VIKTOR CHERNOMYRDIN, SON OF A LABOURER AND FOUNDER OF GAZPROM
One of five children, Viktor Stepanovich Chernomyrdin was born on April 9 1938 into a poor Cossack family at Cherny Ostrog, a village in the Urals near the city of Orenburg, with no decent roads, no running water and little contact with the outside world. After leaving school in 1957 he became a metalworker and machinist at the Orsk Oil Refinery where, except for two years of compulsory military service, he remained until 1962, rising to be head of its technical unit.
In 1963 he became an instructor in the transport department of the Orsk Region Communist Party, eventually becoming head of department. He attended Kuybyshev Industrial Institute and took a degree in technical sciences in 1972 at the All-Union Polytechnic School.
In 1985 the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev promoted him to serve as minister of the gas industry. In this post in 1989 Chernomyrdin converted the Ministry of Gas into a state-owned corporate complex called Gazprom, which was one of the few profitable large-scale enterprises in the declining Soviet economy.
In May 1992, Boris Yeltsin appointed Chernomyrdin as Deputy Prime Minister in charge of fuel and energy. He became Russia’s Prime Minister and became acting President of the Russian Federation for 23 hours the 6 November 1996. Chernomyrdin remained Prime Minister until his sudden dismissal on 23 March 1998. In May 2001, he was appointed Ambassador of Russia to Ukraine by Vladimir Putin. This action was interpreted by some Russian media agencies as a move to distance Chernomyrdin from the centre of Russian politics.
Deeply affected by the death of his wife Valentina, Chernomyrdin died on the morning of 3 November 2010 after a long illness.
He once said: “My whole life went by in an atmosphere of oil and gas.”
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