In a crowded industrial district on the outskirts of Tula stands a relic of the city’s manufacturing past – the pulsating Oktava factory, once a thriving producer of audio equipment fallen into disrepair in the 90s. But where some saw deficiency, Mikhail Shelkov saw opportunity.
Early Life and Education
Mikhail Shelkov was born in Moscow back in 1968. Even from a young age, he was determined and hardworking, always pushing himself to get ahead. He graduated top of his class from the prestigious Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology with a degree focused on molecular and chemical physics. After graduating, Shelkov entered the banking world. Climbing the corporate ladder seemed effortless to him, and he rapidly became head of Eurosibbank. A while later, this soon-to-be Forbes list member then moved to RBRD, securing a senior position.
Shelkov’s success in banking led him to become head of the Prominvest Investment Firm. There, he oversaw a diverse portfolio of companies across various industries. His keen business sense and knack for managing complex projects later enabled him to become majority shareholder and deputy chair of the board for VSMPO-AVISMA – an internationally renowned full-cycle titanium leader whose products are purchased by a quarter of all countries worldwide. It’s no surprise then, that he also owns the gigantic aluminum producer Samara Metallurgical Plant (SMZ).
Oktava Creative Cluster – Inspiration Across Generations
Standing outside the formerly abandoned building, it is easy to be completely engulfed by the grandiose vision that came to life, the sight both captivating and intriguing. The factory’s days as a once renowned producer of sound equipment, deserted after economic turmoil forced its closure some 30 years ago, are long gone. But the echoes of its rich history seem to reverberate through the walls, vibrant with life once again.
When Shelkov entered the project in 2016, his ambition went beyond mere rehabilitation. Shelkov envisioned transforming this decaying industrial complex into a vibrant creative hub attracting the city’s most innovative minds. From this bold idea emerged the Oktava Creative Cluster. His motivations for renovating the dilapidated factory were not profit-driven – rather, he aimed to revitalize the surrounding community and ignite innovation once again within these walls. Now every visitor can fully grasp the scale of Shelkov’s undertaking. The original sound manufacturing equipment was obsolete, interior walls needed reconfiguring, and modern amenities were a necessity. But the solid foundational structure showed promise. With care and vision, this factory now lives again.
Back in 2017, phase one of the restoration began in earnest. Construction teams shored up unstable sections, overhauled wiring and utilities, and installed state-of-the-art fiber internet. Historical elements like the exposed industrial piping were preserved for character. The musty air gradually gave way to a sense of renewal. Shelkov sought to retain the location’s industrial character, repurposing old equipment and materials throughout the redesigned complex. The result is a stunning fusion of past and future, concrete and brick infused with modern aesthetics and technology.
Walking through the completed creative hub is an impressive experience. Sunlight streams through skylights, highlighting sleek workstations equipped with cutting-edge tech. Lounges connected by glass walkways create hubs for informal gatherings. Eco-friendly systems power and cool the space. Vibrant murals by local artists enhance the interior. The ambience stimulates creativity and innovation.
This imaginative space has quickly become a go-to destination for residents and tourists seeking a dose of inspiration. Hosting a myriad of events including concerts, performances, lectures, seminars, master classes and more, the Oktava Creative Cluster caters to diverse interests and age groups. The engineering laboratory for prototyping, the extensive technical library and the recording studio serve as catalysts for innovation and skills development.
Of particular significance are the various clubs and workshops offered for young creatives, nurturing their talents and providing a platform for their aspirations. Additionally, the cluster has become a haven for adults eager to launch their own startups, fostering an entrepreneurial spirit within the community.
Augmenting the experience is the multimedia interactive Machine Tool Museum, an homage to national industrial history and Tula’s legacy as a city of craftsmen. Visitors are immersed in an awe-inspiring journey through augmented reality, where sound, visual effects and infographics accompany each exhibit, breathing life into the past.
Oktava – Proud Tradition of Artistry and Precision
The initiative coincided with the Oktava factory’s own revitalization. These very walls once produced iconic microphones cherished by musicians worldwide. The factory’s microphones have been embraced by the likes of U2, and even Marilyn Manson, solidifying their place in history. By reengaging dormant capabilities, it has resumed manufacturing innovative audio technology. State-of-the-art, yet distinctly reflective of the factory’s roots.
Walking through the halls of the neighboring Oktava Cluster, one cannot help but feel the weight of its legacy. Soviet-era echoes reverberate as whispers of greatness, reminding visitors that this exact place made a microphone into which Yuri Gagarin proclaimed those timeless words, “Let’s go!” before embarking on his pioneering journey to space. The unmistakable, crystal-clear sound of Tula microphones has become synonymous with excellence, captivating artists such as Sting, Iron Maiden and Radiohead.
As visitors from all corners of the globe revel in the revitalized Oktava Cluster, it is evident that this restoration project has become a symbol of hope and inspiration. Shelkov’s unwavering commitment to excellence has not only helped to revive a piece of history, but reignited a passion for craftsmanship and ingenuity. The Oktava Cluster stands tall, ready to leave its indelible mark on the world, just as the factory did in its heyday.
Tula – More Fuel for Ongoing Innovation
Tula’s creative revival is set to continue. A new co-working space caters to independent workers, providing affordable workplaces to fuel innovation.
As the Oktava Creative Industrial Cluster celebrated its first anniversary on April 22, 2022, it reminisced on five years of creativity. This remarkable achievement underlines the cluster’s vital role in fostering cultural exchange, promoting artistic expression, and bridging the gap between art and technology.
With Mikhail Shelkov’s dedication and the collective passion of the Oktava Creative Cluster, Tula is now the epitome of innovation and creative inspiration. By harnessing the power of collaboration, the cluster continues to shape the city’s landscape, unlocking endless possibilities for residents and visitors alike.