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“No Balalaika, Sputnik, Babushka”–Ukraine’s High-Tech Giant Goes Under

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 [The caption on the left says, succinctly, “Die, Scum”]

1/27/2015

No Sputnik

By Sergey Kirichuk

Translated from Russian by J.Hawk

They are saying that Yuzhmash will be forced into
bankruptcy, and its territory will be converted into shopping mall, an
entertainment center, and housing for the elite.

Dnepropetrovsk experienced a protest by workers of the legendary
Yuzhmash, the largest rocket enterprise in Ukraine. The workers, who have not
gotten their salaries for several months, came out in the streets without
coordinating the demonstration with the “official” labor union. They say this
is the first spontaneous rebellion by its workers during its entire history,
since the plant had never had such problems before due to its special
rocket/space profile. And the plant has a long history, its construction began
already in 1944. It was initially intended to manufacture cars, but the
still-rebuilding USSR was drawn into the arms race, and in 1951 it was
realigned to manufacture ICBMs.

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At the beginning of the 21st millennium I had an
opportunity to distribute leaflets of the All-Ukrainian Labor Union at the
entryway of this unique enterprise. In order to preserve secrecy, the leaflets
were distributed by workers from other factories so that the management would
not be able to determine who the Yuzhmash activists were. The workers took the
leaflets without exceptional enthusiasm, but with demonstrative friendliness
and respect. This was a generation of highly qualified workers and engineers,
who understood their time was passing. They were not needed, the labor market
valued merchandizers and sales managers. But it was these people, the
engineers, the highly skilled workers, the scientists, who comprised the
electoral nucleus of the Communist Party of Ukraine.

Leonid Kuchma worked as the general director of Yuzhmash
between 1986 and 1992, so the inhabitants of the East and Center of the country
placed many hopes in him. They hoped in vain that “their own” technocrat will
hear them better than the “repainted” ideologue Kravchuk. Kuchma, alas,
abandoned his voters but the enterprise survived in spite of the collapse of
the economy, and managed to start the production of Zenit and Cyclone rockets,
as the modified Soviet-era ICBMs were called. The plant also manufactured
tractors, trolleybuses, and streetcars.

Now all of that is in the past. The plant stopped working, because
the government in pursuit of the “eurodream” lost its  potential markets. Even the participants of
the Sea Launch program, a Russian, Ukrainian, and Brazilian initiative with
participation by other countries, declared they will find another launch
vehicle. But this was Ukraine’s most profitable space project which allowed
Ukraine to keep calling itself a member of the space club.

The workers in their desperation came out into the main
entryway with posters demanding the overdue salaries be paid and state orders
resumed. The naivete of the second demand causes one to smile ironically.
Hoping for state orders in a situation where the government is deliberately
destroying machine-building and promoting deindustrialization in pursuit of the
“eurointegration” mirage is entirely out of touch with reality.

“We have not been paid since July, they increased the cost
of social services, how are we supposed to pay? The people are trapped”, says
one of the female workers. They say that now the factory will be forced into
bankruptcy so that in its place developers will build malls, entertainment
centers, elite housing. We are observing the murder of a grand
scientific-technological center, the cradle of space exploration which had few
equals in the entire world. But now patriotic activists are coming out to
protest the heavy burden of Soviet inheritance under the slogan “No Balalaika,
no Sputnik.”

They’ll let you keep the balalaikas. But Sputniks will be no
more.

Translator’s Note: Note, incidentally, the article is from a Ukrainian, not Russian, online newspaper. If any of the current Kiev elite were
hoping that the West would heavily invest in Ukraine in order to make it into
an anti-Russian bulwark, they probably know better by now, hence the immensely
destructive policies destined to throw Ukraine into massive social turmoil—since
the anti-Russian card is not enough, how about fear of millions of Ukrainian refugees
streaming West? Aside from that, the privatization of Yuzhmash is one of the
few ways by which the state can hope to raise the cash for which it is so
desperate. But which Western investor wants to build up a high-tech competitor
to European and US rocket manufacturers?

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