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Meeting with veteran builders and workers of Baikal-Amur Mainline

April 22, 2024, The Kremlin, Moscow

Vladimir Putin and President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev met with veteran builders and workers of the Baikal-Amur Mainline to mark the 50th anniversary of the launch of its construction.

A full-scale construction of the Baikal-Amur Mainline commenced in April 1974 with over two million people engaged in the project. Spanning a total of 4,300 kilometres, the railway traverses three time zones and six regions of Russia: the Irkutsk, Chita, and Amur regions, as well as Buryatia, Yakutia, and the Khabarovsk Territory.


Speeches by President of Russia and President of Azerbaijan at a meeting with BAM veteran builders and current staff

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Aliyev, friends,

Fifty years ago, the construction of the Baikal-Amur Mainline began. This railway stands as one of the world’s largest arteries, a true path of the future. For many involved in the inception and implementation of this project, the BAM is a symbol of dreams and romantic aspirations cherished by an entire generation as they used to say back then and we can confirm now.

The BAM also epitomises the immense labour and bravery of two million young people from across the Soviet Union. They embarked on a ground-breaking project, unparalleled in world history.

Today we see that the BAM largely shapes the global logistics for the whole 21st century. Our country has gained a tremendous potential for exploring and developing Siberia and the Far East, for expanding freight traffic volumes towards the Pacific Ocean. To put it bluntly, the pivot to the east at the present stage was made possible precisely thanks to the Baikal-Amur Mainline.

I extend my heartfelt congratulations to all the participants in our meeting on the launch of the Baikal-Amur Mainline construction. Firstly, I would like to speak about the veterans of the railway industry, construction sector, and railway troops. I congratulate not only you but also your families, loved ones, friends, colleagues, and comrades who have stood by you through both challenges and triumphs. And now I am addressing the veteran builders – you had it all including songs by campfires, yet one thing stands out above all else – your hard, hard work.

A profound salute to all who worked alongside you on the BAM, for the labour feat you collectively achieved. Through the trials of the 1990s, you remained steadfast in your dedication to your life’s work, preserving work crews and ensuring reliable operation of the BAM.

I extend my warmest regards to all those who currently reside and work here, at the BAM, upholding the glorious traditions of the pioneers and contributing to the reconstruction, expansion, and maintenance of this vital railway line.

In recognition and appreciation of your courageous efforts, an Executive Order has been signed to award veteran builders and workers in the construction and railway sectors with high state decorations.

I am sincerely happy to congratulate President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev on the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Baikal-Amur Railway construction. His father, Heydar Aliyev, as all BAM builders know well, played a special, enormous role in the BAM’s history. As First Deputy Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers, he supervised the BAM construction and did everything he could for implementing this most complicated project.

He had a colossal amount of knowledge and experience, a managerial talent, an ability to resolve most complicated problems that have helped him alongside with his special personal qualities, of course, primarily, a caring and respectful attitude to the people with whom he worked and resolved those huge challenges. He personally visited BAM facilities and spoke to builders and residents of new cities and towns. It was easy to approach him and tell him about one’s problems or to discuss current issues.

I know that our meeting is attended by those who worked with Heydar Aliyev. I would like to ask you by all means to share your memories with us, to tell us what role he played in your life.

I would like to add that with Heydar Aliyev’s support, Azerbaijani designers and builders established two towns with railway stations – Ulkan and Angoya. Now they are taking part in the reconstruction and modernisation of the BAM sections in the Khabarovsk Territory and Yakutia.

One more area of Russia-Azerbaijan cooperation is relevant to the scale and historical significance of the BAM. I am referring to the development of the North-South transport corridor. It actually connects the Northern Sea Route with the Persian Gulf or, let’s say, may and should connect them.

Just as the BAM that became a truly nation-wide construction site and was called upon to serve the interests of all Soviet republics, the North-South transport corridor should become an example of broad international cooperation. I mean the creation of new logistics routes for the accelerated socioeconomic development of the countries in Eurasia and the Global South.

I would like to emphasise once again – we invite all interested countries to join this project and we hope that the best, time-tested traditions of friendship and mutual support of the BAM builders – people of most diverse ethnicities united by a common goal – will be much in demand in this project.

For our part, we are ready to offer our partners access to rapidly growing markets of Asia and the Pacific. For this purpose, we intend to use new technologies so as to fulfil our plans for a rapid upgrading of the BAM and Transsib (Trans-Siberian Railway) and the development of the entire Eastern Operating Domain.

Implementation of these plans is of vast importance for both the consolidation of connections within our country and our political and economic sovereignty. It is no coincidence that prominent politicians and public figures advocated for the development of routes to the eastern frontiers of Russia at the turn of the 20th century.

Thus, in 1908, during a meeting of the State Council, which at that time actually served as the upper chamber of parliament, Pyotr Stolypin defended the project of building the Amur railway which made it possible for Transsib to run completely through the territory of our country.

I am absolutely sure that people like the BAM builders, who are true fighters, can successfully cope with large-scale tasks for developing the Eastern Operating Domain. This is a special community of people with strong character who can achieve the goals set before them.

I am sincerely glad that the BAM community has been created. It brings together all the people that are involved with the BAM – veteran builders, specialists from Russia and other former Soviet republics, and foreign states. Importantly, you are reviving and strengthening the friendship among the BAM builders, sharing with the rising generation the stories about people’s lives, the glorious history of this monumental project, and, of course, helping the veterans.

Support for the BAM builders requires not only public efforts but also concrete actions from the state. They often lived in very poor conditions, in temporary housing and barracks. This should not be the case now, in the current conditions.

In this regard, I would like to emphasise that the Government of the Russian Federation has already approved plans for comprehensive socioeconomic development of such key BAM cities as Tynda, Severobaikalsk, Neryungri and Komsomolsk-on-Amur.

These plans provide for a large-scale reconstruction and development of these cities’ transport infrastructure, utilities, major repairs and the construction of schools, hospitals, kindergartens, and sports facilities. And, of course, we will certainly build new, modern housing and in general create decent conditions for those who are now working and living in the BAM area.

Thank you very much for your attention.

I am pleased to give the floor to our guest and friend, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev: Mr President, friends,

First of all, I would like to thank the President of Russia for inviting me to take part in today’s event. It is a great honour for me to be here today with those who built the Baikal-Amur Mainline, who dedicated their entire life and young years to this all-Union construction project.

I would also like to congratulate all the builders, specialists, and all workers of the BAM on the 50th anniversary of launching the construction of the Baikal-Amur Mainline.

Mr President mentioned that this construction project had brought together all the republics of the Soviet Union. This is indeed true, and it is not a coincidence that it was called the All-Union construction project. We are very proud that Azerbaijani builders and specialists actively participated in the construction, as Mr President has said, and built two railway stations.

Of course, I would like to express my special gratitude to Mr President for honouring the memory of Heydar Aliyev. We recognise that it was Vladimir Putin and Heydar Aliyev who laid the foundation of the friendly and neighbourly relations between our countries in the early 2000s. The President of Russia visited Azerbaijan in 2001, and this marked the beginning of a long journey that we are now traveling together.

Today, we discussed the implementation of various cooperation plans over the past 24-plus months, as part of our allied interaction. The legacy of Heydar Aliyev has always played and will continue to play an important role in our bilateral relations. During his years of work in this building in Moscow, he made tremendous efforts to facilitate the development of the Soviet state and the sphere he was responsible for. One of the areas was the transport sector.

We are also grateful to the BAM workers, the builders, and all transport workers of Russia for naming the railway station in the Angoya settlement after Heydar Aliyev and thus perpetuating his memory. As the BAM people know well, he came a long way – practically on foot, or by train, or on board a helicopter – traveling under the harshest conditions from Bratsk to Vladivostok and further on to Nakhodka, sharing joy and pain with the BAM workers for ten days.

I remember he was impressed on his return not only by the scale of the construction project and the potential of the Soviet state, but also and primarily by the selfless work of the BAM workers, who were committing everyday feats of valour and creating a miracle in a forbidding environment, with permafrost, impenetrable forests, impassable roads, and daily life risks. They have predetermined the future development of the USSR and now that of Russia and the neighbouring countries by creating a unique specimen of infrastructure, which will serve to promote regional and international cooperation for the next 50 or more years.

I would also like to thank the Russian President and our Russian friends for celebrating Mr Aliyev’s 100th birth anniversary. Last year, both Azerbaijan and Russia marked this day with particular respect. This is our common history, and we cherish it.

Today, I am pleased to note that the current Russian-Azerbaijani relations are based on this firm foundation: on friendship, mutual understanding, mutual support, and a commitment to results. Today, we not only implement major transport projects – as Mr President said, we actively participate in the creation of the North-South international transport corridor – but also cooperate in the economy, politics, energy, culture, and many other areas.

As for the North-South transport corridor, Mr President and I have once again discussed this issue in detail earlier today. Relevant instructions have been issued to Government members. I am confident that all issues will be coordinated quite soon and we will get down to implementing yet another grand project.

I must say that Azerbaijan has a railway linking the Azerbaijani-Russian border with the border between Azerbaijan and Iran. But consignors’ needs are compelling us to build new stretches of this road so that we can boost freight traffic and thereby take care of the unique transport route leading from the North to the Indian Ocean.

I want to once again express gratitude for being given an opportunity to participate in this event, congratulate all BAM workers on this anniversary, and wish the builders from Azerbaijan, Russia, and all CIS countries new successes and achievements.

Thank you.

April 22, 2024, The Kremlin, Moscow