Our country is trying to shape its historical memory with varying success but unfortunately, society remains without economic memory. The problem is that, despite the state’s announcement of a rate on IT, we have a global problem as during the Soviet Union we received a class of workers but the class of entrepreneurs was destroyed.
Without going into the detailed historical review of our question we can identify the problem of economic memory and the continuity of entrepreneurial traditions. At the time when the world’s first businessmen – millionaire entrepreneurs – appeared is the XIX century, Ukraine was divided between several states.
Thus, for a long time, entrepreneurs from Ukrainian territories were not counted as major Ukrainian entrepreneurs. What is important is that it was not always clear how they evaluate themselves. However, now we can see that all these entrepreneurs who made their careers in the Russian or Austro-Hungarian empires had certain similar features. For example, all entrepreneurs of the Left-Bank Ukraine were descendants of Cossack families. They also had strong feelings for their so-called “old” Ukraine.
An important factor that created all businessmen of the XIX century, which is important for modern Ukraine, is their willingness to work for the benefit of the community.
All these people had a deep tradition of philanthropic activity. Being a patron was considered one of the gentlemen’s features among wealthy people. However, the development of the city in which you live, of your “Ukraine” was the most characteristic feature of the Ukrainian entrepreneurs.
Famous families such as Simirenko, Kharitonenko, Tereshchenko, Khanenko, and others have immortalized their names by paying for a construction of universities, museums, hospitals, schools and the industrial enterprises.
The problem of modern Ukraine is that we are for some reason talking and learning more about politicians or famous military figures, ignoring success stories of famous entrepreneurs.
Even when talking about Ukrainian culture and its problems, and how it was able to survive during the time of statelessness and prohibitions, we often forget that every cultural figure had entrepreneurs standing behind them and supporting them.
For example, in 1860, at the expense of Plato Simirenko, “Kobzar” of Taras Shevchenko was published in St. Petersburg.
At the expense of E. Chykalenko, a Russian-Ukrainian dictionary was published. He helped a “Kiev Staryna” magazine by giving a reward for the best-written history of Ukraine and paying money for Ukrainian literary works printed in this edition. These are just a few examples.
However, with the rise of Soviet power, for almost a century, we were persuaded that all private entrepreneurs are evil. The Soviet government depicted wealthy people as bloodthirsty and insatiable people who make money by exploiting workers. In addition, the communist government did all in its power to destroy the largest entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship as such. Those who did not manage to escape became victims of terror and oblivion.
The ideal of the communist state was to become a new man – a worker.
In the Soviet Union, there was a joke that all the workers in the country were “rab-otniki” (“rab” in Ukrainian means “slave”). All economic activity was controlled by the state. A person became an employee of a business and worked there until retirement. Initiative and entrepreneurship were not approved and even punished.
This activity led to the fact that connections in power circles and not entrepreneurship brought money.
This situation contributed to the fact that, with a disappearance of the USSR, a unique class of businessmen – oligarchs (businessmen who are directly dependent on the authorities) appeared in the independent states.
However, the worst thing is that a majority of the population continues to perceive the entrepreneurial activity as predatory. Moreover, if a modern Ukrainian were to choose between working in a company or trying to work for themselves, most would choose the first option. What is more, half will choose to work in state structures above working for a private business.
Despite the fact that the indicators vary depending on age, the state still needs good economic examples. We need examples of successful entrepreneurship to show that entrepreneurs are important to the life of the state and society. Therefore, instead of deciding which policymakers are worthy of going down in ages, we must dive into history and bring back from the oblivion the names of successful Ukrainian entrepreneurs.
Oleksandr Denysiuk – analyst, a postgraduate student of the Department of History at the “Ostroh Academy”