Over 30 years have passed since engineers from the Soviet Union first came to the southern city of Vung Tau to work for the Vietnam-Russia Oil and Gas Joint Venture (Vietsovpetro). The "Russian Village" has become an indelible part of the coastal city, as well as a symbol of the long-lasting co-operative relationship between the two nations. Nhan Dan newspaper reports.

The Russian Village is the nickname that Vung Tau residents have bestowed on the Russian community living in a five-floor building in Nguyen Thai Hoc street. There was a time when about 5,000 people lived here.

Their lives, and all that exist here remind those who once lived and studied in the country of birches of unforgettable memories. V.A. Kundisev, an engineer in charge of the RP II drilling rig, said: “I have a lot of friends in Vietnam, especially those who have studied and worked in Russia. They often visit the Russian village. Many of them remember Russia like we ourselves remember our homeland”.

Over nearly 20 years in the Russian village, Kundisev and his family have spent ten Tet holidays (traditional Lunar New Year festival) here in Vung Tau. “I always remember my first Tet in Vietnam. The customs are different from the New Year festival in Russia. But there is always one thing in common: it is filled with love and grace.”

Like many other Russian staff and engineers, Kundisev also spent many Tet holidays on the rig. He said: “We support each other like sisters and brothers, regardless of Russian or Vietnamese. Many Russians know how to make Chung cake and many Vietnamese traditional dishes as well. Vietnamese friends sometimes invited us to be their first callers on New Year’s Day. It was very fun”, Kundisev said excitedly.

During Russia’s presidential election, the Russian village is filled with colourful banners, flags and flowers. "It is really a miniature of Russia", said Tran Hoi, a former Vietsovpetro deputy general director.

The 50-year history of the Vietnam’s oil and gas industry was partially created by the selfless contributions of many friends from Russia, as well as other countries of the former Soviet Union.

From the first drilling in the northern provinces in the early 1960s by the oil and gas exploration unit 36 (now the Vietnam Oil and Gas Group) to the first discovery of oil on the continental shelf by the Mikhain Mirchin on May 24, 1984, the development of Vietnam’s oil and gas industry is marked by the great contributions of experts from the Soviet Union.

On June 26, 1986, Well 1 of the Bach Ho (White Tiger) platform produced the first commercial oil flow. Vietnam appeared as a new name on the world oil and gas map.

“At that time, the output of the Bach Ho mine was still modest, thus Vietsovpetro could not make a profit. Measures were needed to change the situation. Otherwise, the enterprise would be dissolved”, former Vietsovpetro Director General V.S. Vovk recalled. “Continuing further drillings and well testing. Those were historic decisions. Finally, we made it; the well was put into operation the next day. Only four months later, we shifted from temporary to regular extraction. Thus, the stage of rapid development of Vietsovpetro began", he said.

After the extraction reached its peak of 13.5 million tonnes in 2002, it saw a steady decrease of about 1 million tonnes per year. "According to the planning scheme, the extraction output of Vietsovpetro will fall to below six tonnes by 2010 and stand at 3.8 million tonnes in 2013", said Nguyen Huu Tuyen former general director of Vietsovpetro.

The decline in extraction affected not only revenues and profits on the both sides of the joint venture, but also seemed to decide the fate of the company. However, since 2009, Vietsovpetro has stopped the downward trend and maintained a stable annual output of over 6.3 million tonnes, making significant contributions to the overall target of the oil and gas sector.

Besides the exploration and extraction in Vietnam, Vietsovpetro also expanded its operations abroad, particularly in Russia and countries in the former Soviet Union, in order to utilise the skills of its staff who were trained in Russia, as well as Russian experts who had previously worked for Vietsovpetro and had returned to Russia.

During the past 30 years of development, Vietsovpetro has successfully extracted more than 200 million tonnes of oil, earning a total revenue of over 60 billion USD. It made sizeable contributions to the State budget and brought 39 billion USD in profit to Vietnam and nearly 10 billion USD to Russia.

Based on the interests and the friendship of the two countries, representatives from the Vietnamese and Russian Governments have signed an agreement to continue their cooperation in the field of geological exploration and oil and gas extraction under the Vietsovpetro joint venture through 2030, opening a new stage of development for the company.

Each year, one or two weeks before the Lunar New Year, representatives from Ba Ria-Vung Tau province visit the collective of Vietnamese and Russian workers on drilling rigs at sea.

Nguyen Tuan Minh, secretary of the provincial Party Committee explained: "The former special region Vung Tau-Con Dao, now Ba Ria-Vung Tau always welcomes Russian friends and the Russian Village is the most obvious evidence. Vietsovpetro has made proud achievements during the past 30 years and the Vietnamese and Russian workers have contributed significantly to the development of Ba Ria-Vung Tau province and the whole nation. The Party's Committee and authorities of Ba Ria-Vung Tau province will always stand side by side with Vietsovpetro and its workers".

While visiting the Baku oil and gas industrial zone in Azerbaijan (former Soviet Union) on July 23, 1959, President Ho Chi Minh said that he thought Vietnam would certainly have oil under its sea, but the country was at war. He hoped that after the victory of the resistance, the Soviet Union would help Vietnam discover, extract and process oil, and build an oil and gas industrial zone like the one in Baku.

The wish of beloved President Ho Chi Minh has now come true. From a fledgling and backward industry, Vietnam’s oil and gas industry has consistently developed into one of the leading economic groups in the country. Such impressive development has been possible largely thanks to the help of Russian friends and the traditional and faithful friendship between the two nations.-VNA