If Putin lost the presidency he’d ‘become a combine operator’

Earlier this year, President Vladimir Putin visited the Rostselmash factory in Rostov-on-Don – to see new harvesters coming off the lines.

He toured the site with Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov, Rostselmash chairman Konstantin Babkin and the company’s CEO Valery Maltsev.

Putin also tried out a combine harvester simulator – essentially a mock-up of the machine’s cab with a display/monitor fitted in place of the windscreen.

He “started” the virtual machine and proceeded to “harvest”, relying on instructions from a company trainer.

That’s when he joked: “If I don’t make it on March 18, I’ll become a combine operator.” Bear in mind that March 18 was the date of the presidential elections in Russia.

For the record, Putin was re-elected (for his second consecutive and fourth overall term in office) on that date; he apparently secured 77% of the vote.

During the tour, Babkin told Putin how Rostselmash’s line-up had been evolving since 2011, noting that the company now turns out 150 different machines/models.

He also said that the Government’s initiatives – to support export and R&D activities – are “proving to be effective”. He explained: “It is commonly acknowledged that such support pays back to the state.”

Considerable scale

Rostselmash is a manufacturer of some considerable scale. The company produces large numbers of combines – and also self-propelled foragers – for its native market and the surrounding regions.

Since taking over Versatile – a Canadian-based tractor manufacturer – back in 2007, Rostselmash is now badging some of its machines as ‘Versatile’ harvesters.

This has led to increasing sales in the western world, especially North America and parts of Europe.

The entity’s origins go back to the late 1920s; its first products were basic implements, including ploughs.

By 1930, the decision was made to embark on the manufacture of grain harvesters; the first being dubbed the ‘Kolkhoz’. This machine was quickly followed by newer and better harvesters – called the ‘Stalinets’. These machines not only tackled wheat but also sunflower seeds and other crops.

By 1932, thanks to the efforts of Rostselmash, Russia had become a net exporter, rather than an importer, of such machines.