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Merck Sharp & Dohme flashback
I am fortunate to have missed this gigantic beano, which was probably organized between (or maybe during) the first and second Chechen wars. Doing ethical pharma business in Russia and Central Asia became almost impossible by 1994, although sales via consignment warehouses in Russia probably peaked later on.
MSD’s Scientific Network, which was created in 1992, was a grand experiment, as were direct sales for prepayment in hard currency throughout the region. Let’s not forget the Komi distribution adventure and MSD’s adventures in Putin’s St. Petersburg, Proscar trials in Bishkek, Levon in Uzbekistan, Mevacor in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan’s attempt to corner Central Asia’s Timoptic market. Ukraine was regarded as irredeemably corrupt, so we left that country to George, a citizen of Canada with Ukrainian roots.
Here’s a quick xlation of Vladimir’s flashback.
Sunday. Time for frivolous talk about serious things. A few words about the formation of the "second broad consensus of the elites" in Putin's Russia (if we consider "The Crimea Consensus" to be the first).
The interview of Pyotr Shchedrovitsky (which, by the way, I found very interesting) brought back memories of a curious story from my “personal archive.”
During the mid-1990s, I was a legal advisor to one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies. It was a romantic time, no one spared money to open new business horizons, and everyone without exception believed in the Russia of the future. On this occasion, the leadership of the pharmaceutical giant decided to gather in New York the entire top and middle management staff of its offices from the region of eastern and southern Europe, including the entire post-Soviet space, the Balkans and other Slavic lands, a total of 200-300 people.
They rented one of the most luxurious hotels in not the cheapest city in the world, converted its dance floor into a large lecture hall and invited a team of "methodologists" from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Those who think that "methodologists" were found only in Russia are mistaken: this is an international format. The MIT professors arranged a real mental sabbath, divided all the participants into about fifteen (I don’t remember exactly - a quarter of a century has passed) national teams, each was given a big box full of clay, paints, paper, glue, scissors and other bells and whistles, which today my grandson would be very happy playing with. They asked us to mold all this on tables into a business model for a corporation in the beautiful Europe of the future.
The studio camera suspended from the ceiling then snatched the fruits of the manager's imagination and displayed them in the then fantastic 3D format on a huge screen. As a guest of the event, I had the privilege of watching the formation of team spirit from the outside in a group of fellow lawyers. Meanwhile, one after another, the same type of “network business” sketches flashed on the screen - with production in Paris, R&D in Holland, logistics centers in Germany, laboratories in Prague, marketing in Kyiv, and so on, until, finally, the ‘Russian view’ on Europe.
In execution, it looked like Bender’s painting ‘The Seedler.’ In the center of the composition stood the Ostankino Tower with the national flag, on which everything “own” was hung - production, laboratories, logistics, marketing (in general, Putin’s entire sovereign project in an embryonic state), somewhere in the distance was a small Europe with indistinct governing bodies, on which Napoleon's hat was pulled down, and between the tower and Europe a single wire for emergency communication was stretched.
My friend, a Swiss lawyer, who was watching this presentation with me, thoughtfully said:
‘In this region, self-sufficiency is important only for Russians…’
Self-sufficiency is the cornerstone that today lies at the foundation of the new ‘broad consensus’ of the Russian elites. There are more shades within this consensus than shades of the color gray. About them - a separate post a little later. But the platform on which these shades merge today into a gray mass is precisely this - the desire for self-sufficiency, for separateness, for specialness, for non-dissolution in something else, which seems exceptionally hostile and alien.