Industrial management in a key sector of Soviet economy : the gas industry



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In April of 1981 the Soviet Union sent to European companies specifications for the supply of computer and communications systems. These systems were required to make possible the automation of the management and control of a new gas trunk line under construction to deliver gas from Western Siberia to Europe. In the Fall of 1981 the biggest contract for computers in the history of East-West trade was signed in Moscow with a French company. The relatively short period of time over which were completed not only technical and commercial proposals, but also the negotiations of the contract was an indication of the priority given to the gas industry in the USSR. The purpose of the present study is, first, to examine the main reasons for the top priority given to the forced development of the gas industry as illustrated by the crash campaign launched by the Brezhnev administration; second, to look at the political and administrative structures in place for industrial management in order to identify the major actors most likely to play a significant role in the decision-making process in terms of energy policies and industrial modernization; third, to attempt to identify the major changes recently implemented in order to cope with the problems specific to the management of the large-scale system the gas industry represents; and fourth, to see how what we know about the technical choices made to equip the Urengoi-Uzhgorod export pipeline in particular, and the national gas distribution network in general, illustrates the fact that in the gas industry the advocates of optimization and modernization through the use of computers and optimization methods have convinced the Soviet decision-makers to pursue such a policy. From the study of these socio-economic and technical changes it will be suggested that Soviet leaders may now have more efficient tools to reinforce the centralization of the economy.



Gas industry, Soviet Union, Management