The Same Awaits MAZ and BelAZ: How Latvia’s No. 1 Plant Was Killed

In my previous story, I explained on my fingers how the Riga Car Building Plant died. Now I will tell you how the electronic industry giant of Latvia – the Riga State Electrotechnical Plant – was killed. This information may be useful for Belarusians.

Those who lived under the USSR will remember that Riga State Electrotechnical Plant radios were the best in the Soviet Union. They really were the best not only in the USSR, but also in the world — I testify as a radio engineer by first profession. But not many people know that the Riga State Electrotechnical Plant receivers were related products, side products. The main specialisation of this plant is telephone stations.

For reference: the Riga State Electrotechnical Plant is the oldest Latvian company, its history dates back to the Russian Empire.

It produced everything – electric lamps, receivers, telephones, cameras, even airplanes… The Riga State Electrotechnical Plant especially flourished during the Soviet era. Dozens of different plants and factories spun off from the Riga State Electrotechnical Plant, including my “Radiotehnika”.

We can say that the Riga State Electrotechnical Plant was the foundation of the entire Latvian industry.

In the late 1980s there were 20,000 people at the Riga State Electrotechnical Plant. The plant provided telephone communication equipment to the entire Union – from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok, from Kushka to Magadan.

Imagine: microscopic Latvia (2.8 million people) had a monopoly on the telephone exchange market on a territory of 300 million people. The dream of any modern Elon Musk and Steve Jobs. Those who have done business will understand what a thrill it is — 300 million regular customers.

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…In 1991, the great Union collapsed. The slow and sad Latvian capitalism began. The Riga State Electrotechnical Plant moved from Union subordination to local young Latvian “hop, hop, whoever doesn’t jump” jumpers [a reference to this – ed]… Yes, brother Belarusians, Latvian embroidery wearers of 1991 did not differ from your jumpers of 2020. They’re just as bouncy, and just as brainless.

In 1992, the digital revolution in telephone communications began. All over the world it began. Back then they began to massively change analog telephone stations to digital ones. An investor came to Latvia — the Swedish company TeliaSonera. The Swedes promised to invest almost half a billion dollars in the modernisation of the Latvian telephone network over 8 years. In return, they asked for 49% of the already existing (built under the USSR) state telephone network.

Latvians happily agreed, hoping that their great Riga State Electrotechnical Plant, which was then 100% owned by the state and was still alive, will continue to develop. Our State Electrotechnical Plant was about to get a lot of production orders for Swedish millions. I remember very well how the Latvian jumpers from the government celebrated the “victory” — our Riga State Electrotechnical Plant will also turn around now! Hop-hop!

The Swedes severely sobered the Latvian jumpers: “We have our own equipment suppliers. We don’t need your State Electrotechnical Plant”.

So, I tell you: the great Latvian Riga State Electrotechnical Plant did not receive a penny from this festival of investment. None at all…

Once again, for those who did not understand: the state monopoly enterprise “Lattelecom” (telephone communication of the entire country, from edge to edge, from apartment to apartment) gives half of its shares to foreigners for future investment. But not a penny of these investments goes to the state-owned, telephone-related enterprise – the Riga State Electrotechnical Plant.

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This was the Swedish condition. The Latvians meekly agreed. This is the Latvian state embroidery thinking.

As well as any embroidery thinking in all countries of the world.

Th clever Swedes, of course, at the conclusion of the deal, distributed glass beads to the natives who “make decisions” — in their pockets. As is customary throughout the “civilised” world.

Now for a laugh: Sweden’s TeliaSonera did not have a single factory producing telephone exchanges. They bought them themselves all over the world, from Israel to Canada.

They did not buy a single screw from the Latvian Riga State Electrotechnical Plant.

And the Riga State Electrotechnical Plant died… 20,000 workers and engineers of the highest qualification went on the street – shuttling to Poland, Turkey, to sell various imported goods… on the clothing markets.

Now I will hear the cries of “young liberals”: “the Soviet industry was outdated! Your State Electrotechnical Plant was lame!”

I won’t argue about “outdated”. In terms of equipment, Yes. Since the beginning of perestroika – 1985, it has hardly been updated; as an engineer, I remember this. There was no time for that, it was necessary to jump under red-white-red flags. By the way, the current flag of Belarusian jumpers is a copy of the Latvian flag, only the opposite stripes. That doesn’t change the essence of their hopping around.

But I will note: it is easy to change the stripes on the flags, they can be rearranged in half a day. It is not so difficult to upgrade equipment at the factory; it is, after all, only money, and not so big. You paid — it was brought, mounted, you can work.

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But to raise tens of thousands of skilled workers from the plough, from the farm, is at least ten years. And to grow a school of qualified engineers — 20 years. A school of scientists – half a century.

China, who remembers, 30 years ago was still “digging the earth with a stick”. Its current industrial miracle is the result of 30 years of hard work to grow its workforce. China invested a lot of money in the education of its people. After all, it is not the machines that decide everything in the industry. Everything is decided by staff! From worker to engineer and university professor. No amount of money can buy this in the Bazaar.

Latvia 30 years ago had its own highly qualified personnel – thanks to the USSR, which for 45 years poured billions into the education of Latvian farmers.

Now, for industry, Latvia is scorched earth.

There’s nowhere to put “effective managers”: you spit — you will likely hit a manager. But workers, engineers, scientists – no. The youngest of them is 60+.

Belarus suddenly hastened to catch up with us. Take your time, Belarusian brothers. Nothing good is waiting for you on this path. It has either a farm with a cow or unwashed Polish toilets. I testify.

To be continued…

Yury Alekseyev

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