The Rassvet agricultural company (aka Rassvet Named After K.P. Orlovsky) near the town of Kirovsk, Mogilev Oblast, is the very Rassvet collective farm that was a household name in the Soviet Union, as it was a highly successful, advanced and innovative company. Rumors had it that the thirteenth salary there was big enough to buy a Volga car. BelTA journalists traveled to Kirovsk District to learn about the state of things at the company today.
The agro-town of Myshkovichi where the company is based resembles a small town rather than a rural community. Here you see wide streets, a spacious central square with monuments and fountains, the Community Center, a lot of glass works on exterior of buildings.
The architectural concept of Myshkovichi was developed by famous Soviet architect Georgy Zaborsky. For example, the Community Center on the central square can accommodate up to 700 people. It boasts high ceilings, a lot of open spaces and a winter garden where you can see date palms and banana trees.
It is noteworthy that the kindergarten was built using the design of Estonian architect Toomas Rein. There is no building like that anywhere in Belarus. It is a single complex consisting of the very building and a playground. With its terraces, glass domes and a park, it resembles a palace. The facility received a prestigious Soviet architectural award in 1987.
Deputy Director for Ideology Natalya Shapovalova took us on tour of a small museum housed by the Community Center. The museum's exposition offers a journey into the history of the collective farm. Back in 1944 Hero of the Soviet Union Kirill Orlovsky, a native of Myshkovichi, addressed Stalin with an open letter where he asked to allow him to take charge of a farm in Kirovsk District that was heavily damaged during the war. Kirill Orlovsky promised to turn the struggling farm into a successful agricultural enterprise. He got the go-ahead.
In 1950, Rassvet became known all over the Soviet Union. “As Orlovsky promised, the collective farm was one of the first in the USSR to hit the target of one million rubles worth of annual output. Vasily Starovoitov, twice Hero of Socialist Labor, was put in charge of the farm after the death of the previous chairman in 1968. With him at the helm, the farm started building important social facilities,” Natalya Shapovalova said.
Since the end of 2011, Rassvet has been led by Aleksandr Bagel. “Now it is one of the largest enterprises of the agricultural industry in Belarus,” the director said. "We have a very diverse business portfolio. All products are of the highest quality. We sell both domestically and to Russia. We try to keep the bar set by those who worked here before us. But the farm had its fair share of misfortunes during the difficult perestroika times in the 1990s. But we survived. And I think one of the main reasons is the diversity of our business,” he said.
Rassvet employs about 900 people. The farm operates three commercial dairy complexes, a commercial dairy farm, five loose cattle farms. Rassvet also grows apples and blackcurrants in gardens, cucumbers and tomatoes in greenhouses, cabbage and onions, sugar beets and potatoes in the fields. Rassvet also operates a retail chain: two shops, a dining room for 100 seats, a cafe, retail outlets in the marketplaces of Bobruisk and Mogilev. It has its own health resort and a tourist facility on the shores of the Chigirinskoye water reservoir.
We went to see one of the commercial dairy farms, which was built recently.
“This farm was built in several stages,” the head of the farm Larisa Borodich said. “The first building was commissioned in April 2018. At that time we began to put together a herd exclusively from our own heifers. Now our miking herd numbers 450 head, 370 heifers. By the end of the year we plan to increase the milking herd up to 768 head,” she added.
In March, the milk yield per cow was 842kg. All the milk is of extra-class quality and is delivered to the Bobruisk subsidiary of the Babushkina Krynka dairy.
The farm has quarantine facilities for calves for 288 head. They live in individual boxes. Bull calves are kept there for 20 days and are then sent to another farm, and female calves - for three months. All in all, Rassvet has more than 9,000 cattle head.
The new farm is located next to a biogas plant that was commissioned in 2012. It is the largest biogas plant in Belarus. It produces 4.8MW of electric power that is transferred to the grid of Mogilevenergo, Mogilev Oblast electricity provider.
“This is a zero-waste facility,” head of the complex Oleg Belyavsky noted. “Manure from the farms gets here via pipes. It is then diluted with a special solution and put in large containers. This is where gas that feeds powerful engines is produced. The daily output is 75-80MW. This is enough to light up the whole Kirovsk District. Apart from electricity, the facility produces heat that partly satisfies the needs of the greenhouse complex and the commercial dairy farm,” he added.
The enterprise is also preparing fruit gardens for the new season. “Our apple gardens occupy 213 hectares, 173 hectares of which are fruit-bearing trees,” agronomist-gardener Aleksandr Ivanitsky told us. “We are among the few enterprises that cultivate not only apple trees, but also blackcurrants. Eleven hectares were earmarked for these berries,” he added.
Work in the gardens continues all year round. Trees should be pruned in winter and their trunks painted white in spring. The permanent staff includes 20 people, but during the harvesting season, the enterprise recruits up to 150 temporary workers, including employees of other facilities.
The greenhouse complex occupies ten hectares, three hectares of which are allocated for an energy efficient greenhouse. Workers already gathered the first harvest of the year: the enterprise collected and sold around 90 tonnes of cucumbers. The first tomatoes have recently been sent to the laboratory to analyze their nitrate content.
“All products from our greenhouses undergo strict quality control,” chief engineer Maria Belyavskaya stressed. “Only organic and healthy products should reach the consumer,” she added.
At the time of our visit, spring field works in the area of over 10,000 hectares were in full swing at the enterprise. The vehicle fleet of the agricultural enterprise includes 77 tractors and 48 trucks and passenger cars.
“Employers should care about their workers, so that they work diligently in the field. Sowing and harvesting periods are the time of hard work. We provide lunches for our workers. A special car delivers hot meals right to the fields. The food is cooked in our canteen. Lunches contain everything necessary for balanced nutrition,” Natalya Shapovalova pointed out.
The enterprise has its own sewing shop. It makes about 30 units of protective clothing per day. Residents of Myshkovichi can also use the shop's services.
Rassvet is really proud of its fish farm, which has been operating since 1984. “I came here as a young and ambitious specialist,” the head of the division Oleg Shapovalov recalled. “I suggested setting up a full-fledged fish farm to Starovoitov, who was the head of the collective farm back then. The idea met approval. There were three water ponds used for irrigation in the territory of Rassvet. We decided to adapt them in order to grow all kinds of fish in free water. We utilized cutting-edge technologies for the project. We managed to harvest the first 100 tonnes of fish the year after. And we had the Soviet Union's best result at VDNKh in 1989 by harvesting 236 tonnes of fish.”
The ponds occupy a total of 75 hectares and are used to grow carp, pike, crucian carp, silver carp, and Chinese carp. At present they make about 140-180 tonnes of fish per annum. The products are sold all over the country.
According to Oleg Shapovalov, growing fish in the outdoors is rather complicated. “The ponds need to be cleaned, it is necessary to keep an eye on the health of the fish,” he explained. “But our greatest problem is birds, particularly herons and cormorants. They like our tasty fish very much. Wild ducks settled down here a short while ago. They were attracted by feed.”
“Rassvet is not just an enterprise with versatile business interests. It has history and traditions,” Aleksandr Bagel underlined. “We've inherited a huge legacy that needs not only to be preserved but developed. And people are the key in agriculture just like in another industry. Because nothing will be achieved without qualified workforce, without proper teamwork where people do their jobs well at every level. Because any high award of the enterprise has been earned by its team.”
Photos by Oleg Foinitsky