Interview with Robert Mann, General Director of Ahlers Russia

12 Nov 2019
St. Petersburg In Your Pocket talks to Robert Mann, General Director of Ahlers Russia.

- Tell us something about yourself, your family and your career. How long have you been living in Russia?
- Like many young people, I left school unsure about what I wanted to do. Being young and naive I got the romantic idea that a career in Forestry was the answer! In this way, my journey to Russia began. After studying Forestry in Scotland and then Finland I first arrived to Russia in 1996 on a “field trip” to Petrozavodsk. Through my young eyes the Russia of the 1990’s was “exotic”, despite all the challenges that people, and businesses faced day to day. I was determined to find the opportunity to work here and despite a lack of any language skill or relevant experience I found a job in Vologda Region for a newly established Timber Company. One step leads to another and my Russian journey continued through jobs in Murmansk region, St. Petersburg, Moscow and Leningrad Region. From the Forest I moved through the timber business from trading, purchasing, manufacturing to finally end up working in Logistics a long way from the forest! Sometimes I reflect on this journey and how it’s been more than 20 years ago that I live and work in Russia. When I first arrived, it was simple, a young man with a suitcase. But life moves on and that suit case has grown to include my wife Ekaterina and three wonderful children, Alexander, Maria and Denis. I would even say that the journey is over and finally I have arrived home. 

- Why Russia? Why St. Petersburg? Can you name us three things about living here you enjoy the most?
- People often ask me why I like Russia and if I plan to stay here forever? It’s a tricky question to answer! There are good and bad people everywhere and all places present us different challenges. But there are some things I really enjoy about Russia. First of all, the country is vast! Its even hard to comprehend how huge it is, but this gives a real sense of freedom. Then there is the nature, I think in many places in the world the real wild nature has already disappeared. In Russia, it very much still here and you don’t need to go far to find it. Finally, there is the unpredictability of life! Things and people are sometimes not what they seem, you shouldn’t judge people or a situation too quickly and of course anything can happen, most likely nothing will but anything can! Russia is truly a land of possibilities!

- What can you say about Russians in general?
- Russians, like their country are full of possibility and even surprises. This includes appearing to be uninterested and passive to making miracles happen from nowhere and with nothing! We should never underestimate Russia or Russians.

- Can you name us your three favourite places in the city?
- Elagin island is wonderful to walk or run in, especially early in the morning (its free) and at any time of the year. I really like the Yakitoria restaurant on Petrovskaya Nabrezhnaya, I have been going there for more than 17 years, first with my wife (before we were married) and now with my whole family. All this time the sushi has been great! I also like the Petrogradksaya area, it’s a great place to explore and where we first lived in the city.

- Please give some advice to people who visit the city for the first time. Where should they start? What can't they miss?
- My advice to the first time visitor to St. Petersburg would be to see the Russian museum for culture, it’s a lot easier to get around than the Hermitage. Then I would suggest to visit the Ballet, Opera, not just for the entertainment but to see how diverse the audience is. I think in many countries these art forms are more “elitist” where as in Russian they are accessible to a wider and more diverse audience. Then of course you should take a walk along the embankments or a trip along the canals by boat. This is from where the city looks its best.


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