75 years will be executed this Thursday, former Prime Minister of Russia Viktor Zubkov. Before joining the White house in September 2007 Viktor Zubkov held a very non-public post of head of financial intelligence. And therefore his appointment to the second highest position in the state has caused many absolute amazement. Many — but not those who have entree to the inner circle of Vladimir Putin. Viktor Zubkov — one of the most long-standing and reliable of Putin’s associates. The person on whom you can always rely on. The man who will not betray.
Losing in 2008, the post of Prime Minister to Vladimir Putin, Viktor Zubkov moved to the post of his first Deputy. Today the day is still “in the business”: Chairman of the Board of Directors of “Gazprom”, the special representative of Russian President on interaction with the forum of gas exporting countries forum, Chairman of the Russian coordinating Committee of the forum “Petersburg dialogue” with Germany. However, talking with Viktor Zubkov, I made a conscious decision to focus not on contemporary politics and the history of his life story is both very simple and incredibly fascinating.
photo: Natalia Gubernatorova
— Victor Alekseevich, tell us about you here’s the story: in 2007, you are all going to retire from the helm of our financial intelligence. But suddenly contacted Putin and offered to take the post of Prime Minister. The way it was?
– Yes, it was. I really have thought about leaving the public service. The time limit of stay on civil service was then 65 years. And I just 65 and fulfilled. The Governor of the Omsk region Leonid Polezhaev, along with the head of the regional legislative Assembly has asked me to be a Senator from their region. Omsk oblast difficult, interesting. And I said Yes. Began the process of my representation in the legislative Assembly.
But at this time unexpectedly had a question about my Premiership. Later that evening we went for a long walk with Vladimir Putin on the territory of his residence and discussed my work in the office of the Prime Minister, as if it were already a fait accompli. But I was not ready to give their consent. And we have only agreed that this conversation will remain between us, and that in time we’d meet again.
As time went on. I flew to Montenegro, at the annual banking Congress. Suddenly called me and said, “Victor, where are you?” “I’m here, in Montenegro.” — “You have to be in Moscow.” The next flight to Moscow was not. We had to fly the entire delegation the other day. Then I called my friend, who was a private jet. And in the dead of night he took me to the capital. The next morning, my candidacy was submitted to the Duma.
— Why did you start your journey in the premiere — is it true that with “posts” working in the mines in the far North?
— After school I went to is repair-mechanical plant and worked there for a year as a mechanic. But then I decided to go to the mine “Nittis-Camogie”. Mine is of the “Severonikel”, which was considered an elite city-forming enterprise in the Northern city of Monchegorsk. There was an interesting social services, which included stadiums, and houses of culture. And repair-mechanical plant. Only repair of tractors, and nothing more. So my choice was obvious.
1946. Viktor Zubkov, the little sister and Tamara. Photo from the personal archive.
— You have not regretted that went in the mine? Wasn’t it too extreme?
— No, I was young, and I don’t Scarecrow. Moreover, many of my classmates also went there to work. The salary, by the way, there was higher. And the work was about the same as the repair and mechanical plant.
— And why a year later you decided to change the industry on agriculture: enrolled in the agricultural Institute?
— I once met his friend, with whom he ran on skis. And we got to talking about who does what. About himself he said he was studying at the Leningrad agricultural Institute, and captivated me with their story about agriculture. And its role apparently played by the fact that all my ancestors were peasants. Once their as serfs bought and transported from Central Russia to the Urals — in my opinion, almost to the very famous founder of the local mining industry Demidov.
After the abolition of serfdom in 1861, my ancestors, being, apparently, the people are enterprising, have accumulated money, bought the land from the Tatars and began to farm. They quickly became wealthy. For the whole big family was built a good brick house in the center of the village martynivka Kurgan region. My ancestors were engaged in the production and sale of grain, meat and dairy products, honey. And in 1930 they because they lived lavishly, dispossessed, everything taken away and sent to the North, in Murmansk oblast.
— When you learned that your parents were dispossessed? This is because, as far as I know, it was not customary to tell.
— I learned this as soon as began to think, while still in school. Parents did not hide how and why they were in the far North. But, of course, they didn’t like to talk about the details. As you correctly pointed out, revealing much about it at the time was not accepted. So the truth about his family’s past I found out only when he ceased to be Prime Minister. I then asked the assistant to go to the home of my parents. He went and studied the archives and brought the materials to uncover the history of the collectivization of my family. I was amazed that in a large village Martynovka, there was not only gas, but even sources of water — its there brought in tanks. Now I, of course, corrected. In Martynivka appeared gas, water, new library…
— Where and when did you meet your future spouse?
— I moved on to the fifth course. And somewhere in the beginning of September, our activists have been very active course — said that it is necessary to hold a meeting of fifth-year students with first-year students in the Cameron gallery of the Catherine Park. We — children-fifth-year students — there were. And I saw a flock of pretty girls, one of which was particularly cute. I met her, we danced. She said that the native of the Novgorod region. She, by the way, the same family history. Also dispossessed. But during our first meeting, we, of course, were talking about something else. In General, we started Dating, but not as often as I would like: I have started a large externship. I left for six months in the Luga district, where he wrote a diploma. She, too, had to learn.
In addition, I also worked in the boiler room in Pushkin. The boiler room was greater than 100, and worked there only students of the Leningrad agricultural Institute. If someone came up with the idea to ban us students to work, the city would be completely frozen. Gazprom is now one boiler can provide heat a city with suburbs. But before everything was quite different. So we rarely met.
— That is, married only after you secure your degree?
— Do not guess. As soon as the spring of 1965, I defended my diploma, I was immediately drafted into the army. Then was still feeling the effects of the missile Cuban missile crisis of 1962. And graduates of those universities where, as in my, was not a military Department, gathered in one place in Pushkin, dressed, and was drafted into the army. We were told that for a year. But we have served nearly two.
I served in Pushkin. But I still could not often meet with his bride: we went to the exercises. We drove in the Pskov region, Strugi Krasnye, in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Pobochino, in Alakurtti, in the Murmansk oblast. That is all service I have had on wheels. But the second year I was transferred to serve in Vyborg. We had to be content with only rare meetings, phone conversations and letters. Here’s a romance! We get married was only after my return from the army.
— How did you decided where your future work?
When I was promoted in the army the last days, we came to see his nephew, the Director of the state farm “Krasnaya Slavyanka” in the Gatchina district Ivan Pavlovich Swallow. We happen to like him in part crossed, got to talking, and he asked: “Where are you going to work?” I said, “don’t know yet. I had the direction to Kazakhstan, Chimkent oblast. But I think it’s “burned” already. Who is it I will have to wait until I’m in the army coming back?” Then he said, “come to me”. I said, “Where?” “Yes, here, next, between Pushkin, Pavlovsk and Gatchina,” he says. Asked whom. He said start control Department, and then we’ll see. And so it happened that in February 1967, I began work as Manager of the St. Basil’s branch of the state farm “Krasnaya Slavyanka”. In fact, the office consists of a former farm.
And how many of you immediately came subordinates?
— Not so much. As I recall, about 250 people. You say that yesterday’s student is not just a lot, a lot? Of course, it is. But I was already in the army said: trust the training of young soldiers groups of thirty or forty people. Therefore, some experience in managing people I already had. Agriculture, in which I was sent, there was no lagging, nor particularly profitable. But the potential was very good. I started to work a lot with people, we went to good results. Somewhere in the two years I worked as a Manager, got a very useful experience. Then I was promoted to the position of Deputy Director, where I worked for about a year.
1977. Harvesting at the farm “Expanse”. Victor Zubkov — in the center in the front row. Photo from personal archive
I must have hit the so-called nomenclature. While still Manager of the Department, I joined the party which I was asked to head the laggard state farm in the Leningrad region “Expanse.” It was located just outside the city — about 70 kilometers. The farm was a very large territory. 80 miles were scattered the former Finnish farm, beautiful rivers, lakes, pine forests. But it was launched for the reason that ten years there to command Vasily Ivanovich — the former General, whom Khrushchev was dismissed. Then it was fashionable to appoint retired generals Directors of state farms. Vasily Ivanovich was very fond of hunting and fishing. And when I had accepted the case, the only useful document I received from him, was a schedule of when and where the fish are biting well. With the notes that it should catch.
— Did you use this schedule?
— At first I was not to fishing. I well remember its first appearance in “the Expanse”. Meet me there brought the Deputy head of our regional administration Ilya Leonidovich Gansovsky. Frost then was about 30 degrees. We went to old 21st “Volga”. He was sitting in the front seat, where he worked on the stove. And I was sitting back, boots, a light overcoat. On top of that I have poorly closed the door. Imagine this picture?
We arrived, went to the farm office. Vasily was sitting in a hot heated Cabinet in the boots. We proposed Vasily Ivanovich to come with us to explore the farm, to which he said, “No, you let yourself, without me.” Well, we went without him. First, to the Department of Borisovo. Everything was filthy, complete devastation. Then went to another branch of Berezhok. By the way, where they filmed “Summer in Berezhki. There are amazing nature. Then branch of “Steep hill”. There was a dairy herd. Milkmaids, the poor, dragged on the hands of some pots, bags. Then went to the Central courtyard. There has been more order. But all the constructions were wooden and the props. All this was very sad to see after all the farms where I worked for three years.
Vasily was a good, kind man with a great sense of humor. All ten years of his leadership of the farm Vasily Ivanovich studied in absentia at the agricultural Institute. Going on exam, he wore a General’s uniform with medals, although, as he said, spent the entire war in the far East. The teacher, as a rule, some demobilized Sergeant or Lieutenant, stood before him at attention. Vasily answered on the subject — or not quite on the subject. What the teacher told him: “You want, if I put “three”?” “No,” replied Vasily Ivanovich, ‘ I never was a C student! Only “four”.
— How you managed to translate your a new economy in advanced?
— As the saying goes, cadres decide everything. When I started investigating, it became clear that there was not a normal specialist. As Vasily Ivanovich was rarely on the farm, his place was taken by the chief agronomist. He simply put up with all the idiocy that was going on, he was the same, very faint. The chief engineer was also absolutely no. Went forever with a red nose. And other specialists were completely random people. The entire management team of the economy was engaged in anything but not the organization of work.
I started looking for new frames. The benefit of the guidance I was given carte Blanche. During my studies I traveled a lot for successful farms. I remember coming to practice in the sovkhoz “Detskoselsky”, which is headed by Hero of Socialist Labor Ivan S. Shinkarev. A week went behind him. I watched how he works. And here it was necessary to steal from him Brigadier — competent girl. She was not married. And I said to her, “Zinaida still here for you husband to find. But if we go, we’ll find him!”
— Found! Got a foreman that I became the chief livestock expert, I went to Pushkin, where every year held courses chief engineers of all fields. There I found a guy on the post of chief engineer. Incidentally, he still works there. Then I poached from the Vyborg district family. He, Nikolai Golovanov, agronomist, she is chief economist. The only specialists who were decent in the trusted me the farm was a veterinarian and breeder. Breeder, by the way, is still there and working. Thus, I had the backbone of the team. They were about my age. I was 28, they are about 30, maybe 32.
Started to work. The work was so difficult that I still wonder how we managed all this? Once in the office of the chief of regional management of one of the influential Directors of the farm, knowing that I’m going to work in the “Expanse”, surprised and said: “Yes, it is even Karl Marx did not raise! Where do you climb?! The boy still does!” And I said, “Look.”
And quickly you’ve managed to prove to the innovative Director that you are “steeper Karl Marx”?
— It all started with the fact that in February we ran out of food. But there is a large elite herd of the Dutch breed, bought for hard currency immediately after the war, in 1946. I had to look for food. Went to the “Red crown” and “Detskoselsky” and state farm “Petrovsky” and always asked, who would give. Helped. We somehow managed to survive that winter began to prepare for the spring technique. She was retarded. Nothing bad to say about Vasily Ivanovich, he was good-natured, just as Vasily Ivanovich Chapaev, even a mustache was worn. But he did not like to be humiliated. And I do not consider it shameful to go to complain, ask.
Then I began to actively reclamation, to bring order to the land, to build an economic way. What is it? We are looking for cement, wood, metal. Welding Institute “Prometheus” was then in the Alexander Nevsky Lavra. They said, “We you people will not give, but metal take all you want!” And I began to build facilities for livestock, storage for feed, hay. Moreover, all these facilities were equipped with active ventilation, which was anywhere but “Freedom” was not. Immediately increased the quality and quantity of food, which resulted in the annual growth of milk production. Began to build homes for people with all amenities. The gas is brought. Boiler built, there was Central heating. Workshops were built, good roads. The farm was in sight, the farm began to be rewarding. Passing red banners became a frequent visitor at the farm.
When did your first contact with higher-up”?
Once I submitted my farm at ENEA. I was approached by the Minister of agriculture of the RSFSR Leonid Yakovlevich Florentiev and said, “Listen, and how you reached such results?” I told him about these stores for animal feed. About what there need to wet the hay to extrude and dry, not in the field: for example, today the weather is good, and in three days the rains will come, and again all is lost. It was very interested, and he said, “Come tomorrow and talk to you.” Well, I went to him, and he asks: “Why to ask you? “Volga”? I said, “No, Leonid Yakovlevich, I are on the same “Volga” drive, and the second is new. You better give me five presses of the German”.
In the end, I received these press — though not five, but four. One got lost somewhere along the way. But four new German press was all about what could only dream of. They solves a lot of problems. A considerable saving of time and human resources. And then in 1981 when I was 39 years old, I was summoned to the regional Committee and asked: “How many years do you run the farm?” “Twelve,” I said. “And not long? Late you are!”
— Guess what happened after this exchange of remarks: you are invited to go on increase, right?
— True, but only offered me a “boost” was very specific. I was sent to raise consisted of six farms of the Association “may day”, in which there was a complete darkness. Reluctantly I went there. A new driver who drove me, with sympathy looked at me! The farm “Pervomayskoye”, however, was good. And the farm is also good. But all other farms — “Komintern”, “Melnikovo”, “Krasnoselkii”, “Sudakovo” — was absolutely dead. I ask the driver: “Why you have here some people are all gloomy?” “What do you want, Mr Zubkov, we have the 101st kilometer, and before the 1980 Olympics all unreliable were sent here to us. They are here and left!” I thought: how lucky am I! Not only that, ruin such, the contingent as the selection!
Nothing can be done, started to work. The work was hard, but at the same time and easily — like I already passed. Was the knowledge and experience that I shared with new colleagues. Began bringing them into their previous state farm show to tell them to demand. As a result, after four years, the indicators and the new place went up. And I said, “Well, that’s enough, go to Priozersk city, the Chairman of the Executive Committee!”
— Under what circumstances did you meet with Vladimir Putin? And whether you have the feeling that there is something crucial?
— I worked as the first Deputy Chairman of the Leningrad region Executive Committee. And here in the summer of 1991 I was part of a delegation with the mayor of St. Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak and Putin in Germany. That’s where we met — not very close, each had their own program. Those four or five days somehow flew by quickly, and we departed. I to the Executive Committee, he in the town hall. He was then assistant Anatoly Alexandrovich.
Then, when occurred the events of August, began to change the power in the Leningrad region. I made the decision to leave. I knew that I wouldn’t fit the new team. I asked to become the Chairman of the St. Petersburg mayor’s office Committee for external relations Vladimir Putin with a request to take me to work. He said, “I will take it, but you have a big position — the first Deputy Chairman of the Executive Committee. How can you work with me, Deputy?” I said, “With you I am ready to work in any capacity!” He said, “but for God’s sake!” and went to Sobchak. Sobchak hated the party and Soviet personnel. But to me it somehow was good. Maybe he heard about me some good reviews. I don’t know. But he once wrote a resolution to “accept”.
— What do you remember most collaboration with Putin in St. Petersburg?
— Anatoly Sobchak had a lot of weight not only in Russia but also abroad. The mayor could directly appeal to many heads of foreign States. He agreed with Prime Minister John major, which is a free — as humanitarian aid — allocated 600 thousand tons of grain for the needs of the city. At that time it was a real Klondike in Saint-Petersburg there was a real threat of hunger. I was instructed to pursue this issue with management of the bakery where I knew everybody and I knew everything. We started to get the grain and direct it to the enterprises of the Leningrad region, poultry farms, pig farms. Thus, we decided on this vital issue. The city has received the products without interruption.
I was doing this kind of business until, until one night in my office came Vladimir Putin and asked who I was. I proudly replied that he graduated from the economic faculty of the Leningrad agricultural Institute, but any day an economist didn’t work. “Okay,” he said, ” go to the head of the tax service of the city.” I said, “If necessary, I will go.” So I began to work in the field of Finance.
2011. Prime Minister Putin and his Deputy. Photo from the personal archive.
Let’s go back to your appointment by the Prime Minister. When Putin offered you this position, it was on the Premiership? Or it is possible that you could be the next President?
— I think the matter was rather technical about the Premiership, with the aim of stabilizing the situation in the period before the inauguration of the next President. Mr Putin knew that I will only deal with a matter, only economic issues and not, say, political intrigue. But it was not excluded that in the process there may be other options. This possibility is not excluded.
“And when you realized that the “other options” already eliminated?
— I well remember the day when there was such a conversation. But I would not want to discuss it.
— Did you have “freedom of hands” in the formation of the government? Or you presented a ready-made list of Ministers?
— Of course, I could defend those or other candidates. But in fact the government was already formed, and we had to immediately start working. One appointment I did not agree. But it has happened. I will not say what kind of appointment it is.
— Not difficult whether you were after the post of Prime Minister to go one step down the career ladder and to take the post of first Deputy Chairman of the government?
— I absolutely still survived it. I just know very well how difficult is the job of a Prime Minister. It’s insanely hard work. You’re kind of responsible for everything, but often can not really influence certain processes. You constantly physically feel a huge burden of responsibility for everything, literally for everything.
— Come in, please, with the height of your experience: which job is harder — the Prime Minister, or mine?
— Of course, the Prime Minister difficult to work with. On mine how it is? You came seven hours worked and free. As Prime Minister you work 24 hours a day. Each paper must be read into each insight. Remember, half-past ten in the evening I kind of need to have to gather home to just sleep. And my head of the Secretariat Yury — he now runs a financial intelligence — how do I cart this pile of documents. Yesterday I was on a business trip. Papers have accumulated, and I couldn’t get them in time to sign. I say, “Yura, this is it?” He says, “I’ll go see.” If you people care about, the Premiership is work wear. Just for wear.
— Who in your relationship with Putin senior fellow?
For me Mr President is always the person who helped me in the most difficult moment. I always will remember. Now we meet, discuss certain issues, problems. Nothing in our relationship has not changed. I believe we have a trusting and friendly relationship.
— Well, probably, last question. What gift would you like for your anniversary?
— I don’t feel like I’m 75 years old. What I do in the forum of gas exporting countries and the “Petersburger dialogue”, I do, in my opinion, professionally. I have in my entire life, no one betrayed. I have a good family — wife, daughter, two beautiful granddaughters. In General, I’m a happy man!