August 23, 2019

Excerpts from the book “Rem Ivanovich Vyakhirev.” Published by Real Modern Pictures, 2014.

Oil rig operator. Kilometers traveled with tools on shoulder

After graduation, Rem Vyakhirev was an oil field operator on patrol for several years. I can give a brief explanation to those who have no idea what it is: in the 1950s, a worker with a gas mask and a set of tools on his shoulder would walk around oil rigs checking their condition day and night, in the heat and hard frost. He made minor repairs wherever possible and appropriate, or called a repair crew.

So he traveled for tens of kilometers when on duty.

Vyakhirev did not even have a bicycle back then.

It was only in Neftegorsk that he began to move up through the ranks. And only there he took a gas industry specialization.

(by Alexander Stepanov)

Gas worker. First step always hardest

Rem Vyakhirev’s gas career could have ended right at the start: a separator exploded during the very first start-up.

This is how Mr. Vyakhirev subsequently described this incident: “Just after a few days of operation, a gas condensate separator blew up at our site. Two people were killed. We all rushed there to tighten the valves to prevent a massive explosion. I remember it very well. It was April 12, Cosmonautics Day. A lot of mud outside, we were almost waist deep in it. And then the minister arrived, the case was examined. Things could get nasty for me. But I got lucky: the ministers were very competent, as they were engineers, too. They decided against expelling me from the party, although that had been a possibility. Back then, an expulsion was always followed by prosecution.”

Here, Mr. Vyakhirev says nothing about his heroism. Trying to save people from the impending catastrophe, he put on a gas proof suit and climbed down into the well to block the valves of the gas pipe. They barely managed to resuscitate him after that. So maybe that’s why the regional party committee took pity on him, as he had prevented an even greater tragedy. Funnily enough, he was banned from traveling abroad by certain authorities as punishment. Even funnier: he was offered a job by the industrial department of the regional party committee!

(by Alexander Stepanov)

“Our Vyakhir is unique”

As a novice writer, I was given a chance to attend, together with a group of Kuibyshev writers, a creative meeting with the staff of an oil stabilization plant. After the event, we were put on a bus and several workers joined us on their way to Neftegorsk. Not only did we have a heated discussion of our poetic reports in the presence of the plant workers, but we also shared our good impressions of the stabilization plant, with its neatly lined asphalt paths, meticulously mowed lawns, numerous flowerbeds and fruit trees.

“Wait till you see the farmyard our chief arranged! Thanks to it, we have fresh milk and meat for lunch in the canteen,” said one of the workers, adding to our delight.

“Well, our Vyakhir is a unique man. He just gave me a good verbal lashing, but somehow, I don’t feel hurt. He put it plain and simple that I really deserved a reprimand. Another chief would start droning on and on, and you wouldn’t know if he wants you to fall on your knees or self-flagellate. Still, you’d hold a grudge deep down. Not against yourself, but against that pest of a chief…”

It was the plant director that the worker called Vyakhir, and I heard this good-natured nickname of his many times after that.

(by Alexander Stepanov)

In trailer on site

Mr. Vyakhirev was a productionist in the very best sense of this word. Work was almost everything to this man.

They said that during the construction of some pipeline Rem Vyakhirev lived on the site. He was accommodated in a drivers’ trailer, and in the mornings the workers often saw him shirtless, with a towel around his neck, coming out from his temporary dwelling to splash himself with some water.

After breakfast, Mr. Vyakhirev would take a walk around the whole site, talk to workers and builders, listen to them, give advice and sometimes reprimand the local managers for their mistakes. He perfectly knew all the intricacies of his work.

Work as hobby

Because of his workload, my father couldn’t spend much time with us. He’d get home late. After a meal and a night’s sleep, he’d go back to work. Still, he’d spend every weekend with his family. We’d always go to the Black Sea on our holidays. It was basically a tradition.

My sister Tatiana and I were pretty well-behaved when we were kids, so it was hard for our dad to be strict with us. So, it was fine, nothing out of the ordinary. No belting.

We usually went to our dacha on the weekends.

In the fall, we’d compare our harvests to see who had grown more cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchinis… Anyway, it never hurt to have your own home-made pickles and jam. Mom was an expert at making them. The dacha plots were near the gas worker camp, so they hadn’t had to build that much. Just a small wooden house to stay the night occasionally. Dad didn’t hunt or fish at the time, and that area in the Urals isn’t abundant in fish regardless. His work was his hobby, his preoccupation, his passion. As for rest and relaxation, he would get those with his family and at the dacha.

Dad didn’t talk much about his work, but we had a part in it one way or another. Mom worked as an economist at the same directorate. Dad was sometimes visited by his colleagues: Viktor Chernomyrdin, Vyacheslav Sheremet, and others…

by Yury Vyakhirev

Advice from old pro

Colleagues of Rem Vyakhirev like to recount the action meetings where Mr. Vyakhirev, when being told that a pipeline emergency had occurred and a repair team was on their way to the scene, would at first start cursing, then pause and stay still, rubbing his temples, and then would start giving instructions: “Just tell the guys they must not take the direct route, because there is a swamp there after the 115th kilometer. It’s a sure way to ruin the vehicles. They should better go round, take the road above the swamp and then go downhill. After the 118th kilometer there is a small hollow, and they can drive through it easily.”

He knew Gazprom inside out.