Russian Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin

Curriculum Vitae and Profile


Viktor Stepanovich Chernomyrdin
Russian Prime Minister
4 Staraya Pl., Moscow
phone: 7-095-206-46-69 (inquiries)
7-095-206-51-46 (office)

Born: Orenburg Region village, 09 April 1938


1966: graduated from the Kuibyshev Polytechnical Institute, engineering.
1957-1960: fitter, then engine-operator/chief of technological
installation at the Orsk gas-processing plant. Also served in the Soviet
Army.
1961: Joined CPSU (member until 1991)
1967: instructor, deputy head, head of industry department at the CPSU
city committee
1972: All-Union Postal Correspondent Polytechnical Institute,
engineer-economist by specialty. Candidate of technology.
1973-1978: Deputy Chief Engineer and director of Olenburg Gas Plant
1978: Instructor of the heavy industry Department, CPSU Central Committee
apparatus.
1982-1985: Chief of all-Union production and gas exploitation of USSR gas
industry; concurrently headed Glavtyumengasprom All-Union Production
Association
1987-1989: Deputy in USSR Supreme Soviet
1989-1992: Chairman of Board of Directors of Gazprom
1992, May: Appointed Deputy Prime Minister of Ministry of Fuel and Energy
1992, December: Prime Minister of the Government of the Russian Federation
1995, April: took charge of "Our Home is Russia", a new electoral bloc


Family: Married with two children. His junior son is a student, the elder
son works in gas-processing industry. He has one granddaughter
Honors: Order of the October Revolution, Order of the Red Banner of Labor
and Badge of Honor
Hobbies: Accordion


Mr. Chernomyrdin was brought into the Cabinet of the acting Prime Minister,
Yegor T. Gaidar, in May 1992 with two other industrialists as an attempt to
broaden Mr. Gaidar's Government of young, Westernized economists and
appease outraged managers of state enterprises, who were struggling with
the end of a centralized, command economy and the collapse of the Soviet
Union.


He has been characterized as a strong, experienced administrator who ran a
vital industry with wide international contacts, but who was no Communist
Party hack. Aleksandr S. Dzhasokhov, a legislator and former Politburo
member who served with Mr. Chernomyrdin commented that "He's a practical
man, no theoretician, who ran a vast industry and who was the first to turn
his ministry into a business concern." His biography follows the classic
pattern of any middle aged careerist Communist, but Mr. Chernomyrdin views
himself as much more of an industrial technocrat than the typical ideologue
of the previous era. He likes to project himself as a practitioner, a hard
worker who rolls up his sleeves and values loyalty above any other virtue.


Viktor Stepanovich began his tenure as Russia's Premier by tempering the
radical reforms that characterized the Gaidar period. He commented that the
priorities of his reforms differ somewhat from his predecessor, focusing on
reversing the decline in Russia's industrial production. In his own words,
"No reform will work if we destroy industry completely."


His appointment as Prime Minister was viewed with skepticism by observers
both inside and outside Russia. Mikhail Leontiev, a columnist for the
weekly Moscow News, commented that "He's a fantastic gas professional, but
he's also a person who's classically incapable of being a prime minister.
He doesn't think in economic terms." Commenting on Chernomyrdin's tenure as
head of Gazprom, Leontiev said that Gazprom "is an enormous concern and it
works successfully, but it works like an empire. It's run purely
administratively." At the onset of his tenure as Prime Minister, many
Russian Lawmakers as well as Western diplomats and economists feared that
Chernomyrdin's pro-industrial penchant would lead to an opening of Russia's
credit tap, and thereby exacerbate inflation from 25%-30% per month to a
hyperinflation of 50% per month. These concerns were not unfounded; Mr.
Chernomyrdin's first act as Prime Minister was to provide large new
subsidies to the energy sector, followed by price and profit controls on
many basic food items and vodka.


President Yeltsin began to succumb to poor health and depression after the
shelling of Parliament in October 1993 and opposition gains in
parliamentary elections in December of that year. At this time, Mr.
Chernomyrdin established himself as Russia's de facto governor. During
this period, Chernomyrdin elucidated his policy priorities, expressing a
need for revision of Russia's law on privatization and advocating further
state support for factories and the energy industry, and stricter state
control over energy, food and science. More revealingly, he said Russia
still needed Gosplan -- the old State Planning Committee that controlled
the formerly centralized economy -- "but in a slightly different form." He
promised to spend billions of dollars to subsidize the agricultural sector,
a course which would inevitably push inflation higher and slow the
privatization of Russian farms.


As a representative of their ranks, Mr. Chernomyrdin serves as a reliable
figure for the nations real power structure -- the directors of large state
or newly privatized enterprises, collective farms and the bureaucratic
bosses who continue to run the country while appealing to Moscow for a
continuation of favors, credits and subsidies. These close ties between
Mr. Chernomyrdin and Russia's industrial elites are illustrated by the fact
that he had a direct telephone line to Gazprom installed in his government
office in order to carefully guard the concern's interests.


The Russian newspaper Rossiskye Vesti illustrated the cozy relations
between government and big business that characterize Chernomyrdin's
government by exposing that the Prime Minister liquidated the 2.6 billion
ruble ($1.7 million US) debt of the Promstroibank (Industrial Construction
Development Bank), run by an old Oil and Gas Ministry colleague, and
granted the bank a loan of 15 billion rubles ($9.7 million US) for 10 years
at 20 percent annual interest, while inflation at the time was around 20
percent per month and rising.


However, Mr. Chernomyrdin eventually came to the view shared by Russia's
radical reformers and Western creditors, reversing himself on most economic
issues. In fact, since January 1994 he has favored and largely instituted a
tight-money, low-inflation policy that has won him support from Washington
and the International Monetary Fund. Chernomyrdin's economic policies were
ultimately vindicated in July, 1995, when Russia's monthly inflation rate
dipped to 0.7 percent. This is considered to be one of Russia's top
economic achievements since the inception of reforms.


During his key role in negotiating the release of hundreds of Russian taken
hostage in Budyonnovsk by Chechen rebels in June, 1995, Mr. Chernomyrdin
transformed himself from a colorless Soviet-style manager to an anguished
statesman in the eyes of the Russian people. He also become the main
interlocutor between the United States and Russia on key issues in this
strained, politicized time, through the US.-Russian Joint Commission on
Economic and Technological Cooperation, also known as the Gore-Chernomyrdin
Commission.


The Clinton administration has long viewed Chernomyrdin as a stabilizing
force in Russian politics, a man with whom it can do business should
Yeltsin's health problems force his retirement. The White House has done
what it can to bolster Chernomyrdin's stature, although polls suggest
that his popularity inside Russia badly trails Alexander Lebed, the retired
general and former Yeltsin security adviser.


Chernomyrdin also heads the center-right "Our Home is Russia" bloc, which
is favored by President Yeltsin and has been joined by government ministers
and influential regional bosses. Chernomyrdin's support in the influential
financial and industrial groups is evidenced by the bloc's endorsement by
Vladimir Medvedev, the head of the Union of Oil and Gas Industrialists and
of the rival bloc, "Regions of Russia." Medvedev cast his support behind
Chernomyrdin's "Our Home," stating that the bloc would contribute to
stability and help the fuel and energy sector climb out of crisis.


Most recently, the security of Mr. Chernomyrdin's position as Prime
Minister was taken into question by the Russian media. This speculation
was dispelled in Boris Yeltsin's annual address to Parliament on March 6,
1997. Although Yeltsin confirmed that there would soon be changes made in
the government, he implied that Chernomyrdin would continue to head the
government by mentioning that the Premier would soon embark on a series of
foreign missions to China, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.


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Viktor S . Chernomyrdin

Engineer and

Prime Minister of Russia