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Ivan Blanarik: Experimenting with Success

Published: July 30, 2014 (Issue # 1822)



  • Boehringer Ingelheim specializes in researching, developing and manufacturing high-quality pharmaceutical products.
    Photo: boehringer

  • Ivan Blanarik credits his time in Ukraine for helping his transition to Russia.
    Photo: boehringer

The Carpathian Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean have excited Ivan Blanariks admiration for nature. Blanarik, the general director of German pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheims Russian division, was in awe during his mountainside hiking tours as a youth. A college student in Czechoslovakia at the time, he said the rough and ragged terrain commanded respect and caution.

Later on, at a Boehringer posting in Portugal, Blanarik experienced similar feelings when sailing a boat in the often fierce winds of Guincho Beach and Cabo da Roca.

Yet there is another side of nature that he is familiar with as a pharmacy student. It is the inner workings of the human body, whose intricacy and perfection he extols with the passion of a BBC documentary maker.

Blanarik sat down with The St. Petersburg Times to talk about his work as a postman, learning his way with one of the first personal computers in Bratislava and the spirit of open-mindedness he picked up from his parents.

Q: Why did you come to Russia?

A: I was interested because Russia is an important world player, not only in pharmaceuticals. Russia also kept appearing on my radar in Helsinki, where I had my previous posting. You could get a radio station from Russia and in Russian I think it was Mayak. So, I was hearing a lot about Russia going around Helsinki in a car. Additionally, over weekends, the center of Helsinki had a lot of Russian visitors from St. Petersburg.

Q: What advice would you offer a foreigner who wants to invest or expand in Russia?

A: To learn, unlearn and relearn is an important skill. If you stick to your methods, which might have been successful, they probably will give you some mileage, but every market requires an open mind. That applies even more to Russia, given its size and complexity.

I had to relearn plenty of things in Russia. Coming from Finland, I concluded that these countries are the high and low of the hierarchy scale. Russia is a culture that is more hierarchical. The boss decides everything.

In Finland, it is very flat instead: You are the boss. OK, so what? In Russia, I had to tune myself. People expect orders.

I did not come completely unaware of these things. I had some background experience when I worked in Kiev in the 1990s. That was my introduction to the region. Many elements were the same or similar.

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Friday, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Centers Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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