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Will Orsha become economic center of north-eastern Belarus?

A few news from Orsha have come this week. Orsha - a historical town and the "eastern gate of Belarus" - has recently been mentioned by Alexander Lukashenko in a problematic context three times. Even during the President's Address to the people and parliament.

So what kind of city is this? The first mention of Orsha comes in the Tale of Bygone Years: without the letter "o", true, just Rsha. Prince Yaroslav (the Sorceress) was captured there by his Slav brothers and was put into a prison without doors outside Kiev. Read more if you are interested.

Orsha is at the junction of the roads "Europe-Russia-Ukraine", and, naturally, all regional wars swept through this town. Among the most striking battles are the Battle of Orsha, 500 years ago, when the troops of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania defeated the Russian army. Further in 1812 the French captured and then burned Orsha. During WWII Germans occupied the city. And, by the way, it was near Orsha where the legendary Katyushas were first fired.

Now let's talk about economy. 200 years ago there was only one industrial enterprise that extracted lime. But after the opening of the railway line from Smolensk to Brest, as well as from Petersburg to Odessa, the city developed rapidly. And, according to the dictionary of Brockhaus and Efron, there were already 15 factories in Orsha at the end of the XIX - beginning of the XX centuries. Today there are many more of them.

The current state of enterprises and the overall situation in the region is alarming. Deputies, the Prime Minister, the Head of the Presidential Administration came to Orsha this week and held a meeting of the Council of Ministers presidium. Our special correspondent Anastasia Benedysyuk also visited this city. She has more on the story.

The first volleys of the legendary "Katyusha", guerillas, the Hero of the USSR (posthumously) Zaslovnov and honor and conscience of Belarusian literature Karatkevich. And also Spiridon Sobol. The same Sobol who printed the first primer for Slavs here, on his native land. Today, the region, however, increasingly faces complex issues like unemployment.

Orsha Tooling Plant was built in the early 1970s. In better times, the plant employed almost 3,000 people but today only 436 remained. At the dawn of the development of machine tool industry, the need for this enterprise was dictated by the market. Russia's Sverdlovsk plant was not coping with huge production volumes. But then, in 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed and customers disappeared. Many today do not exist at all.

Nikolay Ulitenok, Deputy Commercial Director, JSC Orsha Tooling Plant:
Competition has sharply increased both from the East and from the West. As far as we know, there are 78 such enterprises in Western Europe.

The machinery and equipment have remained in the 20th century. There was an attempt to modernize the plant in 2013: it took loans, purchased equipment, but could not repay the loan and the bank had to arrest everything. Just imagine: in order to fulfill obligations the plant must work one year without earning a dollar.

Yuri Motin, Deputy Director, Orsha Tooling Plant:
Of course, the main task is to save jobs, so that people are not thrown on the street.

Sergei Matyushevsky, Deputy Director for Development, JSC Orsha Tooling Plant:
About $60 million is needed for a comprehensive modernization of the enterprise, including the purchase of equipment, the modernization of existing areas or the construction of new ones (this is still being discussed).

18 months is an encouraging forecast for a change in the situation at the plant. The government knows about the problem.

Andrei Kobyakov, Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus:
You must be recognizable. You can take a larger shelf, but everyone will still be asking for the product of your competitor. You must match the place you want to conquer.

President Lukashenko also spoke about the difficult situation in the region during the last two months. He mentioned the modernization of the tool factory and the creation of a strong agricultural holding company in Kopys. The task was set to improve the situation drastically by the end of 2017.

Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus:
First of all, we must pay attention to industrial enterprises. They must all be restored. And people should work there. This will lead to the solution of three basic social issues - employment, wages, and will also affect pricing, prices in stores and so on.

Up to three thousand new jobs, foreign investment and tourist attraction - all this will be made possible thanks to the implementation of another project. A new multimedia industrial and logistics center is being built in Bolbasovo.

The favorable logistics arrangement allowed Orsha to become a transit corridor. The local railway station serves six directions at once. It is also called the "northern gates of Belarus". Up to 7,000 pass through them every day.

The large-scale reconstruction of the railway was completed in 2014. And in the past, one of the parks was updated. Manual labor was replaced by computers, and the update covered seven kilometers of railways. At the site of a former swamp there are now 27 railroad switches. This significantly increases the number of railway cars accepted.

Victor Avtonomov, the head of the station "Orsha" of the Minsk branch of Belarusian Railways:
This is the project of the Silk Road, which Belarus is implementing with China. This is a park used specifically for trains that transit through the Republic of Belarus.

In addition, the Orsha railway station is now an alternative to hotels. The local one has 10 rooms, including a luxury one. No vacant rooms are currently available.

The construction of the new building of the hospital has been going on for five years. It started quickly but then stalled because of financing issues. Now the problem has been resolved. Money was allocated at the expense of optimization of public health services in the region as a whole. A new kindergarten is being built in Orsha too.

This is the local pride of Orsha - children's IT academy. Hundreds of guys. These are the best technicians in their region and age. This all was made possible thanks to cooperation with the High-Tech Park.

Student of the IT Academy:
I want to be a programmer, but I also love music.

Oleg Smirnovsky, Deputy Chairman of the Orsha District Executive Committee:
We are trying to ensure that the youth who today live and study in Orsha return to their native town after they enter universities.

Orsha is a large industrial and agricultural region. The potential is in place and to use it to the fullest is the main task of the new chairman of the executive committee. On May 12, Leonid Penkovsky was appointed to this position. By the way, he started working in the Orsha district: he ran Beshenkovichi for eight years.

Lyudmila Mikhalkova, the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus:
Indeed, we earlier specifically dealt with individual enterprises. Such an integrated approach to consideration of local problems (with the participation of sectoral ministries, the government) will enable us to resolve the problems and achieve the tasks set out in the plan for social and economic development.

Will Orsha become economic center of north-eastern Belarus?