His family lived in debt, and he received his first money from his grandfather for good behaviour. He dreamed of becoming a psychiatrist, he loved fiction very much and did not want to engage in commercial activities for a long time. About the childhood and youth of one of the richest people in the country, his own principles and beliefs, money, business, art, and Ukraine ‒ the way Viktor Pinchuk himself sees it in the section “Who is…” from Opinion.
About childhood, parents and youth
The family has always lived in debt: for vacation, for the apartment. It seems that only when I was in the eighth grade, we moved to another apartment, and my parents also borrowed to buy it. Then I had the first own room in my life. And in this room I studied, finished school, entered the metallurgical institute. In the same room wrote a dissertation.
I collected my first money… My grandfather and I had an agreement that he gives me commemorative rubles ‒ metal! ‒ for good behavior. And he rewarded me, that is, he motivated me financially.
I thought I should be a psychiatrist. For some reason, I thought so. And, by the way, it is interesting: my eldest daughter chose the speciality of a psychologist, without consulting me.
At the medical institute, thank God, they did not accept the documents, although I finished the school with a medal. The very next day I submitted the documents to the metallurgical institute, to the speciality “Metal processing by pressure”, specialization “Production of pipes”.
On that day, when they did not accept the documents to the Medical Institute, they actually gave me the opportunity to become in the future, how to say it… Well, in general, a pipe industrialist.
I always wanted to make money. For example, in my student years, I worked as a laboratory assistant part-time, then got a job as a watchman at a car repair factory. At night I took textbooks with me and did my coursework. I worked there and enjoyed it. Mom, when she found out about it, was shocked. She called and told me to go home immediately or… not to appear there at all. I said, “Well, I will not appear at home.” And put the phone down. Of course, after a few days, my mother realized that this method could not knock me out of this path.
In some sense, I was very conservative. If I studied for pipe industrialist, then I earned my money like a pipe industrialist.
I received the education, went to the metallurgical institute, defended my dissertation. Then Restructuring began. I am not from a family of leaders, or party members, or Komsomol members. My asset is my knowledge, I studied well. Probably, there was something entrepreneurial in my blood.
I had no capital other than knowledge. This was my starting capital. And those conversations about having capital due to connections, etc. ‒ for me, this is complete nonsense. I first became a millionaire by myself, and then ‒ a multimillionaire.
For a long time, I did not want to engage in any kind of commercial activity. Nevertheless, I am from a family of engineers, and I understood engineering activities, the introduction of scientific developments in metallurgical plants… And I was pushed, “Well, let’s finally trade something.” I didn’t like it, I didn’t want it… It contradicted me. I felt some kind of internal conflict.
About own principles and beliefs
My moral commitment throughout my life, and perhaps even after — at least half of what belongs to me, I will spend on what is called philanthropy.
When the USSR collapsed, everything changed. Most have become poorer and believed that this was all unfair. I agree, but it could not be fair. Well, after the collapse of the USSR, they could not all remain equally poor or become equally rich, it does not happen.
My generation was very lucky to participate in the construction of a new country. This is sexy, this is cool. We were in the right place, at the right time, with the right baggage of knowledge and connections.
Equal people don’t exist. Becoming a billionaire ‒ it is unlikely there can be equal opportunities. But to be a top or middle class, to give children a great education ‒ there should be equal opportunities here.
There were not possibilities ‒ I categorically, systematically disagree. This idea, instilled in the Soviet Union, that everyone is equal. All were equal, but all were equal in poverty.
The opinion that someone succeeded only due to connections is one of the most counterproductive thoughts. And the thought should be different: I am capable of this, and I have all the possibilities to realize myself.
I may be an influential person, but this is the power of influence, not the influence of power.
I have always considered important the independence and earning on my own.
Mandatory quality of every billionaire ‒ not to see the horizon of the possible. I see a purpose, but I do not see obstacles. It is very important when you energize others with this energy, those, who do not believe in success.
I do not believe in the revolution. I believe that all changes should only be evolutionary. I believe that the revolution never has brought benefit anywhere.
In media, I am only interested in business, I am not interested in politics. Of course, when I started, I naively thought that it would be a tool of influence, protection, but now it does not interest me. I quickly walked this path, and now only business interests me.
Politicians need power. I need freedom.
I am a westerner. This is my main goal. I want to live in a global world.
Children need to know that being an heir does not always mean being a happy person, often the opposite. You strive to do something yourself. Otherwise, it corrupts, discourages, does not motivate. It is not right.
Genes, advice, love, education ‒ and everything else children can and should do themselves.
I always thought and I think that nothing is impossible: you just need to aim for it.
I can say one thing: I am the same as you. In my youth, I also looked at Volga (car – translator’s note) of the Regional Committee members just like today’s youth looks at cool cars. But this should not cause depression, but motivation. Not doom, but confidence: I can do everything, I will succeed, I will overtake them. Where are those “Volgas” now? These cars also would be in the same place.
Parents often discussed theatres, music, artists… We, of course, had books. There were many books at home. I remember how my parents were worried when they were forced to sell, I think, 16 volumes of John Galsworthy. I really loved science fiction.
I met one person in America, who had a close relationship with the family of the Ukrainian artist David Burliuk. I bought a lot of works and brought them to Ukraine. Already then I began to think: maybe we need to put it all up somewhere? Perhaps, Ukraine will be interested? It was from there that the idea of the museum came. Then it transformed into the Center for Contemporary Art.
Modern art is one of the most powerful revolutionary forces. And our duty is to show what is innovative and ‒ debatable.
About money and business
It is possible that the goal of a businessman in the 21st century is only to accumulate more to a certain stage of one’s life, in order to start spending. And then the main meaning begins. Because otherwise, you need to ask yourself the question: why are you doing all this?
I went a certain way for what? I can’t eat more. On the contrary, less is needed. Well, how many should be shirts, watches, jackets? Limited, about the same as yours. Or cars ‒ I do not care about cars at all. What else? Well, house, well, two. What’s next, what’s the point? Certainly not in the hoarding, it is all meaningless.
You can say: yes, his father-in-law is a president (we are talking about the ex-president of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma – editor’s note) But I had a company “Interpipe” before the father-in-law. Before I met Olena, I was a billionaire by today’s standards.
Spending is a big fan. Spending efficiently and correctly is not easy. And, perhaps, there should be no less strong managerial skills, a management team, than to make money.
I am more interested in the balance of my own portfolio and its effectiveness than puffing up my cheeks and saying, “This is where I’m the boss.”
Business, by definition, contributes to the development of democracy. In general, a business can effectively develop only under conditions of democracy, the rule of law, when private property is guaranteed.
Businessmen should assume some of the responsibilities of the state towards people, who need help. After all, we see that the state is often simply not capable of it.
About Ukraine, NATO, the EU, the war with Russia, and patriotism
Ukraine should have the right to choose its own path, preserve its territorial integrity and build a successful country.
The Ukrainian question may become an element of a large geopolitical deal, along with the Syrian conflict, Russian-American relations, the fight against terrorism, the problem of refugees, the fate of the European Union, the transatlantic partnership, and the like.
Our greatest mistake would be to assume that we have guarantees of a successful result. That we can afford maximalism and uncompromising in all matters.
Would I like to see Ukraine today as an EU member? Definitely ‒ yes. But today, most of the members of the European Union not only do not want to see Ukraine in the EU but are not even ready to define such a future for us. Noting now on the term of membership, we only weaken the position of our friends in the European Union. And at the same time, we create another split line inside of it.
Now we must build our own strong country according to European principles and in full compliance with European standards. Today’s construction of such a Ukraine is diametrically at odds with the Russian dreams of us as a failed state.
Would I want Ukraine today to be a member of NATO? Yes. I would like to. But for the majority of members of the Ukraine-NATO alliance, this is an increase in the likelihood of a military conflict with Russia with serious chances of transition to a Third World War. Nobody is ready for such a scenario in the West.
Crimea and Donbas are occupied. But these are different parts of one big problem ‒ and the solution of one does not hinder the solution of the other.
Blood is still being shed in Donbas. And it must stop. Here we can compromise.
There can be no compromise on the basic issue of the ownership of Crimea. Crimea is Ukrainian, annexation is illegal. Occupation ‒ temporarily. Here ‒ without compromise. That’s all. Full stop.
Patriotism is the willingness to honestly say about one’s own views. Openly telling the truth, even if it is not popular. Perhaps, even making mistakes, because the truth is not always true. But do not be afraid to offer ideas, if you think that they are useful for the country.
Text by Dmytro Zhuravel
The publication was collected from numerous interviews, speeches, and appeals of the material’s protagonist.