Sergey Menshikov: From soldier to ‘General’

May 2010, the interview was taken by Vladislav Korneychuk
Published in corporate Gazprom Magazine

Grozny city

Mr. Menshikov, how did the fact that you were born in Grozny, then lived and received higher education there, affect you and your destiny?

Once this city was a big industrial and cultural center. The intellectuals and laborers who worked on high-tech equipment – those were the people who influenced my choice: after finishing school in 1985 I entered Grozny Petroleum Institute majoring in Oil Field Machinery and Equipment. I was interested in technological processes – drilling, well repair…

As a child I was always attracted to hardware and process facilities. I lived in the Oktyabrsk district of Grozny where oil fields, drilling facilities and pumping units were located. I even learned to play the accordion at a music school there. The adults were getting together nearly once a week and they lacked live music. So they sent me to the music school where I studied for five years. Now I don’t play anymore. I only take my accordion when I visit my mother (my accordion is there, though it is worn-out). My mother has been living in one of the villages in the Stavropol Territory since we left Grozny. Unfortunately, when we were searching for a place to move from Grozny in 1992, Stavropol was too expensive for us. Though a flat in Grozny had cost ten thousand Soviet rubles once, in the first half of the 1990s it was nearly impossible to sell it. Mother had been in Grozny during nearly the whole First Chechen War. When Konstantin Pulikovsky organized a ‘corridor’, people moved away, leaving behind practically everything.

When I got concerned with my ancestors, it came out that my grand grandfather was an oil worker, too. I know such a fact: in 1905 he and his wife were going via Grozny to Black Stones in Baku where his son, my grandfather, was born later. Then my grandfather’s family settled in Grozny…

When did you visit your motherland last time?

Last time it was in 1993. The city where I grew up doesn’t exist anymore. The street disappeared, so did the institute… But this institute contributed a lot to the Far North fields development! Now it is rebuilt. But there are other teachers there now. That city and the institute don’t exist anymore.

Military bearing

Did you want to do military service?

Yes, I did. Moreover, at some point I planned to enter Leningrad Kirov Higher General Military Command School. But then I decided to go to the oil institute. I had an opportunity to avoid military service, there was a reserve officers training department in my institute, but I wrote an application and left for two years.

In 1987 you could have been sent to Afghanistan…

I served in a reconnaissance regiment at the boot camp near Dzerzhinsk (Moscow Military District). They were sending people from our regiment to Afghanistan. In autumn 1987 it was necessary to have a permission from parents. But what kind of mother would sign this! So I decided not to push my luck. I was sent to Transcaucasian Military District. I served there for 18 months at the USSR/Turkish border. When I returned from the army all my former fellow students were starting the fifth year and I was just about to start the third one. Certainly, it was a bit frustrating. But on the other hand, army gives something to everyone, whether you want it or not. As for me, I matured, became more disciplined, got to know what military service was.

Legal methods

Mr. Menshikov, why have you decided to become a member of the 5th Legislative Assembly of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area from the United Russia Party?

More than 35 per cent of all Russian natural gas is produced in the Nadym District. The taxes go to the District budget and get distributed among municipalities. It happened many times that the Nadym District was underfinanced.

It was decided to introduce new legislation to influence the situation somehow. There are also Gazprom interests to be maintained in the region. There is a swarm of issues to be solved by all means. Electricity tariffs, water use, household solid waste management, land use…

During the pre-election period I held more than 30 meetings with the collectives. It came out that one of the most serious problems was the following: six kindergartens we rented had to be transferred into municipal property. Today 520 employees work there under our collective agreement, receive wages from us and have a 102-day vacation leave. Consequently, the personnel of kindergartens would lose a lot. And 1,200 children of our employees may go to municipal kindergartens, where the standards are much lower than those of Gazprom. So we have to make municipal authorities work more actively on an increase in wages of the state budget paid employees. 

Mooring at Bovanenkovo field

Mooring at Bovanenkovo field

Management peculiarities

I had worked in the North before. I worked in Nizhnevartovsk, overhauled wells. It was the sixth time I moved to another city after Grozny. And every time, as most of the people, I had to deal with certain domestic inconveniences. Now I work and live in Nadym. It wasn’t simple when I arrived, certainly, but I always felt the support of the people who invited me, particularly, Oleg Aksyutin, Head of the Gas Transportation, Underground Storage and Utilization Department. It’s hard to live in a new place for the first three months, as a rule, then you get used to it.

What do you think about management styles – democratic, authoritarian?

Today I regard my management style as mostly democratic. My work in Kavkaztransgaz contributed to it a lot, though the company’s former Director General, Vasily Zinoviev, was a different type of an executive, he was severe. I’d say that no one had a chance to make a sidestep. I believe that it’s not right to be pushy in the Far North. People who work here are special, aware of their worth. If you push them too much they may become unsociable, uninterested, they'll stop showing initiative.

By the way, was it hard for you to adapt to the Far North after Southern Russia?

Not by bread alone

Do you like the Far North nature?

Yes, of course. It is perceived more lively and keenly after Southern Russia. The Yamal nature is certainly very interesting. I like fishing the Yuribey River. You can get away from work there, to meditate and commune with nature. You get distracted, feel relief. The process itself is fascinating. I took my family there twice. Everyone liked it. My daughter even hooked a pike!

Mr. Menshikov, are there any books that formed you? What do you read now?

I used to read a lot as a child and a teen, mostly fiction and technical literature. I was influenced a lot by Vasily Shukshin’s literature, particularly his book “The Red Snowball Tree”. I even made many important decisions based on this book. Today I have collected practically all Russian and Soviet classic literature. And I reread with great pleasure the books I have already read: Alexander Tvardovsky, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov… Besides, I usually have to refer to economic books rather than technical literature, because the economic knowledge is demanded today.

I like Russian history books very much, especially the literature about the Great Patriotic War. Now I read about the places where I live. How Salekhard (former Obdorsk) and Mangazeya (people left this city in the mid-17th century) were founded. This is very fascinating. Furthermore, it is also useful to know how people lived, survived, built cities with the entire infrastructure in the severe conditions of the Far North in that period. I am also interested in the history of the area where I was born. In particular, I am concerned with the formation of the Caucasian nations writing system. My interest aroused when I thought: why do Chechen, Abkhaz, Ossetian alphabets use Latin letters?

Startup and commissioning of Baidaratskaya main compressor station

Startup and commissioning of Baidaratskaya main compressor station

Do you go in for sports?

I had played volleyball until I had a torn knee ligament. Now the doctors recommend that I refrain from playing volleyball, so I prefer billiards, swimming, gym… I obliged all my deputies to go to the gym twice a week (I am no exception) and after that we go to the swimming pool. I like futsal, basketball, volleyball and shooting. We develop these sports as part of sport events. You have to go in for sport in the North, otherwise you get weak. It isn’t only about physical health. Without sport, the gray matter’s activity decreases.

We wrote about weight-lifters from Pangody who promote a healthy lifestyle there…

Yes, I’ve read this publication. Pangody is proud of its champions. And they raise new ones, in various sports, what’s more. Last year, for instance, we inaugurated the Kristall ice rink for year-round figure skating. Now we are designing a ski resort. We hold championships between Pangody and Nadym in futsal, darts, shooting, billiards…

Certainly, it is necessary to care not only about your body, but about your soul as well. Construction of an orthodox church has started in Pangody. I suppose there has to be a church in every settlement. Even in Yamal, in the rotational camp of the Bovanenkovo field we built a chapel. It is necessary to care about the soul.