Vladimir Potanin, president and major shareholder of NorNickel, believes that the economy was the main reason for the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the billionaire’s opinion, the reforms that followed the collapse of the USSR were a necessary “cure.
President and majority shareholder of the mining and metallurgical company Norilsk Nickel Vladimir Potanin gave an interview to Bloomberg in which he spoke about his attitude towards the Soviet Union, economic reforms of the early 1990s and the auctions of property. Forbes presents the main statements of the billionaire.
On attitudes toward the Soviet Union. "Many people still have nostalgia for the Soviet Union as a strong power. We were not loved everywhere, but respected. And although the communist ideal is alive in the minds of many people, we should not forget that the main reason for the collapse of the Soviet Union was the economy. The Soviet Union simply went bankrupt. <...> Because of my parents' work as a child, I often went abroad. And even as a child I felt completely safe, even in Yemen, because I was from the Soviet Union. But the situation in the economy was getting worse."
On buying sugar. "In the early 1980s, in the summer, when everyone was making their own jam, they sold no more than 2 kilograms of sugar per person. My parents sent me to the store to buy sugar - I had to buy 20 kilos at once. The seller didn't want to give away so much in one hand. But I was a young student at MGIMO and knew a lot of buzzwords. I showed him a brochure with Soviet trade rules, reminded him of the Constitution and threatened to file a complaint with the city committee of the CPSU. It almost ended with the police, but I got my way. We cooked as much jam as we wanted.
On economic reforms. "The reforms were not a mistake. They were necessary to stop the further disintegration of the country. They were like a painful operation or medicine. Private ownership was supposed to be the cure, the only alternative to the failed state management. But efficient owners do not appear out of nowhere - for this to happen, state assets must be transferred to the private sector.
On the unequal distribution of property. "Property was unevenly distributed because most of the country's population was on the brink of poverty. But the goal was achieved: the biggest enterprises were taken over by efficient owners. Before the collateral auctions, workers at the plants did not receive wages for months. And now these companies, including NorNickel, offer high, stable wages and good social benefits. But the form of privatization always raises questions."
Shortly before the collapse of the USSR, Vladimir Potanin, a Soviet member of the CPSU and an employee of the Foreign Trade Ministry, went to work for the International Economic Cooperation Bank, after which he created Interros Holding, which offered consulting services to foreign trade participants. The businessman initiated the idea of pledge auctions, through which he received his largest assets. As a result of privatization, companies associated with Potanin received stakes in the oil company Sidanko, NorNickel, Novorossiysk Shipping Company, Svyazinvest and others.