but on the same military base. And this was not applicable for agriculture, because those tractors destroyed the fertile layer of the soil. So some people had to leave. Some stayed at the facility very low salaries and it was a dramatic transformation for the people and not a very happy one.

RT: You’ve said it was a management issue. Some factories managed to convert after about 15 years to civil work. What about the situation for workers now? Has it improved?

N.M.: Of course, those fifteen years gave a lot for top management. They became more skilful in the knowledge and operation of the industry. At the same time, I should mention that the policy of the state tends to militarise again, and this helps the conservative industrial management to stay and strengthen their positions. So, conversion didn’t happen at the full scale that we had expected.  There was as a wave of democratic changes. Unfortunately, the price, the social price, was high and people don’t like the conversion and the explanation of how it happened in the Urals.   

RT: What about the future? I know you are concerned that a lot of brain-power has been lost through conversion, through people being sacked from jobs.  

N.M.: What can stop the brain-drain is the change of the top management of the region. Our region is well-known for its conservative management. So I hope that we will get new, young managers, who will come to our region and help it to go faster and become more attractive for young people, who have moved from our region.