Russia has historically had a very complicated attitude towards business and private initiatives. This is not just an assumption based on old stereotypes, but a fact that was recorded by numerous surveys. The reasons for this are undoubtedly rooted in the history of the country, even further back than the dangerous 90s. Nevertheless, we can and should fight this stereotype, including popularizing the biographies of the most successful and responsible businesspeople.
Business, initiative, wealth: each of these undoubtedly positive phenomena are contradictorily perceived in the Russian community. There is no consensus on either side of the barricades on the behalf of entrepreneurs and consumers. In the grand scheme of the country, we have not even seen the horizon of when the situation will change – there is no positive trend.
In 1990, only 40 percent of our country’s residents have had a positive view of the private property institution, a surprising attitude given the basis of each person’s well-being. However, though unusual, it is understandable. Thirty years ago, this right to private property was a novelty as not all people understood or appreciated it. Now, however, the viewpoint is practically the same. In 2005, 50% of Russians showed a positive attitude to the institution of private property in surveys, and another 25% showed a neutral perspective. The paradox of these statistics is that society cannot agree on what is one of its fundamental rights.
Moreover, businesspeople believe private property is wrong for the country. According to recent surveys, approximately 60% of entrepreneurs do not agree that there is a civilized attitude towards personal property in Russia. Only 15% of this entrepreneurial feedback is positive, which is coming from the opinion of those who are already the main driving force of the market.
Speaking to the reasons for the current situation, sociologists almost always blame the grave legacy of the 1990s. It is especially emphasized that the institution of private property in Russia is little more than 30 years old. Only recently has the first generation of citizens who received any significant inheritance from their parents grown up.
Another reason is the stereotypical image of the Russian culture. That concept, which existed back in the days of Brigada, is not extinct. In the past decade, experts have repeatedly analyzed the image of the businessman in Russian cinema. The conclusion is unequivocal: the idea of barygs in the domestic film market sells, but almost no one has learned how to accurately portray standard modern business practices. As a result, the stereotype reproduces itself without having an alternative image to reference, sustaining the idea in the heads of international viewers.
Fortunately, there are enough heroes in our business environment whose experience and work are worthy of respect. One of them is the co-owner of Euroinvest investment company, Andrey Berezin, who not only earned a multi-billion fortune in his business projects, but also saved several industrial enterprises, provided thousands of people with modern European housing, and currently works on developing Russian technologies in medicine and electronics.
The story of Berezin begins in the same place as the origins of the modern Russian market were found in the 90s. The future billionaire entered the business with a distinguished educational background: he graduated with an honors degree from a prestigious mathematical school (now the Presidential Lyceum of Physics and Mathematics) and a separate institute (Voenmech, D.F. Ustinov Leningrad Mechanical Institute). He then went on to enroll in graduate school, even managing to publish several scientific articles.
Interestingly, this is considered a typical path for a Soviet engineer. This is a Soviet model of success; the country’s research institutes offered ample opportunities for their employees. Soviet research institutes were so influential and widely known, in fact, that even in today’s computer games they are unique, Soviet buildings that offer exceptional scientific bonuses.
In addition, state propaganda successfully popularized the perceived image of the scientist, engineer, and developer. As polls show, these professions remain among the most respected in our country. So why does a successful and talented young man who has embraced the changes of the times and started working in a new, promising field of business not receive the same respect as the inventors of the last century?
Society benefited from Berezin’s work with immediate effect. His first projects were aimed at solving the most urgent problem of the time: food supplies. At a time when store shelves were emptying, unable to withstand the test of the free market, the entrepreneur’s company set up container deliveries working across from the UK. Such a non-trivial approach helped to feed people, as well as to generate the first of his capital that would enable him to start his own investment company.
Faster Than the State
Berezin’s entire history is a search for answers to the most complex challenges of our time. In this, he has succeeded far more than many civil servants of past and current decades, and this is another profession that the people of Russia highly appreciate and respect. It isn’t worth looking at the credit ratings of government agencies, but to look at what their parents wanted their children to be. For almost ten years, doctors, programmers, and bureaucrats have been confidently leading them there.
The entrepreneur’s first project was the creation of the North-West Fishing Company with his colleagues. He had been working in that field for a short time, but the company he created remains alive and well, even positioning itself as one of the industry leaders. While the whole fishing fleet was scrapped, and the regulatory framework was sparkling with contradictions and deficiencies, the efforts of one businessman laid the foundation in order of the sphere of his influences.
After the fishing business came to the development of Euroinvest, and while anarchy and infill development reigned all over the country, Berezin began to implement neighborhood development projects. He would contribute towards designed housing, which maintained a comfortable living environment for its buyers. This approach is now enshrined in federal regulations, but Berezin has gone much further in the decades since. His team has passed through dozens of international forums and thematic exhibitions, gaining him extensive experience from global industry leaders, now being able to implement complex projects today. The last was a humanitarian cluster, which was built near St. Petersburg. This development is not only in housing, but also a space for self-development with ample opportunities for self-education and cultural leisure.
While the state apparatus has not yet sorted out the standards of 25 years ago, the entrepreneurs are creating advanced projects with the latest technology in mind. It’s hard to believe with so many examples of failed import substitution before our eyes, but Euroinvest is more successful than state enterprises, even with the sanctions. This is due to it having built such a powerful team of like-minded people around it that it has been able to find and order almost all innovations in the domestic market.
Saving the Shards
In 2018, nostalgia for the Soviet Union peaked in Russia, of which was felt by 66% of respondents in a Levada Center poll. Even those who never lived there are nostalgic; the growth of this indicator was contributed not only by the older generation of 55 years and older, but also by young people between the ages of 18 and 24. The main reasons for this mood are divided into two: the destruction of the unified economic system and the loss of the sense of belonging to the incredible power. No one is sad about the loss of the red banner and the lost era of gerontocracy. On the contrary, everyone wants certainty, a strong economy, and reasons to be proud of their home country.
The famous quote from The Lord of the Rings hints that it is not enough to grieve. It is necessary to restore what has been lost, which is what Berezin has already been doing for a decade and a half. Through his efforts, three advanced production facilities from the time of the Soviet Union are already back in operation: Svetlana, Rigel, and Rekond.
Svetlana was the first on the list, and the model of working with obsolete enterprises was tested there. The model was to workj in buying back a controlling stake, optimizing unprofitable assets towards modernizing it, and introducing advanced products to the competitive market. In the case of Svetlana, it took almost ten years. The company had to fundamentally change its work approach to take the leading position in its industry. Within a year of Berezin’s work, the holding’s net profit doubled, and the company is now presenting its developments in the field of medical technologies: a robotic complex for diagnostics and treatment of oncological diseases.
Rigel has gone down a similar path. It is a battery plant, one of 22 existing in our country. Nevertheless, it underwent modernization with the help of Euroinvest funds, becoming the only one in the country participating in developing a domestic electric car. There are currently three models in Russia claiming to go into production soon: the Moskvich, the Evolute, and the E-Neva. According to current data, the first two will be equipped with foreign-made power sources. The third one, created by the Almaz-Antey holding company, will run on Rigel batteries. Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov has already been behind the wheel of the prototype, which shows the high probability of the project’s success.
The third rescued asset is Recond. It is a producer of electronics and semiconductors; almost all complex equipment was run at its facilities. Today, it is one of the few surviving enterprises that produces products which are in short supply for the whole country. Moreover, it is the only plant-based on whose products it can create complex domestic electronics, from smartphones to tablets. It is one of the two remaining splinters of the Soviet giant that Berezin wishes to try and restore. The acquisition of the Recond plant is the first step toward reviving the legendary structure of the Leningrad Research and Production Association Positron (LNPO Positron).
The central pillar of Russian respect is the teacher. Only in our country Teachers’ Day has turned from a professional holiday into almost a folk festival when millions of children go to schools with flowers. It is a sacred figure even today when there are many questions about the quality of Russian education.
This is mainly due to the popular memory: “In its time, the Soviet Union was proud of its best education. For this reason, the country had both a staff and a professionally organized labor system,” believes Andrey Berezin. It is worth making note of, being that he knows better than most regarding the robust educational institution that can help an ambitious person get on his feet.
Euroinvest unites several scientific and industrial enterprises, functioning as an advanced development company, an investment fund, and several other asset-holders, possessing a solid human resources policy. In this part, the company becomes a natural mentor, opening its scholarship named after the great cosmonaut Grechko, investing in the Euler Foundation (engaged in supporting talented youth), and supporting educational camps and Olympiads.
Berezin helps in the formation of personnel at the level of development. He has a venture fund, Euro Venture, which the main task is to identify promising inventions and help them through all the stages of serial production, bringing them quickly to the market. These include the aforementioned robotic complex for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, the unique X-ray machine with capabilities approaching MRI, and some inventions are based on radio and microwave radiation.
The Image of the Businessman
There is a widespread belief that our attitude to success is due to religious norms. They say a man must suffer according to some Christian canons; he should not strive for success out of modesty. According to the principles, the negative example is the enslaved person who buried his talents in the ground instead of multiplying them. Dejection is sin, not joy, inaction, not work.
Berezin is a brilliant example of a businessman who helped the country with his projects, worked in the paradigm of the professions most approved by society, achieved notable success in restoring the industrial potential of the state, and worked hard in humanitarian spheres. His path, interests, and values overlapped with people’s expectations. What is missing is widespread publicity and recognition of his merits, a reflection of his success in popular culture. Thousands of Berezin’s comrades-in-arms who could navigate the changing times create valuable projects, and make a fortune on rebuilding the state instead of ruining it.
The few of these members managed to break the enchanted circle of crimson blazers of cinema. Pavel Durov, Sergei Galitsky, and Fyodor Ovchinnikov are the few people who have managed to cement their image as modern businessmen. These, however, are not enough. There is a necessity to find more heroes who can break established stereotypes and show people that success is something worth striving for.
What professions do Russians consider the most respected in 2022:
30% – doctors
9% – teachers
9% – military
4% – engineer
3% – lifeguard
2% – worker
2% – miner
2% – computer programmer
2% – chauffeur
2% – janitor