AMBASSADOR'S BLOG - TRIUMPHS AND CHALLENGES OF COMMUNISM AND COSSACKS

01.12.11




Which Ukrainian city is famous both as a Cossack stronghold and as the home of one of the Soviet Union’s biggest electrification projects?

The answer is of course Zaporizhia, a city of three quarters of a million people on the banks of the Dnieper in eastern Ukraine.  Entering the city from the north you drive across the impressive hydro-electric power station, completed in the early 1930s to provide power to new aluminium and steel plants.  Overlooking the dam is a statue of Lenin inscribed with the famous words “Communism is Soviet power plus electrification”.

I visited Zaporizhia to attend a ceremony at the National Technical University to mark the 10-year anniversary of co-operation with the British company Delcam in Ukraine.  I’ve blogged about Delcam several times before: they run a pioneering computer-aided design competition and encourage universities to use their product by providing free software worth thousands of pounds to institutions across Ukraine.  It was good to see academics gathered from all over all the country to support this event, whose success owes a great deal to the tireless efforts of the Director of Delcam, Hugh Humphreys and his wife Ivy, both of whom were present at the ceremony.

While in Zaporizhia I took the opportunity to meet senior figures in the Oblast Administration and the Mayor, Oleksandr Sin.  They told me of their ambitious plans for the future development of Zaporizhia, whose Khortytsya Island is famous as a centre of the Cossacks known as the Zaporizhian Sich.  Like many other areas of Ukraine, Zaporizhia has been home to many other peoples including Scythians, Tatars, and Mennonites from Prussia, who came to build mills and factories in the 18th Century.

I greatly appreciated the warm welcome I received in Zaporizhia.  Several people mentioned the economic challenges the city faced and the need for new investment – bringing us back to those Mennonites.  While there are some exciting islands of new investment and productivity in the city and in the oblast, more is needed.  Some of my interlocutors also told me that the problem of corporate raiding in Zaporizhia was extreme.  Until this problem can be tackled, and the rule of law made more effective, the prospects of large new influxes of foreign capital into Ukrainian cities, no matter how picturesque and interesting, will, as I have blogged before, be limited.

Leigh Turner




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