Interview with director of Polluks Fishing Company V.N. Polukarov

My motto remains the former — “Time presses!”

S.I. Vakhrin, TV editor-in-chief: Vasily Nikolayevich, last time we met a little bit more than a year ago, just when new authorities came to power and it was not clear that instead of union of old power (the former administration) with new one that you and we hailed, it would result in something different. What do you think about it? And in general, what do you estimate the events a year after replacement of the administration?
V.N. Polukarov: You know, I am keeping to my principles. It happened what happened. It means it is natural, or do our old people have no right to affect our life or us? Have no right to express their will? Those old men and women who made Kamchatka, who strengthened the Soviet Union — do they have no right to express their wish to see the man at the helm they trust? They dropped their ballot-paper into the box and it reached the man they wanted to see at a high post. They wanted a communist governor and here he is.
V.: Thus they protested against previous administration?
P.: That is. People protested against former authorities in such a way, as the fens that surrounded them were beyond their strength, they began to suffocate. If in 1990, when I was young, I accepted rules of the game — they didnít, as they were weak to do it. I accepted them and played the game according to the rules, but rules are changing and life is going on and you canít escape it. And those who had chance in the election and could voice a protest — those people voted as they had to. That is why we are having what we are having. I have to admit — itís not the worst. As for me, not as a fisherman or director of the company, — I come home, turn on a tap — hot water is running and I even have to add some cold water, because it so hot that it burns hands. We have never had it in Seroglazka. I come home — my children are doing their homework by the light, they are reading, my wife is watching TV, we do it without splinter or Korea kerosene stove — itís quite normal. And I as an everyman understand it. Another question is how it all falls; but itís light and warm — and this is the main thing in life of an everyman. He is far from abstract mattes. He still remembers twenty days and nights in December without electricity and central heating.
But I as a fisherman believe that Kamchatka Council of Fishing Companies should be held in time and go to work from the 1 of January, but not all could do it. In the Koryak Autonomous Okrug the Council was held on January 11 and they went to work on 18 …
Although every fisherman knows what one day of downtime means.
V.: I see, everyone has his own vision of events, though I can give contradictory facts, especially in fish industry, but this interview is not with me. Iíd like to speak not about something else, not about everymen. Iím mostly interested in opinion of a businessman, opinion of a manager of the big fishing company, opinion of the man who is creating new Russian economy. During Soviets in Kamchatkaís fish industry, especially in coastal one, there dominated two types of fishing enterprises: fishing collective farms and state fishing enterprises. At present there left 3 fishing collective farms and only one state fishing enterprise from 12 collective farms and state enterprises. I want to ask, how did Vasily Nikolayevich Polukarov with “companions” manage to reorganize his life, way of thinking, economy, and enter completely new world with Petropavlovsky State Fishing Enterprise being preserved?
P.: Because we lived a real life, we worked and didnít create illusions for ourselves. If we take State Fishery — nothing has changed — you may go fishing, catch something, pay at state prices, if you donít catch anything — you will pay it anyway. A farmer has always lived on the tail, therefore farms had best fishermen, therefore farms were the best — all seamen, all chairmen of collective farms were “involved” in one matter, in one share — a share from the tail. There is a tail — there is money, no tail — no money. Thatís why everybody worked for the result. Itís quite another matter that collective farms ruined — circumstances account for it. Somewhere directorís principle worked — one was itchy-fingered, somewhere they were cheated. It was not only the state, but also business partners that cheated; money was not paid in time … it made really a chain of events. Farmers differed also. If we take Bekerev Collective Farm, it was very strong…
V.: Iíd like to speak about collective farms separately, as this is a very serious and vast theme. I am interested in Petropavlovsky State Fishing Enterprises. Why is it the only business of all twelve Kamchatka and Koryak fishing enterprises that survived and is still operating?
P.: I am from that enterprise. I worked there as a fishery engineer and I bless my stars that my life is knit up with his. Iíve understood many things. I mean, when I worked in fisheries and was on one side of the fence I saw one side of fishermanís life, after I went to Petropavlovsky State Fishing Enterprise, I saw something different — the whole process from fishing to realization, in all details. There was no gap there — the farm gave fish to a cannery, the cannery made produce and the parent enterprise Kamchatrybprom or Kamchatrybsbyt sold it, then the money returned backward to the farm. When Russia turned to capitalist system of economy, farmersí wages came with delays, the farm could not manage to buy fuel in time, to prepare for the next fishing season — it started ruining… As the chain was too long it was impossible to make heads or tail of it. The state fishing enterprises not only harvested but also processed and sold fish — they made their money themselves. It had negative as well as positive sides — fishing enterprises attracted those, who wanted all and immediately, like bees to honey or flies to rotten fish. Petropavlovsky, probably, survived only because it chose another way of development — the way of deep fish processing, i.e. the way of development of the enterprise. Gennady V. Panteleyev, our head, invested in construction of a processing complex. And now we have an excellent fish-processing complex in Yelizovo with the output capacity of one thousand ton. It has worked before, it is working now and will work, ever. I think it helped us survive — deep fish processing, coastal processing.
We fished everything. Even in the North in 1988, when we began developing the northwest of Kamchatka up to its border with Chukotka, we in spite of distance in hundreds of miles brought cod, not mentioning salmon to Petropavlovsk. We caught everything — whitefish, navaga, smelt, loach, king salmon — everything. Moreover — here in the northern nook we fished in Lakes Olukha and Dezhnev even in winter. Everything was processed, it all was sold out. Eventually it helped us survive.
V.: And now back to collective farms, as there are more of them left and it would be interesting to trace their fate. Because each of them has its own story. If we compare Bekerev Collective Farm with Petropavlovsky State Fishing Enterprise, if speaking about Lenin collective farm we mention that it has qualified specialists that accounts for their survival in new, capitalistic economic conditions. Although while speaking about Krasny Truzhenik Collective Farm where specialists are also highly skilled, we should say that the farm as an economic structure didnít work. Its richest resource base just depraved many professionals who work there — our newspaper has already written about it. It seems to me that future of this farm will be different from that of Lenin or Bekerev collective farms.
P.: You are right. We can see it by example of such directors as Tkachenko, Drachev. Collective farms survive and develop only thanks to such personalities, it can be vividly seen by example of Lenin Collective Farm. It is my whole farm. And the founder of our company, the patriarchy, whose name is given to one of our leading BATMs — Anatoliy Ponomarev, grew up in this collective farm, he worked there, therefore we are not indifferent to its future. It is difficult to imagine now what used to be before Vladimir Z. Drachev — what a miserable existence it dragged in the beginning of perestroika, how it was kneeling, bending over and fell — it was barely saved. Drachev came later. Although Drachevís destiny is ambiguous; only after last 2-3 years he is on top. When Drechev came, when he brought large capacity vessels, he was completely misunderstood and rejected by collective farmers, exactly by farmers and I underline it. And exclusively thanks to resolute character of the chairman, his profound knowledge in economics and fisheries, Lenin Collective Farm could recover from recession and is on its peak. I believe that success lies in taking something positive from the system of collective farms, i.e. fishing, processing, excitement of a fisherman.
I canít understand anything about Krasny Truzhenik Collective Farm. Itís now at the peak of activity one can ever reach. Because it is situated at a gold river. The Ozernaya River, and no one conceals it, is endowed with immense riches, though all this echoes negatively — it corrupts people: “easy work breeds success”, they get the highest financial (not economic) results at the expense of natural resources almost without efforts.
V.: Collective farm Krasny Truzhenik worked for two sorts of plan last decades: farmís plan and that of pocketís — and they were in different ratio. In the result the pocketís plan exceeded the farmís greatly (in comparison with the fishing season 2001), and people didnít think of their outlook because of it. Take processing for example: though they caught not only sock-eye salmon but also crab. What processing capacities did they have, activity that has always brought best economic results? Colossal ones. And nothing was undertaken — they didnít even renew fleet for the last 10 years. In 1991 if my memory doesnít betray me, the farm netted 12000 tons of sock-eye salmon. What perspective they had! Alas! And most noticeable is that the farm faced double inner stratification: firstly, people began to degrade there, became unscrupulous in business, they started stealing fish and made a profit out of it; secondly, the farmís management (people told me about it and I can tell it overtly) was consumed with personal affairs not with business, the chairman was absent for months and showed no interest in anything that concerned the farm.
P.: Itís quite possible. During salmon fisheries, and we finish fishing on the Kuris Islands and can see all fishermen — those from eastern and western coasts and inhabitants of the islands as well — that is why I can compare, so I should say there are only three, perhaps four companies on all coasts that are able to work as they should do during fisheries. First of all it is Bekerev Collective Farm, secondly — Krasny Truzhenik Collective Farm, thirdly — ZAO Gidrostroy, and there is one more company at the Bolshaya River. I havenít taken fish from them but I saw how this company worked and I was pleased with what I saw. In most cases people follow example of their director. In Krasny Truzhenik, unfortunately, people see another thing — director who bosses at the “golden” river cannot pay adequate wages even when they have record-high fish catch. Then people can do nothing but caring of themselves, their families. When they come home their childrenís eyes question them — what have you brought? And what if I worked in May, June, July, August, September, and receive money earned only in March or April next year… I have nothing but stealing. Although I know that time of “grabbing-all” is over. Things that were admissible in the recent past have no way at present.
I meet many fishermen from Krasny Truzhenik — our seiners operate in the same area where collective farmers do, and when they come to me and ask me to employ them I state sincerely that I am not able to pay money they have for unlicensed fish. They say overtly in return that they are not going to steal any more — they are tired of it, tired of struggling with conscience, tired of being afraid because law enforcement agencies are establishing order now. And people in Kamchatka are law-abiding. Especially when enforcement agencies work far more better than in any other region.
Although the main reason of what can be observed now is not in ordinary people, plodders, but in management.
Voluntarily or not but directory of Krasny Truzhenik has drove those people to a slippery path by its actions. People observe everything; you canít hide anything from them. Fishermen are sure to see it first. Therefore it would be unjust to tell that it were farmers who “took initiative” — itís not true. It was directory of the farm that incited them to it by its unprofessional management and (Iím not afraid of these words) criminal actions.
V.: Vasily Nikolayevich, from the point of view of an economic executive, a laborer, a person who transferred old system into new one and who established new systems on nothing, tell us about outlook for Krasny Truzhenik. If administration changes and a strategy for the future is developed, what is most important here?
P.: Human factor is most important here. It is necessary for people to believe in themselves that if I am a good workman, collective farmer and I want to work, — I have right to work, to have wages, vocation and rest. The collective farm system — it is recognized, and now the best system is still that of the collective farm, you canít destroy it, farm is farm. Most important is to create an integral production complex, where EVERYONE would work. It used to be always so — all farmers worked for the common stock, and then divided it equally and fairly into shares. The farm should be busy with work all the year round, unlike now — they are fishing sock-eye salmon from the 20 of July to the 20 of August — and do nothing until next summer. Not a single collective farm can live by 30 days a year, no matter what kind of a collective farm it might be, a farm should not only fish but also process it, realize it and earn money, then it should be given away among farmers justly, taking into consideration the social sphere of the farm. The farms were set up to strengthen the coasts, the territory; our fathers were not fools. They established the farms to found, for example, Ivashka Village or frontier Village Zaporozhye in the outskirts of Russia so that people could live there, to secure the Russian territories. The distances are great — you may fly and fly and see nobody around. It was the securing of territorial integrity of Russia. It was a fact of state development.
V.: Vasily Nikolayevich, I entirely subscribe to your opinion: either about professionalism of people from Krasny Truzhenik, or I hope they will reveal their talents, they have great potential there. There was one famous expert in herring processing. It means they have rich past and let us hope will have rich future. I wonder whether these frontier villages have any resource perspective? We — Kamchatsy — have crab no longer. We have little hope for ground species of fish, they took from us herring — it is almost entirely put up for auctions. Wonít there be a situation when they will set a veto on sock-eye salmon and it will be put up for auctions, while inhabitants of some coastal areas of Kamchatka, fishing collective farms and fishing companies will not be able to purchase quotas? I have a question to you about auctions: what is your attitude to them?
P.: Itís not an easy question. From standpoint of our company, in my opinion as the director of the joint-stock company Polluks — I vote for auctions, I am ready to work at the auction system, it doesnít worry me.
V.: I see. Polluks has never had so many limits, it has always had to buy them before…
P.: Yes, weíve always bought them. BUT if we support auctions, then there should be taken rules GENERAL for all. Still I canít tell you whether I am for or against auctions. Why? Because I donít know rules of this game. I would say the following: let me read the rules and if they are written and they follow them — I am for auctions. But if the rules are written but nobody follows them — I canít take it. Iíll give you one example. According to the (written!) rules I have to pay my subscription five days before actions, if I donít do it I am not allowed there. I take a credit, pay my subscription, but someone has no time, someone doesnít pay and is sifted — doesnít participate. I come to an auction and see there 80 persons instead of 110 rivals. Itís wonderful, itís life, itís competition.
But in actually, when I come to an auction, a representative of Ministry of Economics is taking payment from my competitors right there in my presence on the day of the auction! I canít understand such auctions and I refuse to do it. I want everybody to follow rules that have been written. There should be or shouldnít be rules. As for Polluks, auctions are beneficial for me, no problems, no questions. I came, when commercial quotas for Koryak Autonomous Okrug had been allocated, looked at numbers and realized that we had not enough quotas for our vessels, and I made a requisition (like it was this year) and instead of those 2000 tons that were given to me by Koryak AO, I bought 12000 at an auction — and now our vessels are fishing.
The price of it — is one question, whether it benefits me or not — is another question. Although I cannot see auctions differently, but as the president of Polluks.
As a FARMER, I cannot understand it. Letís get it deeper: about what Russian territorial security, state principles, geopolitics are we talking about then? We, farmers, would better leave this place, if they donít give us quotas, — they donít need us, we are leaving for Zaporozhye (in the sunny Ukraine, the motherland of our ancestors). And let Japanese come here, they need Kuril Islands and Kamchatka, they anticipate it. They are able to buy these quotas. And in this I strongly object to auctions.
Much depends upon a farm. If we arrange everything in the right order: all gather around — collective farmers, captains, fishermen, team-leaders, chairmen, accountants, planners — we all are sitting around and discussing business to make our life better, it is our village, our people, our children. It all belongs to us, it means we should work in this direction; it means everyone should fish and everyone should devote himself to job. I know a lot of examples: XX Partsyezd Collective Farm, Udarnik Collective Farm, Tumgutum, Gorky Collective Farm — they are expecting someone to bring them everything on a silver platter. That is not going to work. We have different conditions of living, different conditions of working, we must look for necessary thing ourselves, if we do it, weíll find everything we need. Collective farms can also operate with auction quotas. It means we should make more efforts to earn money, consequently, pay greater attention to processing. We need full stocktaking and complete refusal of what we donít need. For all this we have to define what we need and what we have to do not only to live or exist but also to develop.
V.: Certainly, I also think that this issue is complicated, itís true that everything is not so simple, and while writing about auctions in our articles, we say that the state must have some quotas too. But it happened that the state raised its right to a quota to an absolute power. In the result of which the territory without resources or with a driblet of them is unable to develop. It is not occasional that people of push and go who understand what outlook it may have in future feel that it cannot be long so and, when fish industry collapses, one can “peg” golden places and then in the end things will mend. It means there will be time without auctions, the state will define its quota and here in Kamchatka Varangians with big sums of money will settle and everything will be different — in the sea and on the coast. The theme of “Primorsky or Moscow-Primorsky” expansion that is permanently in Kamchatka newspapers — it, probably, really exists, if people speak, argue, quarrel because of it. And when we speak about Krasny Truzhenik Collective Farm, we know that nowadays in Ozernovsky Village, which stands on the other bank of the Ozernaya River opposite to Zaporozhye Village, there is estate of Kozhemyako, millionaire from Primorye near Krasny Truzhenik, who may be “pegging” such places not only in Ozernovsky, Tymlat and Komandor Islands but also in Ust-Kamchatsk. I hear controversial opinions about it: heated and composed, indifferent and quite nervous, if speaking about emotions. What do you think of it?
P.: I want to emphasize that wise and decent people are now in the government and at the top of Russia. Judge for yourselves: the Russian president, who has a perfect command of German, looks in the eyes of people abroad differently from that who led the German orchestra. Last Autumn I was in Munich, I went at a shop and a saleswoman and the owner at the same time realized by our speech that we were Russians. And she (the owner of a very expensive shop!!!) came to us and started speaking in a confident manner: “Your president was making a speech in German in Bundestag for forty minutes after that everybody rose in applause. While listening to you president I felt tingles down my spine and for forty minutes I realized that Russia — our friend”. I felt proud, because the shop owner saw that time not a New Russian bull in a crimson jacket but normal Russian muzhiki purchasing some goods by credit cards, whose “bucks” were not banded, but they were talking like intelligent persons and dressed with good taste. I understand that the new government wants to visit France, Belgium, to Germans, Americans, Englishmen — to be EQUALS WITH THEM. Realizing that if it owns other states, it must pay debts. But how? Therefore these auctions are held, because people who came to power need money but they have no source of it. And the president says that when these quotas were given freely — there was neither money nor fish, and now we are selling it to have at least money… We must refund it, though we could subsidize regions instead. And everything works, goes on, people work too. The price of it all is another question. Someone can take credit at 50 per cent, someone — at 10 per cent, someone can attract foreign capitals, but itís another matter. And it makes me no difference where to take money if I need it to develop business, to avoid laying up of my BATMs — in Moscow, Primorye, Japan, Korea, the question is what are the terms of money lending and what I will pay back…
As for Primorsky expansion, I donít agree with you. What is Kozhemyako — he is a Russian muzhik like I am.
Our vessels are in the Sea of Okhotsk now. The captain reports: “Vasily Nikolayevich, itís pleasant to work, there is no foreign fleet at all, those from Primorye are very few. The Russian fleet shrinked threefold but it cannot stop fisheries, there is a lot of fish”. We cannot raise a question: whether there is, or there is no fish. We have fish. Another matter is what vessels we have got. What Primorye expansion are you talking about, if there are boats that can hardly reach the Sea of Okhotsk? Neither RTMS nor a BATM from Primorye can compare with my BATM in fish catch. It definitely canít, because it is designed differently, it needs another approach. This is what concerns expansion. I think Kamchatka fisherman be most law obedient, he has superior professional qualities. I am not speaking about super trawlers — “the Blues” or “monarchs” I mean those reliable vessels which were built in Russia. In our case it is not expansion but sound competition. The large capacity fleet can operate in the Sea of Okhotsk if we designate fisheries in subareas form January to May. And no matter, whether we took up a quota or not, there should be a ban on it beginning from May to avoid quota taking in November or December. The rest of the time let middle and small capacity fleets fish.
As for Kozhemyako. I donít agree with your words that he was dying to arrive at Kamchatka. He was invited: he was invited by Valentina Bronevich (the governor of Koryak AO), as the Koryak coast was fading without electricity, central heating and food, without medicines. And she was appealing to all large enterprises of Kamchatka Province: come to us, Iíll supply you with bioresources, provide you with areas for stationary nets, just come to us and patronize our village. It was 1999. I met Kozhemyako in Esso, when we were flying to Palana to the Fisheries Council in one helicopter. There was an incident, as usually, — Batishchev sold one helicopter to three companies — Iyanin Kutkh, Polluks, and Baza Preobrazheniya. Three companies paid for one helicopter, gathered together but there is no room for us. Started clearing up the matter, we were halfway to fight each other but finally friendship won. Then we had a talk. Kozhemyako didnít invite himself here; he was invited because local businessmen had no wish to put Koryak burden on themselves — social issues. To fish but not to be responsible for anything is one thing, though to fish and bear responsibility for the whole village is quite different matter. It concerns Tymlat with a perfect fish-processing complex. Later he patronized Ilpyr; he brought food and fuel there like he did in Tymlat. And we cannot disregard it. They gave me to patronize Village Lesnaya and I was doing it as long as I could. But when pollock quotas exceeded $ 600 per ton, I quit. Any economy has its bounds and no one would work for unfavorable profit. Thatís what economy is: either we have economy, or we donít. I know by my own experience what Koryak social issues are like; Kozhemyako supports two villages.
As for Ozernovsky cannery. I was the first person whom they offered to buy cannery RKZ-55 but I refused, when I proportioned my capability with the price they suggested. Y. Lubarsky, ex-owner, visited me and told me: “If you want to buy it, do it. You are from Kamchatka, we know you can work”. We didnít do it for one reason only — we were not ready. We had not enough money, how could I possibly buy it? We offered it to Kozhemyako, he had money — he bought it. But he bought not only a business, he bought headache. Is it expansion? Did he buy it for Primorye? He bought it here and works here — in Koryak AO, he pays taxes, fishes, provides jobs in Kamchatka Province. They cannot help praying for him in Koryak Okrug. The same, in my opinion, will be with RKZ-55: he cannot take it with himself. This cannot be considered as expansion but a standard wise approach of a businessman who can think everything thoroughly and calculate his steps. I calculate my steps too, but I donít have that kind of support, that money. I donít know how his company operates, how he works — I speak for my company. I donít have that margin of safety to buy Tymlat or Ozernovsky cannery. We created what we could and I think he did it well; he is brave he labors and everything under his leadership works and moves on. I can give you another example. There is exactly the same river on the eastern coast — Kamchatka River, the river of gold with golden banks and diamond bottom. So? The village nevertheless is ruined. Although in 1995-96 there were 28-30 boats at fish delivery but the bank accepted nothing. They ravaged everything and who benefited? Ust-Kamchatsk? No, it didnít. Then Nevzorov came, resurrected economy (Put Lenina Collective Farm and a cannery which merged under one American name difficult to pronounce, and established new company Ustkamchatryba), he had some proprietary interest in it. At present they have an excellent fish-processing work, not a single boat at acceptance, all fish is processed on land, the village revived. Iíve been there recently — itís worm there, they keep panes open at -32į C, light is shining all day long. There are not two inhabitants of Kamchatka alike…
V.: We were speaking about Kozhemyako, and your assessment is very important. First of all you see a competitor, a normal man with sound instincts of a normal businessman who can see perspective. Although I know that Vasily Nikolayevich sees perspective at the Ozernaya River too and is going to ballot for the chairman of Krasny Truzhenik Collective Farm, to struggle for this post.
P.: If your question is about whether I regard myself as a future chairman of the collective farm, I tell you honestly — I do.
The Polluks Company is 5 years, it is mature and everything has been worked out to the smallest detail. I, as a businessman, feel a little bit bored. I am bored to come to work at 9 oíclock, to be at office till 8-10 p.m., solve some questions virtually knowing their outcomes, as itís routine work. The chairman of the collective farm means energy, life; it is absolutely different, new way. To be honest, Iíd like to try it, because I can see perspective for the farm.
I am longing for new interesting business, especially because it is one fish-processing complex — we work shoulder to shoulder with farmers from Krasny Truzhenik for a long time…
V.: What motto does Vasily Nikolayevich have for new business?
P.: I donít betray my principles — I have one motto for the whole life period: “Time presses!” Time presses — we must work, work to create our life…
Rusian version