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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moskvich Takes Up Educating Workers

The Moskvich car factory in western Moscow doesn't sell many of its Moskvich cars, but it announced an ambitious new program Thursday to give its engineers a truly enlightened education.

The program, inspired by Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov who took over the bankrupt factory in 1997, will expose mechanics at the factory to lectures on medicine, history, religion and art.

For instance, one of the first speakers will be Yevgeny Chazov,a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and leading heart specialist, who will lecture the automotive workers on genetic tests for heart and vascular disease.

Ruben Asatryan, Moskvich's general director, openly admitted that the training course would do little in the short term to improve the quality of the factory's Moskvich automobiles.

"As a rule, the knowledge you will be getting will not have anything to do with your work," Asatryan said.

But Yevgeny Teryayev, a correspondent member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and one of the initiators of the program, insists it will be useful.

"The scope must be broad. The fact that a person has a technical education does not mean that he [or she] is an intellectual," he said. "The task set by Moskvich's director is to raise the level of the intelligence of an engineer working at Moskvich. We must prepare a professional of the next century."

All the factory's young engineers will attend classes each week for several semesters. Those who successfully pass their exams after each semester will get a 10 percent pay raise - the average monthly salary at Moskvich is about 2,000 rubles ($93 at Friday's official exchange rate).

The organizers are also hoping that the Army Draft Board will consider the lectures as a continuation of higher education and refrain from conscripting college graduates who sign up at the factory. Teryayev said he was hoping Luzhkov would help lobby for this.

Production at Moskvich, which hit a peak of 104,801 in 1991 collapsed to just 8,000 in 1996 when the plant was largely idle. Since then, Luzhkov has taken over the factory and used it as a test case for his philosophy that the state should take a more direct role in running industrial enterprises.

Production has recovered slightly to 28,000 last year, thanks largely to huge investments from the city, but analysts question how many of these cars are actually sold.

Nadezhda Golubeva, an analyst from Aton brokerage, said the quality and price of Moskvich cars were worse than its main competitor, the Zhiguli produced by AvtoVAZ in Togliatti.

"[Moskvich] practically doesn't sell cars," she said.

Young Moskvich workers, who will take part in the lecture program, were also skeptical.

One, named Sergei, said, "I wonder where the money will be coming from to fund the studies, and why they say that the knowledge we will be getting has nothing to do with our work."

Lena, another engineer, said, "It would be better if they paid us our salaries. We have just got our salary for October." She added that the quality of the cars the factory is producing is shameful and many cars which are leaving the plant are half-finished.

She said that a lot of young engineers are leaving the factory now because they don't see prospects. "When I came to work at Moskvich a year and a half ago, we were told that we will be trained, including abroad. But nothing happened."