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Nizhny Novgorod, located 400 km east of Moscow, has been a thriving economic center for centuries. During WWII, the city (then known as "Gorky" after native-son Maxim Gorky) served as a critical arms manufacturing center, and was subjected to a series of devastating Luftwaffe raids between October 1941 to June 1943.
Because of the city's critical role in military research and production after the war, it was a 'closed city' until the fall of the Soviet Union, meaning that travel into the city was strictly limited. Soviet authorities were so concerned about controlling information about the city that even street maps were not available for sale until the 70's.
While no longer such an important node of the arms industry, Nizhny Novgorod is home to a plethora of other industries, as the following report describes...
Other Russian regions are trying to find their own economic growth points.
See Alyona Rogozina’s report on the experience of Nizhny Novgorod Oblast.
It was 86°F yesterday, it’s only 46°F today. I can even see my breath, it’s raining. It’s all clay under my feet. I wonder how wheat can grow ripe here. At the same time, the Nizhny Novgorod Ministry of Agriculture is marking a 25% growth in the domestic food market.
We're going to the countryside to find out the answers.
“We've picked it up. Two hours later, it'll be at the warehouse to get packaged, and by the evening, it'll be in the store.”
The enterprise producing berries in Sergach went from being an abandoned field to a successful one in just in a couple of years.
“Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, honeysuckle. This year we tried to grow asparagus.”
The local radio starts its program with the news about the unprecedented harvest of strawberries. The village of Bolshoe Rybushkino is experiencing a real shortage of land. Even roadsides are filled with fields and livestock farms. Every square foot counts. Farmer Irshat Abdulkhakimov left only a floodplain and forest belts for fodder conservation. He breeds horses.
“I've been doing it since my childhood. My parents bred horses too.”
The Abdulhakimovs have been working on the land for more than 500 years if you add up the experience of each family member. When asked why they work in agriculture, they answer with the old saying — love, tradition, cuisine.
- This is sausage, right?
- So, it looks like this before you slice it.
- What's it made of? So, you make it yourself?
- We do.
They have a tradition — they gather at the table and tell their grandfather how much grain and meat every one of them has harvested. The grandfather is almost 90. He loves his grandchildren, and his grandchildren want to become just like him — cattlemen and agriculturists.
- I want to have my own farm. It's better here, the air is fresh.
- But it's hard, isn't it?
- We can manage it.
Nizhny Novgorod delivers halal chicken and turkey even to the Middle East. But more and more attention is paid to advanced processing. The commercial production of dumplings and pies has been launched.
It's the most appetizing point of production, when the hot pies, called samosa, are moving along the belt. The camera can't convey the smell. It's just like homemade. Its flour and meat are said to be all natural.
Let me try this one. It's juicy. Here, meat and juice, all in there.
Large volumes, Russian equipment, and natural ingredients make the cost lower and the profits higher. Over several years of counter-sanctions, the workshop area has almost doubled.
Igor Ersh, plant director: "If you don't keep moving, production will wither. So, we have to adjust ourselves to the market somehow. We use new equipment, try new kinds of products."
"Santa Claus' farm" is the symbol of the agrarian success of the region. It's the jocular name of this line of ice cream. They use everything from Nizhny Novgorod — from the blueberry syrup to the flour in waffles.
“I like my job. It brings me joy. I like working here.”
Maxim Larin says: "Diligence is what we stand on." The owner of a well-known PR agency started breeding African sharptooth catfish for sale. The business is thriving.
- We work together with the leading nutritionists of Nizhny Novgorod. They really like them. They recommend them to their patients.
- It doesn't smell of anything, just water.
- Of course.
"Healthy gold" — this is the name given to local produce in Nizhny Novgorod. In terms of quality, Gorodetsky milk, Lyskovsky fish, Kstov tomatoes, Borsky onions, Sergach strawberries, and Sormovsky candies don't have many rivals in the Volga region. That's why customers from all over Russia line up to buy some. In the regional center, in supermarkets, produce from Nizhny Novgorod is sold out instantly.
“We like the quality. We shop here all the time. The prices work for us.”
“They're pretty low.”
The orange price tag means this cheese is from Nizhny Novgorod. We decided to conduct a little experiment and fill up a shopping cart. We want to spend $160 on food made in Nizhny Novgorod. So far, we've taken only a third of what we intended to take. It's obvious that there are quite a lot of groceries already. All of them are organic. Also, I wanted to show you the butter. It melts in your hands right away. I guess I have some money left. I can afford to buy a cake. It's locally produced as well, by the way. I like this one. I think it's delicious as well.
However, this valuable produce is grown in a difficult climate and on unproductive soil. The conditions are tough, so people here are even tougher. The elders ended the talks about difficulties by saying they had ancient agricultural traditions. Then we talked about Ivan Tea.
Valery Emelyanov, farmer: "It's healthy because it's packed with vitamins and essential amino acids. From the thirteenth century to 1919, England drank Russian tea.”
The love of work, entrepreneurship, and the search for new opportunities despite all the difficulties are a powerful impetus for the domestic market, farmers in Nizhny Novgorod say. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, since 2014, the level of profitability of dairy production in the region alone has exceeded 25%.
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