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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Medvedev Extols Student Days

RIA-Novosti / APMedvedev signing a worker’s shirt Thursday at an Olympics building site.

President Dmitry Medvedev took a helicopter tour of construction work for the Sochi Olympics on Thursday and regaled a student brigade with stories from his days as a summer laborer.

Accompanied by new Olimpstroi chief Taimuraz Bolloyev, Medvedev flew over several key sites, snapping photos from his personal camera and joking that he had taken the construction under his personal control.

Earlier in the day, Medvedev visited students working on one of the 2014 Olympics’ key projects, an $8 billion road connecting the costal city of Adler with the Alpinka-Servis ski resort, 50 kilometers away.

“The fact that the Olympics will be held here in a few years and that you can contribute a bit of your own work is really exciting,” he said. “And besides, a couple months in Sochi isn’t bad either, even if it’s two months working. And if they’re paying, too, then that’s just great.”

Medvedev said he made “about 500 rubles” one summer guarding rail cars transporting Zhigulis near his home in St. Petersburg, Interfax reported.

“I chose a brigade that protected and escorted cargo on the railroad,” Medvedev said, adding that at the time he needed to stay close to home.

“I didn’t build anything, but all the same I guarded something,” he said.

“You felt every bump, every rustle, because unfortunately even then, like now, there were a lot of incidents and crimes on the railroads,” he said. “And since they didn’t give us weapons, the only serious means I had to react was a whistle. You could also yell loudly.”

Fortunately, nothing happened on his watch, the president said.

Medvedev also noted that the summer of 2009 was the 50th anniversary of the practice of using student labor to build key national projects, which he said dated back to 1959, according to comments posted on the Kremlin web site. Last summer, the country’s 270,000 student workers were paid 5 billion rubles ($157 million), a figure he said “isn’t too bad.”

He conceded that the sum of about 18,500 rubles is “a bit more modest” when divided among the hundreds of thousands of students, “but nonetheless it’s still money.”

“When I was involved in this, it was pretty good money for me. I think I made about 500 rubles, which at the time was significant money. I don’t know what you’re making, but I hope they’re not taking advantage of you here or anywhere else,” he said.

He said he would submit a bill to the State Duma that would clarify the legal status of student workers to spell out their “legal rights and obligations.”

The president isn’t the only one who’s felt a twinge of nostalgia for student years while visiting the region this week.

In an interview with Abkhaz reporters on Wednesday, Prime Minster Vladimir Putin said he first visited the now-breakaway region as a student builder, making 800 rubles in one summer.

“I remember I bought a coat, which I wore for the next 15 years. We successfully blew through the rest of the money in your Gagra,” he said, referring to a small town on the Black Sea coast. “So sure, I do have some memories. Those were good times. I remember them with pleasure.”