Back A biologist in Moscow - Next 
Kakha Bendukidze. Photo: unknown

Kakha Bendukidze was born in Tbilisi in 1956 into a family of intellectuals. His father Avtandil was professor of mathematics at Tbilisi State University; his mother, Julietta Rukhadze, a historian and ethnographer. Bendukidze would later proudly describe a family with deep entrepreneurial roots:

"My grandfather was one of the first factory owners in Georgia. He came to Tbilisi before the revolution at the age of twelve. By the time he turned 18 he had already his own mechanical workshop in Tbilisi, I think, and by 1920 it had grown, there was a plant. And my grandfather's brothers helped build the first railway bridge over the River Kura, as well as the first power plant in Georgia."[40]

Bendukidze's native Georgia had been part of the Tsarist Empire since the early 19th century. In 1918, Georgia declared its independence, only to fall to the invading Soviet Army in 1921 and see all private businesses closed down.

In 1977, the 21-year-old Bendukidze went to Moscow to complete his PhD in biology. It was the time of the "Stagnation Era" (zastoy), which the then-Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev preferred to describe as the period of "developed socialism." After graduating in 1980, Bendukidze worked at the Institute of Biochemistry of the Russian Academy of Science.[41] In 1985, he was appointed to head a laboratory specialising in molecular cell biology.[42] He was 29 at the time. In a later interview (1996), he described this environment as "unique": "When you have many smart people in the same place, it is like having a lot of money in the same place. Very exciting."[43]

Institute of Biochemistry and Physiology of Microorganism
Institute of Biochemistry and Physiology of Microorganisms in Pushchino, Moscow Region, Russia. 
Here Bendukidze started his career in biology. Photo: Russian Academy of Sciences.

1985 saw the arrival in power of a new man at the helm of the USSR

Suggested readings

In an extensive interview (also available in English) with Kommersant-Dengi from 1996, Bendukidze reflects on his professional transition from biologist to businessman and investor. He describes the early years of his companies, Bioprocess and investment fund NIPEK, as well as the story of the privatization of Uralmash, which would become the core of his future engineering holding OMZ.

One of the best books on the birth of Russian capitalism is David E. Hoffman's The Oligarchs

April 2010

 Back A biologist in Moscow - Next