Viktor Stepanovich Chernomyrdin (Russian: Виктор Степанович Черномырдин, IPA: [t͡ɕɪrnɐˈmɨrdʲɪn]; 9 April 1938 – 3 November 2010) was the founder and the first chairman of the Gazprom energy company, the longest serving Prime Minister of Russia (1992–1998) and Acting President of Russia for a day in 1996. He was a key figure in Russian politics in the 1990s, and a participant in the Russian transition from a planned to a market economy. From 2001 to 2009, he was Russia's ambassador to Ukraine. After that he was designated as a presidential adviser.
Chernomyrdin is known in Russia and Russian-speaking countries for his unique language style, containing numerous malapropisms and syntactic errors. Many of his sayings became aphorisms and idioms in the Russian language, the most famous being his expression "We meant to do better, but it came out as always" (Russian: Хотели как лучше, а получилось как всегда).
Chernomyrdin died on 3 November 2010 after a long illness. He was buried beside his wife in Novodevichy Cemetery on 5 November, and his funeral was broadcast live on Russian federal TV channels.
Early life and education
Chernomyrdin's father was a labourer and Viktor was one of five children. Chernomyrdin completed school education in 1957 and found employment as a mechanic in an oil refinery in Orsk. He worked there until 1962, except for two years of compulsory military service from 1957 to 1960. His other occupations on the plant during this period included machinist, operator and chief of technical installations.
He became a member of the CPSU in 1961.
In 1962, he was admitted to Kuybyshev Industrial Institute (which was later renamed Samara Polytechnical Institute). In his entrance exams he performed very poorly. He failed the math sections of the test and had to take the exam again, getting a C. He got only one B in Russian language, and Cs in the other tests. He was admitted only because of very low competition. In 1966, he graduated from the institute. In 1972, he completed further studies at the Department of Economics of the Union-wide Polytechnic Institute by correspondence.
Chernomyrdin began developing his career as a politician when he worked for the CPSU in Orsk between 1967 and 1973. In 1973, he was appointed the director of the natural gas refining plant in Orenburg, a position which he held until 1978. Between 1978 and 1982, Chernomyrdin worked in the heavy industry arm of the CPSU Central Committee.
In 1982, he was appointed deputy Minister of the natural gas industries of the Soviet Union. Concurrently, beginning from 1983, he directed Glavtyumengazprom, an industry association for natural gas resource development in Tyumen Oblast. During 1985–1989 he was the minister of gas industries.
Founder of Gazprom
In August 1989, under the leadership of Chernomyrdin, the Ministry of Gas Industry was transformed itself into the State Gas Concern, Gazprom, which became the country's first state-corporate enterprise. Chernomyrdin was elected its first chairman. The company was still controlled by the state, but now the control was exercised through shares of stock, 100% of which were owned by the state.
When the Soviet Union dissolved in late 1991, assets of the former Soviet state in the gas sector were transferred to newly created national companies such as Ukrgazprom and Turkmengazprom. Gazprom kept assets located in the territory of Russia, and was able to secure a monopoly in the gas sector.
Gazprom's political influence increased markedly after the new Russian President Boris Yeltsin appointed the company's chairman Chernomyrdin as his Prime Minister in 1992. Rem Viakhirev took Cherdomyrdin's place as Chairman both of the Board of Directors and of the Managing Committee. Gazprom was one of the backbones of the country's economy in 1990s, though the company underperformed during that decade. In the 2000s, however, Gazprom became the largest extractor of natural gas in the world and the largest Russian company.
Prime Minister of Russia
In May 1992, Boris Yeltsin appointed Chernomyrdin as deputy prime minister in charge of fuel and energy. On 14 December 1992, Chernomyrdin was confirmed by the VII Congress of People's Deputies of Russia as Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation. In April 1995, he formed a political bloc called Our Home – Russia, which was aimed at becoming the central force in the parliament, but failed in this, gaining only 10% of votes.
On 18 June 1995, as a result of Shamil Basayev-led terrorists taking over 1500 people hostage in Budyonnovsk, negotiations between Chernomyrdin and Basayev led to a compromise which became a turning point for the First Chechen War. In exchange for the hostages, the Russian government agreed to halt military actions in Chechnya and begin a series of negotiations.
He was Acting President of the Russian Federation for 23 hours on 6 November 1996, when Boris Yeltsin was undergoing a heart operation.
Chernomyrdin remained prime minister until his sudden dismissal on 23 March 1998. Following the 1998 Russian financial crisis in August, Yeltsin re-appointed Chernomyrdin as prime minister, and attempted to designate him as his successor. However, the Duma twice refused to confirm Chernomyrdin as the head of the government. Rather than to risk the third rejection and thus to force the dissolution of the parliament and political crisis,Chernomyrdin withdrew his nomination and the President propose a more popular Yevgeny Primakov as the new Prime Minister.
During the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 Chernomyrdin was a special representative of Russia in Yugoslavia. It was he who persuaded Slobodan Milosevich to agree to an armistice and to place Kosovo under UN control.
In December 1999 Chernomyrdin was elected a member of the Duma (Russian parliament).
In May 2001, Vladimir Putin appointed Chernomyrdin Ambassador of Russia to Ukraine. This action was interpreted by some Russian media agencies as a move to distance Chernomyrdin from the centre of Russian politics. In 2003, he dismissed talk of an apology for the Holodomor Famine made by Russians.
In February 2009 Chernomyrdin again strained the relations between Ukraine and Russia when he in an interview said "It is impossible to come to an agreement on anything with the Ukrainian leadership. If different people come in, we'll see". The Ukrainian foreign ministry said in a response it could declare Chernomyrdin "persona non grata" over the row.
On 11 June 2009, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev relieved Chernomyrdin as Russian Ambassador in Kiev, and appointed him as "presidential adviser and special presidential representative on economic cooperation with CIS member countries". In a parting shot at the Ukrainian government, Chernomyrdin stated that Russia should not apologise to Ukraine over voicing its suspicions about Ukraine being unable to pay for its natural gas, and further stated that Russia wants Ukraine to pay for the gas it consumes, and hence Russia is right to be concerned about the solvency of the Ukrainian state.
Chernomyrdin died on the morning of 3 November 2010 after a long illness.The exact cause and the place of death were not announced. According to people close to Chernomyrdin, such as popular singer Lev Leshchenko, the former Prime Minister was deeply affected by the death of his wife Valentina, seven and a half months earlier.
Chernomyrdin was buried beside his wife in Novodevichy Cemetery on 5 November 2010. On 3 November Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed an order to show Chernomyrdin's funeral in a live broadcast on Russian federal TV channels (only the funerals of the former President Boris Yeltsin and Patriarch Alexy II were granted the same right in recent years). The head of the Presidential Administration of Russia, Sergey Naryshkin, supervised the funeral ceremony.
Condolences on the death of Chernomyrdin were voiced on 3 November 2010 by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and other state figures in Russia.
In Russian-speaking countries, Chernomyrdin is famous for his numerous malapropisms and syntactically incorrect speech. His idioms received the name Chernomyrdinki, and are somewhat comparable to Bushisms in style and effect.
One of his expressions "We wanted the best, but it turned out as always" (Хотели как лучше, а получилось как всегда in Russian) about the economic reforms in Russia became a very popular proverb. The phrase was uttered after a highly unsuccessful monetary exchange performed by the Russian Central Bank in July 1993.
Among his other sayings were:
- We have completed all the items: from A to B.
- Better than vodka there is nothing worse.
- From the very beginning there was nothing like that, and now there it is again.
- The direction we have is one – the correct one.
- A government is not that body which you can do with a tongue as you wish.
- Better to be the head of a fly than the buttocks of an elephant.
- 27 millions were left with no arms, no leg, and without nothing else.
- The soul hurts for grandchildren and the country.
- You got to think what to understand.
- Always we in Russia have something standing that we don't need.
- The principles that were principled were non-principled.
- There is still time to save the face. Later we will be forced to save some other parts of a body.
- Wine we need for health, and the health we need to drink vodka.
- My life has passed in the atmosphere of oil and gas.
- I can speak to everybody in whichever tongue, but that is the instrument I try not to use.
- Accuse of what? Of corruption? Whom? Me? Who? USA? What, did they, there, just wake up?
- I don't paint, but if I would like to none will seem to be too little.
- We need to do what our people need, not what we are doing now.
- The country we have – enough for her by skipping to do jumping.
- Here is what can happen when somebody's starting to reason.
Honours and awards
This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the Russian Wikipedia. State awards of the Russian Federation and USSR
- Order of Merit for the Fatherland
- 1st class (24 March 2009) - for outstanding contribution to strengthening the international prestige of the Russian Federation and many years of fruitful activity
- 2nd class (23 March 1998) - for outstanding contribution to the development of the Russian state
- 3rd class (9 April 2008) - for outstanding contribution to the development of Russian-Ukrainian relations
- 4th class (9 April 2010) - for long-term fruitful state activity
- Order of Friendship (8 April 2003) - for outstanding contribution to the strengthening and development of friendship and cooperation between Russia and Ukraine
- Order of the October Revolution (1986)
- Order of the Red Banner of Labour (1979)
- Order of the Badge of Honour (1974) - for achievements in the construction and development of the design capacity of the first stage of Orenburg gas complex
- Jubilee Medal "300 Years of the Russian Navy" (7 June 1996)
- Medal "In Commemoration of the 850th Anniversary of Moscow" (6 September 1997)
- Medal "In Commemoration of the 1000th Anniversary of Kazan" (23 August 2005)
- Jubilee Medal "In Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary since the Birth of Vladimir Il'ich Lenin" (1970)
- Jubilee Medal "Forty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945" (1985)
President and the Government of the Russian Federation
- Diploma of the President of the Russian Federation (12 December 2008) - for active participation in the drafting of the Constitution and a great contribution to the democratic foundations of the Russian Federation
- Gratitude of the President of the Russian Federation (9 November 1993)
- Gratitude of the President of the Russian Federation (14 August 1995) - for active participation in the preparation and conduct of the 50th anniversary of Victory in Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945
- Gratitude of the President of the Russian Federation (12 July 1996) - for active participation in organizing and conducting the election campaign of President of Russian Federation in 1996
- Gratitude of the President of the Russian Federation (30 July 1999) - for his great personal contribution to a political settlement between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and NATO, consistent defense of Russia's position in the Balkans
- Diploma of the Russian Federation Government (9 April 2003) - for his great personal contribution to the development of Russian-Ukrainian trade and economic cooperation
- Diploma of the Russian Federation Government (9 April 2008) - for long-term fruitful state activity
- Medal "100th Anniversary of Birth of Georgi Dimitrov" (People's Republic of Bulgaria, 1982)
- Mkhitar Gosh (Armenia, 4 December 1998) - for outstanding contribution to the elimination of the consequences of the Spitak earthquake, humanitarian assistance and reconstruction work. Medal awarded 18 April 2002
- Order of Parasat (Kazakhstan, 1 September 1999) - for his contribution to the development of oil and gas industry in Kazakhstan
- Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, 5th class (Ukraine, 8 April 2003) - for outstanding contribution to the development of bilateral relations between Russia and Ukraine, weighty personal contribution in strengthening the friendly ties between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples
- Order of Merit, 3rd class (Ukraine, 17 June 2009) - for his contribution to the development of Ukrainian-Russian relations, the long-term diplomatic activity
Awards of states of the Russian Federation
- Order "For Merit" (Republic of Ingushetia, June 19, 2001) - for outstanding contribution to the establishment and development of the economy of Ingushetia
- Order the "Key of Friendship" (Kemerovo Region, 7 March 2008)
- Order of St. Sergius, 2nd class (Russian Orthodox Church, 29 March 2007) - for their efforts in strengthening the unity of Orthodox peoples
- Order "Christmas", 2nd class (UOC)
- Jubilee medal "1020 years of the Baptism of Kievan Rus' (PCM, 25 November 2008)
- Honorary Worker Minneftegazstroya (1 April 1988)
- Veteran Labour gas industry (8 April 1998)
- Honorary Worker of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2 April 2003) - for active participation in the implementation of Russian foreign policy