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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 Blanarik’s admiration for nature. Blanarik, the general director of German pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim’s 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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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Dec. 19


Test your mastery of parlor games during Game Evening at the British Book Center. Learn how to play a variety of classic, mentally challenging games and use your newly acquired skills to crush weaker opponents. The event beings at 5 p.m.



Saturday, Dec. 20


The city’s Babushkina Park on Prospekt Obukhovskoy Oborony will be invaded by dozens of rocking-and-rolling Santa Clauses during today’s Santa Claus Parade. Not only will they parade through the park but there will also be competitions amongst the festively-clad participants and a musical master class. There will also be a prize for the best-dressed Santa Claus.


Stock up your record collection during the Vinyl Christmas Sale at the KL10TCH bar on Konyushennaya ploschad today. Spend the afternoon perusing the records for sale while listening the classic, clean sound of records spinning out hits from a variety of musical genres and time periods.



Sunday, Dec. 21


The Zenit St. Petersburg basketball team returns to the northern capital this evening for a matchup with Krasny Oktyabr, a Volgograd-based basketball club. Tickets for the game, which tips off at 6 p.m. this evening, can be purchased on the club’s website or at their arena, Sibur Arena, on Krestovsky island.


Satisfy your sugar cravings during Sweet New Year, an ongoing seasonal festival at the Raduga shopping center. Each weekend of December will welcome hungry visitors to taste hundreds of different kinds of desserts made from a plethora of sweet treats. Workshops are open to visitors and seasonal gifts can also be purchased for those rushing to finish their New Year shopping.



Monday, Dec. 22


Pick out the latest fashions as holiday gifts for loved ones or as early presents for yourself during the Christmas Design Sale at Kraft on Obvodny Kanal, starting on Dec. 20 and continuing through Dec. 27. Designer clothes will be on sale every day of the week or you can buy something more festive to decorate the home while sipping on hot coffee and perusing the various master classes.



Tuesday, Dec. 23


Meet Arctic explorers Fedor Konukhov and Viktor Simonov during SPIBA’s and Capital Legal Service’s event “Arctic Expedition” this morning in the Mertens House business center at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. The meeting will discuss the explorers’ ongoing eco-social project and how companies can use the project as a unique marketing opportunity. Email office@spiba.ru by Dec. 22 if you wish to attend.



Wednesday, Dec. 24


The Anglican Church of St. Petersburg we will be holding a Christmas Eve service at 7 p.m. led by Rev Wm. Shepley Curtis of the Episcopal Church. The service will be held at the Swedish Church at 1/3 Malaya Konyushennaya Ulitsa.



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