Between Past and Future
After graduating from the Riga Polytechnic Institute, Juris Savickis entered graduate school and became a teacher at the Department of Metal Resistance.
Essays on the recent history of Latvia
Interview from 2001.
Professor of the Baltic International Academy, editor-in-chief of the Baltic-course.com magazine etc. Olga Pavuk , 20 years later, believes that this publication has not lost its relevance, and decided to keep it for history.
Juris Savickis . From the dossier.
Immediately after the war, when Juris was two years old, the family from Latgale moved to Riga. My father worked all his life in a factory and always at the highest level the seventh category of a locksmith, milling machine operator, turner. Mom worked at a bakery freshly baked buns were not translated in the house. Summer Juris with his brother usually spent in Latgale. Hence the love for the village. Returning home from vacations, Yuris brought not only gifts from relatives, but also what he earned on the collective farm.
He studied at school like everyone else, except that he was fond of sports more than others. He played volleyball, played for the Latvian national team in the junior, middle, then senior group. And later for the student national team of the republic. It seemed that Juris studied average, but as Janis Jurkans, his classmate for all 11 years, now recalls, he always walked with a book under his arm.
After graduating from the Riga Polytechnic University, Juris entered graduate school and became a teacher at the Department of Metal Resistance. About six months later, people came to him and offered to work in the state security. To which he categorically replied: „I don’t want to work in the KGB, but if in intelligence…“. As it turned out, the guests were scouts. The conversation took place. „I was young, filled with ideas of goodness, ideas of socialism. And it was a natural decision, which I did not regret for a second. "
While studying in Moscow, Yuris became addicted to tennis, then he began to practice combat sambo (combat is when the enemy is armed). Upon returning to Latvia, he continued these studies, since the KGB operatives had to regularly pass tests in shooting and sambo.
After the collapse of the Union, intelligence agent Savickis was out of work. And the first thing that came to my mind was to try myself in business. And for the second year in a row, Klubs magazine has included entrepreneur Juris Savickis in its list of Latvian millionaires.
( Interview from 2001 dec.lv )
The conversation with Juris Savickis took place in his office in Riga. At the very beginning of the meeting, Juris asked to interrupt for a short conversation with a partner from France. And since I only know a couple of words like «merci» or «bonjour» in French, I was allowed to stay. And I «overheard» how Juris was completely fluent in expressing himself in this beautiful language, and it seems that in ten minutes he managed to convince his foreign partner of something important.
O.P. (Olga Pavuk): Yuris, I used to hear you speak German, now French … What other languages do you speak? < /p>
J.S. (Juris Savickis): Latvian, Russian, French, German, English and (laughs) … Latgalian.
O.P. : At the recent celebration of your 55th birthday, there were many KGB associates among the guests. Nostalgia or friendship forever?
J.S. : Its true. Incidentally, I served only in intelligence and nowhere else. Unfortunately, many have developed a completely wrong idea about the KGB, about intelligence, although today so much has been written about this. In any country that cares about its safety, such services have always been and always will be. I note that in addition to intelligence and counterintelligence, there are many different subdivisions in the security agencies political administration, technical services, etc.
O.P. : How many years have you served faithfully?
J.S. : There is such a subtlety in the answer: how many years he worked, and how much he was credited. Lets just say, in terms of seniority, I have long been a pensioner.
O.P. : They say that you worked in the GDR at the same time as Putin. Did your paths cross there?
J.S. : But this is not true. I served in Germany earlier than Putin. But Vladimir Vladimirovich and I worked along the same line.
O.P. : Do you feel the negative attitude of the special services towards your work?
J.S. : While communicating in business, I have to observe how the secret services of other countries lobby the projects of their states, their businessmen. And the Latvian special services are so far cool and distrustful of our entrepreneurs. They say, there, abroad, they are all good, but we, with our Soviet past, are somehow not right …
Let us not forget, gentlemen, that the special services are supported by taxpayers including businessmen. And the main task of intelligence, counterintelligence always and everywhere is to protect the interests of their state and the people who live there. I would wish the Latvian special services that they also put the interests of their country, their citizens at the forefront.
O.P. : How did it happen that a KGB pensioner became a businessman?
J.S. : There is nothing to hide here. When the Union collapsed, Moscow said to those who were from Latvia: „In the future, you can dispose of yourself at your own discretion. We are not responsible for you. Everything is very bad with us and we cannot help you in any way “. So one day we found ourselves on the street, without work, without anything. It was 1991.
It was then that my friend and I created our own company, absolutely not understanding what we were going to do. There were some savings, but borrowed from relatives. My partners parents gave away the savings with tears in their eyes, but when I brought the money back the next day, they refused to take (!).
The charter of the company recorded all the activities that they could think of. There was no concept of business. They began to work for a friend, in a small ministerial room, where there was a telephone, at first the ministry paid for it. People began to come to us, tell us how you can make money. Little by little money came, like everyone elses from buying and selling.
O.P. : Where did the first big money come from?
J.S. : We earned the first million roubles from the sale of thousands of KAMAZ tires purchased in Estonia. There they cost half the price. But there was a problem to deliver money to the seller, to transport these tires through customs, to find a buyer. Then we couldnt wait for the money from him to end up in our account.
A month later, we had our FIRST million on our account, and a couple of weeks later the second. And we immediately became ruble millionaires. The bank shrugged their shoulders, but gave us our millions.
O.P. : Didnt you want to immediately earn a MILLION in dollars?
J.S. : To be honest, I didnt quite understand what I was doing then. And if you gave the money, but did not receive the tires? Or the people to whom we sold and delivered tires would not have given money for them? .. Now these questions I always ask myself, then it seemed that once we had agreed, then it should be so.
We earned the first good dollars when a West German company, also taking our word for it, shipped goods without prepayment for an amount greater than 800 thousand dollars! After reselling it, we saw that we had a couple of hundred thousand dollars left on top. We invested them in the next project. And off we go …
O.P. : How did you end up in Itera?
J.S. : Before Itera there was another interesting period associated with the Baiba-holding company, where, if I may say so, the then well-known businessman Raitis Gailis «worked». Today he has his own business in Moscow.
Once he asked me to deal with the diesel train, which had been detained at the border with Russia and had stood there for over a month. Raitis decided that my old connections could help. I went to Moscow and Pskov, lived there for about a month, and I managed to bring some of the diesel fuel to Latvia. Then I did not really ask questions about how legitimate what we were doing. There was such an indefinite period when neither customs officers, nor border guards, sellers, nor buyers of goods really knew how and what to do right …
After this episode, Gailis and I organized a company in Moscow and began to deal with oil and oil products. Quite a big business has gone. At that time we all worked to ensure that Depozitu banka (co-owned by R. Gailis) became one of the best, which we managed to achieve. However, as it turned out, Raitis had other plans. We worked with Gailis quite successfully, until the Deposit Bank collapsed. We lost a lot of our money there. Since then, Gailis stopped coming to Latvia and we parted ways with him.
And I had to start a new business. Being engaged in the oil business, I was also interested in the gas theme. And when privatization began in Latvia, he decided that something had to be done and came to Gazprom. But reaching out to someone in a huge structure was very difficult. At the same time, I met the Russian Itera, who worked in different countries. Itera created «barter» schemes to repay debts for gas, implementing them with the help of barter, becoming, in fact, a powerful interstate structure.
Itera had no particular interest in Latvia. But little by little, I started working with her. I started looking for a strong partner in Latvia who would help create the Latvian Itera. My good friend Ivar Godmanis , at that time the president of Sberbank, introduced me to Ainar Gulbis, the president of SWH, saying that Gulbis is the person with whom you can deal. And although I was not familiar with Ainar, the word of my friend Godmanis became a guarantee. Since then, Ainar and I have been working together.
O.P. : What personal qualities were useful to you in business?
J.S. : Maybe logical thinking, the ability to bring what has been started to the end, to take responsibility for oneself.
J.S. : Honestly, I didn’t select a team, it developed in the course of business. We started with my friend, also a former KGB officer. Itera-Latvija employs 30 people. Today this team is one hundred percent. We select people very carefully, we dont take people from the street. Not as strictly as in the KGB, but we are definitely interested in information about parents, grandparents, children. What he does, where he studies. What is the financial situation. First we listen to the person, then we check the information. Iteras security service actually consists of former KGB officers, professionals in their field.
Of course, all this is done only if the person is suitable for professional qualities. Although this is not a guarantee of success, but only one of the conditions. Other criteria kindness, honesty, decency are important.
Juris Savickis and Oleg Butenko Director of Unimars holding
O.P. : Do you have security?
J.S. : All my life I have done without her. But the guys from Moscow once said: „Not solid, such a big company and no security. Now Im used to it, I dont notice. But I understand that if there is something serious, no security will help. The guards save only from petty criminals, at a gas station somewhere, on the street, in a restaurant.
O.P. : Which sports are closer to you? Team or individual?
J.S. : Oddly enough, now I am fond of tennis a strictly individual game. Although in general I am a collectivist, I really love football, basketball, and of course volleyball. But it so happened that due to the nature of my work, I could not play collective games. Even before the trip to the GDR in Moscow, I chose a sport where you can practice alone. You stand against the wall and hit the ball. You, the wall and the ball. A subscription to Luzhniki for three months then cost 11 rubles. 30 kopecks Can you imagine? I took a private trainer to the GDR. And since then, wherever I have been, I have always looked for a worthy partner for the game.
He became so interested in tennis that over time he became its organizer, he supported the Latvian national team with money at the European Club Teams Championship. He dressed, shod, fed, brought and took away. Once we even won the third place in Europe. At that time, very few people knew Latvia. I had to cheat a little I brought the national team of the country under the club brand. In 1995 Ivars Godmanis invited me to become his deputy in the Latvian Tennis Union, and for two years now I have been the president of the union. Yes, I was also elected to the European Tennis Association, and again.
( Interview from 2001 dec.lv )
O.P. : Who do you play tennis with today?
O.P. : Do you use alcohol, tobacco?
J.S. : I have never smoked. And for a good snack, why not have a drink. I drink beer in my life, and I came to the conclusion that the best variety is the Czech Budweiser. I also love red wine. I hardly drink any strong drinks whiskey, cognac. However, recently I came to the conclusion that Calvados is very suitable for the Latgalian organism. Why do you think? Calvados, a drink made from apples. While cognac is made from grapes, and grapes do not grow in Latgale … On the other hand, whiskey can be compared with Latgalian moonshine. Thats why I dont drink whiskey.
O.P. : What are you reading now?
J.S. : Reading? Mostly reports, projects, business plans. But if I get to fiction something in the original in French or German.
O.P. : Alexander Fridman, the «golden violin» of America and Russia, played on your anniversary … Is music another love for you?
J.S. : I like good music classics and pop. My daughter Sandra says that I am a conservative in this regard, although I love hard rock. Together with Ainar Gulbis, we opened a real blues club. Go and have fun. This kind of blues can only be seen in America!
O.P. : You recently turned 55. How do you feel?
J.S. : The feeling is that at the age of 30 I felt worse than today.
This interview was conducted in 2001. In subsequent years, we met with Juris more than once at the Diplomatic Economic Club, talked to other sites , our conversations mainly concerned issues development of world energy, in which J. Savickis is considered a recognized expert. His business interests extend far beyond the borders of Latvia. So, in 2017, the company SYNECTA A.S. led by him, became the general contractor of a new combined cycle plant at the Tashkent hydroelectric power station. In recent years, J. Savickis has expanded the boundaries of his business, registering joint-stock company SVC Group in 2018, together with ex-Minister of Health Guntis Belevich, whose activities are related to the production of pharmaceuticals, research in biotechnology, retail trade, etc.
He is also the largest shareholder and president of the sports club «Dinamo Riga», he gives a lot of strength and energy to his work, thanks to which the Latvian ice hockey team keeps up.
And of course, J. Savickis and his company are well known in Latvia as patrons of the arts, supporting many scientific, cultural and sports projects. The office of Itera Latvija has become the place of the permanent exhibition of the artist Zoya Geraskina. A patriot of Latgale and Ludza, in the vicinity of which he spent his childhood, he invests in the preservation of traditions and the development of entrepreneurship in this territory.
Translation. Original interview in Russian