I remember life. Book 1

(Dedicated to my beloved parents)

 


Dedicated to my beloved parents -
my father AlpeyevNikolay Arsentyevich
and my mother Alpeyeva Alexandra Alexandrovna…

 

A HUMANITARIAN, SCHOLAR AND PUBLIC FIGURE

Those books that describe and reveal the fortunes of a person's Motherland in a talented and comprehensive way, books that generalize basic features of human nature displayed both in hard fortunes of different generations, as well as in highly demanding fates of the home countries, return to people over and over again, each time as if they were a new book. This happens because people while coming into contact with a truthful description of life and unbending manifestations of human spirit feel as if there is some remedy in the books, something in tune with their reflections, their emotional experience and search for truth and meaning of life. In my opinion the same concerns books by Alexander Nikolayevich Alpeyev as they turn into an important component part of the spiritual heritage of the country.
Alexander Alpeyev's childhood and youth were quite typical of his generation. He was born into a common peasant working family, went to a village school, and then worked as a teacher of physical training at Greben seven-year school. He served in the Soviet army in the 181 Guard's rocket brigade that was stationed on the territory of the former GDR.
Having served in the army for three years he entered Belarusian State University, one of the leading USSR universities at the time. He deserved authority and respect of both students who were in the same year and lecturers through his serious attitude to both his studies and life in general. First when a student and later as a post-graduate student and senior lecturer every summer he went to Siberia, the Komi Republic, Karelia and Zapolyarye, he participated in building the Baikal-Amur main road together with his friends working in extremely hard conditions to earn his living.
After his graduating from university, A.N. Alpeyev's life was closely connected with the main scientific and educational centre of Belarus. This link was broken off only for a short time when he was an officer at the State Security Committee of the Republic. After his post-graduate studies A.N. Alpeyev defended his Candidate dissertation, and then several years later he studied at the joint doctoral candidacy of International Personnel Academy, the US Open University and International Academy for personnel management. Then he defended a thesis for a doctor's degree in political studies. A.N. Alpeyev worked at the Belarusian State University for twenty years. Several generations of university students attended his lectures on history.
In 1994, having overcome numerous obstacles, he established Humanitarian and Economic Institute. Those who closely knew Alpeyev realized that the main reason for stubborn opposition of Education Department officials was profound concern about the state of affairs in the sphere of education. Only his talent and strong will helped Alpeyev to overcome the obstacles.
Today more than six thousand students study at International Humanitarian and Economic Institute. There work about 300 lecturers and senior lecturers. All in all there are almost seven thousand people who work and study at the Institute. The IHEI team is comprised of people holding the same views and united by a common idea to give high quality education to youth and to bring up true patriots of their country. Since the institute was established about three thousand specialists graduated from it, among them lawyers, economists, psychologists and historians. Almost five hundred of those were from the so-called Chernobyl area, from poor families and sportsmen who enjoyed free education or substantial advantages.
The names of sportsmen who used to be and are students of the Institute are well-known far beyond the borders of Belarus. They are even difficult to enumerate. Fifteen Honored Masters of Sports, over fifty masters of international class, about a hundred masters of sports and first-grade sportsmen studied before and study these days at IHEI. National teams in particular kinds of sports are staffed with the students of IHEI mainly. Alpeyev's students have conquered the highest sports summits and become champions and prizewinners of the Olympics, World and European championships, as well as winners of Belarusian championships. Like their teacher, they are true patriots who bring fame to their home country Belarus by their hard titanic work. A.N. Alpeyev's activity to establish, develop and strengthen the institute was marked by International Gold Medal 'For success in educational sphere.' He is an academician and Honorary Doctor of the International Personnel Academy. As a commemoration of his achievements in promoting psychology, the discipline so indispensable for the contemporary society, A.N. Alpeyev was nominated an academician of International Personnel Academy for psychological sciences (Russia). In January 2006 Alexander Alpeyev was chosen an academician of Russian Academy for natural sciences. The beginning of 2006 was marked by another important event as he became the prizewinner of Oxford University International Prize (Great Britain) and was awarded with the Socrates medal for distinguished achievements in the sphere of intellectual development of the world community.
After the institute was established, the scholar became more interested in social, political and economic problems. His scientific and research work resulted in writing and publishing historic and publicist essays such as "We are people … XX century', 'There was no tomorrow…', 'My land is my destiny', 'The turning point of history', 'Reflection about destinies of my Motherland.' A.N. Alpeyev's publications often appear in periodicals. His numerous articles are sharp in their nature and are followed by public repercussions.
One can envy his active and energetic nature. In the early 1990s he and Gennady Karpenko, Viktor Gonchar, Leonid Sechko and his colleagues worked at establishing the Party of National Accord. Gennady Karpenko was chairman of the party at the time, while Alexander Alpeyev was chairman of its executive committee. Today he is leader of the Belarusian Movement on Protection of the Nation, of the Belarusian Centre for Christian culture support, of the Belarusian Academy for social sciences. He still works and writes a lot.
A.N. Alpeyev possesses an exceptionally subtle spiritual ear. He has a brilliant publicist pen that enables him to describe historic reality and Man in a truthful and expressive manner. He 'populated' our history with people in a well-considered and emotional way. History is presented as material to draw practical conclusions from. The historic analogies Alpeyev draws in his books result inevitably in considering social and economic problems. While comparing political processes going on in his country to those in European countries he shows headlong progress of European nations and notes bitterly the stern poor living conditions and grievous lack of headway typical of his deeply loved in recent years. The bitterness he displays when writing about the never-ending chain of frustrating tendencies in our society and the aggressive mistrust of intelligentsia who have despaired of happiness is typical of A.N. Alpeyev's personality who is by nature a scholar aspiring to positive constructive action.
He notes that just like in 1937 of the past century, now in XXI century our society faces some spiritual broken-heartedness. Both then and now people's striving for better life, for progress, for civilization and democracy is paid high price for. By the way, at the height of the 1930s repressions of the past century Alpeyev's family also lost five strong, handsome and hardworking men in the prime of their lives. They were his maternal grandfather, two of his grandfather's brothers and two brothers of his grandmother.
A.N. Alpeyev believes in God. He doesn't believe in having a morally healthy society without any religion that has faith in divine authority as its basis. In his creative work Alexander Alpeyev remains a poet. This poetic basis produces perhaps one of the strongest impressions after one gets acquainted with his books. By the way, A.N. Alpeyev has published three poetical collections; more than a hundred songs are based on his verses. There have been put out five song collections and five music disks as well. Such famous composers as Vladimir Budnik, Edward Zaritsky, Olga Meshkova-Shvets, Izmail Kaplanov and Andrei Khvisevich cooperate with Alexander Alpeyev. A. Alpeyev's songs are song today by such popular Belarusian singers as I. Afanasyeva, N. Boguslavskaya, M. Vasilevskaya, Vlada, T. Voronova, L. Voitovich, L. Gribaleva, V. Gromov, A. Isayev, D. Kocherovskiy, Y. Naumenko, V. Provalinskiy, G. Shishkova, A. Dluzskiy, V. Kalina and the art group 'Belarusy'. Five creative readings of the poet Alexander Alpeyev have been held in the best concert halls of Minsk.
The Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as the Polish President Alexander Kvasnevsky and the President of Slovakia Ivan Gashparovich thanked Alexander Alpeyev officially for his music disk 'We reached Berlin and gained victory' devoted to the 60th anniversary of the Soviet people's victory in the Great Patriotic War.
Books and people exist as long as they are perceived and opposed, loved and hated. A.N. Alpeyev's reflection on the destinies of his Motherland are heartfelt and bitter in their nature which is no wonder as he has expressed ruthless acuteness and a range of contradictions of the present day social when depicting the destinies.
One might reproach the author for lack of flaring optimism in his books. Yet, an unbiased reader will easily notice that Alpeyev's pessimism quite often turns into a call for active action. Let me remind you that in his meditation A.N. Alpeyev seeks first of all to reveal the truth. The humanitarian ideal of a free man enabled him to make a giant step towards scientific interpretation of social relations.
A.N. Alpeyev is fully aware of the uncommon nature of his views and, as a free man, he stands up for his views daily in an unbending manner. It is typical of society to owe the external freedom of a whole generation to the inner freedom of a particular person.
I dedicate the heartfelt verses to my friend, the person of like mind whom I respect deeply…

CHAPTER I

WAVES OF MEMORY

…The boundless sea of the soul where each of us swims as long as the Most High measures off. This wandering may be of different duration; it might amount to an instant as if it were a flash of lightning or may last all life long. The Lord wanted me to be swimming in the waves of my memory for sixty years which makes me feel grateful to Him.
Like the sea, the memory is restricted to the shores whose bounds one can never leave though one has a strong wish to see or, more exactly, to recall in memory everything one has seen and experienced. Waves of memory move on one after another, increasing each day, month and year. Sometimes the sea of the soul faces a storm but the soul endures and splashes out everything seen and suffered. Soon a person's soul feels better as part of the burden has been shifted off to the hearts of those similar to it. Then the latter swim with the burden in the waves of a person's memory helping it by their experience and compassion.
Swimming in the sea of life is simultaneously a travel which is interesting, sometimes joyous, though more frequently it is characterized by sorrow and a bit of sadness. One feels the sadness for, as a famous poet said, our planet is little fit for merriment. I do not dare to judge about the whole planet but one might and should speak about one particular piece of the universe… Though one sometimes doubts whether it is necessary and whether somebody is going to feel any better. I might say I am not going to. I do not think somebody will give a sigh of relief after having read my narration. Anyway, I hope my thoughts put on paper will touch the human soul. Now another question arises, 'Why touch the soul if it is hurt and tired to the point of exhaustion…'
While creating the universe, our Lord took care of the most human in a human being, i.e. of his soul. In the soul one might find the very best features gifted by the Lord; they are love, kindness, tenderness, gentleness, endearment and compassion… All the features are impossible to name but they all were created for the human being, in the name of and for the good of the human being.
For many years and centuries the soul turned to God who displayed holiness, faith and love for everything around the human soul. The soul used to live a happy life, to do good and to suffer a lot. This way of life existed for centuries. What could have been better? People lived, worked, got married and, what is most important, believed in God. Families used to be big; in villages, as a rule, they consisted of 7-10 or even more people. For example, the family of my grandfather who was executed by shooting in the torture-chamber of the People's Commissariat of Home Affairs had eleven children.
Many citizens of the state were believers. Once again I want to stress the fact that this used to be a common feature since time immemorial. Nothing seemed to be able to break this holy tradition. The postulates of faith occupied deeply everyone's soul and consciousness. No one was allowed to start or finish a meal without a prayer. The same held good for starting work in the field, in the forest and in the meadow. Here, there and everywhere, high and low man called to God for help and God helped him. Many troubles and diseases stepped back and, what is most important, the society used to be spiritually healthy, united and solid. Undoubtedly, the basis for this was faith.
Everyone in the family, young and old, took care of each other, prayed for everyone's health, wished good to relatives, neighbors, the Tsar and the Motherland. From the present day position the state of affairs is even difficult to believe… The soul used to be healthy while its priority over the body and the physical state was unquestionable.
I would like to be understood properly with respect to the above said. There is nothing ideal both in nature and in society. I do not idealize the state of pre-revolutionary society, either. But it is a well-known fact that things are cognized when compared. It is clear to every person, even an inexperienced one, that spiritual and moral state of the Russian and Belarusian society at the time could not be compared with the present day one.
Suddenly there was a bolt from the blue in the home history … Yet, the empire got into worse scrapes. Nothing could compare with the Tatar and Mongol yoke when Russian people were tortured both physically and spiritually for over three centuries or with the thirty-year war started in 1654 after Ukraine was annexed to Russia. Then the so-called voluntary annexation of the Great Duchy of Lithuania came into turn. Still, the true devil cropped up in October 1917. No one could foresee the consequences it implied. The most terrible one was destruction of the orthodox soul, Christian faith and finally of humane features in a human being.
After the revolution won, Bolsheviks started a crusade against faith and God which lasted for more than seven decades. The number of lives ruined and the amount of blood shed is unbelievable! The antichrist committed his deeds in a big, wicked and merciless way. People say the executors of the devilish experiment lacked God in their souls. This held good of both V. Ulyanov and his comrades-in-arms. Strictly speaking, one might say about domination of these nothingarians and thus about the misfortunes they caused… In fact I shudder to see former leaders of the communist party and their nearest satraps who have blood on their hands visiting temples and churches today. Shoulder to shoulder with high church officials, with no jot of faith in God, they address believers and display splendor in a hypocritical way. I consider this to be worse than blasphemy. People who had their souls anathematized long ago suddenly became believers. They were taught to cross themselves although their souls remained foul, mercenary and antihuman. God, I wonder who is going to stop the madness and whether it is ever to be stopped.
I am sure the people are not to blame for this bacchanalia. Cold-hearted officials run the show these days. The higher the rank occupied by this or that official is, the more evil and violence over a common man he administers… One may give plenty of examples when a common man can arrive at the truth nowhere; he is made to go from one office to another. Just like at the time of the communist regime, the offices are occupied by officials who commit violence over a man and his soul. In its turn, the blood-stained and wounded human soul constantly appeals to God and calls for God's mercy and help.
I often get news from my fellow-villagers and from different regions of Belarus on the way the powers that be mock at people. Any person occupying even the most senior position of a team-leader, a foreman or a farm manager seems to be given a free hand to mock at a common man. A human being is considered to be dirt. There is no one and nowhere to complain. That is why the soul appeals to God…
XX century is the most dreadful one in destinies of many nations, especially of those that underwent physical annihilation and spiritual violence. Belarusian people are second to none in this respect. The war years' death toll was very heavy. More than 2.5 million of our fellow-countrymen were killed during the war. Spiritual violence and destruction of human souls that started in 1917 is still in progress. One may ask what sort of citizens the state is going to have as a result. The answer will be flat: those who are spiritually deprived, with most brut instincts, who violate God's laws. Instead of following the commandment 'do not kill' they kill, rob and rape, instead of 'do not steal' they steal. When they have no possibility they steal on a small scale, those who can steal on a large scale. We cannot say that everyone steals but in fact there are quite many of those who do so and the amount stolen strikes one's imagination. As far as 'love your neighbor' is concerned here things are quite opposite as people have come to hate each other.
Why do we live a life like this when we struggle for survival every day? The whole nation has become a great sinner which is dreadful… Does the people like this have any future? The answer is also flat and definite - of course it does not. There is only one way out to escape the state of affairs, namely to return to faith and to God…
My home country Belarus is perceived as a small islet on a huge world map. Since olden days there have lived peaceful and hardworking people who never threatened anyone and never dreamed to conquer other nations. It was historically established that our people participated in all European bloody battles. They almost always sided with some country or another and died defending somebody's interests. Thus one cannot consider Belarusian history outside the context of European and world history. Here it is appropriate to speak about diverse, inter-conditional and multi-dimensional nature of the historic process.
The book 'I Remember Life' is devoted to considering the most significant problems of country's development in the XX century. These problems are higher-priority; they had an immediate impact on Belarusian nation. Among them, in the first instance, are the problems of determining political and economic preferences. If they had made a correct choice, our living standards today, our material life in the first place, would be entirely different and we would not drag out such a miserable existence. In this respect it is necessary to receive an answer to the question who exactly worked out the concept of political and economic development of the state, who set tasks, who put them into practice and who exactly is to blame for the complete failure of the policy? Once again I want to emphasize that it is exactly the correct choice and strategy defining that the future of our nation, its happiness or unhappiness depend on. In the meanwhile our nation remains unfortunate and miserable, with no definite future. Who is going to take responsibility for this?
The turning point of the historic process which impacted whole nations gives plentiful food for research, as a lot of new phenomena came into existence in states, namely, in some countries there began the process of public life democratization, state monopoly in all spheres of social life has disappeared, economic reforms are carried out and there is a process of shaping the market and market relations going on. Here it is impossible to underestimate the role of society's political elites and of particular leaders. It is right here that we face a serious problem. It turns out that our country has no political elite in its true sense. There are also no strong leaders able to generate ideas that, in their turn, might influence social development positively. This circumstance may be qualified only as misfortune or even tragedy of our nation. It is here that all our misfortunes come from. A lot depends on how soon we will be able to have strong elite in politics, economy, and culture and so on. In the meanwhile we should not be under the delusion, as this elite has not made itself known so far.
Thus, conclusions suggest themselves. We are wasting valuable historic time and historic prospects.
Another important circumstance should be pointed out, namely that we should learn lessons from history, even the most bitter ones. History should teach everyone, both young and old, otherwise we may turn into people without kith or kin, those who do not know do not love and do not value their history and then we will be unlikely to be called a nation.
Belarus is rich in talented, clever, honest and decent people who might and should help their country to find a way out of the impasse. Only intelligence and supreme self-discipline will save our nation.
Global civilization history provides a wealth of information about the emergence, formation and development of practically all states and nations. Undoubtedly, we did not set the task to trace evolution of almost all countries and to choose something acceptable to us on its basis in order to become the strongest and richest by repeating the experience of the most advanced, first of all in economic respect, countries. It is clear the idea is vain. Nevertheless, in our opinion, side by side with national features of this or that country there are also common development regularities typical of practically all states. I think in our case it will be wise to follow the example of highly developed European countries.
It seems European priority is supreme organization of society in general, the key feature being government mechanism with patriotic intellectuals playing main roles. They are professionals, flexible diplomats, experienced and reliable economic executives, etc. If we take into account such important factor as supreme culture in all spheres of social life, then we may get the answer why we have living standards differing from those of the Germans, the French and the Dutch… We should not also fail to take into account the personality of a nation's leader.
As a result an interesting detail arises, i.e. we have common territory (Europe) and complexion but are completely different in other respects. There is a marked difference in living standards which is undoubtedly a defining feature of everything. What should our nation do in order to enjoy the fruits of European civilization at least a little? The first man of the millennium Karl Marx, even a hundred men like him will give no definite answer.
Where is the way out, then? Still, there should be one but the question is how to find it. It is undoubtedly looked for by many people; among them are politicians, scholars, public figures and high officials from the higher echelons of power. There have been suggested many variants, alas nothing works. There is also an acute question of the nation's future and of whether the people is going to have any tomorrow.
I think we should decide in favor of suggestions of primary importance among the numerous ones we have. In our opinion the suggestion of the kind should be consolidation of the whole society. We used to face worse times, e.g. the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 when the then leaders, or a leader, managed to inspire the nation of almost 200 million. The great Frenchman General de Gaul managed to raise France from its knees, too, and to make it a great power once again.
So why our present-day leaders are unable to do something similar, what prevents them or what they lack? Let's underscore the importance of consolidation of the nation for it to be a single body with the unity of tasks and aims. This should be done at any price, though who is going to do this remains a serious question. Anyway, discord within society should be put an end to. Here the idea of saving the whole nation should be a fundamental one. The idea should be the basis for building ideology. One should not philosophize in search of the national idea as the search has been delayed for too long. We have already lost for good the strategic time factor. To make up for the lost factor will be impossible. The nation should be united around some national leader, which is going to be a guarantee of the way out of the tragic situation.
Another basic factor is the choice of strategic partners or a partner. History chose for us long ago. There is no doubt that such strategic partner for Belarus is Russia. To think the other way round means not to know the ABC of life. Thus, we should send hopes upon the Lord to make Russia our partner.
Today Russia is a body recovering quickly due to reforms in all spheres of life, especially in economic one. The country is recovering from crisis. It faces individual minor problems that do not affect the general positive picture. If we take into account that the country and the nation have their leader whose characteristic features are deep and extraordinary thinking, consideration and consistency in his actions and deeds, self-control, if you want, then one might speak with certainty about this country's good prospects for the future.
I respect Ukraine and its diligent people. I think one of these days we will be living a single family, sharing both joy and sorrow.
I am also sure that western countries are far from being our enemies. Let's take the huge humanitarian aid rendered by them to our republic as an example. Tens of thousands of Belarusian kids have been to Germany, Italy, Spain and Holland to improve their health. I think we need no other proof of their attitude to us. I thank all those people who did not leave us on our own to fight the consequences of the terrible Chernobyl disaster…
Right now it is necessary to us to start active reforms in the most significant spheres of social life, especially in economic one. Otherwise we will do nothing to the nation whose patience is far from being infinite. Is anyone going to object to considered and consistent actions aimed to improve the situation?
We should not be afraid of promoting private initiative and private property which played and still play a primary role all over the world and which mould a new type of relations and a new type of a human being … The thoughts give me no rest year after a year. More and more often I ponder over the question of what kind of the past we have lost and what expects us in the future?..
…I am sixty now… One may meditate on whether it is little or much. There are many opinions on that score, as they say, many men many minds. But it might be not how much you have lived that is important but what you have done during these years and your life. How many things have been survived, good and bad, how many joys and sorrows there have been - everything…
I remember myself since the distant February of 1950 when my grandmother died. I was less than four at the time. Scientists insist that human memory may fix its attention on up to three per cent of information at the age. Thus, separate details and fragments of that mournful February day remained in my memory. I remember it was thawing, nevertheless, my grandmother started on her last journey in a sledge with two horses harnessed. I remember myself sitting near the coffin. The grandmother left a deep trace in my memory due to my mother's stories. She used to tell me about how much my granny loved me, about how many songs she sang sitting at my cradle and how she addressed me, a kid, with a request to plant a fir-tree on her grave so that a nightingale could sit on a branch singing its songs there. She requested me to do so as she had pains in her liver and I guess she might have some presentiment about her decease.
There is another tree growing on my grandmother's grave. I put up a simple monument there. The only thing I do not know is whether a nightingale flies and sings its songs there…
I saw and remember the life of the post-war poverty-stricken village. Almost all peasants used to work themselves to the bone day and night. Nevertheless, they lived a very poor life. They used to wear their scanty dud patched all over for years as they were unable to buy something new. There were the same problems with footwear. At the time some people still wore bast shoes, our neighbor old man Matei in particular. I remember him always wearing bast shoes. I do not know about good and bad points of the footwear, but I tried to show off the moccasins myself when our neighbor made bast shoes to me and my brother. Nevertheless, it by no means did any good when you put on this Belarusian marvel footwear in time of autumn slush or winter frost 30 degrees below zero. Unfortunately, the only alternative was to go barefoot…
And what I think now is that Man does not always sound proud, it sounds bitter not infrequently… These hardships of their early life engraved on the memory and affected the whole life of those children who were born in the 2nd half of 1940s. There were not many children in the village at the time as most men were killed during the war at the front or as partisans; moreover even more of them, i.e. eighty men, were subject to repression in 1930s. More children were born during the early 1950s. In the 2nd half of 1970s 492 people lived in my native village Rudna while now there are only several tens of natives still living there. Many people crossed the Great Divide before their time… If our living standards were similar to those in European countries many tens of old men would still be alive in my native village.
My heart is wrung with pain when I come to my home village and do not see the former animation and movement in the streets, as well as old people at their izbas. Before, every side-street in the village had a herd of cows, while now there are about 20 of them in the whole village. The village is silent and desolated…
Though at the very least, the post-war village was living and reviving. The kids were also its living organism who lived a life of their own. Our life frequently reminded very little the one kids usually live. At home we had to do work to help our fathers and mothers, while in the kolkhoz or sovkhoz we did the hard work of grown-ups, sometimes even risking our lives. Yet, we saw nothing different and we had nothing to compare with. It was only when some former villagers came with their offspring from towns on holiday that we felt them to be different from us. Perhaps, they were more educated and more civilized. Surely, we envied them as we were evidently country bumpkins, rough and ignorant as compared to them. Nevertheless, we did not expect ourselves to remain like this forever and we were sure to reach their level.
I think we possessed our own advantages over children from towns. We were taught to overcome hardships and to work since early childhood. This must have been a predominant circumstance which played an important part both in my own life and in the life of many villagers by origin as we were more pure from the moral point of view. We saw hard experience of our elders - our grandfathers, grandmothers, mothers and fathers. We had respect for them inside us, in our hearts; it was not something we did under the lash. I envied much those of my contemporaries who had their grandmothers and grandfathers. My own grandmother and grandfather on my mother's side of the family were dead, while those on my father' side were far away, in Russia. Sometimes I used to say to my mum, 'Misha or Vasya have their grandmother and grandfather, but I have none.' I wished so much I had…
All in all, life in the village ran its course. It faced global shocking events in full measure, i.e. the so called revolution or coup of 1917, which resulted in the change of patriarchal way of life in the late 1920s and the early 1930s, the terrible collectivization that did away with the rural toiler and, naturally, with the economic basis of the state, i.e. with private property. Peasantry was assaulted with violence. Suffice it to mention that in my native village 42 people, all of them were men, were subject to repression in 1930s. My family on the grandmother's and grandfather's side may be treated as victims with good reason as 5 men were repressed.
The war of 1941 rendered the village completely lifeless. Those men who survived the 1930s were killed during the terrible period. Only cripples came back from war - blind, with their legs or arms lost. There were no healthy men at all. Women, as well as teenagers and children, had to endure almost everything. I remember them plough, mow, sow and gather the harvest.
Strange as it may sound, as the post-war kids we played the war. All children wanted to be our lot, i.e. the Russian. No one wanted to play the role of fascists or politsais, so much they were hated. Undoubtedly, we knew that our lot would gain a victory while the Germans would be defended. No one wanted to be beaten. Now I consider the games to be a powerful factor of patriotic self-education. One is just filled with wonder at how we learnt nuts and bolts of 'military strategy and tactics.' We dug ordinary trenches and communication trenches; we discussed plans of offensive and defensive operations. In a word we behaved as is we were at war. We pictured all this listening to our parents and to those who came back from war and we repeated everything in our children's games. We tried to make friends with former front-line soldiers and partisans and hated those who compromised themselves during the war.
I wonder if we knew that it was already at that time that our self-education of all types, i.e. work, patriotic and those of our parents, - was of complex nature. It was only after several decades that pundits would start speaking exactly about complex upbringing in their theoretical works though we put this type of upbringing into practice much earlier. This is the case when theory was outrun by practice, with quite decent, even good results…
Since early childhood, as early as I can remember, I observed not only my parents but the whole of the village work in a hard and backbreaking manner. Children used to work side by side with grown-ups. My first habits of work were connected exactly with a cow. From sheer force of my age I could not be a herdsman, only a herdsboy. I dislike grazing cows since childhood though I had to be a herdsboy since I was seven. Cows are animals indispensable for any household. No wonder people used to call cows bread-winners who fed children in the first turn. Yet, it is necessary to put a lot of efforts to get milk. One should mow grass, dry it, feed and graze the cow as well as to clear up the mess made by it. Peasants loved the cow and took care of it. No wonder it is considered a sacred animal in India. If a cow died for some reason that was a real tragedy for the family.
One should not forget also about another animal playing an important role in rural life, i.e. the horse. This handsome and clever animal fully shares with its owner the burden of hard and backbreaking peasant labor. Whether there is intense heat or winter cold, this animal is the main help to the peasant, while from early spring till late autumn its existence may at all be called utterly gloomy, like that of its owner. In summer each of us was put in charge of a certain horse. The animal got used to its master; they were both chained to the same oar as if they were barge haulers on the Volga. So many hectares of land were ploughed, earthed up and harrowed together, so many loads like wood, hey, and grain, potatoes and milk were carried. It was a rare occasion that a horse displayed its restiveness. I happened to be kicked by a horse due to my own carelessness. The pain was terrible; there was a ringing in my head. Nevertheless, neither I nor other children from the village harbored a grudge against these handsome and hardworking animals. On the contrary, we liked them, fed them up, spared them and never loaded much…
For some time past, when coming to the village, I often observe a group of small and thin kolkhoz horses that one may call stray. I ask the village inhabitants whether the horses have no owner and are left to themselves. They say nobody really looks after them. There was a caring and heartfelt man who did so but he died, so the horses were left without any care and neglected. As for the cow and the horse that could be called a real toiler, as well as for the rural izba, I would put up a monument to them in due course as they deserve it…
I will not debate the thesis that labor dignifies a man. I am sure peasant labor has resulted in the opposite. When work brings joy, one wishes to work day and night. Strictly speaking, this is what I do; I mean I find rest only when I work… But there is also another kind of work, the one I came across in my early childhood. The work on the individual farm, though it was hard, brought joy and pleasure. For example, when we gathered good harvest of potatoes, apples and cucumbers and gathered hey for the cow, then we felt joy at heart.
As far as public production is concerned, things are quite the opposite. What joy can labor bring when they draw a sledge in the register (the so-called work-day) or when you break your back in the field all day long and get as little as 30 or 50 kopecks as a result? The same picture is true not only of the past but of present day, as well.
I remember having come across the same injustice when I was 14. Once, a man who called himself an expert at building concrete constructions on the ponds of the fish farm near our village Rudna, came to the village. He offered our children a job promising to pay good money. We worked to the point of exhaustion trying to keep up with the grownups. The work was very hard. All summer long, from early morning till late at night, we pulled concrete mortar and dreamt of big earnings. From time to time the construction project was visited by the dashing drunk expert whose name - Pekun - I still remember. He kept up our spirits with drunken cries and promised good earnings. We worked extending ourselves both physically and mentally. It is exactly this superhuman labor that undoubtedly had an adverse effect on our psyche. The master who turned out to be a real thief swindled us by paying only 12 rubles for the three summer months. Naturally, we were unable to defend ourselves. Neither were our parents…
And how many of such masters could be found all over the country. When a student I myself came across this more than once while working on construction jobs and throws in the Turukhan area, Komi Republic, Zapolyarye and Karelia during my summer holidays… I may say I ruined my health; I 'killed' myself to survive as there was no other alternative. I could not afford to spend the whole summer having a rest, like many of the students in my year did. I went off in search of a living nine times. These nine times may be said to be nine exiles, nine ordeals of slave, backbreaking and forced labor when you have to do the hardest work at the so-called 'communist building sites for many months.
I recollect quite many incidents and events connected with the activity whose dominant feature was hard backbreaking work, often work at the risk of one's life. Once in Komi we suffered a lot from swarms of midges. In the daytime it was up to 37 degrees above zero, while at night it was impossible to rest as we were literally attacked by gnats and midges. Many of us had their nerve go to pieces, guys intended to go home… I did not condemn anyone as I understood they were right in their own way. At the same time to leave meant to deprive ourselves of bread and butter for a whole year. One of these horrible nights I ventured on the following. I got stripped to the swimming trunks and lay face downwards on the ground. Hordes of insects swarmed my naked body all over, they stung me pitilessly and drank my blood while I was saying calmly that I felt no pain at all, insects are not bad, on the contrary, they purify our blood. Since that day all guys kept silent, there was no more panic and whining. We earned a lot of money that summer. Everyone came back home with a feeling of confidence in the future.
To sum up, I would like to say that though the labor was hard it affected me positively. The ordeals hardened me in all respects and did a lot of good to my future. In the long run, I should feel grateful to the Lord for exactly this life and the ordeals…


CHAPTER II

I LOVE AND REMEMBER

I have lived in the world for sixty years and I love it the love I cannot explain to myself… I am interested in everyone, whether it a factory worker or a peasant herdsman Trophym. I ask if they bring bread to the village shop and at what price and, what is more important, I ask how my dear village inhabitants live. My old mother was not surprised why every time I came to visit her I questioned her not only about village news but also about neighbors, relatives and strangers, about every family from my native village Rudna. Everything I see, hear and, of course worry about, cannot but cause the want to describe it in order to bring the memory of history and present-day reality to my descendants. The passionate want is getting more acute year after a year. I do not know to what extent I will manage to do so, but I want to give my view very much. I might feel better… I might…
Different things often stir up my memory. Life is unpredictable. I remember everything as if it had taken place yesterday. I do not note anything down; I just think, I reason and remember. I wish to share everything that aches and is brewing. The main thing is to remember forever that we are people and God's creatures who the Lord granted their lives to live, to love and to work on this holy and long-suffering land whose name is Belarus…
I am thinking about my birthplace, the Polesye village Rudna which escaped no event from the history of Mother Russia and Belaya Russ. I am thinking about my nearest and dearest, about my fellow-villagers, and my heart is bleeding frequently.
Unfortunately, many of those who could tell about the life of the village both in remote and in not very distant past are dead. Life is very short; but how many people who could still live died before their time! There are a lot of simple monuments and ordinary crosses at the village grave-yard in Rudna where many of my ancestors lie, and their number is becoming more year after a year.
I made a habit of visiting the graves of my relatives every time I come to my home village. Those who rest in them will not tell anything; one can trace their fate to a certain extent only by the dates of their lives. Some lived a long life but they were not many; some were finished by the war; others were brought into non-existence by Stalin's torturers. Soviet statistics assured that in pre-revolutionary Russia life expectancy for men amounted to 32 years while during the socialist period it increased twice or more. I wonder if the statistics took into account thousands and millions of the twenty-year-olds who died at the fronts and in guerilla detachments, as well as thirty-year-olds who were tortured to death in the torture-chambers of the People's Commissariat of Home Affairs. I think if we take into account the age of these Soviet power hostages as well, the figure will turn out to be lower than before 1917.
It is known that the one who has better life standards lives a longer life. This mirthless joke got spread in recent years - they say Belarusian people will live a poor life but they will not live and thus suffer long. Of course the joke has a grain of bitter truth in it, as the average population in Belarus is supposed to decrease and amount to only 3.5 million people by the middle of the XXI century, while now our country's population is almost 10 million. That sounds frightful; this is our nation's tragedy aggravated by deplorable state of our economy, by disastrous conditions of all spheres of life, by the devastating ecological situation and by calamitous consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe…
I am not willing much, but still let's return to the village graveyard once again. Kinds of family crypts with different generations - whole families, close and distant relatives- lying side by side were a common occurrence in recent past. Those people lived in the same village; they often helped and supported each other in a neighborly way. Now there are very few natives left in the village. The village is disconnected, and ties of blood are lost in most cases. Lonely old women live in cold spacious izbas built to house a big family, and think sadly that when their time comes there may be nobody to bury them at the graveyard… There are only a few able-bodied people in the village; men, most of whom have ruined themselves with drink, see neither any way out nor any gleam of hope, there is no joy but for vodka in their lives; they are worn out by hard work and by endless troubles. Where is the way out then? Who is going to give an answer on how to breathe new life into the village and to revive faith?..
I am proud of being born in a common peasant izba which was the start of my life. Here were the origins of my love for my wonderful country Belarus and for its people. All things are dear to me in this land, whether it is a butterfly, a cricket, a stream or a pine forest. A plain and kind Belarusian… Graves of my forefathers… This is my Motherland!
More than forty years have passed since I left my dear home. However, wherever I was - either in the distant North or in the Turukhan area, in Komi, in Zapolyarye, in various highly developed countries, in fashionable luxury suites - nothing could substitute for a common peasant izba from where my path into big life began. No city flat can be compared with a small house buried in verdure every spring. The house is hidden from strangers by lilac bushes. Yet, on mornings firewood is burning in the stove, and one can easily guess the house is inhabited by whirling smoke out of the chimney.
Burning fire is a sign of eternity. This held good for centuries and, hopefully, will always be, though in my heart I feel a huge anxiety about this izba, all other peasant huts, as well as about those who kindle and keep up the fire. I wonder whether the huts and people living in them are going to have any tomorrow.
Unfortunately, present-day life puts me on my guard and causes anxiety about the future of the village. Is it going to have any tomorrow? This is far from being pessimism; it is sheer reality of our life. So it seems to me we should put up a monument to the peasant izba in the most prominent place as the hut is dear to both me and many of my fellow-countrymen. It is the birthplace of the majority of the country's citizens, both village and city inhabitants, so they should remember their origins…
One should also bow to the wooden plough, the scythe, the rake and the sickle. Notice the love and care a zealous man treats this simple but extremely indispensable in every peasant's life instrument with. He will never lend exactly this, his best and favorite, instrument to anyone. He has got the hang of it, has polished it so it glitters and has many blood corns on his palms that have grown black after so much work. In the evening he carefully puts the instrument in the place allotted to it once and for all, to take it again tomorrow and start a new work day which is intense and hard. For many centuries man would have been helpless without these main instruments that helped in everyday struggle for life, and now, whatever technically equipped agriculture is, he is unable to do without them. I am grateful to both the wooden plough and the scythe…
These simple instruments should be placed at the monument to the peasant izba so that kindergarten children, pupils and university students could be taken there to get an idea about the life of common bread-winners.
… Shine the name of the village and be grateful to it their sons and daughters. The fate of the village is in the hands of God.


CHAPTER III

THE SONG OF MY NATIVE LAND

My native land, I compassionate towards you. You are beloved, dear and holy… You have never been a stepmother to your children. You are a mother and a bread-winner. So much has been written about you, so many songs were sung and so many lives were given for you! Nevertheless, we are eternally indebted to you. You always gave us strength when we had none left, you loved us although you had to hate, and you forgave although it was impossible to forgive. Your wisdom is beyond compare.
And I wonder what we, your children, have done for you to live?..
I wonder if all of us understand what you mean to us. Do we understand that we inflict pain to you and force you, thus leaving bleeding wounds that fail to heal on your body? Due to many reasons most of your children fail to feel you, to pity, to protect and to adore you. I beg your pardon for them; I confess to my filial love and wish to assure you of my loyalty and devotion…
During your long life people have wounded you a lot, the wounds being both minor and serious; nevertheless, you treated them in a divine way, as if saying they were foolish and did not know what they were doing. People commit outrages being unaware they will be rewarded according to their deeds. Nothing in the world takes place without leaving a trace; the Lord sees everything…
It turned out that contrary to God's will people are the greatest sinners on Earth. They cripple the fates of their kind; yet, their biggest sin is that they destroy life on the Earth and the Earth itself. The sin cannot be atoned for. The Lord is not going to forgive us. I should say it is not only me who feels the pain of my native land, but the land itself, being sorrow and anxious for its fate, calls to people to ponder over the common fate of both itself and of the human beings…
The inhabitants of the Earth are barbarians, as they have ruined a lot of the beautiful things gifted to us by God, primarily the land. In fact the nature of my beloved native land Polesye, which was of rare beauty, has been wiped out, ranging from most beautiful oak-groves, pine forests to their inhabitants. I still recollect ants, eternal toilers that are being obliterated. Forests cut down, the ecological situation is worsening, the climate of Belarus is changing for the worse, and thus it is a rare occasion to see an ant-hill that was a common thing before.
I used to spend hours sitting at an ant-hill that reminded of a fortified castle, and watching indefatigable work of the united ant kingdom. Everything there astonished and surprised me. I projected their work on the one of human beings and came to the conclusion that we could not and would not be able to work like this. There the whole ant body worked in a tireless and intensive way; no one shirked their work, while in human society there are a lot of drones who aim at profiting by their neighbor's work. Speaking figuratively, the majority struggle to keep their heads above water while an insignificant small group has assumed the right to be in clover and make use of somebody else's work. Thus, one should not look for examples of some just social order in the West or even somewhere on the Moon. One should just look more closely at an ant-hill and to find the answer there. This should be done as quickly as possible, for very soon nothing alive will be left due to the 'civilized' human activity.
The so-called zealous people did the same to the mighty oaks of my native Polesye, having obliterated almost all of them so that now the French, the Germans and the Dutch walk on the Polesye oak axed to make parquet floor … One feels pity and pain to see it.
Wherever I came I observed the same picture - the coarse life of the dying nation, the nation that is unlikely to have any future at the beginning of the third millennium. I would not like to clothe myself in the mantle of a prophet but I am afraid we are not going to have any future. Many things testify to this prediction. In view of the long-lasting negative processes in all spheres of social life without exception we were thrown off several decades back into the past. The most depressing fact is that our nation is dying out, as mortality exceeds birth rate. Land without people is an orphan…
I look at my home land and my heart aches, as we have taken so much from it and given so little in return. We took only for many centuries, but what did we give in exchange? Now we have what we have, i.e. more that 20 per cent of our home land was poisoned by scientific and technical progress and the Chernobyl disaster as its consequence, apparently the same amount was destroyed by another achievement of the progress which is land-reclamation and by its consequences; other 'expenses' take another more than10 per cent. Altogether, we have half of our land destroyed… Now even the blind sense the tragedy of the land. The one with keen ear is not going to hear birds singing loudly, like they used to sing before. Fewer frogs can be heard croaking in spring, the areas under arable land, meadows and hayfields, under coniferous woods, oak and birch groves are decreasing steadily…
Why has this happened? Who is to blame that the voracious human Moloch absorbs and destroys everything around? When is the gift granted to the human being by God (what I mean here is reason) going to prevail and stop our home land dying?
Thus, once again the question arises - why are things so bad in our country and so good there, in the West? By 'good things' we mean attitude of citizens in western countries to their land, first of all. I saw this attitude for myself. It was already when I served in the army in East Germany that I was astonished by the German orderly attitude to their land, naturally, as compared to our mismanagement and lack of discipline. Things were polar opposites in Germany; in the first instance, it concerned the organization of business, complex agricultural management and, undoubtedly, the culture of farming. All this allowed the Germans to gather incredible, as compared to ours, yield already in the distant 1960s of the past century. The crop yield amounted to 50-60 centners per hectare while the potato yield was 360-400 centners per hectare. It is no use to make comments here, especially if we take into account that this was true of the socialist GDR, not of the Federal Republic of Germany. So why didn't we draw on the experience of the Germans? All the more, it was considered at the time that we were already perfecting developed socialism, while the Germans were only beginning to build it. This was the way the Soviet propaganda machine was working. As they say, it would sound funny if it wasn't so sad…
Other European nations do not fall behind the Germans, either. For example, several years ago I happened to be to Sweden, the country governed by Social Democrats and admired by almost the whole of the world. In the last years of the USSR existence the Soviet propaganda machine stated that it is exactly in Sweden that socialism according to K. Marx was built. I think that first and foremost it is built according to the Swedish way. The question is who prevented the USSR from building socialism according to the same classic?
In Sweden everyone was startled first of all by the state of their soil which was simply ideal; this was something like a striking and impressive fairy story. It is almost impossible to believe that their crop capacity, for example, amounts to 100 centners per hectare. Moreover, one should take into account the Swedish north factor. Yet, we excuse our impotence in the sphere of agriculture management by being in the zone of critical farming, by changeable weather and by low temperature. Practically no European country is carrying out crop battles but we do and win with the fantastic result of 23 or 25, or sometimes even less than 20 centners of crop yield on the average. Our crop yield amounts to 30 centners in the most favorable years only. We go on struggling and suffering serious material and technical losses …
I have been narrating about Europe. Now I'd like to say a few words about Eastern countries, about China, for example. This country' problems of how to feed the 1.5 billion population have long been known to everyone. The Chinese grow their agricultural crops everywhere - in the mountains and marshes, in the sands and on stone, even on the roofs of their huts, first pulling soil there. It seems quite unusual to us, of course, but it is true, nevertheless. As a result the Chinese have obtained their goal; they have overloaded the country with foodstuffs. Today they have no idea about what to do with the surplus of rice. Chinese scientists have even invented a recipe for producing fuel from rice. Now imagine we have attained the same success and started producing petrol and diesel oil from potatoes. Then we are going to need no Russian power resources. This seems to be not within the realms of possibility, of course…
Let's decide on the purpose of the main factor, i.e. why things differ with us and with them. Of the great number of reasons, both objective and subjective ones, I would name love for land, deep understanding of land and of its state; the understanding that one should give very much in order to get something in return. When you give much you will treat something you have invested in with great care, as if it were your mother. One should love land as if it were his own mother. Properly speaking, this is exactly what we see in many developed countries.
In our country things are quite the contrary. They put people off love for their toiling land; they extirpated this love by collectivization, repressions and battles for yield. Land used to bring gladness to those who sowed and ploughed it, to those who grew and gathered the harvest. How much blood has been shed for our dear land! Practically the whole of the XX century, that could be called the century of serf relations, of slave and forced labor in the village, produced hatred for land, in the long run. Most of village dwellers need land no more. When I meet them I often ask them whether they would agree to take some land if they were given it. The answer is always categorical. They say they do not need it.
As far as it happened that we are not connected with our mother land by an invigorating umbilical cord, the finale is seen as to be rather a sad one. All the attempts of Soviet propaganda concerning the need to cultivate love for land remained vain, as primarily people were put off their love for land. They were also put off work in general, as their work was not free and joyous, and it was not estimated at its true worth. It was already in October of 1917 that this process started. The consequences it had are well known all over the world.
It is only when land will be the private property of those who work it that people will love it, nd this love will be mutual. Then people will not spare themselves for their dear land. Only then land will become a mother that will be loved, as this is something dear and incomparable. As a result, no one will have to care about fostering and upbringing of love for land. Land itself will make people love it, and it will never betray those who will feel its love. Kolkhoz land was not loved and will not be loved. This idea is not fresh and has been confirmed by history.
Historically, the destiny of my Motherland is thus that its land is covered with gore profusely. The fact may be called a tragic dominant idea, as throughout the whole of its history Belarusian nation struggled against foreigners for survival. Very often the question was whether the nation was or was not going to exist at all. The question acquired extremely acute nature during the World War II, when every fourth citizen of Belarus was killed. Now there is information this figure could be much higher if we account that the then number of population was about 10 million. The country's population amounted to the same number only by the end of 1960s of the last century. To compare it would not out of place to mention the following fact - the fascist Germany lost about 7 million people at fronts during the war.
Those Belarusians killed in the war were young people mainly, that means they were the most able-bodied part of the population. There is no doubt one cannot speak about any fast restoration of the country after this tragedy that was aggravated by destroyed national economy. Yet, gradually and with enormous effort, they rebuilt towns and villages from bottom up. They also managed to restore human potential, though not for a long time, unfortunately. At present, when we face acute frontal crisis aggravated by the Chernobyl tragedy, mortality exceeds birth rate, which is seen as a tragedy for the state. Natality decreased from almost 150 thousand in 1960s to less then 10 thousand at the boundary between the second and third millennium, which is really sad to realize.
My dear Belarus is the land that caressed and warmed people of other nationalities and became a mother for them, as well. Representatives of about 100 nations and nationalities live in Belarus today. The Belarusians make up the majority of the population which is more than 80 per cent. Also the Russians (about 14 per cent), the Polish (more than 4 per cent), the Ukrainians (almost 3 per cent), the Jews (more than 1 per cent), as well as the Tatars, the Lithuanians, the Latvians, the Gypsies and other nations consider Belarus to be their motherland. Such is the mentality of our country and of our Belarusian man who is kindly, good-natured and easy to get on with…
Belarus is my Motherland; this is a holy land that the people in Belarus gained through much suffering, and defended in a most cruel struggle against the most civilized barbarians that world history ever witnessed. Like many of those living on this holy land, I cannot imagine my life without the oak in the field, charred and almost destroyed by somebody foolish, without the dear smell of wild flowers, without the pine forest and the little river near the village Rudna so dear to my heart. All this have gone through me and my soul, thus through my whole life …

CHAPTER IV

LAND OF FOREFATHERS

Among the great many of Belarusian villages more than one has the simple and unpretentious name of Rudna. There is more than one in Zhitkovichy district; there are tens of them in the neighboring Petrikov and Kalinkovichy districts. Rudna is a kind of toponymy record winner. The explanation to this is quite simple. The name of the area or a village is exact evidence that in ancient times, in the Iron Age, 1500-1200 years ago and much later, people smelted iron in domestic blast-furnaces out of swamp ore of extremely low quality. 'Rudiy' meant 'red' in Old Slavonic, as swamp ore was red in color because it contained iron oxides. In some places this production existed till the middle of XIX century, i.e. a century and a half ago. Until recently one could see a lot of waste products of the ore-smelting production in the form of embankments and knolls in the neighborhood of Rudna and other Polesye villages.
As a hamlet or a settlement, Rudna appeared not far away from the big old settlement of Kolno. The record of Kolno in the excerpt from the books of Slonimskiye dealing with the property estate allotment between the brothers Yury, Yan-Symon and Alexander Alelkovichy dates back to June 6 1582. The castle of Petrikov, Kolno and the borough Lenin went to Alexander then. Kolno was also marked on the map of Polesye in 1600, along with Turov, while Zhitkovichi was not marked on the same map. Rudna was called Kolenskaya Rudna not long ago. Apparently, the inhabitants of Kolno manufactured iron in the wood here.
There are venerable oaks still growing in Rudna. They are powerful enough, as they measure several girths of human arms around. One of them has stood right opposite our small house as long as old village residents can remember. Even these old trees, however, cannot be the same age as our village itself. It is mentioned in the 'Supplement to Minsk Eparchial Gazette' of 1879 that Kolenskaya Rudna, as well as tens of other villages, was part of Zhitkovichy Holy Trinity Church parish. The collection 'Volosts and settlements of Litva province and Belarusian volosts' (1888) contains information there were 38 peasant homesteads and 192 inhabitants in Rudna. Families were so numerous then! In 1908 279 people lived here, of them 26 children of both sexes at the age of 8-11 (school age). However difficult life was, but the village grew and was built; the number of its inhabitants increased, child laughter was heard in the izbas. Many children died, but still there remained a lot of kiddies in big peasant families. Villages never faced a population crisis, only natural selection with only the healthiest and strongest surviving. People used to be strong and healthy… My distant relative Ivan Albinovich, as far as I can remember, threw a haycock onto a haystack at a stroke. A sturdy sort of people they were …
In the old settlement of Kolno, not far from Rudna, at the beginning of the past century there lived 760 people, of them 76 children. Rudna itself was more similar to the nearby village of Greben that was at a distance of only three kilometers. It had practically the same number of the population; living conditions were similar, too. At the time life of a peasant was not a piece of cake. It has never been, by the way. The oldest dweller of Greben F. I. Gulyuta remembers: 'Our family consisted of ten people, while we had less than two dessiatinas of land. We had a cow, though, but we wished we hadn't as our father had to work for the landowner in Buikovichy 10 days a month for our cow to pasture on his meadow. But how could children survive without milk otherwise? We did not always have a piece of bread to eat. The father exerted himself to his utmost working for both himself and the landowner, so he lived a short life. At the beginning of the century there were about 20 or 30 homesteads in Greben, and almost every day there were funerals. Children who were in plenty in peasant families died particularly often… The landowners Kenevich and Levandovsky had so much land one could not take it in at a glance. Whenever children ran into the landlord's forest and picked a berry, they were fined in case they were noticed by the forest warden. Whenever a cow got to the meadow there was a fine to be paid. One also had to pay to be allowed to gather mushrooms in the wood.'…
The peasant seemed to live a very bad, poor, cold and hungry life. There was no gleam of hope under the moral and material oppression… Life was not a piece of cake, of course. No one can assert the peasant's life was serene. Life was as it was, although living conditions might have been somewhat better. In Germany, for example, peasant's life was easier and more joyful even at the time.
Yet, things are cognized when compared. The real hell started later, in the 1920s and the early 1930s when all-round collectivization was continually gaining in scope, arrests on a mass scale started and when the People's Commissariat of Home Affairs, the 'snatcher' as they also called it, stretched its wings out all over the country…Yet, before the revolution a peasant hired by a landowner to mow received 80 kopeks or a ruble a day at the very least; a reaper who cut rye received 50 kopeks a day. Still, peasants asked for a ruble or a ruble and a half accordingly. They ignored work when the season was at its height, so their requirements were met in most cases. After two or three days a mower could earn enough to buy boots while after a week, working together with his wife, they could buy a cow that cost less than 10 rubles.
So here is the example from the very first pages of the well-known novel by the proletarian writer Maxim Gorky 'Mother' that dwells on the life of factory workers. Pavel Vlasov went to work to a plant of some leeching bourgeois, and after he received his first pay packet he was able to buy an accordion, plush trousers, a tie, a present for his mother and to get dead drunk in addition… After 1917 a man had to work for perhaps about a year to afford all this. Things are cognized when compared is an old truth. We will be able to compare the life of a peasant before the 1917 coup and following it …
In Rudna and neighboring villages people might have lived a bit easier life. Like everywhere one had to break their back from morning till night on their own land if one had any; yet, practically nobody had land in abundance. According to the statistics of the provincial land administration in the North East area, every sixth peasant homestead had no horse; eight per cent of families had no land of their own, so they had either to go off in search of a living and work for landowners and more prosperous peasants or to join the army of proletarians in towns. As we see, the percentage of land-hungry poor peasants was not so big. The main problem for peasant families, in fact, was the need to divide their plots of land among their sons. The latter, in their turn, had to divide among theirs. This resulted in having nothing to divide; yet, one had to go on living… No wonder the Russian Prime Minister P. A. Stolypin, following the inglorious was of 1904-1905 between Russia and Japan, decided to stake on the khutor system and on giving peasants poor land on favorable terms and moving them to khutors.
Many peasants in Rudna, young people mainly, came to work as farm-hands for well-to-do peasants, for landlords Levandovskis in neighboring Buykovichy, or did some seasonal jobs. The estate 'Buykovichy' was a model farm at the time. The work was done according to rules of agricultural technology. Sturdy premises were built, a distillery and a mill worked. There was also a big garden there. Several decades later the model farm of Levandovskaya in Buykovichy would be destroyed by militant Communards, but in the meanwhile peasants could earn some money working for this landowner doing some seasonal or regular work and thus improving their well-being. At the end of the past century the area was developed at a high speed. In 1870s Polesye railway was being built. Its rails were laid not far from Rudna, in Zhitkovichi. The railway promoted quick growth of the borough. Many dwellers of Rudna took part in the work. They raised embankments and laid rails. The poet N. A. Nekrasov described building another, St. Petersburg's, railway in his poem 'Railway', but working conditions of navvies were similar, of course, so the lines 'Do you see the tall sick Belarusian wasted by fever who is standing over there?' may as well be applied to those who were building railway in Polesye, and the Belarusian might have been a peasant from Rudna. Nevertheless, the railway was built in a very short time, unlike the Baikal-Amur main line widely known in its time, which has not been finished so far. The preliminaries before building Polesye railway started in spring in 1883, while the first train came to Zhitkovichi February 15, 1886. The dwellers of Rudna must have heard the whistle of a steam-engine that day.
Here also worked General I. I. Zhilinsky's expedition, they drained Polesye marshes. The canals dug by navvies by hand, with their spades, have generally remained hitherto, being of substantial benefit. Forest exploitation was intensive as well. Hands were in need everywhere. Life of peasants in Rudna differed little from that of the peasants in other Belarusian villages and settlements. People made their both ends meet somehow; they rejoiced and grieved, were born and died… Then the year 1917 came that brought about drastic global changes in the life of the whole country and of every of its citizens. But nobody could foresee at the time even in a bad dream then the significance of those changes, as well as the bitterness and, for some people, the joys the change of epochs would bring following the autumn of the memorable 1917.
Soils in the neighborhood of Rudna were poor. They were sandy mainly, but they could feed the grain-grower at the very least if he was a hard-working man. This is rather a forest area; even hayfields are situated at a considerable distance from the village. The inhabitants of Rudna are used to free life. Peasant izbas in the village are often scattered randomly, without keeping to any strict order of streets. The Kotsubinskiyes, the Rozhalovskiyes, the Yukhnevichis and the Kirbais lived in Rudna since olden times. They were ordinary peasants who did not differ from other peasants. Their grandfathers and forefathers smelted swamp ore here and won plots of arable land from the wood and the swamp. They came from the ancient tribe of Dregovichi. Their capital was Turov, situated at a short distance from here. One can just imagine how much sweat and, it may as well be so, blood they poured into this long-suffering Polesye land for many centuries, for it to give birth to a genuine great talent once… Generally speaking, the past of Turov land is rich not only in history but in talented personalities, as well. Kirill Turovsky who was a great enlightener, a scholar, a man of letters and a bishop, matters a lot for the culture of the whole of Belarus. He is known as 'a silver-tongued orator whose name shone brighter than anyone else's all over Rus.' One can also mention the names of saints Boris and Gleb, Lavrentiy and Martin. In Turov land once there lived and ruled Konstantin Ostrozhsky who was a man of profound culture. In his library he kept The Turov Gospel, the first of its kind in the country… As a rule, talents such as scientists, cosmonauts, public and political figures, are born in province, in out-of-the-way places, in the village.
Bolsheviks' literature and the press, being over-ideologized, corrupt and suppressed by censorship, glorified the post-revolutionary life of peasants and workers. Gradually, they started to ponder if there was any need to stir up this trouble and the coup of 1917, if life had become worse in many, almost in all, respects. Did people work less? The answer was they did not. According to Lenin's decree peasants were given land, but for a short time only. A decade later it was taken away and all-round collectivization of the village was declared. A person had to break his back working it as much as he did while working landowner's or rented land if one wanted to receive something in return. Goods in shops disappeared completely, there was utter goods shortage. Printed cotton could be found in a shop once a year only. Yet, one could not buy it with money as peasants did not have any. Things could be acquired by natural exchange only. What happened if people wanted to buy any machinery, such as threshers or mowers? Before the revolution one could club together to buy them freely in the shop of merchants Bermans, so that several neighboring homesteads could make use of them. Now there was no machinery on sale, the reasons being economic dislocation after the civil war and endless rotation of powers. The old machinery that remained in some estates of landowners, e.g. in Buykovichi, was pilfered, destroyed and burnt by representatives of the new authority, the so-called present-day top dogs…
Before the World War I Russia provided half of the world with its grain and was one of the four most industrially developed countries of the planet. Now they landed on the scrapheap and had to begin everything from scratch both in towns and in villages. These were the evident and loud consequences of the coup, while a lot of deep ones could be found in the spheres of culture, morals and ideology…
Meanwhile, the village lived a life its own. My grandmother Marpha Yakovlevna Kirbai was still young and brisk then. She held together the big and friendly family in my grandfather's nest that was not yet destroyed. Her parents and grandparents on both her mother's and father's sides, the Kotsubinskiyes and the Kirbais, ploughed land here, went to work in neighboring estates and visited fairs in Kolno and Zhitkovichi on high days and holidays. They were ordinary peasants, sloggers and lack-alls… As time passed, people, authorities and customs were changing. The life itself changed drastically. The inhabitants of Rudna endured the hardships of the war hard times and deadly ordeals in late autumn of 1920 when the army of the chevalier of industry Stanislav Bulak-Bulakhovich who dreamt to occupy Moscow with its bitty army was rolling to the West, back to Poland, after being defeated at Kakinkovichi and Mozyr. The soldiers of this army came also to Rudna where they pillaged and committed outrages. Many villages on their way were burnt, while people were killed and tortured. Turov suffered particularly then, as it was in neutral zone and served as a jumping-off ground for the offensive of Bulakhovich's army against Soviet Russia.
The foam of the fratricidal civil war wave that was given rise to by 1917 was coming off… Quiet and peace finally set in Polesye, though peasants here never lived a calm and serene life. Nevertheless, the 1920s when peasants became aware of being real land owners for the first time might have been the happiest and most comfortable years. People worked for themselves, freely and willingly. They gathered good crop, paid taxes and State deliveries. The state was reviving and setting on its feet. People acquired certainty of the future. Rudna, like all Belarusian villages, had livened up, and was as populous and inhabited as it had never been before. In 1924 it numbered 87 homesteads, with 492 people living in them. The information about the number of pupils in the village did not remain in the archive; they might have numbered about a hundred. It is known for sure that the school was big as it had three stoves to heat the classes, while only the school in Ludenevichi had four stoves. There lived six people in each homestead on the average; most of them were children, of course. The atmosphere of animation, as well as high birth rate, seemed to be the prospect of the Belarusian village but it actually turned out to be a temporary advance the village had never faced before and is not going to face any more… Life in Rudna, as well as in every small town and village, was full of enthusiasm and moral upsurge. People developed an eager interest for life, acquired certainty of the future and cheerfulness. S. Yukhnevich, chairperson of the Village Soviet in Rudna, reported to Zhitkovichi district executive committee on May 3, 1925:
May 1 was celebrated in the village of Rudna in the following way. In the evening of April 25, 1925 a joint meeting of the Village Soviet and the Lenin Communist Union of Youth (LCUY) cell, the teacher of Rudna school German participating, took place. The teacher offered to erect a platform in the school yard and we did so on Sunday, April 26… On May 1 all members of the Village Soviet and pupils headed by the teacher German gathered in the LCUY club, and then they walked along the village streets in orderly lines holding a banner and singing revolutionary songs. The whole of the youth of both sexes, as well as the citizens of middle and old ages took part in the manifestation. Everyone came to the school and drew up at the platform. Chairman of the Village Soviet S Yukhnevich opened the grand meeting. He did not make a speech of welcome only; he also dwelt on the history of celebrating May 1. Further speeches were made by the representative of the district party committee Babunov, by students Nazaruk and Golovach. On behalf of Rudna LCUY cell speeches were made by Feldman and Stepan Golovach. Marfa Golovach made a speech on behalf of women, while Ivan Yukhnevich and Michail Pilkevich spoke on behalf of the Village Soviet. All those mentioned above not only made speeches of welcome and congratulated people, but they also pointed at the significance of celebrating May 1, thus holding to the theses sent by the district party committee. Then the pupil Nikolai Rozhalovsky made a speech of welcome on behalf of the pupils of Rudna school; later the teacher German threw light upon the events in Germany and explained an advantage of proletarian science over bourgeois one in detail. In his closing speech the teacher pointed at the need of a close union between the town and the village, the worker and the ploughman. The following resolution was adopted at the meeting,' After hearing the report of our comrades, which dealt with the comparison of customs and laws in Russia before the revolution and at present time we, the citizens of the Rudna Village Soviet, celebrate May 1 freely, send White Guard torturers our proletarian curse and promise solemnly to stand for Soviet power at the first summons.'
Long live the world revolution! Long live May 1!
In conclusion 'Marseillaise' was sung.
Today silence, desolation and loneliness reign in Belarusian villages, Rudna being no exception… In 1994 my village numbered 102 homesteads with 210 inhabitants living in them, among them 36 children. 74 of the inhabitants were able-bodied. Now there are twice as few children, as well as able-bodied grown-ups, while every eight or nine out of ten people in Rudna are pensioners. Now there are no more than a hundred and a half of dwellers in the village, with their number decreasing gradually. Of the indigene population there are practically few people left in the village. Every fifth or sixth izba has its windows boarded up, while just one house is being built in the whole of the village. This is the true picture of a Belarusian village. Even Rudna, the centre of the Village Soviet, which used to be a large, busy and populous village, is gradually dying out today, to say nothing of small patriarchal villages…
The early 1930s were a crucial epoch in the village as collectivization broke out. So many reviews, works and memories have been devoted to it, enthusiastic, laudatory and gloomy, joyless. If collectivization had been carried out by more humane and philanthropic methods, and for a longer period (in fact every person in a superior position, every official ranging from the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Party to the lowest chairman in the Village Soviet were trying to reduce the period to show themselves to the best advantage in the eyes of higher chiefs) it would not have drawn on so much grief, so many misfortunes, tears and pangs. Kulaks, who were actually the best, most able and hard-working peasants, were expelled from villages. They were arrested and exiled under compulsion to northern areas of the country, thus being doomed to torments and death, while their property, land, cattle and buildings were given to kolkhozes organized in a slapdash manner. Many guiltless people were subject to repressions, yet two villages in Zhitkovichi district - Lagvoshchi and Rudna - suffered most. Lagvoshchi was situated near the frontier. A great many Polish people lived in the village; there was even a Polish national club and a school. Thus, to the benefit of the state security it was decided to get rid of the people. Rudna inhabitants suffered the same fate. No wonder chairman of the Zhitkovichi district executive committee N. Krichevtsev in his summary report in 1925 said, 'Bronislav Village Soviet (Lagvoshchi was a part of it; and the village Bronislav itself suffered from repressions a great deal), Rudna and part of Zhitkovichi Village Soviets are inhabited by the so-called gentry who haven't got rid of old traditions yet and who consider themselves be head and shoulder over peasants. Most of the gentry live a rich life and organize their own manufacture. New life finds its acceptance poorly among this part of the population…' It must have been this report that caused soon afterwards mass genocide in Rudna which took lives of 42 peasants. Strange as it may seem, in other villages of the Village Soviet there were one or two people repressed, even in the big old village of Kolno.
The national archive of the Republic of Belarus keeps a list of Zhitkovichi volost revolutionary committee members of January 25, 1920. Among eight revolutionary committee members (their chairperson was Nikita Lukyanovich) there is Nikolai Yakovlevich Kotsubinski, born in 1896, who was brother of my grandmother Marpha Kirbai. It goes without saying that only an active person, a staunch supporter of the Soviet power who performed certain services to this power, could become a member of the committee. Nevertheless, in the autumn of 1937 he did not escape the 'black raven' that seized him, as well as many other village dwellers and never let him slip out of its 'claws'. The same year Petr, the elder brother of Marpha Yakovlevna, was arrested. Both brothers Kotsubinskiye were executed by shooting in the autumn of 1937, thus the whole agnate of the family was rooted out…
My grandfather Alexander Vikentyevich Kirbai was far from being a common, ordinary builder of the new life in the late 1920s, too. By now no person can remember and tell how much strength, health and nerves he spent for the sake of Soviet power strengthening and kolkhoz organization. He happened to hear so many threats and to bear so many insults! On the outskirts of the village Naida there lived a lone wolf who remained an individual peasant until the war, yet, he was not arrested and shot. It seems the authorities worked in a strange and selective manner. This man used to say, 'Let Kirbai come to my yard with his persuasions… He will immediately stop a bullet!' But chairman would come, not to him but to others who were hesitant, doubtful, frightened, and who resisted openly. As a result, more and more peasants put in applications to the kolkhoz, some in a deliberate and voluntary way, others being frightened and threatened, and some after the example of their neighbor…
By February 1, 1931 the kolkhoz 'Sovetskaya Belorussia' numbered 25 homesteads, of them 8 poor peasant and 17 average means peasant, which was approximately a third of the homesteads in the village. A year later collectivization here, as well as all over the country, was considered to be over though practically nowhere it was 100 per cent even before the war. No matter what ways and powers it was attained by it was the final result, the final figure and the percentage that were important to the authorities. Any means could do to achieve the result … In fact, if we take a closer look we can see the result was contrary to the one expected. Indeed, the Bolsheviks managed to rid peasants of the much hated ownership of land as of the main means of production. Likewise, they removed workers in towns from profit through nationalization of plants and factories. Thus, peasants were saved from land, means of production and, naturally, from results of their labor. Nothing other than their conscience incentives and ageless peasant conscientiousness and industry could make them get interested in working better. Moreover, unlike factory workers, they had to work practically free, for work-days. Kolkhozes turned out to be a kind of hybrid between serfdom and labor army which L. Trotsky stood up for so zealously. All this resulted in many economic troubles very soon and destroyed social, economic and moral life foundations in the village. Retribution for violent and thoughtless collectivization turned out to be very severe; this retribution is still in process…
In 1930s the magazine 'Shlyakhi kalektyvizatsiyi' (Ways of collectivization) was published in Minsk. In summer 1931 its correspondent Yurka Snitko came to Rudna. Soon the magazine published his article 'Brilliant results of piece-work' (as we can see, it was already then that such conditions for work were of interest to people and brought good results, yet for many decades afterwards socialist economy refused to have anything to do with piece-rate basis as it was more profitable to pay everyone some chicken feed in equal portions). The article said, 'In the kolkhoz 'Sovetskaya Belorussia' all work is done on a piece-rate basis this year. Due to piece-work and well-considered output rates, the pace of work and collective farmers' interest in working with great dispatch have increased significantly. If last year's flax and vegetable weeding lasted for too long, and haymaking was not over even in August, this year things are absolutely different.
The hay-makers team of 14 people headed by the team-leader Kotsubinskiy (this must have been Nikolai Yakovlevich, the brother of my grandmother Marpha, the former Zhitkovichi volost revolutionary committee member) on June 27mowed 8.8 hectares of grass. In accordance with output rate set in the kolkhoz (3 or 4 people mow a hectare, depending on the quality of hayfield )it should take 27 people to mow the same area.
Kolkhoz management board noted down in every mower's work-book 2.4 work-days, taking into account that the work is hard and thus one is given 1.25 work-days each day.
The team of 16 people who gather hay cocked hay on the area of 5 hectares, while according to output rates it should take 25 collective farmers to work on this area. Those who did the hard work of hay cocking were given 1.95 work-days while eight others were given 1.55 work-days. One can give many examples of the kind… Due to piece-work there is an influx of both poor and average means peasants to the kolkhoz. They finished weeding flax, millet and allotment crops, and gathered clover in good time. Now they finish haymaking.'
Collectivization rates and indices in Rudna were good; only the artels (co-operative associations of peasants) in Naida and Buikovichi had similar rates as after the breakup of the commune, on the basis of the former landowner's estate, there were good conditions for the collective farm in the villages. Yet, the rates did not suit district authorities who demanded 'to speed up', 'to intensify' and 'to press on'… In the district newspaper 'Prymezhny kamunar' of September 10, 1931 somebody called 'Voka' noted that in the district in the last two years there had been a 'very slow influx' of poor peasants and peasants of average means to kolkhozes. 2200 homesteads were not members of kolkhozes; they were individual peasants, with almost half of them living in the three Village Soviets - Ludenevichi, Vetka and Rudna.
Early in March of 1932 Zhitkovichi district was visited by First Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU [B] of Belarus (Communist Party of the Soviet Union [Bolsheviks]) N.F. Gikalo who acquainted himself with the state of affairs in the district and visited the machine and tractor station, the district palace of social culture and several district enterprises. Later on, accompanied by secretary of the district committee of the party Bogdanov, he came to visit villages of the district, Ludenevichi, Bronislav and Rudna in particular. He must have met chairman of the Rudna kolkhoz Alexander Kirbai, the more so because this kolkhoz was the first one in the district and had advanced showing. It was already at that time that the kolkhoz had a large pig-raising farm, and N.F. Gikalo made a speech on international situation and answered numerous questions of collective farmers in the 'Red Corner' (room providing recreational and educational facilities) of the farm.
Collectivization in the country was gaining in scope and expanding like an avalanche that knocks everything down, crushes down everything on its way, carries away and often buries… Its most active champion in Rudna was Alexander Vikentyevich Kirbai, as fate willed, but rather due to his honest, uncompromising and straightforward nature.
Yevdokim Klochok, my wife Tamara Nikolayevna's grandfather, belonged to the wide range of the unbending revolutionaries who later fell to thinking and lost their faith. In the middle of 1930s he got to Stalin camps; he never knew why. It fell to his lot to be a prisoner of the notorious 'Sevlag', the wild North directorate of camps. He built the railway where now fast trains with the romantic name 'North Palmira' speed along. Certainly, he did not have the ghost of a chance to survive, yet, he was lucky enough to be taken hospital attendant to the camp hospital by a camp doctor who used to treat Valerian Kuybyshev himself. I used to go by this railway when I had to earn my living as a member of a construction team, or rather as voluntary exile or a seasonal slave, to be more exact. When going by train, I could not shake off the feeling the train was rolling over bones instead of rails…
It pains and distresses me to be conscious of the death of the best village dwellers; their graves buried under lime are unknown…. Nevertheless, one cannot blot it out of his memory. Although, when the book 'Memory. A documentary chronicle' of Zhitkovichi district came out in Minsk in the early 1990s, the names of the repressed brothers Kotsubinskiye, of Nikolai and Vatslav Kirbais were mentioned, equally with names of hundreds of other Zhitkovichi dwellers, but the name of the first chairman of the kolkhoz in Rudna Alexander Vikentyevich Kirbai was not mentioned through negligence and indifference of local authorities.
My grandmother Marpha Yakovlevna outlived her brothers for a short while. She died in February 1950 though she was not old at the time. It was hard youth and war time burden she had suffered, as well as poverty and exhausting work in post-war years that had told on her. In my grandmother Marpha's house which still stands in Rudna her grandchildren were born; they were fated to continue the cause of their fathers and grandfathers… There were also so many families, both related and alien, that lived under the roof of the house in the hard war and post-war years! Misfortune and trouble used to unite and reconcile people, so strangers often lived one united family, unlike these days…
The fate of village izbas is such that they survive several generations and no matter how old the building is it will last a century or more as long as there is a gleam of life in it, the stove being stoked and there is a light in the windows; but as soon as it is left by its inhabitants the house is weakened at once, it rots, sinks and turns black. Any house, even an ancient one, seems to be young and cheerful when it is filled with voices and clear children's laughter. Have you ever noticed that storks do not settle on the roofs of uninhabited izbas that are so numerous in the contemporary village today while crows grow roots there at once?
Rudna, like most Belarusian villages, suffered a lot, though it was not burnt; it suffered losses in people, in hard-working village dwellers. My fellow-villagers did not stand off the nation-wide struggle against the enemy, either. At the beginning of spring 1944 an initiative group was detached from the 50th Zhitkovichi partisan brigade. The 117th partisan detachment consisting of Rudna Village Soviet inhabitants, 226 men strong, was set up on the basis of the group. The detachment was headed by Vasiliy Syrovatskiy, its commissar was Matvei Khilko. After joining the units of the Red Army, an almost full-fledged company of men became allotted to it. Thirty-eight Rudna inhabitants were killed as members of partisan detachments or at the fronts of the Great Patriotic War. About twenty of its peaceful inhabitants were killed by occupants either in the village or in the forest where people were hiding in hard times. All work and hardships of economy rehabilitation in the first post-war years fell to the lot of several men, invalids and aged mainly, but primarily of teenagers and women.
The village was healing the wounds of war very slowly. In 1945 and the year following big batches of cattle were arriving from Germany to the country it destroyed. They were really big and heavy cows of black and white color, with spots, a genuine German breed. About 50 heads of the cows, as well as 3 horses, were given to the kolkhoz 'Sovetskaya Belorussia'. The state also provided the kolkhoz with seeds, which was some help. The most poverty-stricken families with many children, whose fathers died, received several cows from Germany.
What was a characteristic feature of the village life in 1950s? As usual, it was hard, exhausting and, what is most important, practically free labor. The village was already rebuilt after the war devastation. The youth who could not leave the village as they had no passport had already grew up. There were enough hands, new houses were built and a lot of young families appeared. Peasants who did not have any passports could not leave the kolkhoz; the same was in serfdom time when after the notorious St. George's Day peasants could not leave for another landowner. To leave the village and get fixed up in a job in the town (which was practically impossible without a passport, by the way) or to go to study there one had to obtain a certificate from the kolkhoz saying that the board did not object… In 1960s, when some of the youth born after the war were leaving the village, it was not so difficult to do. Orphans whose fathers were killed at the front or in the partisan detachment were always given necessary certificates freely. Those who were repressed guiltlessly still remained enemies. People preferred not to remember about them at all. They were razed from life as if they had never existed and were forgotten silently… There were quite many young men and women in Rudna who left without hesitation making use of the right their fathers obtained by their death.
In 1966 work-days for work in the kolkhoz were abolished and money wage was introduced. Work-day is a conventional wage-rate determined according to some incomprehensible output rates for some work or another. It was introduced when kolkhozes were set up. There were strictly definite rates for any work. One work-day, for example, meant it was necessary to mow 0.45 hectare of grass, while you had to mow 0.48 hectare of meadow grass and 0.4 hectare of top grass. To get one work-day a person had to cut 0.1 hectare of rye, or to load with a pitchfork, to bring to the field and to unload 4 tons of manure or 7 tons of hay. In a day one could earn either 1.5 or even 2 work-days or 0.3-0.5 work-days. A woman could receive 1.5 or 2 work-days for repairing sacks though the work could take her a week; the reason was they said it was not hard work. The same number of work-days could be given to a stableman or an invalid for repairing horse-collars.
The year over, the harvest gathered and calculated, obligatory State Deliveries handed over and results of kolkhoz' economic performance known, the general meeting of collective farmers or the meeting of the board determined how much people had to be paid for work-days. The year being productive, one could expect to receive 0.3-0.4 kilos of rye, 1-1.5 kilos of potatoes, 1-1.5 rubles (before 1961) per work-day though frequently they received much less… Late in autumn a peasant would bring to his homestead a cart loaded with potatoes and several sacks of grain, which was the result of his work during the year.
Team-leaders and field-team leaders who worked like everyone else did and received a small bonus for combining jobs, as well as chairmen of kolkhozes' boards, were also due to be given a definite number of work-days, though the margin between this number and that of other collective farmers' was negligible. I remember my father, chairman of the kolkhoz 'Sovetskaya Belorussia', just like other kolkhoz heads in the district, was given 500 work-days per year, though the reprimands, reproofs and surcharges he received were more numerous. An honest and hard-working person, especially the one working on a regular basis and having a remunerative job, could earn the same number of work-days or even more.
Now, after he received several metric centners of grain and potatoes, as well as 500 or 700 rubles (in old money, before 1961) for the work in kolkhoz during the year, the peasant had to pay taxes in the first place, then to buy the indispensable foodstuffs and other things - salt, sugar, matches and kerosene, as well as to buy clothes and footwear and to fit his children out for school… Boots cost 100-150 rubles, while a quilted coat which was indispensable for the peasant cost more than a hundred. A cow cost three or four thousand rubles, though soon after the exchange of money in 1961 its cost amounted to seven or eight hundred rubles. This is an obvious result of denomination that we constantly come across these days when salaries remain practically the same while money falls in value. One can be only filled with wonder how peasants could survive in such conditions. As we can see, living conditions in the village used to be and still remain much worse than before the revolution…
How could a peasant survive in the conditions when he received practically nothing for his labor but had to pay huge taxes? He had to pay for a cow and every hen, for fruit-trees in the garden and for his personal plot (of thirty hundredth part per family on average). The skin of a pig or a calf that was grown up and slaughtered had to be peeled and handed over to the state… The extortionate taxes were mostly abolished after the death of Stalin when until January 1955 the state government was headed by Georgiy Malenkov who was undeservedly and endlessly thanked by collective farmers for doing so for many years afterwards. Anyway, how did peasants manage to survive before taxes were abolished? To a certain extent, the market in Zhitkovichi which was a huge shed in the centre of the settlement, especially busy at weekends and on high days, came to help. They carried from villages and sold there cabbage, apples, meat, milk, fat and beans dirt-cheap, to gain at least a small sum of money in order to pay taxes and buy some clothes and footwear.
In 1953, the year of death of Joseph Stalin, the murderous tyrant whom it was mortally dangerous even to call like this, I went to the first form of Rudna primary school, though I was going to be seven only in two months. The teacher Maria Ivanovna Yukhnevich distinguished, as far as I remember, my diligence and studiousness, as well as my love for books and passion for reading, though it was not encouraged in peasant families, as a matter of fact. Here one needed another science and passion for land and one's farm. Though I never refused any housework, my father, a strict man whom life rarely indulged and petted, was frequently discontented. He could start splitting hairs at any time, especially when out of mood or drunk; by the way he got drunk quite often, on every occasion, like everyone did and does in the village, because a glass of wine colored gloomy life with blue flowers of delusive happiness. In these cases my father was free with his belt that left its traces on my body for quite a long time…
Nevertheless, despite the firm and strict discipline in our house, there was still some spirit of freedom about it. No one was prohibited to express his opinion and to argue if one thought himself to be right. I shared a room with my brother. The room overlooked a mighty centuries old oak-tree which might have been older than the village itself. The room was modest and small, the table there was always heaped up with books, while the whole of the izba was less than thirty square meters. The small front room where the greater part was taken up by a stove was always crowded and boisterous, especially in the evenings, when village dwellers used to come and go away, play the domino, smoke and argue themselves hoarse. On holidays they drank wine and discussed village and national news and problems as if they could solve them.
Our family had a spirit of decency and mutual aid, of emotional freedom. This was mainly due to my mother who despite her being extremely busy in the kolkhoz and about the house always took an interest in my and my brother's affairs. In her heart of hearts she was a intellectual person who had a gust of the world and people.
Alexandra Alexandrovna, my dear and deeply respected mother, used to shake her head in doubt and some perplexity and say, 'I should never have thought you were going to get to the top of the ladder after such poverty and hardships!' I think, though, it is exactly these circumstances that strengthen the mind and the body that can bring up a real man. Those who are pampered and spoilt since their very childhoods, who do not know any troubles or hardships are weak!
A light and bright outlet of my life was encounter with nature. Nature seems to be everywhere around in the village. For a peasant it is a common, everyday and usual picture, like the view of a neighboring house that a town-dweller's window commands. Nevertheless, it is only partially true that nature is something habitual… There is no person in the world that does not have the feeling of native land, the land familiar to him since his childhood, his dear nature and his parents' nest. The feeling develops in babyhood, with the first child's impressions, it grows and intensifies together with a person's growth and dies when time comes, together with the person. Native countryside, like the mother, is the only one of its kind. All the charms of the universe can never substitute for the view the window of your parents' home commands, i.e. some hillock with an oak or birch-tree growing there that your best and brightest memories are connected with. Your native heath you put your labor into, shed your sweat and got corns on your hands while working, gets even dearer and sweeter to you. Every inch of land is familiar to the touch; you mowed here, when your father was still alive, some June morning while the dew was still on the ground. The scythe hanging in the threshing-floor which smells of old dusty hay has not yet been eaten away with rust. Here I ploughed the land and saw off sunset under this tree…
There are no particularly picturesque landscapes in the neighborhood of Rudna. The once beautiful, still and insignificant rivulet Naut is disfigured now. It lost both its picturesque appearance and water as a result of overly-active work of land-reclamation specialists. Rudna borders a wood on the north and the east, though the wood is not what it used to be, as cutting down, tapping and anthropogenic influence have done their part. The things happening in the nearby Pripyat National Park that used to be the only landscape and hydrologic nature reserve in the Soviet Union make my heart bleed. People say that due to the dictates of high officials thousand-year-old oaks, the pride of Polesye, are being cut down, so forest reserves that used to be the richest ones are turning into a desert. The Turov land once had to experience the same when woods were destroyed in a barbarous way by different English concessions at the end of XVII century. But then the emperor Paul I stopped this outrage by his decree, drove all the plunderers out and handed their property to the state treasury. Yet, who is going to protect the reserve today?
At the distance of 10 kilometers from Rudna the Pripyat flows. Its flood plain Obolonye with the blue free distance, with oaks, oxbows and lakes is a real oasis of beauty and inspiration. In summer at haymaking time Obolonye is boisterous like a fair in the settlement; there are voices, laughter and din of machinery everywhere. People try to make hay in the quickest way possible now when the weather is fine. At that time no idle fisherman can be met on the bank of the river or a lake.
By evening work tension calms down. Here and there fires are laid near islets of bushes or under oak-trees. The smoke of fires gets mixed up with evening fog. It floats over the plain and extends to the river. By the time the sun has already set behind the distant wood edge. The fading day has sheen like gold. The work at the meadow during harvest time cannot be over until it is daylight… What period can be better, more beautiful and exciting in the native land than this time? Summer evenings are dear and memorable by contemplation of the surroundings and of oneself, by talks with worldly-wise, older and experienced village dwellers, by estrangement from troubles, worries and problems and by complete merging with nature.
I shall never forget staying overnight at a fire on an armful of hay or at a hayloft on the fresh fragrant hay that was made in fine weather, the hay that absorbed all scents of meadow plants and flowers, all fragrances of the summer. I will remember this forever…
It is only in such picturesque places and corners of our homeland that the soul wakes up, blossoms and turns to creative work, to making a verse or a song. If my home village Rudna, the Pripyat, Obolonye, ancient Turov, echoes of hoary antiquity and works by Kirill Turovsky had not captivated my soul in my childhood, there would be no verses and songs that I wrote much later… The simple way of life, labor on a meadow or in a field which was not a burden but, rather, joy, a match for young strength and energy looking for an outlet… Thanks God, all this existed, exists now and I hope will exist as long as we live and will exist afterwards, so long as my native Belarus will exist under the peaceful sky…


CHAPTER V

HARD LIFE OF A PEASANT

What can one add to the above lines while thinking about the life of the people? Why is it exactly our nation that has had such dreadful fate throughout its history? It was only violence exercised by those who rule that brought our people to this kind of life, the violence exercised for many centuries and being both physical and spiritual in its nature. It is exactly this circumstance that should be raised to the rank of a phenomenon in world history. One can only be surprised at the vitality of the nation as it has endured violence both inside and outside the country.
Present-day life of the nation gives plenty of food to think whether things were always as bad as this, or whether things at present are better than they used to be, or whether things in the past we worse than they are today. Here we should highlight the task of proper emphasizing. Perhaps we, intellectuals, just show off our intelligence, though we do not know anything about our nation, and think up all sorts of things in the silence of our studies? I wonder whether intellectual just grumbles or the grief of the nation makes him cry. Yet, undoubtedly, the main things to rely on will be real life and historic truth.
The actual life, especially the village life, cannot be called other than appalling. National agriculture is razed to the ground, though it used to be the main, basic source of peasant existence in the rural area. As far back as 15 years ago every peasant homestead had a lot of living creatures, e.g. at least 2 cows, 3 or 4 pigs, up to 30 hens, from 20 to 50 ducks, geese, turkey-hens and so on. Peasants fed themselves by choice organic food; moreover, they provided their sons and daughters who went to cities in search of better life. The help of parents (let's call it surplus-appropriation system) to their children was quite appreciable. I remember going home to get this aid myself when I was a student. The aid was always abundant. I was given pork, smoked foods, mushrooms, jam, fish and hens… What I liked most was a stuffed goose my mother would give me for the journey. In the student hostel in a company of four or five friends we were through with it, though with difficulty. Unfortunately, all this is a past reality. Peasant cattle-sheds have become empty and there are less than twenty cows in the village of 180 homesteads.
How can one assess and qualify this state of affairs? We cannot call it other than tragic…
When I come to the village I always meet my relatives and village fellow-men, whose number has become scanty. We talk for a long time. As a rule, any peasant is a wise man. Practically everyone knows or, rather, used to know what should be done both in the village and in the country to make life better. Today no one talks about any bright prospects, as they do not see any, for people are crushed by indigence. I happened to meet an optimist, though, who said,' Do you remember our life in post-war time? We had nothing then. We drank only processed milk that had no traces of fat and was shot with blue. Nevertheless, we survived.' It is significant that practically no one of those participating in the talk paid attention to the fact that hungry village survived in post-war time. When I noted that more than half a century has passed since the war was over, my opponent waved his hand and said,' So what? If we have potato we are going to survive.' As we see people are driven to extremes. At the beginning of the third millennium, when almost all European countries, as well as the USA, Japan, South and East Asia, Australia and many others live as if in paradise we still dream of a good potato crop, are afraid of drought and of crops soaking. As they say, no need to comment…
One cannot but agree with Solomon the Wise, the Tsar of Israel, who said as far back as in 960B.C.,'Whatever was, that will be, whatever happened, that will happen, and there is nothing new under the sun.' And further, 'Stupidity occupies high ranks, while the worthy ones are below.' This is true wisdom! No wonder he was called Solomon the Wise. One can add nothing more.
The nation might be wise in behaving like this and having nothing against this existence and the life. Judging by the above mentioned Solomon's wisdom, the nation, I am sure, lives exactly according to 'whatever was, that will be, whatever happened, that will happen', even without being unaware of doing so. For the time being, our nation lives proceeding from this wisdom. Making no attempts to extend Solomon as it is impossible to do, we could still try to find some loophole concerning the bad things in order to eliminate them.
The experience of our development is deplorable one. Why not resort to the experience of other countries and try to adopt the best things which could grow on our soil? Say, we may be guided by the experience of the state of Israel that was once ruled by Tsar Solomon. I have already mentioned the droughts we are endlessly haunted by which bring inevitable crop failure. So, everyone knows what latitudes Israel is situated in, yet, there is no crisis of agricultural output, rather quite the contrary is true. Management of agriculture there shakes our imagination, irrigation of lands and even separate plants, in particular. Here its majesty the computer comes to men's help. The agriculture is highly computerized. Now compare the state of the material and technical basis of our agriculture with those of Israel, the USA, Germany and Sweden, and then you are going to have answers to all the sore questions. It is not some short period we have fallen behind but forever.
Why do so huge expenses bring such a depressing effect? I think we should dwell on the triad that is no mystery to anyone, i.e. business organization with management as its pivot, material and technical basis, as well as personnel. If these three components met global requirements by at least a quarter, we would live in another dimension.
Giving mention of a peasant homestead above, we implied the rudimentary state of private property. The term was not used in the Soviet Union, of course. Yes, rather! Bolsheviks and the Soviet power fought with private property to the bitter end, so God forbid to say about it aloud, not to mention even thinking about it.
Nevertheless, the small light of private property flickered. People said 'my house', 'my yard', 'my garden', and so on. All this had its results, as private sector gave the country about 50 per cent of meat, more than half of milk, vegetables, fruit, etc. Instead of supporting the private owner, the state has carried the situation to an absurdity, as today the figure amounts to a bit more than 10 per cent and it tends to decline.
Compared to the late 1960s of XX century modern peasants are just poor men, which is neither an exaggeration nor distortion, but just a historic fact. They have their own perception of themselves and their place in the world. Their dominant feature is slave psychology of all and sundry. The psychology was instilled into their consciousness by the gloomy slave life. They do not speak about the future, as a rule. They remember the past and find something bright and joyful about it, so that their eyes glow with life and kindness. They miss so much the life in the past when everything used to be better than today. They say in post-war time their life was hard, they were happy to have a piece of bread for a meal but nevertheless their life was joyous. On summer evenings here and there in the village, the sound of an accordion was heard and songs touching the soul and the heart sounded. Dances on the bridge are particularly memorable to me. In the middle of the village there was a small rivulet with a bridge over it. In the evenings the youth gathered there. An accordion sounded till morning and young people danced and sang songs. Splashes could be heard from below as fish must have danced, too… Calm and warm summer evenings, the smell of grass, a peculiar smell of water, and Man was in the middle of this almost primordial beauty. All things merged together in a harmonious way, everything lived the life predestined by the Lord…
I have reproduced just a fragment of the village idyll, but it contains a whole world in itself, a world of memories, of emotional experience, of the feeling of great pity for something gone away never to return, lost forever.
One can hear no songs, see no dances and joy in the village today. A wedding is a rare occasion which turns into a mass drunken feast. Unfortunately, good things remained in the past. It was not a long time ago, just in the second half of the past century, that people lived much better, though they worked from morning till night, as they always did in the village. Village life was always characterized by hard, backbreaking, and what is most important, practically free labor. In 1950s people had already rebuilt the village after the war devastation; the youth who could not leave the village as they had no passports had already grew up. There were enough hands, new houses were built and a lot of young families appeared. Peasants who did not have any passports could not leave the kolkhoz; the same was in serfdom time when after the notorious St. George's Day peasants could not leave for another landowner. To leave the village and get fixed up in a job in the town (which was practically impossible without a passport, by the way) or to go to study there one had to obtain a certificate from the kolkhoz saying that the board did not object… Such certificates were always given freely to orphans whose fathers were killed at the front or in the partisan detachment. Those who were repressed guiltlessly still remained enemies. People preferred not to remember about them at all. It seemed these people had never existed. They vanished in obscurity, defamed, disgraced, and deprived of their lives for nothing at all…
In 1966 work-days for work in the kolkhoz were abolished and money wage was introduced. Work-day is a conventional wage-rate determined according to some incomprehensible output rates for some work or another. It was introduced when kolkhozes were set up. There were strictly definite rates for any work. One work-day, for example, meant it was necessary to mow 0.45 hectare of grass, while you had to mow 0.48 hectare of meadow grass and 0.4 hectare of top grass; a person had to cut 0.3 hectare of rye, or to load with a pitchfork, to bring to the field and to unload 4 tons of manure to earn a work-day. In a day one could earn either 1.5 or even 2 work-days or 0.3-0.5 work-days.
In late autumn, the harvest gathered and calculated, obligatory State Deliveries handed over and results of kolkhoz' economic performance known, the general meeting of collective farmers or the meeting of the board determined how much people had to be paid for work-days. The year being productive, one could expect to receive 0.3-0.4 kilos of rye, 1-1.5 kilos of potatoes, 1-1.5 rubles (after 1961it was 5-10 kopeks) per work-day, though frequently they received much less… Then a peasant would bring to his homestead a cart loaded with potatoes and several sacks of grain, which was the result of his work during the year.
Team-leaders and field-team leaders who worked like everyone else did and received a small bonus for combining jobs, as well as chairmen of kolkhozes' boards, were also due to be given a definite number of work-days, though the margin between this number and that of other collective farmers' was negligible. I remember my father, chairman of the kolkhoz 'Sovetskaya Belorussia', just like other kolkhoz heads in the district, was given 500 work-days per year, though the reprimands, reproofs and surcharges he received were more numerous. An honest and hard-working person could earn the same number of work-days or even more.
Now, after he received this scanty pay for the work in kolkhoz during the year, the peasant had to pay taxes in the first place, then to buy the indispensable foodstuffs and other things - salt, sugar, matches and kerosene, as well as to buy clothes and footwear and to fit his children out for school… Boots cost 100-150 rubles, while a quilted coat which was indispensable for the peasant cost more than a hundred. A cow cost three or four thousand rubles though soon after the denomination in 1961 its cost amounted to seven or eight hundred rubles. One can be only filled with wonder how peasants could survive in such conditions. As we can see, living conditions in the village used to be and still remain much worse than before the revolution, as they worked practically free but had to pay huge taxes. He had to pay for a cow and every hen, for fruit-trees in the garden and for his personal plot (of thirty hundredth part per family on average). The skin of a pig that was grown up and slaughtered had to be peeled and handed over to the state, too; even ashes from stoves were gathered by women for kolkhoz fields in the prescribed manner. The extortionate taxes were mostly abolished in 1953 after the death of Stalin when until January 1955 the state government was headed by Georgiy Malenkov. It was not his merit, though; the time dictated to take this step, but it was exactly this timeserver who was endlessly thanked by collective farmers for doing so long afterwards. To a certain extent, the market in every small town and district centre that worked on Sundays came to help. They carried from villages and sold there cabbage, apples, meat, milk, fat and beans dirt-cheap, to gain at least a small sum of money in order to pay taxes and buy some clothes and footwear. This was the way the village lived in post-war time. Perhaps life became better in the course of time, yet only insignificantly.
I think it is no wonder the word 'krestyanin' (peasant) comes from the word 'krest' (cross), they are related words. Soon after the parson in the church gives a small cheap cross to the infant, the latter will go on bearing his heavy cross, having rough times and suffering humiliation, throughout his life until he goes to his resting place under a grave cross at the grave-yard… Such is peasant life, with its everlasting work, very few bright days and no gleam of hope in the future. Neither a serf nor a collective farmer had any future, though collective farmers used to feed the whole country, as many homesteads delivered to the state about 500 kilos of pork, almost the same amount of beef, thousands of eggs and tons of milk during the year.
Average productivity of crops in the republic amounted to 20-25 centners or, when the year was good, to 30 centners per hectare. Average potato productivity amounted to 200 or more centners per hectare. Advanced kolkhozes whose number increased year after a year, including my native Zhitkovichi district and Turov land in particular, with its fertile lands and hard-working and experienced grain-growers, had crop capacity of about 100 centners per hectare. Nina Melnikova, the leading agronomist of the kolkhoz 'Pobeda', even organized the republican club'Harvest-100' where she advocated the experience of growing 100-centner yield widely. Still, as far back as 20 or 30 years, during the virgin lands epic, they glorified the crop of only 100 poods per hectare.
As we can see, the productivity of agriculture, though it was significantly behind the results being obtained in the West for a long time already without much effort (which is also a sign of progress) was going up as there were foundations laid down. Then all this went to hell and things in the economic sphere, including agricultural sector as its part, changed drastically so that our previous achievements, though relative when compared with foreign countries, turned into failures, steady decline and sharp collapse? While in 1990 the share of agriculture in the gross domestic product of the republic amounted to 22.9%, then in 2002 it amounted to only about 10%. Today such agricultural enterprises as kolkhozes and sovkhozes run to 2400, while enterprises with new forms of management like farms and so on amount to about 2250. The number of the latter in 1995 was greater, though, they ran to 3030. The reason is many farmers ruin themselves and give up this unprofitable business, as they can't endure complicated conditions of work and tax burden. At present such farms have very little land in their temporary possession - only 93.2 thousand hectares - but they produce 10.7% of crops, 38.8% of milk to the sum total 1721 million rubles, while the rest of agricultural enterprises produce amounts to 2643 million rubles. The population and farms produce over 40% of the country's agricultural produce as against 25% in 1990. Today 64.5% of agricultural enterprises in our country are unprofitable which 10% more as against 2002 is.
Labor productivity in agriculture was dropping year after a year at the end of XX century. In 2001 as against 1990 crop yield went down from 29.4 to 19.8 centners per hectare, while the croppage dropped from 7040 thousand tons to 5150 thousand tons (in 1999 the figure amounted to only 3645 thousand tons). At the same time, we should take into account that in recent years the country's population has become almost fully self-sufficient as far as potatoes and vegetables are concerned. The private sector, with only a sixth of arable land at its disposal, produces 80 per cent of vegetables, almost 100 per cent of fruit and berries, more than 65 per cent of milk, over 50 per cent of meat and more that 45 per cent of eggs.
Now let's have a look at the comparative data concerning the produce of the most vital types of food in 2001 as against 1990. They produced 260.2 thousand tons of meat, including first category variety meat as against 900 thousand tons, sausage goods amounted to 216 and 167.8 thousand tons respectively, the amount of whole-milk produce was 1776.3 thousand tons as against 882.2 thousand tons, animal oil - 159 and 62.0 respectively, vegetable oil output ran to 26.4 and 14.1 respectively, bread and bakery goods amounted to 1583 thousand tons as against 628.5 thousand tons, while the amount of macaroni foods was 60 thousand tons to 10.8 thousand tons.
In recent years land fertility has deteriorated significantly due to scanty fertilizer application. As is generally known, the basic supplier of organics is livestock sector. In the last five years alone, about 600 thousand heads of cattle, i.e. every sixth of those that were grown at the beginning of 1995, 92 thousand pigs, 28 thousand sheep and 39 thousand horses, i.e. every fourth animal, have disappeared from farms. The remaining livestock population did not receive enough fodder. In some years, though weather conditions were favorable, they stock only a bit more than a half of the required amount of fodder.
Agriculture receives less and less mineral fertilizers, too, while many farms are given none at all. Organic fertilizers are also scarce as farms have only 60 or 65 per cent of the amount required. In 1990 they applied 1510 thousand tons of organics, while in 2000 the amount was only 658 thousand tons. Phosphoric fertilizers which are not produced in the republic are applied only a little, only a fourth of the amount used before.
Organic fertilizers application on the fields of the country has been reduced by two thirds. Desperate shortage of farming machines and fuel supply stoppage resulted in the spring sowing optimal time breach. The finished off combines 'Don' and 'Niva', that should have been turned into scrap metal a long time ago, scatter about a fourth of the crop gathered. One more reason for the regular increase in the prices for food is sharp and persistent growth of the price of petrol.
There are reasons for everything. They are more than necessary to explain things happening in the agricultural sector, as well; the main one being is that kolkhozes in their current form have outlived their usefulness. Nevertheless, there are neither means nor financial support to promote another form of land management. The powers that be do not have any wish to change anything about the system, either.
What about the problem of workforce in the village? My native village Rudna, as well as other Polesye villages, is a kind of mirror of the demographic situation in villages. In 1979 the rural sector of the republic amounted to 4 million 298 thousand people, while the 1999 population census result was 3 million 83 thousand people, i.e. the rural population decreased by 28 per cent for the period of twenty years. Naturally, the number of Belarusian population today is even less. In 2003 alone the country's population decreased by almost 30 thousand. The number of rural centers of population have declined by more than a thousand in the past ten years and amounts to 23.5 thousand now. Eight thousand of them have a population of less than 25 people. True, the number of large villages with a population of over two thousand people each has increased, but these villages are still few, there are only about a hundred of them.
The country' population is ageing in a steadfast way. The number of people who are 60 and over has exceeded 21per cent, while according to the World Health Organization the nation is called ageing if the figure reaches 7per cent. The scientists consider the rural population of Belarus is going to decrease by about a million people in the next few decades.
Things are even more oppressive as far as population groups are concerned. In 1979 there were 2 million 184 thousand of able-bodied village dwellers while now there are only less than a million and a half of them, with less than half of these people being employed directly in farm production. About 700 thousand people work in this industry and their number is expected to decline twice in ten years due to the problems agriculture faces and the extremely poor living conditions. Due to the social conditions our village is no less than100 years behind developed countries. Old men and women still carry water for their needs, e.g. to water the kitchen garden and the cattle, in buckets. Bath is a luxury in most villages. The standard of peasant dwelling corresponds to that of XIX century one while the standard of livestock keeping places has fallen even lower. Waste waters soak into draw-wells from dwellings, cattle keeping places and toilets, which was inconceivable when our forefathers lived.
Is there at least any need to comment? Everything is apparent to the naked eye. The farming industry crisis is obvious. Should we look for the reasons for the umpteenth time? Enough of this! The only reason is we are unable to manage. We should admit the fact and stop appealing to Mother Nature. It is impossible to dramatically change the situation for the better within the next few years as we have no necessary means.
In our opinion, there is one more factor which is of no small importance. As opposed to the present day, at least several decades ago our people had confidence in the future. A serious motivating factor of this confidence was, undoubtedly, the victory in the most terrible war that world history ever knew. People thought as long as they had gained a victory over the cannibal like Hitler, all the rest would be a child's play and they would survive everything.
The ideological backroom was making its everyday concoction pushing itself to the limit and it must be admitted it succeeded in doing so. It could not be the other way round, as Bolshevist ideology was violently implanted in the mind of people. Almost 200 million people were violated by the ideology; the violence lasted for almost 75 years in the USSR. Eventually, everything collapsed - dictatorship of the proletariat, i.e. dictatorship of violence, as well as its ideology.
There is hardly anyone today who is likely to help poor peasants, but for themselves.
Thus, we have entered XXI century with more than 2 million people in our country brought to an extremely desperate state and left to the mercy of fate. There are practically no hands in the village, machinery is completely worn-out, while pensions are scanty (by the way, every fourth dweller in the republic is a pensioner). Thus, our only hope is the Lord…

CHAPTER VI

LAND, LOVE AND FAITH…

According to up-to-date standards, the distance from Rudna to Zhitkovichi is not very long. It is only some 10 kilometers. When at school, I used to walk the distance every day - in the morning I went to school and in the evening I went back home. The village was part of the Zhitkovichi Blessed Trinity church parish. An old wooden church stood on the outskirts of the town, near the old graveyard. The church was built in 1842 by the landowner Yelenskiy in the place of a more ancient church which had stood there since 1581. Almost all villages of the current Zhitkovichi district were part of its parish. Despite the church being the only one in the area, it was visited by several tens of men only, due to the influence of the Soviet propaganda. In 1879 the parish numbered over 2000 men as the villages were populous then and peasant could not imagine their life without going to church. A hundred years later, in 1979, though, when the old wooden church was burned down, surely its parish was several times less. It goes without saying that it was burned down due to someone's malicious intent.
At the Soviet time such sacrilege was a surprise to no one. Practically all churches in Belarus had a similar fate. For example, in Ludenevichi, a village not far from Rudna, an ancient Mikhailovskaya church, built as far back as 1775, was destroyed and pulled apart by tractors in 1963 (by the way, how can one account for the fact that both tractor drivers died soon afterwards under different circumstances). The only operating church in the district was only an ancient All Saints church in Turov.
Today there is a new brick church in Zhitkovichi built instead of the destroyed old Blessed Trinity church. It is not very refined with respect to its architecture but spacious and light. It is always populous there on high days and holidays, just like it was in days gone by, which makes one happy. I also made a contribution to building the church within my powers. At the time Father Leonid, a pleasant, cultured and very educated man was a priest at the Blessed Trinity church. Unfortunately, he died. I always enter a church, no matter this one or any other, with awe at heart, with a feeling of respect to shrines, with consciousness of both my wickedness and the need of purgation…
My faith is deeply rooted; it was fostered in me by my forefathers and was strengthened by knowledge of our history. It was exactly in our native land, in ancient Turov, over 1000 years ago when the foundations of orthodoxy were laid down by the saint Kiryll Turovskiy. On the boundary between paganism and the new Christian faith he advocated, glorified and propagated this faith in every way possible in his prayers, words and sermons.
Here everyone has God in his soul, in his heart and in his thoughts. Another thing is whether He dominates man's conscience or is driven into the very corner of one's soul, being deprived of His rights, and does not dare to raise His voice… My ancestors were believers. Everyone knew my grandmother Marpha Yakovlevna and my mother, may they rest in the Kingdom of Heaven, to be extremely pious; they never refused God's gifts by either a word or a deed. I have no doubts that the Lord granted me confidence in time of spiritual hesitation and helped me to accomplish my lifework which is to do good for people.
At the present stage of our development the role of church in moral and spiritual respects, as well as in asserting Christian values, increases significantly. A doctor treats the body while a priest treats the soul, yet, they both equally serve life. Does the human being come to the earth to be happy or to suffer? To be happy, beyond any doubt, though life is inconceivable without sorrow, existence cannot be only sweet and serene. The essence of life and personality is in overcoming hardships, which is also a kind of happiness. Thus, one should not think that to bear your cross means to suffer. Life in itself is the supreme gift and value, though it is hard and thorny…
The faith in God, in kindness, in justice and in the triumph of philanthropy always helped me, my friends and relatives to endure hardships, miseries and grief that life presented us with not infrequently. It was always easier to live with faith at heart. It is true that life is hard and unpredictable and is thus full of gladness and happiness.
I remember my origins, my birthplace Polesye and my native village Rudna, my mother and my father… However, 'remember' is not the exact word as these thoughts and feelings are always at my heart, every hour and every minute; they make my life and help me feel and breathe…
I have always been charmed by the miracle of unique earthly tints and sounds, of landscapes and images that are not of human making and are perfect in their harmonious unity. They are initially gifted to everyone who enters the world. The gift is special as it is the gift of the Lord… It is not only a source and a necessary condition of all flesh, man and beast to exist on the Earth, but also an inexhaustible source of the human soul existence itself.
I have lived for sixty years already. The further I move away from the beginning and the more of the life path gifted to me by fate and God I proceed along, the sharper I feel the grandeur and happiness of this invaluable gift in the form of life, the inexhaustible power of spiritual attraction and inner unity with my native land Polesye and my native village.
A lot of inspired words, pictorial canvases and thrilling melodies were born by love to our native land, this small corner of the Earth where one was born and grew up! Indeed, there is some link between human soul and the space that gave you the first breath of air and breathed into you the Spirit of life starting at this very moment. This link is above human understanding. Though life is instable, changeable, and full of contradictions and complicacy there always remains invariable and permanent mutual attraction between the man and his birthplace.
Similar to an umbilical cord, this attraction connects the man with the world, feeds his mind and soul by life-giving sap, defends and protects his individuality. This marvelous link exceeds the limits of space and time. It lives inside the man either consciously or unconsciously and accompanies him since the moment he is born until he dies.
How can one call this mutual attraction that gives rise to amazingly tender and gentle feelings, elevated words and tunes in a man's soul? I think it is in the first place love as a special characteristic and a distinctive feature of every living thing. Every grain of sand, every blade of grass, every flower, petal, every drop of water or a dewdrop, a cloud of fog and a breath of wind are suffused and filled with love; they breathe it and radiate it in their every movement. The best and most beautiful things in the world are created by love and in the name of love. This is an indisputable truth, like the everyday sunrise or the yearly change of winter by spring and of spring by summer…
Streams of love invisible to the human eye saturate the objective reality. They feed it, warm and illuminate it by inner warmth and light. Alexei Tolstoy wrote, 'There is nothing in the world that would not radiate love!' As Saint Paul said in the First Epistle to Corinthians, 'Love endures for a long time, it is merciful; love does not pride itself, it does not behave outrageously, it does not get irritated, love does not scheme evil, it does not rejoice at a lie but it rejoices at the truth, it shields everything and believes everything, love endures everything'… This is a bright and accurate life program of a Christian. Everything is done with love and through love first of all…
Unfortunately, primarily at the beginning of the past century, with the triumph of the new, communist ideology, the truth was ruined and condemned to oblivion for a long time, if not for ever…
The birth of a human being and his first breath is simultaneously his first touch of the greatest life-giving and still pure and chaste source of life which is Love. The human being is the supreme outcome of love itself. We do not know whether the first cry of a newly-born means a most profound surprise due to earthly realization of Love. A special attachment of a child to his mother might be due not only to their unity at the time when the mother was pregnant with the child, but also to the initial absorption into the space of Love.
A human being begins with Love. The maturing of his soul and mind, as well as his growing up, progress under the conditions of natural spiritual atmosphere saturated with Love. A human being breathes love like air, though he does not notice it and is not aware of it. He does not see anything important and significant about it. The man likes flowers and grass, the field, the wood, birds and animals; he loves life itself and another human being, so what? However, it might be exactly this simple earthly feeling of love that spiritual search for the exalted ideal begins with. For me the question has been decided definitely and in the affirmative. I do not doubt that the sources of the most outstanding spiritual gains of both a human being and humankind can be found in the sense of love light emanated by any living being. The more a human being is filled with the light, the deeper he plunges into the infinite space of Love and the more grandiose and majestic are discoveries and achievements of his spirit…
I have not said anything yet about love for God. There are many theories accounting for the origin of religion and faith. The point of view, according to which religion was given rise to by people's fear of natural and social elements, their ignorance and so on, is most common.
It goes without saying that negative emotional state was and is of importance when keeping up religious feeling. I think, though, the sources of religion are different and much deeper. Faith appears due to the intuitive detection of the Love radiating focus that unites the diversity of the world into a single whole. The collective familiarization with the dimension of Love made the basis of the first spiritual discovery in human history. Its essence consisted in the idea of inner triumph and supernatural interdependence of a human being, a group, nature and cosmos.
Though the underlying identity base in the form of the idea of Love that is still not realized, was concealed, it was present in the base at the time already. As spirit was developing, the idea of Love crystallized and was finally embodied in the supreme religious value saying 'God is Love'. The Gospel of Luke says, 'God's Kingdom is inside you; it is your wishes, your intentions and your motives…' 'Arrange a church in your heart, drive all evil intentions out of it and you will enjoy utter bliss in the world. May your heart be full of good intentions and everything would be clear…' (Matthew's Gospel).
The main thing that Christ requires is pure intentions. Could everyone today state that his intentions are pure?
Let's lay theoretical reflections aside. I gave them only to make you understand what native land, love and faith mean in the life of a human being who is endowed with soul and spirit. In my opinion, true religious feeling begins with the feeling of awesome Love to earthly realizations of life. The more human soul is filled with them, the stronger is both the divine breath felt in it and the need to familiarize with it. Love for God is a 'temple built up'. The base of the temple is love for Earth while the input building material is love for native land, for its every blade of grass, grain of sand, a flower, and a dewdrop, a beetle and a spider, and, naturally, for one's neighbor, for a human being…
It seems to me one cannot talk about any deep religious feeling and faith without this base. Outside it religion appears to be colossus with feet of clay when any weak gust of wind makes it collapse and fall down. What is religion in point of fact? According to its adherents, it is a link between a human being and God or, in other words, it is love of a human being and God, a link between them by means of mutual love. We can speak about religion only when Alpha and Omega join at the throbbing, bright and vigorous point which is Love. That means piety appears only when earthly Love exceeds earthly space. St. Paul wrote to Corinthians, 'And now there are these three - Faith, Hope and Love; but love is most important'…
Like water in the river, Love gets over the banks, exceeds their bounds, rises and fulfills itself in God. Without touching the earthly dimension of love and filling your soul with it in full, it is impossible to feel Divine Love. A human being is primarily an earthly creature. His experience of feelings and emotions, including cognition of Love, takes shape in the process of life accomplishment. There is simply no other basis and source to supply his soul and spirit.
However far the human spirit rises, whatever distant imaginary spheres it hovers, this will always take shape of earthly accumulation rising and hovering. In the case in question it is accumulation of earthly Love. It is no wonder, therefore, that description of Paradise in the Bible and the Koran are both a description of Earth carried to Heaven. The description reflected notions about harmonious and absolute beauty of the Earth and people who inhabit the space of absolute Love.
Thus, the basic religious principle saying 'God is Love' can be commented on in the following way - Love is the spirit of life, to live means to love, so God is Love for life, i.e. love for Earth in all displays of earthly life or, in a more general interpretation, love for eternal Life.
It seems to be of extreme importance to draw attention of all people, no matter whether they are atheists or believers, to the fact. Why does humankind find itself on the edge of an abyss and has come close to not only self-annihilation but also to the murder of life? Why do those people who consider themselves to be pious, who say prayers, perform religious actions and go to church, take an active part in the mass process of murder of life and of poisoning its origins. One of the answers to the complicated question might be lack in earthly dimension of Love.
Its source, which is love for the earth and a person's native land, is covered with the thick layer of indifference and nonchalance. As a result, today we have to be busy with excavations of the Temple of Love which results from spiritual, rather than social urbanization. We build the world around us in our own image. Ferroconcrete cities are an embodiment of ferroconcrete souls, machine intelligence, computers and the internet are personification of the soulless spirit, while deadly weapon is the supreme embodiment disappearance of Love seen as the spirit of life.
The spirit which lost its ability to feed from the source of Love for the earth kills nature and simultaneously destroys both itself and God. This villainous deed is committed daily. It has become a habitual and everyday matter. The things we see on the TV screen, hear on the tape and see in the internet are evil, violence and murder only…
We live in the atmosphere of dislike for life and, thus, dislike for God. Human life loses its value against a background of mass terrorism against the earth that remains unnoticed and is committed every minute. The terrorism tortures and destroys Life as it is. They think if it is possible to destroy earth, why not kill a human being, too? This is an appalling philosophy. It is no wonder that terrorism propagates inhuman relations in the atmosphere of hatred when solving any issues. They drop bombs, shoot and slaughter each other holding the Koran or the Bible in their hands.
The events of September 11, 2001 in the USA showed new ways of suicide of humankind. Thousands of innocent victims strew the field of dislike for God and Life. If the terrorist attack itself was obvious and evident, bright as a flash of lightning, the reverse action called retribution is nothing but a form of hidden terrorism covered up by a thin veil of demagogy, as the victims of requital operation carried out with the help of destructive means again were children, women and old people who were innocent of any crime. They became hostages of evil, just like those people who were in the suicide planes. Were they victimized for some good causes, in the name of Kindness, Love and Life? Of course they were not.
The seeds of death will not sprout into stems of Life. After the September 11 events the world became different. It seems to me it changes for the worse, for the idea of legal and moral right for a retaliatory mortal crime is striking root in collective consciousness quickly. If the idea takes hold of the human mind one may say with certainty that the end of earthly life is not far off. It is as near as never before.
We have every reason to believe, though, that the tragic outcome could be averted. We want to hope that innocent people's death was not vain. Like a universal peal, it should awaken Love in the souls of people still living and direct their minds at creation and embellishment of earthly Life. May those who have soul and heart hear this peal …
I owe the very best human qualities I possess to my native land and its people I feel the first gulp of bracing air of my motherland up till now. Though I have been living in Minsk for almost 40 years, I still consider myself to be a countryman as far as my perception of the world is concerned. I think it is due to the love for my birthplace that took roots deep in my heart. This love made my mind think about life, the world around and the human being and, like a good teacher, it lit a divine candle in my soul without my noticing…
I think everyone has his own individual and unique path to God. I walked along the path by myself, making my way through thorns and spiritual contradictions. When surveying the past now I can assert that beauty, harmony, good and Love radiated by the world around were and still remain my best advisers and preachers, my priests and teachers.
I grew up in the family where the father was a confirmed communist and atheist. Nobody at home spoke about religion, God and the meaning of life. The questions discussed were mainly connected with work, common everyday concerns and survival.
I think the only thing that reminded us, children, about God was religious holidays like Christmas and Easter. They were seen as unusual days for two reasons. Tasty food like pies, Easter eggs, meat, sausage and simple sweetsá was always served up, so one could arrange a real feast for the stomach. Despite our father being a confirmed atheist, there was a sort of enthusiastic and exalted mood in the family on such days. In the second place, these holidays differed from others, e.g. May 1, the October revolution or the Constitution day, because they were not in the calendar. Though celebrated widely and everywhere, they were still secret and concealed. What did we know about these holy days? We knew practically nothing. If Christmas was at least somehow associated with the birth of Jesus Christ, then the meaning of Easter was obscure to both children and grown-ups.
Most village dwellers had little in common with religious doctrine, dogmatism and cult. It was not typical of them to demonstrate outer piety. There is no doubt, though, that they always had inner religious principle in their souls, which resulted from traditions that were more stable and durable under rural life conditions. Harassing peasant labor, continual poverty, insecurity and many other things also played their role. It was hardly possible to survive and maintain human dignity under the circumstances without God's support. Here religion really played the role of a crutch that supported the wounded and sick soul. It was also a hope and a pain reliever like morphine or opium taken in low therapeutic doses.
Being unaware of differences, e.g., between orthodoxy and Catholicism, they believed in general - in God, Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin, saints. They revered them and asked for better life in prayers. In their thoughts there was also a deeper religious feeling, it was a special state of mind caused by immediate closeness, participation and communion with harmony, kindness and Love, as if spilled in morning fog, covering meadows and fields with a scud, in silver dewdrops decorating thin stems of grass, in the fluffy veil of snow and in the boundless starry sky…
All this was perceived ingenuously, literally, not only with eyes and ears, but also by heart and by soul; as a result the greatest mystery happened, i.e. communication without any words, a spiritual link both with divine spark and essence of the World.
I remember the state of my boyish soul in the small hours or at haymaking time and I feel now the ringing quiet of the night, the silence of the wood and the quiet flow of water… I remember my mother who went to work on a farm at four in the morning and, coming back home late at night, tired and exhausted, she told that the morning was wonderful and beautiful. Her eyes had a marvelous glitter and delight mixed with sorrow and tiredness…
We lived in the country, were saturated with its sap throughout and felt to be its inalienable flesh and blood. The very our connection with the Earth helped form the qualities they try to cultivate today through ecological education and upbringing. Nobody brought home to us that we should love the Earth and take care of it. We always knew, though, that the nature around lives and breathes and that we should treat it with care and with love, due to the principle 'do not harm'.
When I boy, wandering along fields, meadows and forests, I saw pits and dints left since wartime. I thought them to be wounds of a living organism and felt the pain of the earth. The same happens to me now, though the wounds of the earth are overgrown with grass and cicatrized. I cannot remain indifferent watching bomb explosions on TV, no matter whatever corner of the earth it takes place. I feel the earth moan with pain and writhe in convulsion.
Sometimes I doubt whether we are really inhabitants of the earth. Could we be heartless space aliens who came to earth to destroy it? For a child cannot and should not torture and kill his mother as it runs counter to the laws of Life, both human and divine…
Both my motherland and my mother gave me life. They are the most holy and sacred in every person's life. The faith in God begins with worshiping the cult of Mother, the image where earthly and heavenly, human and divine merge together. Our duty is to raise the image high to the skies up to the divine, while the divine should be brought to the level of the earthly. The boundary between the earthly and the celestial might become more transparent then and the gap between them will disappear, while religion as a spiritual sphere called to join the two worlds through love will realize its predestination.
It must be high time to turn our eyes on the sacred image of the earth. We have common God, just like common sun, moon, stars and air. We all live in one great universe. We are similar as we have a soul and are able to reason, ponder and take action.
The only thing we have to do is to concentrate collective efforts of mind on bringing up love for the earth that will protect all of us and will never betray us. We should also bring up love that is going to unite the wholesome delight in the beauties and a most profound responsibility for the present and the future of the earth. The love will fill our actions and deeds with sense. It will overcome terrestrial attraction and reach elevated divine heights, thus reviving in human souls faith as a great connecting principle of Life…


CHAPTER VII

LAND AS A BREADWINNER
It might have been a long time ago, at the dawn of agriculture, that somebody called land mother and breadwinner… This is a clever and good comparison. Thus, Karl Marx did not discover anything new, in point of fact, but only stated the fact when he wrote, 'Land is a great laboratory, an arsenal giving means of work, material for work, a place to settle and the basis of the group.'
It was since the time when man gradually switched over from gathering to agriculture that he lived off the land solely. It fed him, provided clothes for him and watered him. It seemed quite natural that man had to be master of the land, to protect it and to be worried about his breadwinner. Even at the time agriculture was still slash-and-burn, i.e. some plots of land were cleared of the wood and they were used for several years until their natural fertility ran out. Then they were left, and the human being with a stone axe moved to another plot of land where he also took care of it applying a lot of labor, as he had to cut the forest, to stub studs and to burn the wood. In order to burn down a dessiatina of land properly, one had to work hard for no less than 50 days. It was very hard work to plough new soil with the help of a primitive spade or a wooden plough later, to sow and take in the harvest on time …
I sometimes ask myself a question what was in the place of my native village Rudna many centuries ago. Of course there was a forest, may be it was a centuries-old pine forest. On the banks of the forest river Naut, that is much shallower and narrower today, people used to find deposits of low-quality swamp ore which was used to smelt off-grade iron in blast furnaces. This is how the toponym Rudna came to exist (Rudna comes from 'ruda' which stands for 'ore'). Iron alone, even swamped for other goods in the nearby big trade town Turov was not enough to survive. It goes without saying, the first settlers in the area also used to cut the forest and clear fields fit for growing rye or turnip, or perhaps spelt and millet. No wonder the villages neighboring Rudna are called Polyanka, Pasyeka, Vodopoylo… As time passed, the forest ceded more of its area to agricultural land which, as they used to write before, turned into wide kolkhoz fields with the lapse of time. We are going to find out later what turned out of it and how the new lord of nature, i.e. the Soviet official and the collective farmer who was denied his rights, managed them…
Centuries passed. In the course of time many changes took place in the world, the world itself changed but there was a rule that remained indisputable. The rule said one should take care of the land as much as of his own health. Only then you may expect to receive something in return which is the basis for your own well-being. Land should have the master. A serf who worked off corvee for many centuries, a prototype of the present-day collective farmer, could not be one. No wonder landowners often complained at the time (just like present-day chairmen of kolkhozes) that peasant work their plots of land extremely well but they make a pig's ear out of working their landowner's land, though the plough they used was the same. The landowner couldn't make a good master, either, as he did not work on the land directly, he didn't shed his sweat on it, he frequently lived far away from it, in a town, at the best he could live in a manor house in some picturesque place on an eminence, while the farm was managed by a steward, who was usually a practical German.
Peasants gradually got into larger bondage. In 1581 they were forbidden to leave for another landowner on St. George's day, November 26 ('Here's a fine how d'ye do'). Bond slavery became widespread. The policy of autocracy became tougher during the reign of Peter the Great. In 1724 peasants were forbidden to go off trading without their landowner's consent. In 1730 they were forbidden to have real property and later to deal in farming and contracts. Soon landowners were given the right to condemn peasants to Siberia or to penal servitude. It stood to reason peasants could be sold like cattle or be exchanged for borzoi and so on…
A lease holder, like, e.g. Y. Kupala's father Dominik Lutsevich could not make a true master, too, as he was not a proprietor but only a timeserver. After several years at one place where he poured somebody else's land with his sweat and gave a half, a third or a fourth of the crop to the proprietor of the land under the contract, he had to leave the place and move on to another owner of the land. Sometimes poor peasants of Jewish origin who had to live beyond the Pale of Settlement became leaseholders in order not to die of hunger. How could a leaseholder work on somebody else's land without any love for it and respect to it? This kind of management which was mere land exploitation, in fact, was of benefit to neither the land itself nor the ploughman. The only one who benefitted from it was the proprietor of the land as he was paid invariable money rent for the land. Thus, he did not work himself but gained profit. As is known, forced slave labor was never productive. Moreover, it caused disintegration of empires or of whole civilizations sooner or later.
Things went on this way for a long time. However much many people today disapprove of revolutionary orthodox V.I. Lenin, one can single out an extremely essential, important and truly revolutionary deed in his activity, i.e. the fact he gave land to the one who worked on it directly, namely to the peasant. Though the idea did not belong straight to him, as he plagiarized it, just like many others, from the program of socialist revolutionaries, it was a done deal. The land finally had its manager! Lenin went even further. He acted in a more decisive and revolutionary way than the celebrated liberator Tsar Alexander II with his notorious abolition of serfdom when a lot of reservations and deviations were made which resulted in increased enslavement of a peasant in the form of redemption, mortgage and communal proprietorship… In Buykovichi, in the estate 'Belaya Luzha', not far from Rudna, Romaniya Levandovskaya, an agrarian, retained over 1.5 thousand dessiatinas of land and even bought a hundred or two dessiatinas more, taking advantage of the fact peasants were in strained circumstances. Besides, she opened a distillery which brought in sizeable return; in 1899, e.g., it made produce to the sum of over 16 thousand rubles, while 15 workers were paid only about 3 thousand rubles, i.e. 15 rubles a month on average. One can give a lot of examples of the kind as far as Belarus called North-West territory at the time, is concerned. As a result of abolition of serfdom in 1861 landowners and noblemen owned 71.5 million dessiatinas of land, while peasants owned only 33.7 million dessiatinas. The same held good for Zhitkovichi volost where in 1886 landowners had 68.5 thousand dessiatinas of land, while village communities had 16.2 thousand in their possession. Moreover, peasants had to redeem this land by taking a loan from Land bank for 50 years. The first figure tended to increase continually, while the second had a trend to decline. Nevertheless, even these measures, half-hearted and far from being radical, were the first symptoms and the beginning of reforms in the most patriarchal and conservative sphere of the economy, namely, in agriculture.
Fighting everyday problems and troubles, facing gloomy life and the struggle for survival in the galloping world, we have neither time nor a wish to stop, glance back and think though it is high time to do so. It does not occur to most of us that our land feeding us is in grave danger. We are unaware that it is people themselves who drove the land into this state.
We are far from idealizing the state of land on the eve of the October coup in 1917, yet, it should be noted that the land of the Russian empire gave so much corn that it could be called the granary of Europe. Russia ranked first in the Old World as far as export of grain was concerned. Russia occupied the same positions concerning flax, hemp and fat. Land of the Russian empire fed foreigners.
Things changed for the worse after the October revolution. Famine became a concomitant of the population in the Soviet country. In the late 1920s and the early 1930s, for example, even such centuries-old breadbaskets as Ukraine and Povolzhye starved. Cases of cannibalism were not infrequent at the time.
Bolshevist leaders had just one wish, namely, to do everything the other way round, different from tsarist Russia, i.e. the valuable experience that had been accumulated was condemned to oblivion and rooted out. This went on year after a year, decade after a decade. The pernicious policy of the kind couldn't but lead to a catastrophe in the sphere of supply of the population with agricultural products. Literally at all stages of the Soviet state development they were short of grain and bread. They used to deliver it from everywhere, even from Canada. At the same time other European countries produced grain to their heart's content and, undoubtedly, they didn't need any more of it. Unfortunately, we have been unable to achieve anything as far as other spheres dealing with satisfying needs of the population are concerned. Just have a look at our household appliances, produce of clothes, footwear, and motor transport and so on. We seem to live on another planet. It is extremely painful that we play the role of a global laughingstock. Frankly speaking, people are tired of the state of affairs. The way out is known to all sensible people but it turns out that common sense is not enough. We should get back to the land, though, as we are going to perish at all if we do not cultivate it.
When we narrate about the land as a breadwinner I think we should take my native village Rudna as an example, as it undoubtedly has a lot in common with other, similar villages, though there are differences, too. We are going to speak about both.
It should be noted that the village and rural population on the whole always struggled for life and survival. It seemed that somebody had accurately calculated how much a peasant needs to survive. There was no saying of any surplus. One could rather speak about shortage. Let's take as an example those small plots of land, the so-called 'one hundred square meters', which were allotted to village dwellers. They were small, as a rule. I remember we were given 15 hundred square meters first and later it was 25. One had to plant potatoes, to sow carrots, cabbage and beetroot, as well as to grow some fruit trees on the area… Such practices of giving small plots can't be called other than humiliation of people. Potatoes were traditionally seen not even as the 'second bread', but as the most important of the foodstuffs, and not only for people. They used potatoes to feed practically all of their livestock. One can just imagine what distress it was for the family when these hundred square meters soaked when the summer was rainy or dried out when it was hot. A tragedy unfolded before everyone's very eyes as potatoes could not be substituted for any other product, because they simply had nothing to replace it with. It was also problematic to borrow from someone who had good potato crop, but still a sack or two could be borrowed from one person, the same number of sacks could be borrowed from another, with the promise to return, of course. One could not buy the missing foodstuffs as nobody had any money.
In the village they get up very early, it is at 4 a.m. in summer. They manage the house and make breakfast. I remember the same picture being always repeated. Fire was blazing in the stove and my mother was cooking simple food while the kolkhoz team leader knocked at the window and at the door and warned severely she had to turn up for work on time. It was out of the question to miss work. If you were late, it was reckoned when they divided haymaking plots or gave horses to help harvest potatoes.
People broke their backs on the kolkhoz field from morning till night. The labor was extremely hard as everything was done manually. In 1950s they cut crops sewn on kolkhoz fields manually. Practically all females in the village, young and old alike went out to stubble. The one who has never taken part in the struggle for the crop of the kind will be unable to imagine this. You just have to go through it yourself. I think those who escaped this lot are lucky. Thus, one had to cut rye, wheat and oats very low. You can just imagine how a reaper felt during the day. Iron and steel mechanisms of farming machines broke down but back, legs and the head of the long-suffering village woman did not. The woman did not groan, cry or go off into hysterics as she understood that no one was going to do the work for her. It is astonishing that at harvest time a collective farmer cut more than half a hectare of rye by such simple instrument as a sickle. One can only guess what she thought or dreamed about every minute and every hour as nobody is going to say this. Sometimes a reaper would lose her temper and curse her lot, but nothing more than that, as it was impossible to leave the field. There was also no one to complain about terrible pains in the small of the back and dizziness. One had to cut several hundred square meters a day.
One cannot but remember the words of the former USSR vice-president and member of the State Emergency Committee (a short-lived junta in the 1991 coup attempt in the USSR) G. Yanayev who used to repeat the words of the famous hero of Sholokhov's work, 'I will go on ploughing, I will plough at the light of the lantern and I will plough two dessiatinas and a quarter.' Good for you, Yanayev! I wonder if he knew how to put on a horse collar or what should be put on a bull's neck to hitch the cart or a plough to it. Such great ploughmen like Yanayev, the combine operator assistant Michael Gorbachev, as well as komsomol and later on party functionaries did not sow, grow and harvest. What they did was to betray their great country and its people. The most terrible thing is they betrayed the sacred land. I am sure the land will not take them and they will not rest in peace…
I want to direct your attention to one more fact. Women worked barefoot at the stubble-field, as a rule, so their feet were always injured by the stubble till they bled. Their hands often suffered from the sickle, too, but no one cried with pain. It was all the same whether you cried or not, as there was nobody to help. They even did not have a simple first-aid kit, not to mention iodine. A piece of cloth and a leaf of plantain were the only medical aid, in fact.
Almost half a century has passed since the time, but the picture of the village stubble is still before my very eyes. I recall peasant reapers, their tired faces wet with sweat and the simple food they took out of linen bags or out of kerchiefs tied in small bundles… This picture is close and dear to me and I cannot but cry now.
Indeed, there is every reason to cry. First of all, most of those reapers are no more. My mother who was my last joy and comfort also went to the next world. I am constantly haunted by the question at what cost these women held a whole superpower, fed, watered and dressed it. I wonder what they got in return. They had only slave gloomy life without any holidays, health resorts, rest homes, medical care and even without any village bath. A sane mind cannot contain all this. Things were like this, they are now, if not worse, and what are they going to be like and whether they are going to be at all is a big issue.
A generation after a generation leaves, yet we are still waiting for better times. They do not come still and I think it will be a long time before they come. What I am certain of is they will not come in our lifetime. The process of destruction of the Earth has gone too far; it will take several decades or even a whole century to revive the Earth.
The hard rural labor did not boil down to the work in the stubble alone. Haymaking time was no less hard. Everyone in the village is waiting for haymaking time and is getting ready for it. Food is important at the time, in the first turn. Such simple rural food like fat came to the foreground. If a family lacked fat in their larder by mowing season it was a real tragedy, for it was common knowledge that a mower could not manage a scythe without eating fat. Of all spheres of human activity it is mowing that consumes most calories, while boxing ranks second.
So, the majority of farmers had a certain amount of fat in store by haymaking time. Fat that coupled with green leaves of onion and water from wells, restored strength. They mowed grass at the kolkhoz hay land in the valleys Obolonye, Vyunitsa and Chirgany. Each of the places was of amazing beauty, but I liked Obolonye most, as it was a paradise, literally speaking. There are no words to describe the beauty, one should see it with his own eyes. Everything was pleasant to the eye, soul and heart. To begin with, the grass here in Obolonye was the most beautiful in the world.
I still remember mighty oaks and whole oak-groves. I think they could grow only on the soil of my beautiful land Polesye which is as mighty and beautiful as the oaks themselves are. At least twenty people could hide from torrid heat on a hot sunny day or to conceal themselves in heavy rain so that no drop would fall on them under the top of a mighty oak that was so big it took three grasps of both arms to measure it. The oak also provided pigs, both wild and domestic, with dainty food, i.e. acorns. Undoubtedly, the oak top and its leaves were a powerful filter that destroyed inimical bacteria. Its roots also played a positive role as they helped to protect soil. One can give a lot of other wonderful features of this miracle of nature.
If Russia, say, is proud of its birch tree glorified in songs, then Belarusians may rightfully pride themselves on the mighty, beautiful and unique oak, a tree that can be found nowhere, neither in Asia or Africa. The one who lifted his blood-stained hand against the tree will be punished by God, as the oak was created by God as a decoration of our Earth and a help to people. Thus, the tree is sacred and inviolable… I spent a lot of time in the shadow of the oak and I thought much owing to its care of me. Nobody and nothing could disturb my train of thought. I am grateful to it for sending powerful biological current of the sky when our thoughts merged, they were spiritual, pure and inspiring, and thus the supreme source accepted them and determined the pure and pious state of our souls and actions.
Years later I realized what role the divine tree played in my life. I have never harmed any trees since the time, as I consider them to be alive and to be my friends. I find it impossible to cut or break off a branch. I cannot take the life of a tree. The tree is a living thing. It cries when wounded and makes a lot of efforts to heal the wounds and survive, though not every tree succeeds in doing so. I shudder to see how people hurt birch trees. They think they drink birch sap, but in fact they drink the blood of birches. The sap is tears of the defenseless before the human being who is the most sinful creature on Earth. The man committed and goes on committing the gravest sin before God when he destroys unprotected oaks, birches, rivers and lakes, in other words, everything that was gifted by the Lord. Unreasonable people do not know what they do. The Day of Judgment has already begun, and human beings will be judged by their father God. They are not going to have any defenders because the sin they committed is so grave that any defense will be ineffective and useless. It is even no use to pray for forgiveness of people's sins as they are so grave. There is no absolution of their deeds, both within space and time limits.
Nevertheless, the man should stop and ponder over his sins. He should ask God for forgiveness. The Lord is merciful and magnanimous…
Anyway, let's get back to haying meadows and to people whose labor helps to create conditions for life on the Earth.
I have first-hand knowledge of peasant work at haymaking field as I played an honorable and indispensable role of a water carrier, i.e. I provided mowers with potable water from an oak barrel. I would fill the barrel with water from a village well and bring it to the swamp by a horse. Then I would fill a twenty-liter can with the water and bring it to the mowers.
… The grass in Obolonye was high and thick. One needed strength, knack and skill of handling a scythe, as well as stamina, the last probably being the most important, in order to get the better of the grass. Several tens of village males participated in mowing. They formed a human chain, standing one after another, and an indescribable sight started. As a rule, the beginning of mowing concurred with daybreak when the dew on the grass was plentiful as it is much easier to mow when the grass is wet. Haymaking was headed by Pavel Yukhnevich, a sinewy, bony and very enduring man, a war veteran and a holder of an order. Other men followed him. The leader set the pace which practically no one could sustain. It seemed to me all the time that the one going behind would cut the heels of the one going in front, but this never happened.
The already mentioned Pavel Yukhnevich held first place in mowing for many years. I think his record which was more than ninety hundred square meters, almost a hectare, has not been broken so far. The record is very difficult to believe but it is true. Can we find a workaholic of the kind in Belarus today? I dare to assert we can't.
In general, mowers had a very strict discipline at haymaking time. To have booze was out of the question, nobody even breathed a word of it, because everyone understood they should work wholeheartedly as long as the weather was good. God forbid it would start raining, and then they were going to have a lot of problems. Almost fifty years have passed since the time, but the picture of haymaking has not been erased from my memory. I often catch myself at the thought I would like to see and to participate in haymaking, preferably with the same participants, but this is merely wishful thinking. My heart is heavy because it went forever. I feel worried when people of my generation recollect the hard post-war life and everything they saw and experienced. Our children listen to us with surprise and come to the conclusion this could hardly happen at all, but if it did happen the reason was the time we lived in. When my daughter asks me if I would like to go through everything that fell to my lot again I answer without hesitation I would. I am grateful to the Lord who gave me exactly this life. I do not know any other life and I do not want to have any other. I wish only all those people whom I recollect were alive…
The struggle for hay or, if you please, for life, was not limited to the work of mowers alone. After three or four days of sunny weather all grown-ups and children in the village, young and old alike, everyone who could carry tools like rakes, pitchforks and barrows got down to work. Someone noticed to the point once that a summer day feeds the whole of the year. They struggled for kolkhoz hay and they won, as a rule, as there was nowhere to retreat. They worked fiercely and violently in order to rake hay and to pile haycocks before it would start raining.
Haycocks, in their turn, were pulled by horses to a drier place where haystacks were made. The valley/hole had extremely swampy places, so it was impossible to use horses as they often fell into mud. They had to use a barrow, then. They were two rather thick poles polished at the ends by toil-hardened hands of peasants. A barrow was put under a haystack and two men carried the hay. Haystacks were very big, as a rule; they were difficult to carry, especially to the one who went behind, as he could not see anything. He would often stumble over and fall down dropping the barrow. He was cursed up hill and down dale, then. By the way, no one took any offence for this; it was in the order of things. I experienced this myself more than once. I always wanted to prove that I was strong enough and I could carry heavy load on a par with grown-ups. Sometimes the feats of the kind turned out badly as I had pain in the abdomen but I had to bear it.
Despite it was hard to everyone, people had to bear. It is necessary to stress it was not a one-time act of endurance. Peasant labor is very hard, and a peasant endures the burden all his life as it is impossible to live another way. If you don't plant and gather potatoes, cabbage and cucumbers, and don't feed the cow, pigs, calves and hens you are doomed, you are not going to survive, you will die. You have the same routine from day to day, from year to year and all life long. People of other professions should appreciate peasant labor. Instead they often use the word 'collective farmer' in a scornful way meaning 'a country bumpkin, a rustic'. I think most of us do not understand what we say and what meaning we put into the word 'a collective farmer'. It seems we do not mean 'a breadwinner' but we mean 'a dull, uneducated and uncivilized man'. The word always grates on my ears, as they use it to insult the farmer …
These miserable people, peasants, have to suffer humiliation and insults from many people, ranging from a kolkhoz team leader to officials of every color. Blind fear was driven inside a farmer. He was afraid of everyone and everything around - of God, of marsh subsoil, of a team leader and of a policeman… His lot cannot be compared with anyone else's, save the lot of a slave. In a word, they were born slaves, lived and died slaves.
People gave almost all of their strength and health to the kolkhoz, while they had practically no time left for their homestead. I think if they had not used child labor things with their farmland, livestock and poultry would have been very bad. Grown-ups simply would not have time to cope with the work both in kolkhoz and at their homestead.
They had a perennial problem of making hay for their cow. As a rule, they were pressed for hay. The problem was especially acute in 1950s and the early 1960s. My memory brings me back to exactly these distant years.
Frosts were relentless and there were snowstorms. As peasants say, in such weather a good master will not turn his dog out of the house. Anyway, indigence and lack in hay for the cow made people steal it; may God and people forgive me for the word 'steal'. Thus, having gathered hay for the kolkhoz herd in summer, many peasants didn't have time and were unable to stack hay for their cows. This was typical of our family, in particular. There raised a sharp question of what to do. The way out was to take fodder from the kolkhoz hayrick, and they did so. My late mother and grandmother Varvara went ten or fifteen kilometers to hayricks at the swamp late at night to bring several tens kilos of hay. My mother used to tell me how hard and scary it was. They laid 50 or 60 kilos of hay into a big linen sackcloth, hoisted it onto their backs and went back home in bitter frost to bring hay to the hungry cattle tired of waiting. This was the lot of village women…
I do not know if there is a more apt name for these trips than name 'lifeline' because it was one, indeed. My mother walked along it many times for many years to save our cow from starvation. She managed to, and thus she saved us, her children, from starvation, too. It was already at the time that I listened to the stories of my mother and my grandmother with horror, and I remember them now with the same feeling. Even after so many years - more than half a century - this remains in my memory and I think it will remain there for the rest of my life.
Our dear, beloved and long-suffering mothers protected by God had to suffer and endure so much, they had to cry a lot, frequently because of us, their husbands and sons. These eternal toilers had a very bitter lot. They sacrificed themselves for the sake of their children. They tried to cushion at least a little the blow struck to people by Bolshevist and Stalin's satraps. By the way, we have been unable to recover from the blow up till now. Our mothers did their best to feed and provide us with clothes in those hard, hungry and cold post-war years. They did not eat enough themselves and gave us the last piece of bread. They tried to give us education. They begged us to study and made us study so that we could get on in the world.
There is nothing in the world equal to what our mothers did for the country and its people. We, their children, are eternally indebted to them. As for country rulers of all levels, they thanked them in full by turning into draught animals in their lifetime. It is painful to realize, but there is no getting away from the fact. It is only when we become mature that we begin to realize that our mothers are great martyrs and there is no one similar to them in any corner of the planet.
You are holy women, as well as your life is holy, too… Men should bend their knee before those of you who are still alive and those who are no more and to ask your forgiveness for offending you both consciously and unconsciously, for being unable to show our gratitude, for paying little attention and giving little help, as well as for being unable to estimate you at your true worth in due time…
My dear and beloved mother, I am ready to lay down my life only to see you alive for a moment… I am aware it is impossible. You are my protection from evil and my everlasting pain for the rest of my life.
I shall never forget the day we gave the last honors to you. God sent the sun which warmed you for you to feel God's touch to you, His warmth and care of your heavenly life when you were in a damp grave…
I dedicated many verses to my mother. Some of them are set to music.
Life is granted to a human being by God. How should one live it in order to feel the joy of life while giving away his strength and health? Who is going to give a hint and to teach how to live a worthy life? I think there are hardly any teachers of the kind.
What is the meaning of our life, after all? Most of the rural population have not got rid of what F. Engels called 'the idiocy of country life'. I observe my dear fellow villages and come to the conclusion that the people have lived an unhappy life. Many people, rather than just one man, were deprived of small joys of human life, which sounds terrible. The care for them always remained on paper. It goes without saying they took care of themselves by themselves and did not expect help from anyone. They survived on their own and, moreover, fed the country at the expense of their titanic labor, while the rest - here I mean chiefs of all ranks - did their best for the peasant always to be obedient and to make no complaint.
… I can't stop wondering at the wisdom of rural inhabitants. I draw clever ideas for myself, my work and my life from this fount daily. I should say popular wisdom is always of help. It would seem to be a simple premise that efforts made in summer would benefit one in winter. There seems to be nothing exceptional about this wisdom. But everyone who was educated through work understands its essence. So, what does it mean? Polesye land was generous and rich in mushrooms, berries, fish and nuts. I say 'was' which is most distressing, as owing to the human being there is little natural wealth left over. Everything was destroyed, though it had to be multiplied and exploited wisely.
In summer women and children mainly went to places rich in berries to store them up for winter. The valley Ivanye rich in bilberries stuck in my memory most. It was at a distance of 5 or 7 kilometers from the village. We went there early in the morning, at about 5 a.m., and stayed there all day long. Berry-picking is a rather tedious occupation as you had to gather them all day long without a moment's rest. There was one big break for dinner but berry boxes were filled by three quarters by the time and there remained to be picked just a little. The children got extremely tired by the time, though, so they did not want to set about the monotonous job very much. Our mother would beg us, 'Just a little more patience, children, and we would go home'. So we had to be patient.
Just imagine how much time one needs to gather a big box of berries that one has to bring home then. But we knew what bilberries meant in winter and that bilberry jam was very healthy and tasty. We made a lot of jam, in fact, we made as long as we had sugar left, though in 1950s the village lacked in sugar. I remember they used to bring saccharin from Moscow, a sweetener with a foul taste.
Memory, like a long-term storage device, stores a lot of information accumulated throughout life. I turn to it quite often, and this or that picture from my life always appears. It is surprising that the smell of Motherland is peculiar and incomparable to any other. The smell was felt especially well in places rich in berries. The already mentioned valley Ivanye was in a centuries-old mighty pine forest. The pines there were majestic and thin and they had a peculiar smell of soft resin. Almost every pine had a notch on it, with every notch oozing viscous substance which was either pine sap or tears. The substance trickled down into a special funnel meant to pick this substance. The scent in the forest was fantastic and incomparable with anything. Well, if we add here the smell of birch trees, juniper, thyme, moss, fern and motley grass we are going to have exactly what we call Motherland and what remains with us for the rest of our life. It is impossible to escape it. We are always enthralled by it. There is no substitute for it…
As long as I live I wonder at God's wisdom concerning the way He arranged human, natural and animal world. Everything is interdependent and interconnected here. Only the blind do not see this. The rest of the people, I think, can't but understand this. Nevertheless, they damage the nature, destroy it and hurt its heart and soul. The same happened to the pine forest and the places rich in berries that grew dear to me. The places do not exist any more and are never going to exist. A human being has done his dishonorable work and thus committed a great sin. At the same time he himself groans, complains about his fate and laments asking why he is so unhappy. The answer to the question is clear. The human being is sinful, and he will not be absolved.
All things in the life of a human being, the society and nature take their normal course. Time of berry-picking being over, there comes the time for gathering mushrooms. Undoubtedly, the latter differs from the former, first of all because the delight of finding several tens or, if one is lucky, several hundreds of ceps is incomparable in emotional respect to many spheres of human activity, that must be why I often dream about mushroom hunt.
Mushroom season usually started in the second half of August and some years it lasted almost till the end of October. It is remarkable that people in our village gathered only ceps, brown-cap boletuses, orange-cap boletuses, chanterelles, and yellow-cap boletuses. The rest of mushrooms were unfamiliar to them, except poisonous death caps.
As the village dwellers used to say, there was a sea of mushrooms. I remember going to the forest with my friends before daybreak. It may seem funny but we started looking for mushrooms with the help of a pocket flashlight. It was neither avidity nor greed, just an excitable hunt with the aim to gather as many ceps as possible. Those with black caps were especially nice. The joy was great when I found a family of ten or more ceps. Once I even set up a record as for the number of ceps gathered. In 1969, when a student, I worked in Siberia, in the Turukhan area all summer long, so in September I was exempted from farm work and came home to the village. A relative of mine knew good places with a lot of mushrooms growing, so he suggested going there to gather mushrooms early in the morning. I should say I had never seen so many ceps in my life. I gathered a huge sports bag but I was so excited I could not stop. I had to take off a jacket, do up its zip, knot its sleeves and put the autumn gifts there. When we counted the mushrooms at home it turned out I had gathered more than 500 ceps. Most of them were dried, while the smaller ones were pickled. In winter we cooked mushroom soup whose taste, in my opinion, excels the taste of many delicacies. As for pickled ceps, as they say, there is no need to comment. Everyone with no exception who was lucky to taste them evaluated this product highly.
It sounds surprising but it is true that everyone who came to the forest to gather mushrooms was rewarded with the gift, as a rule. I am sure mushroom gathering has never left anyone indifferent. I remember my daughter's delight when she found a mushroom. I think these emotions are impossible to compare with anything. As for the influence of mushroom gathering over one's health, there is no need to go into long reflection on the subject. It is top delight to breathe in fresh air saturated with different smells. Nature gives people everything as if saying 'please take much but reasonably and do not do any harm, then you will be repaid a hundredfold'…
But nothing of the sort happens. Practically everywhere, in all places that used to be rich in mushrooms, spawn is destroyed. Mushroomers know it means mushrooms are never going to grow there. I witnessed in my childhood how carefully and cautiously village dwellers cut mushrooms, at the very bottom and covered the place with needles. My peers and I did exactly the same. Today they do everything just the other way round. They pull a mushroom out in a barbarian way and scatter the needles about. I can't stop wondering why they do so. Why do people treat the nature and each other in a wicked, indifferent and inhuman way? The question is difficult to answer. One may resort to a simplified answer, of course, i.e. a hundred wise men will not find the answer to the question of one fool. Nevertheless, I think the answer should be looked for in the human soul. People's souls seem to have become hardened, stiffened and embittered; the anguish of nature and of another person does not touch them. They live according to the principle 'happen what may, misfortunes and troubles should not concern me and duck away, while the others may face the deluge'. This is how we have come to live and how we live. The answer that human soul should be treated is evident. The best doctor here will be nature, then comes the rest. You should not harm a small insect, a spider, a bird, a dog and a young hare. Your soul will suggest then that you should not harm your neighbor and that you should love him.
I cannot pass by in silence another
hobby which started in childhood and lasted for many years which is fishing. Most of the village inhabitants had fish for a meal practically throughout the whole year. The earth did not spare for people, among other things, this tasty and healthy food. As is known, fish is rich in phosphorous which is extremely necessary for normal body functioning. It is very difficult to explain in words the passion incomparable to anything (I mean fishing) and it seems there is no need to. It was not that I liked eating fish very much, either. What drove me, then, and made me spend hours at the river with its peaceful backwater or at the lake waiting for bite. Frankly speaking, I cannot find any explanation to it, just like I couldn't at the time. There used to be four or five hours of waiting but the float would not move. I would sit all the time keeping my eyes fixed on the float and wait…
There was a lot of fish in the small river flowing near our house in 1950s. One could catch the crucian carp, the perch, the pike, the tench, the roach and the ruff. One could catch enough to cook grilled fish or fish soup hands down. I caught fish only making use of a fishing line as I did not accept different poacher tackle and disapproved of people who used them. If someone is a good judge of catching fish by means of a fishing rod then one has undoubtedly made a good fisherman.
In those years they caught a lot making use of a fishing line, sometimes up to ten kilos of fish. It was difficult to cope even with one fishing tackle, you just had time to throw the rod and to take the catch off the hook. Once again I want to stress that the desire to catch fish and to catch as much as possible is far from being avidity or greed; it is something different. They often say it is passion. I do not dispute that, as it may be true. I wonder what I myself was interested in more - to catch a fish as big as possible or to have a big catch in general. For one thing, when you start a fight with, say, a cunning carp or a predatory spike, you have to outwit, beat and defeat them. I remember how much self-control, patience, skill and probably professionalism it required to catch a crucian carp when it started biting. If you pull the rod untimely, you will get nothing for your pains; if you hold longer, the fish will swallow the bait and leave. One should estimate everything accurately in order to hook it in time. You feel a winner, then. Crucian carps were different in size, but I never caught one more than 500 grams.
I liked fishing carps. As a rule, they are big in size. A carp deals shortly with bait, it swallows it at once and then struggle begins. If you pull a big carp at once, you risk tearing the fishing line. The fish should be outwitted. Let it rage and strain itself to breaking point, and then you will start pulling it slowly to the bank. Sometimes the fight like this lasted for several minutes but it could not overshadow the joy of victory when a huge fish was stirring on the bank. One cannot but remember the famous work by Ernest Hemingway 'The old man and the sea'. I felt the greatest pleasure when gaining such victory. This made me so engrossed I wanted to experience it over and over again. The one who ever felt the same is unlikely to change fishing for any other temptation.
I always treat true experts of hooking fish with respect. There were such people in our village. They were Grigoriy Yarmosh, Vladimir Semenovich Yukhnevich and Ivan Nikolayevich Matskevich. There are legends about them as fishermen. We wanted to be like them and not to lag behind. Sometimes we were successful and the catch was abundant.
In summer I fished practically every day. Uncle Grisha and I went catching big fish to the Pripyat, several kilometers away from the village. One could catch two or sometimes more big carps during the morning from half past five till ten o'clock. I remember once a big carp pulled the rod I thoughtlessly stuck into the ground on the bank. At the drop of a hat I jumped into the water in my clothes and started swimming to catch the rod rushing along in the water at a rather big speed. I caught it and pulled to the bank a nice huge mirror carp. My joy was boundless…
I'd like to finish my story about fishing by a famous saying 'No pains, no gains'. I received evidence of that through many years. One needs a lot of time, efforts, self-control and patience before you reach the fishing place and catch this very fish. You get back a winner, pleased and proud…
Our land that is called a breadwinner gives people its gifts generously, especially to those who treat it carefully, with love and do not harm it. In 1950s and right up to the middle of 1970s village inhabitants had no idea about electric fishing lines, dynamite and other sadistic fishing tackle and gadgets that certain individuals apply to catch a lot of fish quickly and easily without taking much trouble. Barbarism will be the only word to describe this practice.
This way the XX century barbarians deed their evil task. The river rich in fish is no more, while the nearby ponds have almost no fish left in them. No matter what you cast you glance at you see that all things used to be different…
The destruction of our land is going at such a quick pace that in twenty-year time we are going to have nothing left - no places rich in berries and mushrooms, as well as no places for fishing. We are going to live on ersatz, i.e. to eat mushrooms grown in greenhouses, berries ripening at artificial light, artificial meat and bread with chemical additives. I do not think it is going to do any good to human body.
As a result, we got what we deserve. It would be stupid to blame somebody but ourselves for it. Everyone is to blame and there is no one to blame, at least, we cannot hold somebody specific to account…
Nevertheless, we are responsible for our Earth.
A human being should be grateful to the land infinitely for being able to live and propagate, while the Earth is doing its utmost to carry the heavy burden. So many persistent wounds were inflicted on it in the past century that it will take centuries to heal them… What future are we going to have? We should turn to the Bible as the fount of eternal wisdom where we'll find answers to many questions…


CHAPTER VIII

WOUNDED LAND

It is difficult to imagine what would be the progress like, what prosperity would the Earth attain and what would be the quantity of its population (probably it would amount not to six billion as it does today but to sixty billion) if it had not been for wars and destruction of some nations by others and if there had been no faction, manslaughter, repressions and humiliation within a nation… Throughout the history of civilization there has probably been no peaceful year without a war raging or smoldering in this or that corner of the Earth. The long-suffering Belarusian land absorbed a lot of blood, it was wounded, defiled and poisoned many times but still it revived again!..
Germany alone which, as somebody remarked once, hatched out of a cannonball, brought a lot of troubles to the whole world and to Belarus in particular throughout many centuries. Germany, however, which rattled its armored boot all over Europe for many centuries, is a distant and strange country which has been hostile to us until recently. How can one understand and justify, though, that inside our own country our adored and idolized rulers persecuted, subjected to repressions and annihilated their own people throughout the Soviet history in the name of some delusive ideas and utopian ideas? It turns out that contrary to the official propaganda all men are not friends and brothers but rather they are members of a dog-eats-dog society…
It is impossible to enumerate all the troubles which swept past Belarus in an endless string. Thanks God, the country did not suffer from Tatar and Mongol yoke in the literal sense of the word. Yet, frequent forays of steppe nomads who took a lot of prisoners brought a lot of misfortune to the population. After coming to their senses and pulling themselves together, Dregovichi, Krivichi, Rodimichi, Drevlyane and Yatviagy ran down their offenders not infrequently, inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy and liberated the prisoners. This was how the famous coat of arms 'Pogonya' ('Pursuers') that is at issue now came to exist… At the battle of Siniye Vody Lithuanian forces under command of Algerd in 1362 long before the Battle of Kulikovo routed Tatar khans completely. Later the khans were defeated at Kletsk by Michail Glinsky… There is a legend in our land that after the outrageous massacre in Turov perpetrated by Batiy, the wells in the town were crammed with children's dead bodies, while in the rest of them water turned into breast milk for a long time.
Tatar forays carried away lives of many thousand Belarusians, yet Belarus covered West Europe from nomads… The raids of Ukrainian and Russian Cossacks in XVI-XVII centuries were no less cruel. Turov, Pinsk, Mosyr, Rechitsa and many other Belarusian towns were destroyed and burnt, while their dwellers were exposed to horrible slaughter. The reprisal of Yanush Radzivill over the recalcitrant residents of Turov in 1649 was especially outrageous. Cossacks destroyed the whole town and killed all of its inhabitants. They did not spare even infants then.
There was a period in the history of Belarus that many historians and politicians prefer not to remember thus falsifying the past deliberately, while most people are even unaware of the period. What I mean is the tragic thirty-year-old war that is forgotten now, though it was much more cruel and terrible than the Great Patriotic War. The war was wakened by Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, hypocritically called the 'quietest', with the blessing of Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Nickon right after the 'voluntary' accession of Ukraine to Russia on January 8, 1654. After Pereyaslavl Rada, an important event in the history of the empire, which expanded the territory of the empire to a considerable extent, there, naturally, came the turn of the Great Principality of Lithuania.
On May 18, 1654 the one hundred thousand Russian forces advanced against the Great Principality of Lithuania that had just 10 or 12 thousand people under arms, all of them engaged mainly in guarding their southern frontiers against daring forays of Bogdan Khmelnitsky's Cossacks. There began an atrocious massacre and slaughter… Soon after hard and exhausting defense Polotsk, Orsha, Mstislavl and many other towns surrendered. Bykhov's residents defended themselves for a long time and in the most heroic way, as a result they paid with their lives. Minsk was captured a year later. The conquerors subjected it to unprecedented pillage and plunder. Fire flamed in the town for more than a week, while soldiers who were in a rage threw children and old people into fire. The young dwellers of the town were taken prisoners… All in all, over three hundred thousand people were driven away as captives to Muscovy, just like they were by the Tatars before.
The whole of the country was in ruins and sites of fire. No town escaped destruction. Many villages and small towns, as well as castles and whole provinces, were razed to the ground. Fields were overgrown with wood as there was no one to work them. I wonder if the furrows, traces of vegetable patches in the forest discovered by settlers who came from Ukraine to develop new lands in Polesye at the beginning of the XX century remained since the time. Not far from Pripyat and Sluch, as well as in other places, settlements appeared where, judging by the finds of ceramics at the site of ancient settlements, coals and old furrows, people lived several centuries before and where life ceased after the area was plundered. Traces of settlements of ancient people who lived in the places tens thousand years B.C. were found near many of today's small villages like Zagatye, Vyazov Les and Rudna.
As a result of the dreadful war we lost 1550 thousand people, i.e. 53 per cent of the whole population. Minsk, Rechitsa and Orsha volosts (small rural districts in old Russia) suffered particularly. Towns became depopulated, while many villages perished forever. Polotsk lost 93 per cent of its population, Mogilev lost 75 per cent, and Pinsk lost 70 per cent of its dwellers, while Turov lost 72 per cent…
Belarusians happened to participate in whatsoever wars, shedding their own and somebody else's blood and washing land with it generously. The Belarusian land absorbed an ocean of blood… The so-called 'mother' of the famous battle of Poltava occurred nowhere but exactly in Belarus. On October 9, 1708 at the village of Lesnaya of the present Slavgorod district the Russian troops under the command of Peter the Great defeated the Swedish army of Levengaupt and scorched out Mogilev afterwards… According to some sources, the North war of 1700-1721 carried off lives of a third of Belarusians.
The celebrated generalissimo A. Suvorov did not spare the blood of Litvins when he was putting down the uprising of Tadeush Kostyushko in 1794. He spared neither the old nor the young. No wonder Katherine II granted him Kobrin volost with 13280 serfs in perpetual tenure for outstanding public service. Suvorov's name is solidly memorialized in Belarus, with streets in 60 places called after him. Until recently there were 23 kolkhozes named after him. There is a museum of the generalissimo in Kobrin and a Suvorov military school…
The Patriotic War of 1812 was imminent. Suvorov did not manage to participate in it as he was good at waging wars of the empire expansion only, as well as at crushing uprisings and mutinies. The war once again did not leave Belarus out, it turned out to be a civil war with almost 200 thousand Belarusians fighting in the Russian army and over 25 thousand fighting on the side of Napoleon who promised sovereignty and restoration of frontiers of the Great Principality of Lithuania. All this implied blood, lives and health of people who were our fellow countrymen…
A terrible lot fell on Belarus, the country I am emotionally involved with, the country I love and compassionate! It seemed it was not enough that all European wars blew over it like hurricanes, trampling down crops, carrying away people's lives and shedding blood on its soil. Belarus was never strong and prosperous. Moreover, it did not gain its independence until the end of the past century.
Now I am going to outline the major events in Belarus' history in the 20th century… The first congress of the Russian Social and Democratic Workers' Party, the would-be party of Bolsheviks that brought so much suffering to the peoples of the empire, took place nowhere but in Minsk in March 1898. The gear of World War I was broken down on the territory of Belarus from Pinsk to Naroch, so the monstrous war machine of Germany stopped in Polesye marshes and at Naroch lakes. In Mogilev tsar Nikolai II made a resolve to abdicate the throne on the last day of February 1917. The disgraceful Brest Peace Treaty resulted in Bolsheviks giving up to virtually defeated Germany vast territories of the country and innumerable wealth. The march of the army of S. Bulak-Bulakhovich through the south of the republic brought a lot of misfortune to Turov, Zhitkovichi, Petrikov and Kalinkovichi, as well as to my native place Rudna. There was also a peasant uprising in the central part of the republic in Slutsk district. The national boundary passed in the very middle of Belarus following the Treaty of Riga in March 1921… On June 22, 1941 at dawn the first Nazi bombs dropped on Belarus. Three long years afterwards, the bloody vengeance of occupiers to the unbowed people of Belarus kept up…
The disintegration of the Soviet Union was signed nowhere but in Belarus in Belovezhskaya Pushcha on December 8, 1991. The then chairperson of the Supreme Soviet of the republic S. Shushkevich and the Prime Minister V. Kebich, as well as the leaders of Russia and Ukraine, signed the document that was made public by Stanislav Stanislavovich later…
Right up till the disintegration of the Soviet empire the criminal code articles providing for severe persecution for dissenting, for an anecdote about the leader, for the blame of the established order whatever way it was expressed, for rejection and disagreement with it were in force. Let's just remember mental homes, high-sounding legal proceedings and secret inquisitorial prisons for dissidents. We should not also forget the fate of the highly distinguished academician A. D. Sakharov and thousands of our fellow citizens.
The events still remain fresh in our memory, while most cruel large-scale repressions of the 1930s of the past century are forgotten by ungrateful descendants, unfortunately. The events should not be forgotten, as well as the nightmares should not be repeated. Memory is a sacred thing. The nation exists as long as it remembers its traditions and its history. A human being differs from other living creatures because he remembers, or at least he should remember his history. To forget means to betray. We should not all the more so forget anything, whether it is good or bad, as there is no guarantee that the nighmare of the 1930s will not recur. During the collectivization period alone 400 thousand families were declared to be kulaks and sent into exile in Siberia, the northern areas of the country and the Solovki, all in all about 9 million farmers were subject to repressions. The year 1937 was ahead, as well as the hard times of the Great Patriotic War…
My ancestors i.e. my grandfather and his brothers, my grandmother's brothers, as well as my mother herself, though she was very young at the time, also had to suffer a lot, to go through horrors of repressions and to lose their lives as a result. It was at the time when peasants thought their life to have come to normal. The anxieties of revolution and the restrictions of collectivization were over, while the war clouds did not gather in the west yet. No trouble was presaged, the more so because Alexander Vikentyevich Kirbai, my mother's father, like most of peasants, welcomed the revolution, believed it and served it faithfully. He defended its ideals in word and in deed, as he did not doubt the new power was the power of the poor men just like him.
Kirbai's family was really poor as there were seven children in the family. They had little land, just enough not to die of hunger and to subsist with difficulty. Both the old and the young worked from morning till night to make both ends meet. World War I burst out, sparked off by Germany and Austria, so Alexander Kirbai who had reached the calling-up age by the time, was called up to fight at the front. He was wounded severely, decorated with the Cross of St. George and went back to his native village carrying a bacillus of Bolshevist convictions obtained in the trenches. Lenin promised peace and land to tired citizens of Russia who lost their faith, which was more than enough. The country was purely agrarian with backward peasants as most of its population. At the end of XIX century about 90 per cent of Russia's population was rural. Thirty years later, before the collectivization, there were more than two thirds of them. Alexander Vikentyevich, like millions of other peasants, received the desired land. Being influenced by Bolshevist agitators, one wanted to work the land in a new and better way. There was an example to follow. In the neighboring village Buykovichi, which was the former estate of lady of the manor Romaniya Levandovskaya 'Belaya Luzha' with its buildings, tar works and even an abandoned distillery which used to bring in up to 20 thousand rubles return a year, local peasant organized a commune. It existed for almost seven years. This type of labor organization was unreliable and ineffective, thus the commune fell to pieces some years later.
Alexander Kirbai decided to do business in a new way. In the middle of 1920s he set up a collective farm named 'Sovetskaya Belorussia'. For Zhitkovichi region it was the first experience of organizing kolkhozes that grew widespread soon. The collective farmers lived a poor and unenviable life. They had to plough big fields using horses and bulls, to sow, gather, carry the crop and to thresh it. Everything was done by hand. The artel members had enough bread, potatoes, cabbage and cucumbers, though, to get by in winter. In 1929 mass collectivization broke out.
In winter of 1929 Stalin made his first and the only trip as a dictator over the country and visited Siberia. He came back from there discontented and embittered, as he received evidence that peasants did not wish to hand grain over to the state, they were not going to part with their property. They would pay the tax that took the place of surplus-appropriation system, but they were not going to give any surplus. A farmer did not think there was excess grain in the homestead. Moreover, the state propaganda proclaimed from the housetops that a war was forthcoming and inevitable, so that the country did not relax. Who was going to lose grain, his main wealth obtained by hard work, on the threshold of a war? The General Secretary was extremely outraged by some wisecracker, a former state convict, who suggested him in an impudent manner dancing lezghinka so that peasants would hand grain over. The latter did not suspect he brought out the beast in Stalin when he made the suggestion. Stalin understood a peasant should be bridled firmly so that he may not even think about freedom, while the result of his work should belong to the state alone. The same year in spring they started to pursue a firm and resolute policy of collectivization.
It was ordered to be entirely over with it in a very short space of time, by spring of 1931. Most cruel draconian measures were made use of in order to keep within the limits. It was already at the time that in the village of Rudna, just like in thousands of other villages, that arrests and exiles of peasants started. They concerned mainly those who did not want to join kolkhoz, as well as more prosperous farmers, even if they gained their so-called wealth like a peeling mill, a horse-driven straw cutter or a threshing machine, a horse or a cow, by backbreaking toil of the whole family. The events, though, were just a rehearsal of the dreadful 1937. Alexander Vikentyevich as an experienced kolkhoz chairperson was sent to be chairman of the kolkhoz 'International III' in the village of Belev by the time. In December 1935 he was delegated to present Polesye region at the Second All-USSR Congress of collective farmers held in Moscow. There's remained a picture where he is among other delegates around the national head M.I. Kalinin and other Kremlin masters of destinies whose lifetime, nevertheless, turned out to be very short at the bloody times.
Alexander Kirbai was in the prime of his life. He was a man a bit over 40 who enjoyed authority with the village dwellers and an experienced farmer… The peak of repressions when his elder brothers Nioplai and Vatslav were brought into oblivion was over. His last brother Ivan was arrested, too, but he was not executed by shooting, luckily. They sentenced him to a lengthy term of imprisonment in a camp. It was the beginning of the autumn of 1938 when they came to take away Alexander Vikentyevich. Alexander Kirbai, a Bolshevik, a peasant and an honest man was arrested at night, as dirty deeds are always done at the time. He was executed by shooting two months later, in November 1938…
The village drained of its energy grew quiet and dumb. People were afraid of saying too much, they feared their neighbors and relatives as if they were enemies… In the meanwhile, a new trouble was drawing nearer, war clouds were imminent. In the very first days of aggression against the country that slept peacefully soothed by eyewash about the Red Army's invincibility and lulled to sleep by the disgraceful non-aggression pact with Hitler, the Blitzkrieg went to rack and ruin. The plan of the war was elaborated not even by the possessed Feurer himself, but by Chief of General Staff of the German army Shliefen as far back as on the eve of World War I. It was finalized by Nazi General Staff headed by Halder with account of conditions at the time. Wehrmacht units encountered the unprecedented strength of mind and determination of Russian people they did not provide for in the plans they elaborated.
Yesterday's collective farmers, workers and intellectuals turned into soldiers. Marvelously enough, they stood up staunchly for the power that humiliated, persecuted and annihilated them a short time before. In my opinion, the phenomenon can be partly accounted for by the Russian spirit and the Russian character, as well as by ineradicable faith in revolutionary ideals and, above all, by the worship of leaders and confidence in their infallibility implanted by the official propaganda and instilled by stick and carrot policy… A peasant and a soldier have something in common. Both are peasants by birth in most cases. A peasant hopes to gather good crop in autumn when he goes out into the field in spring; otherwise there is no point in sowing. The army when levying war must believe they will gain victory at the end of the war. Implicit discipline, obedience and confidence in commanding officers are indispensable in this case. Both a farmer and a soldier endure inconceivable difficulties equally for the sake of the outcome. Both are not afraid of any difficulties as they are accustomed to hard and rugged life, to hardships and labor...
It has always been like this, with the past war being no exception. German occupiers fought their way forward to the east. German strategists retained fear of Polesye marshes where German engine of war got stuck during World War I. The units of the 75th infantry division met the enemy at Brest and retarded it later near Luninets. There was fighting around the settlement Lenin for several days. After that the 28th regiment retreated to Zhitkovichi via Yurkevichi going by abandoned wood roads that were nevertheless marked on excellent German maps. At the village Zabrodye on July 17 there was fierce fighting against Teutons who were advancing in a carefree fashion. Soldiers of the 28th regiment and the 18th frontier detachment under command of Major M. Golovko participated in the fighting.
The battle shifted later to the outskirts of Zhitkovichi. Red Army soldiers fell back to Rudna. A correspondent of the division newspaper 'Za Rodinu' ('For Motherland') A. Vasyuk visited the village that day and described the battle for Zhitkovichi in the paper.
Twilight of the occupation set in on July 18, though Turov was occupied by fascists more than a month later, on August 23, while Petrikov surrended even later. Hitlerite authorities quartered their provost corps in our village for some reason, not in Zhitkovichi. A lot of blood of patriots and partisans from Rudna and other villages of the district was shed here. The neighboring village Vodopoylo was obliterated with all of its inhabitants by a punitive squad. The village never revived. The only memory left of the former village is a monument at the graveyard of Belarusian villages in Khatyn…
Almost three years of unceasing fear and anxiety passed. It was already in autumn of 1943 that eastern part of Belarus was liberated. It was disappointing to dwellers of Rudna and of other villages that the front stopped quite near, at the river Tremlya of Petrikov district and the river Stviga near Turov, for more than half a year. They could hear gunning at the front line and continued suffering bitter troubles caused by occupiers. At last they lived to see July of 1944 when Soviet forces moved west along Petrikov road. The forces were entirely different from the army that retreated in 1941, as they were assured, strong and motorized… Zhitkovichi was liberated on July 6 at one ample swoop. The artillery division under command of Captain I. Kudinov particularly distinguished itself. By the end of the same day fight was thundering somewhere at Mikashevichi. The long-expected peaceful life came. Many people's lives were lost for this life to come.
Once again the country entered into peaceful postwar life, being drained of its resources by the war and thrown many decades backwards in vital and economic respects. Hundreds of towns and thousands of villages were destroyed. Millions of people lost their lives. Belarus alone lost 2.5 million people. My native village Rudna missed 38 people who were killed at the fronts during the Great Patriotic War, among them was I.P. Misenko, my best friend Pavel Misenko's father. The health of my father who volunteered for the army in June 1941 was also ruined in the war. In Rudna Village Soviet fascists killed 56 civilians, of them 15 children. The area was caused huge damage to. My fellow-villagers, relatives, my mother and father, as well as I myself had to cover the damage by hard work for many years.
Forty years passed after the war was over. They were not easy and by no means peaceful on a national and, moreover, on a global scale. A generation that did not experience the horrors of war grew up, and there was hope that God might be merciful to the long-suffering Belarus, and that its soil would never turn the color of blood. The sins of the country rulers who repudiated sacred things and who went far away from their people through arrogance were too grave, though… On April 26, 1986 a catastrophe occurred at the Chernobyl atomic power station at the very border of Belarus and Ukraine. The consequences of the catastrophe were no less serious than those of the war. The disintegration of the Soviet Union that followed the accident soon afterwards, left Belarusian people face to face with the misfortune and literally put them on the brink of survival.
The explosion of the fourth reactor at the Chernobyl power station threw out into the atmosphere more radio nuclides than five hundred bombs dropped by Americans in August of 1945 on the Japanese towns Hiroshima and Nagasaki could throw. Since the late 1940s, radioactivity inspired people with fear and panic. Our learned sages, though, decided presumptuously they had managed to tame radioactivity and turned it into 'peaceful' energy. How can one be certain that a wild animal, whatever mild it seems to be, has become similar to a domestic cat and that its true being will never awake?
The accident happened in Ukraine, but two thirds of all the radio nuclides fell on Belarus' territory. The most dangerous and lasting radioactive element caesium-137 contaminated about 2.5 thousand square kilometers in Russia, 1.5 thousand square kilometers in Ukraine and over 7 thousand square kilometers in Belarus. Besides, they shot over Belarus' territory the radioactive clouds going towards Moscow, thus big areas in the midland region of the country, as well as in Mogilev region, received an additional dose of radio nuclides, though they were not to. The land turned out to be contaminated, rather than blooded. Over 2 million people, i.e. 20 per cent of the republic's population, have to live in the contaminated area today.
The Chernobyl atomic power station is closed down, though the fourth reactor still contaminates everything around. The containment above it is no protection from radioactivity. It has to be changed. The question is where from to take 780 million euro for the purpose? There is hope that the West will help. God yield!
Are the troubles over? Nothing of the kind! They are impossible to enumerate, one misfortune on my native land comes after another… The future will answer in full the question of what irretrievable troubles land reclamation brought to nature and all living things on earth. It is clear today, though, that ill-conceived and ignorant drainage and melioration of marshes in Polesye and in other places turned out to be a big trouble. This large-scale activity was considered to be aimed at improvement of soil and its drawing into farming rotation. If only it had been carried out in reasonable amount and skillfully! Instead, they were as usual carried away by obsession with grand-scale projects aspiring to gain some momentary benefit… In less than ten years they drained 3.4 million hectares in Belarus, of them over 2 million hectares in Polesye alone. Marshes play the role of lungs for the planet, while Polesye marshes were lungs for the whole Europe. They absorb carbon dioxide from atmosphere 6.5 times faster than woods.
Such melioration resulted in drying up and shallowing of rivers and lakes, in dust storms, ecosystem imbalance and finally in the climate imbalance. Woods and gardens die without water that penetrates into substrata, fields lose fertility without moisture. Farmers fall short of crop instead of seeing increase in it… Reclaimed swampland itself runs wild and overgrows with bushes, tussocks and pastor's lettuce. Now they try, as far as it is possible, to re-meliorate, i.e. to swamp the once drained areas, former peat bogs and to plant forest where possible. They have to turn rivers that were once straightened to the former course, which seems to be hardly possible if we take into account the number of springs ruined. Several thousand hectares of such land have already been swamped in Brest region, round Belovezhskaya Pushcha. Now they work out a comprehensive program to swamp Polesye, just like they did before to drain it. A fortune is necessary to implement the program, i.e. several million in foreign currency. Where are they going to get this money from? Is the West likely to help once again? The long-suffering land will endure everything. Life goes here in a quiet and measured way taking its usual course like a river in its centuries-old banks, like water in the quiet Pripyat for hundreds and thousands of years did… Year after year it is getting shallower and quieter, though, its banks are silted up, willows and pussy willows become higher and stronger and there are single oaks standing at the very water here and there.
This is the way we live, work and amuse ourselves, make difficulties for ourselves where there should not be any and then overcome them enthusiastically… It is impossible to recognize the surroundings of Rudna as a result of melioration. The river Naut that used to be so picturesque is now entirely different, shallow, with no fish in it. The Obolonye I loved so much has gone forever. There is no more big high water that caused grass grow luxuriantly, oaks wither and die on this vast expanse. Life has changed a lot in the past decades. Things are not what they used to be… I wonder whether to rejoice or cloud over it. Of course if the changes were for the better, what is bad about it? Things are quite the contrary, though, so I do not see anything good and comforting for the country and its population in the foreseeable future…


CHAPTER IX

DESTINIES OF PEOPLE

My father Nikolay Arsentyevich Alpeyev was born in 1922 in Belgorodchina. This is the most tragic year of birth, just like 1923 and 1924. All young men who were born in those years burnt in the heat of the battle against fascism. Three or four men out of a hundred might come through it alive.
Before the war my father studied and worked in his birthplace. In July 1941 he volunteered for the army. He walked the roads of war from Moscow to Berlin. After the surrender of Germany the unit where he served was redeployed in Belarus, in Zhitkovichi where he met my would-be mother, a village girl Shura Kirbai, who also faced distress with a vengeance before the war and during the occupation period. In December of 1945 they got married and settled in Rudna, where I was born on October 29, 1946. When I am asked what year I was born I often respond proudly that I am the same age as the Victory which is very near the truth, as my father could have been killed and I would have never been born… This was the way Victory entered my mind, just like those people who won it with blood and sweat did, including my father. When I served in Germany in the Guards rocket brigade I walked on the German land like a victor. I think, though, it would be better if there had been neither conquerors nor victors on Earth…
I never had a stricter teacher than my father. I still remember his belt with a five-pointed star on the buckle that he made use of in order to bring me up. Nevertheless, I am grateful to my father for such way of upbringing. I do not nurse any grievance for such a cruel method of education, as one should make allowances for his life full of hardships and the war that frayed his nerves and covered his body with wounds. All this could not but tell on his character and psyche… I knew since my very childhood that the main thing in the village and in life in general was work and studies, all the rest was for shallow people, so my childhood was actually a life of work with very little joy and merriment that fell to my lot.
At the end of 1946, when I was just several months old, my father got demobilized. We all went to my father's birthplace, then we lived at my mother's aunt in Moscow for some time. My father as a former front-line soldier was offered a good job and accommodation in the capital, but my mother did not agree, so we came back to her native Polesye land. My father was approved to the post of chairman of the kolkhoz 'Sovetskaya Belorussia' at the bureau of Polesye regional committee of C.P.S.U. (B) (Communist Party of the Soviet Union [Bolsheviks]), as all appointments to such positions of importance were approved at very high instances at the time. He held the position for several years. Once the chairman's light carriage was carried off. The accident leaked out and became known to the district department of the Ministry for State Security. My father was summoned to the bureau of the district committee of the party. Major Kurepin who was head of the department suggested expelling communist Alpeyev from the party and prosecuting. My father who was no coward at all said, 'It was not you who gave me my party card, so you will not take it away!' What followed next is impossible to describe. The infuriated inquisitor snatched at his holster and threatened my father. The chairman of the district executive committee A. N. Antipenko, a former front-line soldier himself and an extremely decent man took my father's side. Soon the light carriage was found in the forest and it turned out the whole thing was not worth a fig's end. If it had not been for Antipenko my father, a man who went through the whole war, would have had his life ruined… A security official similar to Kurepin once boastfully told young people without a shadow of humor, 'Bullets whistled and shells burst at the front line while we stayed in some remote place in bushes and administered justice'…
Time passed, and my father gave away his party card, neither to the district committee nor to Major Kurepin, though, but to me. He fell seriously ill in 1992, the illness being encouraged by radiation, as doctors inferred. He was dying slowly. The last three or four months before his death I visited my parents almost every weekend.
At one of such arrivals my father snatched a moment, called me and asked to get his party card from under the pillow. I was staggered, as he did not part with his card even dying. This was the way ideology ate into people tightly. My father told me then, 'Son, we were deceived'. This was the conclusion the man who considered the party and communism to be sacred notions drew at the end of his life. He was ready to, as they say, catch by the throat anyone who, God forbid, would speak badly of the party and the Soviet power. It really came to blows sometimes when village 'politicians' discussed some disturbing event. My attempts to express any doubts were given a hostile reception. They used to ask, 'What have you seen in your life? How can you know?'
When a child, I was tremendously impressed by Ivan Andreyevich Tishchenko, uncle Vanya as he was called, the war veteran and village driver who also went through the war. Everyone in the village, both young and old, respected him for his huge strength. They said that he could alone pull out of mud a thirty-hundred-weight lorry, the only one in the kolkhoz. He was also respected for being able to pronounce no more than two or three words in twenty-four hours. He was never heard saying a swear word. By the way, I imitated him so much in my childhood that it was a real problem to me to say several words running. I started to speak more easily a bit later, when I studied at Belarusian State University. Ivan Andreyevich remained in my memory forever as a kind, gentle and highly cultured man. He was a genuine village intellectual who had never received any education.
It would be unfair not to mention two more men from the village who were my unintentional educators. They were Vladimir Semenovich Yukhnevich and Vladimir Vasilyevich Matskevich. Vladimir Semenovich was a war veteran, too. There was no one in Rudna who could play any musical instrument so skillfully, whether it was the guitar, the balalaika or the mandolin. What was most important, though, is that he implanted love for native countryside in me. Year by year I came to understand what communication with nature means when you and the world around, i.e. the river, the meadow, the forest, the field and birds, make one whole. It is only in man and nature unity where origins of human kindness lie. I was about seven when uncle Volodya started to take me fishing. He was an inveterate fisherman. I think what he loved most of all was fishing, and then came wine. We span fish only, the bait usually being a worm, and we always came home with catch.
After the district was liberated from German fascist invaders, 18-year old Vladimir Semenovich was called up for military service in the standing army. He was badly wounded and contused at the front and became disabled. He was awarded a medal 'For courage'. I saw the decoration only once, as Semenovich did not like to demonstrate it. They used to say about him in the village, 'Volodya is the man who would not hurt a fly'. In the postwar years the war invalid lived a poor life unworthy of a victor but he never lost his warm nature… Vladimir Vasilyevich Matskevich was very mich similar to Semenovich. I cannot but mention another good person, Grigoriy Yarmosh, who was also a war veteran. He left a trace in my soul, like many other fellow villagers. The same can be said about Petr Yukhnevich whose father was killed during the war, and about Volodya Degelevich.
Now near my father's grave at the village graveyard there lie war veterans Vladimir Semenovich, Ivan Andreyevich and uncle Polinar, a perpetual compliant kolkhoz toiler who worked as a machine operator. All of them lived an extremely short life and they saw very few good things about it. What did they fight, lose their health and strength and shortened their lives for? Does their Motherland remember about them? It has too many obscure sons of the kind…
I understand that I said very little and sparingly about the people who exerted a tremendous influence over me and who fostered the sense of a citizen and a patriot in me without even being aware of it themselves. Soldiers of Victory, they were modest and ordinary. They did not like any glorification and praise. In the village there were about twenty former front line soldiers who enjoyed well-deserved respect with the village dwellers and, definitely, influenced the upbringing of youth by their personal life example. It is difficult to understand these people. I realized, nevertheless, why they spoke so zealously in support of Stalin even after the XX congress of the CPSU. The thing is that they, being twenty or twenty-five years old at the time, under command of Joseph Vissarionovich gained a victory over the Hitler army that pinned down the whole of civilized Europe. These views became ingrained in them, so it was useless to argue and try to make them change their minds. They are our fathers and grandfathers, so we should take them as they are …. We should bow to these ordinary, modest and honest people who were perpetual toilers. It was not their fault that the greatest betrayal occurred and a great power was destroyed, so they have to spend the rest of their lives in poverty, humiliation, bewildering what for they fought, shed their blood and did not spare their lives. They did their duty before their native land honestly…
I often recollect my childhood and youth that passed in my native village. The late 1940s and 1950s were hard years for the whole nation. National economy was restored or, to be more exact, it was built anew as everything was destroyed. In Minsk alone 90 per cent of all housing stock was destroyed. Big and small towns and villages were mostly razed to the ground and burnt. They had to build anew everything, including factories, plants, kolkhozes, schools and institutes… Losses in manpower were especially big and irreplaceable. Everyone lived a hard life in those postwar years. Children were always hungry. They were happy to be given a small piece of bread. The bread baked in postwar years was of poor quality as it contained some admixtures. We dreamt of pure bread without any admixtures. White bread was rare dainties at the time… Everyone, young and old, worked hard both in kolkhoz and at their homesteads. Boys of ten or twelve years old ploughed, mowed and did all agricultural work on a par with grown-ups, as not every family saw their fathers come back from the war… Nevertheless, they helped each other and lived a joyous life, with songs, in peace and friendship, despite hardships, hunger, cold and hard work that was practically free. Our children have never faced anything of the kind and if they are told about this life by their parents they do not always believe them.
Years of studies in primary school clearly remained in my memory. I remember the way we carried books, copy-books and glass inkpots, first in cloth bags sewn by our mothers and later in kersey bags similar to those kolkhoz team-leaders used to carry. I also remember our teacher Mariya Ivanovna Yukhnevich. I have only good memories left about school. From the fifth to the seventh form we went to school in the village Greben. Though the distance of about four kilometers was not very long, it took two hours to get there and back. Not everyone, of course, had good clothes and footwear. My friend Ivan Yukhnevich and I walked this distance every day. We went to school early in the morning and got back in the afternoon. Later, since the eighth form, we went to school in Zhitkovichy. The distance was longer; we had to walk ten kilometers one way…
Most parents strived for their children to study despite postwar hardships. My mother's words that I had to study to make a real man stayed in my memory for ever. This was, actually, the only one agitation of my parents for education. Nevertheless, coupled with hard farmer's life that bordered on utter poverty it was enough for the words to produce their effect. It goes without saying, a belt also played a considerable role in my education, because whenever I was given a three, my father's educational method would come into force.
I tried to study conscientiously and finished seven-year school with good marks. The issue of my further studies in secondary school at the district center was taken for granted. In 1960 I continued my studies in the eighth form at Zhitkovichy secondary school #1. Of course, our coming to a school in town entailed many problems. First of all, it meant overcoming a psychological barrier. Anyway, the district center seemed to be a big town as compared to the village. We had a sort of alertness as to the way they were going to treat us and how studies would go on. Of course, we ourselves did not realize it was important that our knowledge acquired at village school should comply with the standards of a town secondary school. In practice there turned out to be some difference, though not very significant, Very soon we were able to match the pupils from town. In my opinion, this depended a lot on the teacher and the pupil himself. Of course, there were different teachers and different pupils…
Many teachers gave us sound knowledge of their subjects. They were Petr Pavlovich Azema, Mariya Sergeyevna Koneva, Adam Viktorovich Moroz, Nina Fedorovna Tsiribko, Pavel Kirillovich Semenchuk and Anatoliy Mikhailovich Frolov. The teacher of mathematics Mikhail Mironovich Chechik who was a knowledgeable and very exacting pedagogue stuck in my memory especially well. It was when I myself became a teacher that I realized the mistake of Mikhail Mironovich. He wanted everyone to be good at math, so quite many pupils dropped out of school or continued their studies at night school because of him. When we met thirty years after we finished school, we recollected him more often than other teachers. No one bore any malice against him. Practically all school-leavers of Zhitkovichi secondary school #1 who finished school in 1964 got higher education.
Pupils in our class were friendly. There were no conflicts on national or religious grounds at the time and there could not be any, though about a third of pupils in the class were ethnic Jewish. It was already at the time that the foundations of humanism, humanity and respectful attitude of pupils to each other were laid. All subjects were taught in Belarusian and I should say the teachers had a good command of the language. I focus your attention on this in connection with one very relevant detail. More than thirty years later, when I worked at History Sub-department of Belarusian State University professors, associate professors and lecturers were taught their mother tongue so that they were able to deliver lectures and conduct seminars in Belarusian…
There were recognized authorities in our class such as Sasha Denisenko who graduated from Higher Engineering Anti-aircraft and Rocket Military Academy and became an officer, Valeriy Gonikman who graduated from Minsk Institute of Radio Engineering and who is also a famous basketball player, Anya Savchits who graduated from medical institute and who is Honored Doctor and a Supreme Soviet deputy in one of the republics of the Russian Federation. In general, all my former classmates turned into worthy citizens of their country regardless of the field of their activity.
Years of study at Zhitkovichy school stayed in my memory for life due to everyday 20-kilometer quick marches from home to school and back. We got up at six in the morning. Our mother woke us up in a quiet and tender way, 'Boys, get up, or you will be late for school.' My younger brother Nikolay and I, however much we wanted to sleep, got up, dressed, grabbed our breakfast which was usually potatoes with cucumbers and cabbage or potato soup and set out for school. Bread was in short supply at the time. We sometimes managed to buy several loaves or, more often, just one loaf after queuing for a long time at the shop near peat works. I wanted to eat so much that I pinched off the heel of the loaf on the way home. My mother never told me off about this as she understood everything. The road to Zhitkovichy was a pain in the neck to me, especially when it was slushy spring or muddy autumn. Kersey boots turned heavy then and let water through. My feet were wet till evening, when I took my boots off coming home from school. Moreover, our quilted coats got wet through and the wind in fields chilled to the marrow, so one can just imagine how 'carefree' our school life was. Anyway, many of my contemporaries who were born in postwar time lived the same life. Our parents scrambled for our living.
We knew since childhood what hard peasant labor was like. There is always something to do in the village. After school we did not set about our homework right away (we found time for lessons in the evening, sometimes at night). We had to do work about the house first. When it was season we had to plough and to mow… We had to carry feed for pigs from the swamp, e.g. duckweed, to graze cows when our turn came and to weed the vegetable garden. There were no lame excuses like 'I do not want to' and 'I won't'. In winter it was easier, as you had to chop wood. Usually they were rough pine stumps. They were difficult to split. It took a lot of effort before you chopped one. We also had to prepare chopped straw for the cow and to collect potatoes from the cellar and so on. In general there is a great deal to do at the homestead.
During the summer holidays there was also no thinking about any rest. We all worked in the kolkhoz (it started to be called sovkhoz later) to earn money to buy trousers, boots and a quilted coat. I liked collecting potatoes. I also liked working at the hayfield where the whole village worked on a fine day. Everyone looked at the sky with anxiety lest it would start raining. The way they pulled hay out of the quagmire to a dry place by horses stuck in my memory. When the animals fell into the swamp up to their bellies, barrows were put to use to carry out haycocks. I remember lifting the loaded barrow with a village man, though I was still a boy. It was very heavy but my strength seemed to increase when I thought they would call me a weakling. Our hayfields were at a distance of 10 or 12 kilometers from the village, which was quite far. We got there by carts or sometimes by a thirty-hundred-weight lorry, the only one in our kolkhoz. This was the first stage of the crossing. Then they walked over poles. Haymakers walked with scythes over their shoulders and women walked with rakes and bags with modest food.
On the whole, many of my memories are associated with the valley in the flood plain of the Pripyat known as Obolonye. I have never come across a more surprisingly picturesque countryside corner in my life. In summer I often went fishing there with my friends Tolya Matskevich and Pavel Misenko, but most of all I liked to come here with Ivan Nikolayevich. It was here that I started to feel keenly my affinity with nature, to understand life and its beauty that not every man could see. The man who realizes that nature is a living thing with a peculiar life of its own, with its joys and sorrows is a happy one. I seem to have come up to this understanding…
Unfortunately, in the last several decades of real war against nature under the guise of land reclamation, river straightening and careless and wasteful way of wood harvesting our nature is dying and now it is far from what it was like when I was a child. This is a tragedy not only for nature but also for the whole of the nation. If we ponder over the problem we'll realize that social crisis gives rise to crisis in nature. The slogan 'We should not wait for bounties from nature but we should take them ourselves' was popular in the era of space and time exploration.
Nature worked for people for millions of years, but they still did not think it was enough. They decided to put the squeeze on it, as a result we obtained what we have now. Instead of river floods, dense forests and flowering meadows there are clouds of black dust coming up and hot dry winds blowing. The area of natural grass decreased by dozens of times, the same concerns the area of hayfields. Standing woods are withering. All this results from 'revolutionary' activity of human beings and the 'reasonable' way of land reclamation, not to mention the terrible Chernobyl disaster that is going to tell on our progeny for a long time…
I shall never forget fishing at the lakes and former riverbeds of the Pripyat and at Obolonye. The bite could be so good you did not manage to cope with a fishing line. We got there on foot or by bicycles and settled under a mighty centuries-old oak-tree. We frequently sat till late at night by the fire on which fish soup was cooked and where fat was roasted, as there was always something to talk about and something to recollect…
I listened a lot as I did not have a lot of things to recollect at the time. I observed the life of nature. I was particularly excited when a crimson sun was sinking over the distant forest in the evening as if saying good bye and glancing back at the earth it had warmed during the day. The sunset's dying glow was burning for a long time, almost until the summer midnight. Might I perceive the nature this way under the influence of Yesenin's verses I read the day before? The poet seemed to have described my native Polesye in them. It was at the time that I came to love Yesenin's poetry. Everything was familiar in his clear and sad poems, namely, haystacks that reflect in water, blue evenings and clear spring daybreaks, and 'ricks of the sun in water'… Poetic words are extremely powerful! It seems to me that Yesenin's lines conform most closely to life in our native land where they drink and cry in foul weather waiting for better days to come. Today they drink and cry because of their coarse life and despair… I wonder whether we'll see better days to come.
Under the influence of my favorite poet I took to writing verses myself. I cannot judge myself whether I succeeded in writing them or not. I was presented with a slim volume of Yesenin's verses by my friend Pavel Misenko who worked in Siberia building Bratsk hydropower plant where he was sent to by the komsomol organization. When he came back home, he attached me to himself sincerely and unwittingly. Undoubtedly, it was also under his influence that my proper understanding of Motherland started. A lot of things happen in life in a simple and unexpected way!
I remember March 5, 1953, the day of Stalin's death. The multimillion country wailed…At night the man on duty at the Village Soviet knocked at the window and answering my father's question about what had happened uttered through tears that Stalin had died… There began commotion, and the whole village learnt the news at the same instant. Everyone, both young and old, was shocked by the news. What is surprising is that even those whom this cannibal deprived of their grandfather, father or brother, cried. My mother and her sisters mourned over their father's murderer, too. There was the same question on everybody's lips, 'What will be the future of the country and the lot of each of us now after the great Stalin has died? How are we going to live without him?' As you know, he was perceived as God by everyone. He was not thought to be a murderer, the cruelest of those known to history, but he was considered to be living God and the Tsar of slaves. But people were not aware of Stalin's true nature at the time… Half a century passed since the time and most of society began to see clearly after they gained new information about the butcher of nations. Even these days, though, at demonstrations, on the days of revolutionary holidays and the leader's birthdays a pitiful cluster of old men and women runs about with Stalin's portraits. They say, 'The country needs a master. Our great country USSR needs one.'… They are trying to reanimate a dead man and they do not realize it is nonsense. This is totalitarianism in the form of Stalinism and ideological brainwash similar to incurable illness. They worship a butcher, have blind faith in him and enjoy self-abasement with enthusiastic exclamations… Such fanaticism is inconceivable to the mind free from bacilli of this faith. Indeed, the nation that does not remember the lessons of its history is a poor one…
The space flight of Jury Gagarin on April 12, 1961 was a memorable and joyous event that roused an inexpressible feeling of pride in our Motherland (as we considered at the time). It was really something to be proud of. The first man in space was ours, Soviet, just as it should be. Moreover, he was socially similar to us… It never occurred to anyone at the time that the flight involved huge costs. The country was half-starved and half-naked and suddenly a Soviet man flew into space. No one could even assume that this 108-minute circuit round the Earth would give rise to a new phase of the arms race that called for huge financial expense. Only a decade and a half passed since the most destructive war was over and our national economy was very poor. The ambitions of the communist leaders, though, were strong and self-assured. Soviet people experienced permanent ideological pressure, so a triumphant war was a kind of trump card held by advocates of the regime. Let's just remember the common phrase 'We'll take off our last shirt in order to prevent a war'. They infrequently took it off against the nation's will. The tough pressure of taxes is within many people's recollection, when even fruit trees near houses were laid under big tribute and when people hid piglets in their cellars or in privy places near the village because one could keep a strictly limited number of livestock at his homestead, otherwise they were fined. The only good thing is that under Khrushchev it did not come to repressions and exiles, like it used to be before.
There was no electricity in my village at the time and they baked bread in hearths. People sowed flax and hemp, and in the long winter evenings women span and wove coarse cloth to have something to cover up people's private parts. The only equipment was a horse and a carriage; people broke their backs from morning till night for nothing, while the Kremlin contended with the West. We know the way the whole thing was over. It could not be otherwise. As a result, we reap today bitter fruit of the ill-conceived policy and arrogant ambitions, of the incessant everyday betrayal of one's own nation interests, of humiliation over this nation, of tough pressure of misanthropic ideology that was hypocritically passed for progressive and philanthropic one for many decades. They declared that everything was for the human being and in the name of the human being, though it was not like that at all…
Now we are busy with things other than space flights to the Moon and Mars. It would be good if we laid the road from the district center to the village. 'Flee if you can'… Thus, the space flight in 1961 was very costly to us if we regard it from the present-day stand. The USA has outstripped us a long time ago not only as far as space is concerned. It is shameful to recall Nikita Khrushchev's declaration made in the early 1960s that communism would set in by 1980. It was never characteristic of the leadership of the most 'just' communist party to be ashamed of their actions and promises, which is why it died so easily, without agony, in 1991. There is common truth that seems to be lying on the surface which says one should regard the interests of his own nation as of paramount importance, one should think in the first place about the nation, but not about world supremacy, about his ambitions and worldwide leadership. Unfortunately, none of the Soviet leaders thought about its people. At all times the nation was used only as a means to attain private ambitions, as draught animals and cannon fodder. Such was the custom from Lenin to this very day. The phrasemonger Mikhail Gorbachev finished the inglorious Soviet state existence logically. This way, sooner or later, all empires, tyrannies and dictatorships that disregard their nations' interests come to an end.
Their dreams that the present generation would live under communism carried them too far, a much further distance that Gagarin flew. When they officially declared communist society formation, very few people believed that one would go into a shop, took everything he needed and exactly as much as one needed and it would be free of charge. Would not anyone be greedy and seize more than he needs? How many generations should be brought up in the ideal spirit? People were dull, semi-literate and half-starved and they could hardly imagine themselves in the communist paradise… It was mainly the idea that everything would be free that occupied people's minds, which is quite natural. Say, if my mother gave me 15 or 20 kopeks for a meal, so that I could buy two patties and a glass of compote, no wonder I was always hungry. In fact, the whole of the nation lived from hand to mouth. The whole of 'Khrushchev's communism' boiled down to a full life in the minds of ordinary people.
Thus, we plunged into the period of 'most active communism building' honored with grand and, as usual, impracticable 'historic' resolutions of XXII party congress. It was October 1961. The inhabitants of my village had problems when 'building communism' as there was no electricity in it and houses were lighted up with oil lamps just like under the tsar. The village shop often lacked kerosene so they lighted splinters as if these were cave times… Surprisingly, almost everyone believed in the tale of communism. There had to be something people could believe in to endure everyday life hardships. What else could they believe in? Stalin had been debunked by the time. Most churches were closed while the powerful propaganda machinery spared no words to describe the near paradise on earth…
There were a lot of functionaries who championed ideology and politics among people. They were more numerous than farmhands, as many of the latter either were killed during the war or went to towns in search of better life. Among the functionaries there were Village Soviet chairmen, district committee secretaries and regional party committee secretaries, as well as the General Secretary himself. We also had a kind of our local leader who was secretary of the sovkhoz party committee. He would sometimes go by a GAZ car to the feeding farm where my mother worked in rubber boots standing ankle-deep in liquid manure. The party 'leader' did not leave the car in order not to stain his high luster boots. He would drive through the feeding farm, glance over it in a businesslike manner and sometimes fling out a remark when going by, not addressing anybody specific and not waiting for an answer, 'How's life, comrades?' And off he would go. This well-fed and complacent functionary did his 'duty' at the feeding farm and hastened to report to the district first secretary that building communism in the village was in full swing…
They 'built' communism so zealously that my mother, like many of her peers who worked at the farm for many decades, became disabled. She was so worn out she could not even get to the well and pull out a bucket of water. Her 80-year-old sister brought her bread from the shop. When I had time, I always helped my mother at the farm. I carried buckets and distributed fodder to bull-calves. Though I was 25 at the time and went in for sports like weight-lifting and wrestling and could run twenty-kilometer cross-country race with ease, after two or three hours of work at the farm I was wrung out to the point of exhaustion. The backbreaking work where mainly women were employed started at half past four in the morning and lasted until ten in the evening, with a short break. They worked every day and had no holidays. My mother was pleased that bull-calves gained weight well, that she was paid 100-120 rubles a month and that she was presented an honorary diploma and the badge of the socialist emulation winner at the district rally of foremost people in agriculture… Time passed, her strength and health ran short and her success in the past turned out badly. At night my mother could not fall asleep due to the pain in the joints of hands and feet disfigured by poly-arthritis and the oppressive pain in the small of her back. This was the 'old age of honor' and 'earned rest'…
When my mother was retiring on a pension, fanciers of being economical at the expense of other people, who themselves settled down in cozy metropolitan offices and who made use of the outcome of hard work of millions of people, made a resolve that work at a farm at weekends should not be taken into consideration, thus they reduced considerably the old-age allowance that was scanty enough as it was. It did not occur to them that animals should be fed both at weekends and on week days…
This was the way farmers lived, built communism, 'overtook and left behind' America by dint of their own hard toil ('Cow from the state of Iowa, take care!'), they used oil lamps and did without any medical assistance and any medicines, but they never fell ill… They found comfort in the hope and the delusive dream that communism would set in very soon. This was the way the whole country lived and worked…
… The last school bell rang, so it was time to decide on what to do next. I dreamt of entering a military school, yet, the bent for history prevailed at the very last moment, so I posted my papers to History Department of Grodno Pedagogical Institute. I was leaving my native village for the first time in my life. I had money just enough for the journey and basic subsistence.
We were lodged at a student's hostel while we were taking entry exams. I lived in the same room with Lyosha Semenyako who was entering Mathematics Department, Tolya Bogdanovich and Volodya Kulik who were both entering History Department. It was easier for them to enter as Lyosha was let off from the army to take entrance exams which was a common practice then, while Volodya came from a kolkhoz where he worked as a machine operator. Production workers and servicemen entered horse concours, so it turned out that Lyosha and Volodya entered the institute while Tolya and I returned home without anything. We only wasted our nerves, time and our parents' money. We passed our exams but were not selected from among other candidates. After vain expectation it became clear I had to look for some work.
At the time there were not enough teachers in village schools, in fact just like they are not enough today. As a result, the subjects like physical training and work education were often taught by people who did not even have any secondary education, so I became a teacher of physical training and work education at the Greben eight-year school that I finished myself not a long time before. Of course I was excited before my first lesson. A man who has little to do with teacher's work may think that I had to teach unimportant subjects. I do not belittle the significance of algebra and physics that one might never need in his life, but a person's life, primarily his ability to work and attain goals set, depends on his physical condition. That is why my first lesson was devoted to the role and significance of physical training in social life. Pupils listened to me attentively and asked questions. I felt I interested them in the matter. I prepared very carefully for each lesson and drew up a detailed plan of work.
I tried to spend as much time with my pupils as possible. Every day I stayed at school after classes, as there was always something to do. We prepared very persistently for the district school sports contest. We took the first three places in many kinds of sports then and, by my reckoning, we had to turn out first in the team event. At the contest I encountered dishonesty of the powers that be for the first time in my life. Local officials divided out the winners' laurels beforehand over a bottle and thus they deceived me. I was depressed as I could not understand why it was possible. Everyone saw that my pupils had no match in basic sports…
I shall never forget my first pay which was 77 rubles. It was a considerable amount of money for those days. It was enough to buy boots and quilted coats for my father, my brother and myself. The prices were so reasonable then! My mother was grateful for small favors, as usual. The rest of the money was paid to my fellow villagers so they could build a fence around our house.
Time passes very quickly, especially if you are absorbed in your work. The work gives a special delight when you see the outcome. You want to work more and better then, and you put off your personal problems somewhat a little farther away. I worked at school and I hit the books to enter the institute. I decided not to choose another institute and another special subject. I was sure of success, as I had gained some experience and enriched my knowledge considerably. There was only one little thing left, namely, to pass entry exams and to be selected from among other candidates. If I did not enter the institute it meant I would be conscribed …
In August of 1965 I was in Grodno, 22 Ozheshko Street again. I cannot say anything bad about the lecturers who examined us, as there was not any bias on their part. I understood later, though, that if they had any doubts whether to give me a four or a five they certainly gave me a four. I felt my knowledge was not enough to be given a five but I still deserved more than a four. I did not enter the institute again. Still, they are right saying 'Everything that happens will turn out for the best'. If the examiner had given me a mark higher then I would have entered the institute and my life would be different. When I came back, my mother cried and said that country people were not meant to enter any institute…

CHAPTER X

BLESSED LABOR

Geographical location of Belarus, its climate and, what is most important, its hardworking people make the country a region favorable for farming. The republic's progress in the sphere was considerable. Moreover, there was a tendency for steady increase.
A distinctive feature of Belarus' farming industry in the last decade of the past century was high availability of power-driven tools, sufficient supply of mineral fertilizers and up-to-date farm machinery, best seeds and fuel. The average crops productivity in the republic reached 20-25 metric centners per hectare, while in most favorable years it was 30 centners per hectare, potato yield reached 200 or more centners per hectare. In Lyuban district where 17 Heroes of Socialist Labor (the highest civilian award in the USSR) worked, they gathered almost 500 centners of potatoes annually. The rural economy efficiency was apparently growing as they laid the basis and real opportunity for this growth.
In 2006 the gross yield of grain crops in Belarus reached 6 million tons, possibly due to strained interpretations and doctored records. One should take into consideration that the country's population has become almost fully self-sufficient as far as potato and vegetables are concerned. The private sector with only one sixth of arable land at its disposal produces around 90 per cent of potatoes, 83 per cent of vegetables, almost 100 per cent of fruit and berries, over 65 per cent of milk, more than 50 per cent of meat and over 45 per cent of eggs.
They use less and less mineral fertilizers in the rural sector year after year. Acute shortage of farming machines and fuel resulted in the breach of optimal spring sowing time. Finished off combines 'Don' and 'Niva', that are still quite numerous in kolkhozes, scatter a significant part of the crop while harvesting. The cost of fuel is continuously growing. This tendency is increasing and perpetual.
It is evident that agricultural enterprises in the form they are today have outlived their usefulness. It is high time they started to develop farming on a large scale, just like they do all over the world. They should give land to those who wish and can cultivate it. In my opinion, under existing circumstances management of the land should be mixed, there should exist good cooperative farms that are able to work their land, farming should develop, joint stock property of the land and means of production should exist, too. We should adjust to the conditions, the possibilities and the reality, as there is no other way out.
It goes without saying that agriculture in the republic requires well thought-out and continual help. The help should not acquire the form of one-shot campaigns on the eve of key agricultural events like sowing and harvesting, when they withdraw funds from banks and other organizations that are thought to be prosperous in a frantic rush.
National currency stabilizing is a strategic and intractable task. They can enable farm enterprises, though, to set prices for their produce by themselves, this is the task they may realize. Farm enterprises are going to gain profit and pay taxes to the budget. There will be more active influx of capital in those spheres of production where prices will be higher. The capital inflow, in its turn, will increase the output of commodities in short supply and bring their price down. Goods will be sold at a reasonable price, so dealers will be discarded as useless. Inner and export prices will go up to a sound level, sales proceeds, profits, exchange earnings of the state and tax revenue will increase by two or three times. Capital will accrue more actively in the property of enterprises. The state as the proprietor of fixed capital will be able to subsidize prices for those consumers it will see fit. Subsidization will not hurt interests of other investors or any self-supporting producers.
In the meanwhile we may observe the picture similar to an anecdote at any farm today. People gathered around a tractor that won't start and consult how to move it. An experienced and competent machine operator comes up to them and they ask him if anything can be done in this situation. 'Of course it can', says the competent man, 'the tractor should be replaced'…
It is easy to advise, but how can just one tractor be replaced, where can they find the means, spare parts and fuel? We do not mention more grand tasks and drastic changes. Nevertheless, the problems should be overcome one day as there is nowhere to slide down, there is abyss ahead.
In 1979 rural population of the republic totaled 4 million 298 thousand people, while according to the latest data it is about 2 million 800 thousand. By the time of the 1999 census the rural population made up 3 million 83 thousand. The number of rural places declined by over a thousand in the last decade, it makes less then 23 thousand today.
The country' population is ageing in a steadfast way. The number of people who are 60 has exceeded 25 per cent; while according to the World Health Organization the nation is called ageing is the figure reaches 7 per cent. The scientists consider the rural population of Belarus is going to decrease significantly in the next few decades.
Things are even more painful as far as population groups are concerned. In 1979 there were 2 million 184 thousand of able-bodied village dwellers while now there are only less than a million of them, i.e. almost 40 per cent less, with almost half of these people being employed directly/straight in farm production. About 600 thousand people work in this industry and their number is expected to decline twice in a decade due to the problems agriculture faces and the extremely poor living conditions. Due to the social conditions our village is no less than100 years behind developed countries. Old men and women still carry water for their needs, e.g. to water the kitchen garden and the cattle, in buckets. Bath is a luxury in most villages. The standard of peasant dwelling corresponds to that of XIX century while the standard of livestock keeping places has fallen even lower. Waste waters soak into draw-wells from dwellings, cattle keeping places and toilets, which was inconceivable when our forefathers lived.
There were so many attempts and even more assurances of the forthcoming material changes for the better in rural sector. Academician Trofim Lysenko confused the leader of all nations Stalin talking profusely about branchy wheat which was pure fiction. Nikita Khrushchev dreamt of changes for the better while going from one extreme to another, from developing new land to maize growing. Mikhail Gorbachev, the man 'marked by God' who destroyed the country later when he was the General Secretary of the all-powerful and ambitious Communist Party relegated to oblivion, assured of the changes in Krasnodar… There were many men of the kind in Belarus as well. Who knows, there might be more use if they did not interfere with their endless orders and inspections, as well as with their useless prompting and checks. What is absolutely evident is that it is not wise to act on an impulse.
Lenin was utterly wrong when he wrote just after Bolsheviks assumed power that it was necessary to go over quickly from the former foundations of life to the new, socialist ones. That was absolutely impossible to do, though. Nothing in the world around us, whether it is nature, economy or a way of life, can be broken down easily, all of a sudden, at one stroke. It is easy to break down but very difficult to build… The laws of dialectics work very clearly, so it is surprising why Vladimir Ulyanov, a great expert on dialectics, neglected the laws and even the common sense and the simple and elementary logic of social evolution. As if the experience of the French and other revolutions was not enough. It is impossible to drive people into happiness by iron hand, even a child seems to realize this. Human blood is not water at all, there is grief, suffering and torments of people behind it. Bolsheviks, though, did not care a damn about anything… Vladimir Ilyich not only took the liberty but also had the impudence to decide single-handedly how the people would live and what way they would go, thus being an evil genius of Russia and the original source for everything that happened to the country and its people soon afterwards.
Who was it who said once that 'Lenin lived; Lenin still lives and will live forever'? They are alive today, these small Lenins and Leninists. One of them is Gennady Zyuganov who is leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. He now teaches us the way to live as though all difficulties had been overcome in his own country and human rights were not violated every hour, as if thousands of young men were not killed in Chechnya and corruption, mafia and lawlessness did not thrive in Russia…
The new Bolshevist leader once again propagates communist ideals very zealously, he says the former Communist Party was not right, it went the wrong way, but here is the new one! He says they condemned their mistakes, repressions, genocide and now they are innocent before the people. I think if Zyuganov or any other advocate of communism had relatives in their family who were innocent murder victims of the Soviet power, like my family has, he would not forgive the crimes of Bolshevist ideologists so easily and willingly. Or rather what can one expect from them? We know that all-national head Kalinin, as well as Molotov and Voroshilov betrayed their wives without any hesitation, Kaganovich, Poskrebyshev and many other true Leninists renounced their brothers. Now the Russian communist number one who possesses no real power and has no force available, except private ambitions, undertakes to decide for somebody, to point out and to advise… Isn't there enough of blood, red colors and lies?
Communist leaders could do nothing good for their people as they did not have God in their souls. They destroyed and sold everything they could, including the great power and its people. They did not even repent afterwards, unlike the Germans who not only condemned National Socialism but also rooted it out. Yet, many of the Christian commandments correspond strictly to the dogmas of communists. Their most important slogan 'peace, labor, freedom, equality, brotherhood and happiness' meets exactly the teaching of Christ.
Why did not Bolsheviks reconcile themselves to the teaching from the very beginning, start the same idea and follow the same way? They could not, as the initial discrepancy, falsity, anti-humanism, denial of obvious things and aspiration to call black white and vice versa, put communists in irreconcilable antagonism with God. Thus, people did not support communists, so their power based on fear, violence and humiliation could not last long. Everything was over in the way we see today in all spheres. i.e. the cultural one where there is confusion and agitation, the social, as well as economic one with chaos, production decline, unprecedented inflation and impoverishment of the people…
We have always been and shall be with the Russian nation and Russia, only if it is the Russia of Pushkin, Tolstoy, Chekhov and Yesenin but we shall never be with the Russia of communist leaders. I trust the Russian president Vladimir Putin and believe in him. Anatoliy Chubais, Boris Nemtsov, Sergei Kirienko, Grigoriy Yavlinsky and Irina Khakamada possess a powerful intellectual potential… I suppose them to be able to solve the most complex tasks their country faces. Vladimir Zhirinovsky wins me over by his openness, sincerity, straightforward views and at times by his understandable sharp words.
I say all this because I am interested in the neighboring great power and I hope our countries will have a common future, though absolutely different from the relations we had before. Our people remember everything, especially good things. It is terrible when friendship is sealed with blood. Friendship should be based on faith. Belarus and Russia have common Slavonic background, as well as similar, related culture. Economic relations should also be tight and interconnected. Only this type of mutually beneficial 'colonization' is acceptable, just like the one in Singapore when roses were in blossom at the filling stations selling cheap petrol at the time English colonizers were leaving the place.
… I constantly come back to the beginning of XX century in my thoughts. It was the time when Russia started and livened up as a result of reformative activities of the then prime minister P. A. Stolypin. As is known, he counted on the peasant who was an experienced farmer, so Russia sold a great amount of grain and foodstuffs, unlike they did in the Soviet time. The village lived quite a good life in 1920s, too. People were unwilling to sell grain surpluses dirt cheap which is quite clear as the grain was grown by the sweat of their brow. Bolshevist leaders disliked extremely that people began to live a prosperous life and were unwilling to give agricultural produce away to the state. If that was the case, they decided to take the produce away by force and to change the way of living in rural areas radically. Today it is absolutely clear to everyone that prosperous people promote their country's prosperity, while at the time the thoughts were considered to be seditious and criminal.
There were quite many isolated farmsteads around Rudna at one time where big and hard-working peasant families lived and worked. They moved to the khutors, as they sometimes call separated farms, after Stolypin reforms. They lived there a hard but fairly well-to-do life though they had to toil a lot. Later these people were pinned a label of 'kulaks' (wealthy peasants) and were forced to join kolkhozes against their will, some of them were exiled or executed by shooting. We see nowadays what this practice resulted in. The country produces just about 350 kilos of grain per head a year, though it was 685 kilos as long ago as in 1990, while leading powers produce three times more grain. We also produce 165 kilos of meat per head while ten years ago the figure was 115. For many years our country's propaganda asserted that meat is indigestible food unusual to human body, so we should take less meat. In America, though, despite the fact the food is 'heavy', the average consumption is over 150 kilos meat per man a year, yet Americans do not seem to suffer particularly from eating this amount, moreover, their life expectancy is longer than ours.
But on the other hand, they produced and still produce and, thus, drink more vodka than in Russia whose nation was always considered to be a drinking one. In the first years of the new century its output totaled almost 200 per cent as against the output in 1980. Average consumption of alcoholic drinks per inhabitant in Belarus comes up to 11 liters, while the figure in the leading European countries reaches 7 or 8 liters. The official number of alcohol addicts in the republic approximates a million, yet the World Health Organization advises the figure should be multiplied by 3 or 4 in order to have a just picture of alcohol dependence. Alcoholism in the country is furthered significantly by the reality of our gloomy life, when those people who are weak in spirit are forced to seek consolation in a bottle. Price for vodka is increasing constantly while demand for it is persistently falling, thus drinking folk switches over to different surrogates and cheap wine, and hence there are different illnesses and alcoholism. This is another tragedy of our nation.
It was already at the beginning of the past century that a peasant family could cultivate considerable areas of land and gather good crop for their time due to their industry, great inner self-organization and what is most important, their enormous love for land. As is known, they frequently used a wooden plough, heard nothing of mineral fertilizers, renewal of breeds and of a special science called agro-technology. Instead, they had the notions of 'measures', i.e. if they sowed one measure they gathered six or seven. In good years crops productivity came up to about 20 centners per hectare, which is very surprising as they did not have any machinery to help them at the time… If it had not been for the World War I, the coup of 1917, called the October revolution later, the civil war, economic dislocation and Bolshevist management methods that followed, the agriculture of Russia would have achieved a great progress.
In Zhitkovichy district today they speak and argue a lot about the farm of Mikhail Shrub. In 1999, for example, just after the farm was organized, they produced 2.5 thousand tons of vegetables; the figure was even more in 2000 which was a favorable year for agriculture, while the farms all over the district produced only 400 tons. Today the potato, grain and vegetable productivity is also much higher than in the district on average. The farm workers receive a very good pay. In this respect there arises a question why we should have the numerous arrays of kolkhozes and sovkhozes with their officialdom. If there were 50 farmers like Shrub working in the district they would not need any kolkhozes at all…
I may be objected that Mikhail Shrub is no ordinary farmer. He used to be a chairman of the Turov Settlement Soviet, was well-connected and had an opportunity to rent some quite good land (though Turov area generally has good black earth famous all over Belarus) and to buy the minimum of the machinery necessary at depreciated cost, cheaply. The problem is that everything in the country from diesel petrol to a plot of land should necessarily be got out and arranged. Why doesn't the state offer a farmer everything he wants and may take to work the land to feel its real master? Far from every village dweller will agree to at least rent the land but the one who agrees will put all his efforts into it, he will sweat his guts out to cover his work and to get some profit. It is exactly this type of farmer that the state should help by credits, machinery and seeds, i.e. the state should invest something to receive even more in return.
The thing P. A. Stolypin planned almost a century ago is putting out its weak shoots only now. The reformer wanted to make this practice not an exception but the rule for the whole of Russia, including North-East territory where Stolypin's reform, by the way, produced the most marked effect. The people, though, were never allowed to do things and act in the way they considered necessary, better and more expedient. These people, i.e. Ulyanovs and those who were after him always substituted the opinion of the whole people by their own opinion. They pressed the people down, oppressed it and taunted a man in political, economic, social and cultural respects… There is no end to this practice in sight.
In order to buy a tractor 'Belarus' worth 12-15 thousand dollars, while the best models cost over 20 thousand dollars, it requires a whole kolkhoz herd. I happened to see an instruction sent to kolkhozes by district authorities saying the combine 'Don' is bartered for 40 tons of meat. They also need fuel which is more expensive than anywhere else in the CIS, and spare parts to repair machinery… That is why the technical stock of kolkhozes and sovkhozes today reminds of the state of village inhabitants, it dies just like the village itself. In the meanwhile, the tractor a kolkhoz may buy at 12 thousand dollars or a bit cheaper if they lease, it if the kolkhoz makes an added effort, costs a farmer, who is thought to be an owner of private property by the state, no less than 18 thousand.
It is as clear as noonday that we should revive the institution of private property in one form or another, the property that should be sacred and inviolable according to the law, if we think about the future and are not willing to find ourselves short of grain. No one refutes significance of kolkhozes at this stage of the game (here we mean only the best ones headed by men with sense). Part of the land, nevertheless, should be given to farmers who are experts in it and who can work in an effective way. It would be a good idea to give long-term credits in the form of machinery as there are thousands of new 'Belarus' tractors at the ground of the group of enterprises 'Minsk Tractor Plant' in the open air. The tractors had better work on farm fields so there would be no need to take financial means away from weak banks and other organizations by means of stern decrees and edicts and to push the panic button every spring and autumn. 'Struggles for harvest' would become past history. It is well-known that struggles entail losses and there are both victors and conquered after them…
What do I mean by the word 'krestyanin' (peasant)? In my mind, the word comes from the word 'krest' (cross). A man bears his cross from the cradle to the grave. The burden is heavy but the peasant has no other choice. Since the beginning of time he lives in poverty and always lacks something. Sometimes the season is dry; another year the crop is flooded. He is far from striking good luck every year. His life is struggle for survival. It is confrontation with everyone, ranging from a team leader and the highest district or higher official. He should put his heart and soul into work in the kolkhoz while his private farm, as usual, takes second place. Local authorities seem to taunt farmers, as they apportion haymaking plots for farmers to be able to feed their cows in late autumn as a rule, almost in October. The practice is quite common almost everywhere, as if there was a special decree that kolkhoz chairmen stick to willingly.
It is a sore issue in rural area as to making hay for the private cow or fodder for a pig or a hen. I remember in summer all village children had to get duckweed out of ponds for domestic pigs or to carry rich climber plant from the swamp, or nettle, goose-food. This 'surplus appropriation system' got under our skin, but it couldn't be helped as the task set by the father for the day had to be fulfilled.
Child labor was used widely in postwar years both at home and as social work. In the end of May school was over, there was vacation ahead, but it was not meant for village kiddies as they had to work in the kolkhoz or sovkhoz. A team leader ordered children to do work as if they were grown-ups. No one refused, one of the reasons being it was an opportunity to earn some money to buy textbooks and a bag, but the main reason why they did not refuse was that it runs in the blood and the genes of village children to obey somebody in a position of power implicitly, even if he is a half-educated team leader. All time, strength and even health had to be devoted to work in the kolkhoz… There were no lazybones among village kiddies, unlike there are now in urban and most rural families. There were no spongers and thieves among my peers, as well. Reared in the atmosphere of hard work since their very childhood, village children in most cases reached for knowledge, many of them graduated from higher education establishments and finished technical secondary schools.
I am not an adherent of the view that today's youth should have similar living conditions but we should undoubtedly foster respect for work and a working man. It is common today for many children right in kindergartens to wish to do some business but I wonder if everyone can make a businessman? Who is going to work in the field, at a plant, in an office or at school, then?
People will always support the power and one leader or another if they are full and have confidence in the future. How can our people be confident if the prices for foodstuffs have reached and in many cases have exceeded global ones, while the salaries… They promise to raise people's average salary to 300 dollars or over, but it takes a long way from promises to reality, besides, what does 'average salary' mean? An official will be paid 250, while a farmer will get 50 or most probably much less, so we get the average salary of 300. The salary may be counted in different ways. I wonder if 300 dollars is a deserved salary for a working man, especially if we take into account that the minimum consumer budget rate approved by the Council of Ministers for a family of four people is 169 600 rubles per head. Practically the whole of the society is worried by the issue of what is going to happen tomorrow and how we are going to live.
How could people live if their well-being is coming down every day while prices and public utilities rate, as well as other tariffs, are growing continually at a rapid pace? Even the life of farmers under Stalin does not seem so gloomy, though people then were crushed by work and taxes and put most of their efforts into public production and the remainder of them into their own small holding that came to their help and did not let them perish. They had some hope their life would improve in prospect, and it did as the prices were falling, though a little, kolkhozes were supplied with new machinery and fertilizers, people built houses for themselves and villages were equipped with modern amenities. Today we cannot hope for anything of the kind.
Who cares about an ordinary man and poor people who make the majority in the country? There are very few rich people. Nevertheless, most of goods, both produced in the country and exported ones, are meant exactly for rich people as far as their price is concerned. Household goods and cars, modern building materials and medicines, as well as quality foodstuffs can be afforded by prosperous men only, who are businessmen or high-ranking officials. Thus, it is quite logical that a state should take upon itself at least part of the expenses to provide favorable living conditions for the poor, but the state, being just as poor as its citizens, is unable to afford it…
We should not make believe that we are going to get out of the squeeze in alliance with Russia only. I would agree with the thesis provided Russia was firmly established, first of all economically.
Yet, Russia itself has been badly ill for the past two decades and I suppose the illness is far from being transient. We may only hope that Russia would recover in several years.
As a poet once said, where shall we float? It is clear that we should go our own way, while adopting the experience of neighboring countries that managed to overcome a similar crisis for a short time, Poland in the first turn, as well as that of other leading European countries. A miracle won't occur. There is no one to pin our hopes on, but for us ourselves, no one is going to help us, prosperous Western countries, some sponsor, as well as Russia that faces a lot of problems of its own.
What has to be done in rural sector, in my opinion? It won't be out of place to remind the famous historic fact that Germany's economy was an extremely painful sight after World War II was over. It was only after they were given a huge aid in the form of capital investments from abroad that the Germans healed the wounds of the war in some five or seven years and walked a resolute step to their citizens' material welfare. It is possible our country needs as much as the air it breathes some aid in the form of direct investments, including those from outside, otherwise it would be problematic for our broken agriculture to get to its feet.
Land is an invaluable asset that may and should not only feed but also help lay the groundwork for the progeny. It's time to decide a point of private property for land. It may sound unpatriotic but it would be more sensible at first to lease land to rich foreigners. In this respect the benefit for the country is obvious as new jobs will be created and sound infrastructure will appear. The efficiency level of the farming industry will grow by tens of times.
Land should be owned by those who may, wish and are able to manage it whether it is a good cooperative farming enterprise, a farmer who is able to cultivate it or a foreign investor. There is no doubt, though, that all the processes should be law-regulated and controlled by the state.
It is the direction that we should look for the future of the village…


CHAPTER XI

THE IRON MOLOCH

It was not a long time ago that Belarus was considered to be a real Mecca among the member republics in the Soviet Union. Its benign climate, quiet and stability in all spheres of life, favorable geographical position, good nature and hospitality of its population, potato as the national agricultural feature that would come to help in any trouble and, most importantly, high economy development level - all this turned the country into a longed-for place for living, working and for military service. It was thought to be a piece of good luck if somebody got an assignment to a job or residence permit in Belarus, as well as became employed here. Competent and reasonable people realized, though, that Belarus with its poor natural resources and remoteness from ports produces very little and that the country turned into a kind of an assembly plant for a number of reasons. Thus, Belarus occupied the territory of about 1 per cent of the USSR's territory (207.6 thousand square kilometers) while its population numbered 3.7 per cent of the total Union's population and topped the USSR chart firmly as for the manufacture of many vital goods and foodstuffs. The republic had low population density. It was 48 men per square kilometer. Much of its territory, about 36 per cent, was occupied by wood. Forty five per cent of Belarus' area was taken up by agricultural land. I think the following information will be of interest. According to official data, the country today has about two thousand manufacturing enterprises, 700 of those are private ones, while 1300 are state-owned. The general number of industrial enterprises was reduced almost by half in a decade.
It goes without saying that the republic would not have made such progress in its industrial production if it had not been for close integration relations. By the way, industrial production made up 38.2 per cent of the gross domestic product 10 years ago. In 1999 it totaled 29.6 per cent. Union republics supplied the Belorussian SSR with cast iron and black rolled metal, non-ferrous and precious metals, coal and oil, as well as the produce of timber, paper making and wood-working industries, building materials and so on. Ukraine alone supplied over 100 items of different goods. Tens and hundreds of co-operating enterprises from other republics participated in manufacture processes of such giant production associations as the production association 'Minsk Tractor Plant', 'BelavtoMAZ', 'Gorizont', 'Integral', 'Atlant', 'Gomselmash' and others.
Economic integration of the member republics in the former USSR went on for almost 70 years. This was a multi-sector complex with over 45 thousand industrial enterprises, 400 sectors, subsectors and industries, 46.2 thousand manufacturing firms, scientific production associations and enterprises that produced over 25 million items of goods. It is quite clear that the huge production required proper organization, considered and efficient structure and established inter-sector, sector and regional connections. Balance and interconnection of all sections in the national economy complex played a role of no small account, too. The slightest misbalance in the established structures brought about huge economic losses and had a negative influence upon political stability and people's psychology.
The Belorussian SSR ranked high among the Union republics as for the manufacture of vital types of industrial output in 1970s. It ranked second in the output of chemical fibers, motorcycles, lorries and watches. The republic topped the chart in the production of potash fertilizers. Belarus took the third place in the manufacture of machine-tools, TV sets, bicycles, tractors, mineral fertilizers and household refrigerators, it ranked fifth in the output of electrical power and sixth in the production of cement. Many sectors of the republic's economy enjoyed further development. The rates of industrial output increase over the period of the ninth five-year plan were higher than the average ones all over the Union. Besides the existing ones, there emerged new sectors of production specialization, such as oil-processing, chemical and oil-producing.
The 1970s and 1980s were the years of further intensification of Belorussian economic region specialization within the system of the country's national economy complex. It was also the period when its industrial potential was built up. Industrial sectors defining technological advance were developing rapidly. They were power engineering, mechanical engineering, chemical industry, electronics and radio engineering, precision instrument making and others. In 1985 every sixth tractor, every fifth motorcycle, every seventh bicycle, every eighth machine-tool, every ninth refrigerator, almost 50 per cent of potash fertilizers, 24 per cent of chemical fibers and filaments and 25 per cent of watches produced in the Soviet Union were manufactured in the republic.
Fuel and energy complex of the BSSR used oil and gas. The ratio of fuel oil and gas in the republic's fuel balance increased from 4.9 per cent in 1960 to 67.1 per cent in 1975. Gas mains Dashava-Minsk and Torzhok-Minsk-Ivatsevichi were put into operation. They built the second line of the gas main Torzhok-Minsk-Ivatsevichi in 1978. The Lukoml hydro power which produced 2.4 million kilowatt-hours, the Berezovskaya hydro power producing 920 thousand kilowatt-hours and the Vasilevichskaya hydro power with its 322 thousand kilowatt-hours, the Minsk heat station-3 (435 thousand kilowatt-hours) and heat station-4 (900 thousand kilowatt-hours), as well as Novopolotsk heat station (505 thousand kilowatt-hours) made the basis of the power industry. All power stations were part of the Belorussian power system that was linked through the integrated power grid of north-west and central USSR to the Poland's power supply system and the power system 'Mir'. The electric power stations capacity as against 1960 increased tenfold in 1987. Fuel and energy output was increasing continually, year after year, which held good right until the early 1990s. Working efficiency in all spheres of production grew, too.
Mechanical engineering and metal working made up over 30 per cent of Belarus' industrial output. This sector ranked first in BSSR's industry as for the gross output volume, basic production assets and the number of industrial personnel. By 1970s BSSR machine building formed into a major industrial complex that included over 100 enterprises and their branches, as well as tens of research, engineering, design, and planning departments that had their own well-developed experimental base. Automobile industry specialized in the output of delivery trucks in Minsk and Mogilev and extra-heavy dump trucks known as BelAZ in Zhodino. The Belarus automobile plant in Zhodino, awarded with the Labor Red Banner order, is the only enterprise in the country that produces heavy and extra-heavy off-road pit-run vehicles with load-carrying capacity of 40 tons, 75 tons, 110 tons and 180 tons. Mogilev automobile plant named after S.M. Kirov specialized in the manufacture of dump truck articulated lorries for closed work, single-axis haulage trucks and scrapers. The plant also produced four-wheel drive heavy dumpers with weight-carrying capacity of 20 tons.
The branch included, except automobile plants, the plant producing bicycles and motorcycles in Minsk and the enterprises of component specialization that belonged to the production association 'BelavtoMAZ'. The 'BelavtoMAZ' association produced 72 models of vehicles and articulated lorries with the load-carrying capacity ranging from 8 tons to 180 tons. They also developed and researched 54 other models of vehicles, including pit-run dump trucks with the load-carrying capacity of 280 tons. The Minsk automobile plant, awarded with two orders of Lenin and the order of October Revolution, which is the parent enterprise of the association, specialized in the manufacture of diesel vehicles and articulated lorries, trailer stocks and multi-axis wheel cross-country haulage trucks. During the eleventh five-year plan they developed the manufacture of lorries 'MAZ-6422' and 'MAZ-5432' that could work as part of main articulated lorries with the load-carrying capacity up to 32.5 tons. The lorries enabled to cut freightage costs by 30 per cent, to cut down fuel consumption considerably and to increase traffic operations without any growth in the number of drivers. Life duration of vehicles before their capital repairs increased 1.2-1.5 times. In 1980 64.6 per cent of the aggregate output of the association had state quality mark. The produce of the automobile plant was exported to 52 countries. An automobile of the Minsk plant was awarded with a grand prize at the International industrial exhibition in Brussels. It was awarded with a gold medal at the Leipzig Fair.
Over 1500 enterprises of the Soviet Union participated in the manufacture of MAZ, BelAZ and MoAZ vehicles. Many enterprises of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and Ukraine supplied 'BelavtoMAZ' with finished units and machine parts. Other Union republics also supplied components, e.g. Latvia delivered radio and electrical appliances, Lithuania delivered compressors, Georgia delivered plastic manufacture and other goods, Azerbaijan delivered metal, while Kazakhstan supplied heaters. BelAZ vehicle 2300 h. p. engines were produced by the association 'Kolomna plant' in Moscow area.
Tractor building enterprises were part of the production association 'Minsk Tractor Plant named after V.I. Lenin'. They produced wheeled universal tractors 'Belarus', tractor engines and spare parts. The output of tractors increased from 34.2 thousand in 1960 to 97.6 thousand in 1986. In recent years 27 or 28 thousand tractors a year left the production line. There was time, though, when they produced about 100 thousand tractors a year in the factory workshops, just the amount Lenin dreamt to have for the whole of Russia. 'Belarus' tractors were delivered to all Union republics and exported to 90 countries, including the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance member states, as well as Great Britain, the USA, Canada, France, Finland, Sweden and others. 'Belarus' tractors were awarded with 16 medals, including 13 gold ones, at international exhibitions and fairs.
Component units and parts for 'Belarus' tractors were received from 270 specialized enterprises, while supplies and materials came from over 400 plants. Fifty research institutions, higher educational establishments and planning and design organizations in the republic and all over the Soviet Union worked in the subject area of the plant to solve complicated engineering tasks.
Many plants worked successfully in the sphere, among them the Minsk Motor Plant, the Gomel plant of starting engines, the Bobruisk plant of tractor engines and tractor units, the Borisov plant of units, the Vitebsk plant of tractor spare parts and the Minsk gear plant. Agricultural engineering of Belorussia was represented by the Bobruisk agricultural engineering plant and the mechanical plant, the 'Gomselmash' and the 'Lidselmash'. The basic production of agricultural engineering was ensilage harvesters and self-propelled fodder harvesters produced in Gomel, fertilizer spreaders manufactured in Bobruisk, potato and cabbage harvesters produced in Lida and cattle farm equipment manufactured in Brest and Mozyr. The production volume of tractor building and agricultural engineering increased more then fivefold in the period from 1961 up to 1975. They produced about 16 thousand of ensilage and fodder harvesters in 1960, while in 1986 they manufactured 25.8 thousand of them.
They were building two new plants in Smorgon, the branches of the Minsk Tractor Plant. The first one was meant to produce front axles, transmissions and steering wheel hydraulic boosters. The second one had to be a founding and forge plant. They planned that the branch of the Minsk Motor Plant that started to be built in Stolbtsy would be a major supplier of tractor engines. Tractor output had to come up to 120 thousand a year due to the capacity extension of 'Minsk Tractor Plant named after V.I. Lenin' association but we can see that their output fell by almost two thirds.
The major machine tool construction enterprises were Minsk machine-tool construction plants named after October Revolution and after S.M. Kirov, the Minsk automatic transfer line plant, the Vitebsk machine-tool construction named after S.M. Kirov and after Komintern, the Vitebsk tool-grinding machine plant, the Orsha machine-tool construction plant 'Krasny borets' that produced the country's best planogrinding machines, the Gomel machine-tool construction and machine assembly plant and the Baranovichy automatic transfer line plant. The tool-making industry enterprises included the Minsk, Kobrin and Orsha tool-making plants and the intersectional production plants, such as the Gomel plant 'Gidroprivod' and the founding plant, as well as the Volkovysk foundry equipment plant.
Belorussia was the Union's only supplier of broaching, abrasive cutting, milling cutting, balancing machines and tool grinders for multi-edged metal cutting tools. They also produced numeric programmed control machines and numeric indication machines. The Pinsk foundry equipment and forge-and-press transfer line plants and the Grodno lathe chucks plant started production in 1970s. They developed over 100 new machines and a huge number of tools and equipment. Here are the machine-tool construction data. In 1960 they produced 16.8 thousand metal-cutting tools, in 1970 they manufactured 27.6 thousand of them, in 1980 29.7 thousand of the tools were produced, in 1985 their output totaled 22.3 thousand, while in 1986 they manufactured 20.3 thousand. Belorussia produced every ninth metal-cutting tool in the Union and ranked third in the country as for the output of the tools. It is not an exaggeration to say that refrigerators of the Minsk plant 'Atlant' found a ready market all over the world.
Instrument making was one of the most promising branches of machine building and metal working. It specialized in the output of computer aids, optical and mechanical instruments and devices, radio and electrical measuring instruments. The major enterprises were the Minsk computer plant and the instrument making plant, the electromechanical plant in Brest, the plant producing devices to prepare source information in Mogilev, the watch plant in Minsk, the plant manufacturing electrical measuring instruments in Vitebsk and the measuring instrument plant in Gomel.
Radio manufacturing that specialized in producing tools of radio and wire communication, radio sets, TV sets and special manufacturing equipment was developing at a quick pace. The latest models of Belorussian TV sets were adjusted to the Soviet, European or American standard. In 1970s Belorussian TV sets were awarded at different exhibitions, including international ones, with a gold medal, 12 silver and 28 bronze medals. The produce was exported to over 30 countries in the world, among them Algeria, Afghanistan, Belgium, Hungary, Great Britain, Greece, Iran, the People's Republic of Bulgaria, Poland, Turkey and Czechoslovakia.
Chemical and petrochemical industry that specialized chiefly in producing mineral fertilizers and their primary products, chemical fibers and filaments, plastic and synthetic resins, car tires, rubber footwear and household chemicals was advancing intensively in 1970s and 1980s. The raw materials base of BSSR chemical and petrochemical industry is deposits of potassium salts, sodium chloride, oil and associated gas explored in Belarus. The major enterprises of the industry are 'Bobruiskshina', 'Belaruskaliy', 'Polimir', the production association 'Azot' in Grodno, artificial fibre plants in Mogilev and Svetlogorsk, rubber goods plants in Bobruisk and Krichev, the plastic goods plant in Borisov, the glass fibre plant in Polotsk, the paint and vanish plant in Lida and the household chemicals plant in Brest. There were six production associations that manufactured 77.4 per cent of the gross production of this branch of industry in the BSSR.
The chemical and petrochemical enterprises exercised close economic cooperation with each other. The oil-processing plant in Novopolotsk produced paraxilol which was used at the association 'Khimvolokno' in Mogilev to manufacture lavsan and benzol. The Grodno association 'Azot' used lavsan and benzol to produce caprolactam. Many of the solvents produced by the oil-processing plant in Novopolotsk were used at the paint and vanish plants of the republic. The association 'Polimir' in Novopolotsk, for example, manufactured 40 per cent of the Union's output of high-quality polyacrylic fibre nitron and nitrile acrylic acid and 20 per cent of polyethylene. The employees of the enterprise were a universally recognized leader in the branch, it concerned both output volume increase and enhancement of production efficiency.
Electronic industry was developed intensively in the republic, mainly at the Minsk computing machinery production association and the plant 'Integral'. Bearing industry was developed, too, it was concentrated in Minsk and Gomel and produced over 14 per cent of the Union's output. Electro-technical industry advanced as well, it numbered 22 enterprises, the major ones being the electro-technical plant in Minsk, the cable plant in Mogilev, the plant 'Avtoprivod' in Shchuchin, the electric bulb plant in Brest, the electric goods plant in Lida, the electrical equipment plant in Gomel, the Molodechno plant of power semi-conductor valves, the electric installation plant in Minsk and the electro-technical plant in Gomel. Instrument making industry was developed, too. Its produce was exported to over 7 countries. Other developed industries were mineral fertilizers production with every second ton of potash fertilizers mined in Soligorsk and every third ton of nitric fertilizers mined in Grodno; radio industry, chemical and petrochemical industry. The oil-processing plants in Novopolotsk and Mozyr ramped up their facilities.
Over 90 new enterprises were built in the republic, the facilities of many operating plants and factories were increased in ten years' period, from 1976 to 1985. After the Belorussian metallurgical plant in Zhodino started to operate in 1984, there emerged a new branch of industrial production, namely iron industry. Many types of rolled metal and half-finished products produced by the plant were delivered to other metallurgy enterprises of the country.
The Belorussian economic region had at its disposal the necessary fuel and energy resources, up-to-date mechanical engineering and metal-working, efficient agriculture, advanced science and culture, and what is most important, highly skilled personnel. Belarus' economy was a major territorial production complex in its structure which was characterized by definite specialization in the division of labor in the USSR and by the composite nature of its economy. Belarus took the lead in the world due to many characteristics and standards of its production.
When we describe the economic development of Belarus that could be literally called economic miracle as the republic really prospered at the time, we have to refer to the past mainly because almost all of these achievements are in the annals of history today. A leading Union republic once, Belarus turned into one of the many countries characterized by developing economy, galloping inflation and the collective management of agriculture that is on its last legs. Plants work wearing themselves out under extremely unfavorable economic conditions but warehouses and grounds are more and more overstocked with their produce. Over 50 thousand tractors blocked up the roads and passages between workshops at the Minsk tractor plant and there is a whole armada of them on the warehouse ground. Most of the new tractors do not have accessories and components due to the broken integration relations between enterprises of the former USSR. Accordingly, the Minsk Automobile Plant, for example, had to develop the manufacture of buses urgently. One should say the plant personnel coped with the task successfully.
Another reason for the plants to be overstocked with their produce is the excessive price that ruined kolkhozes cannot afford. The association 'Gomselmash' producing harvesting machines is very notable in this respect. The machines are universal, which distinguishes them from many foreign analogues, but very metal- and labor-intensive and poorly suited for our barely passable fields and meadows and, besides, they are very expensive. Thus kolkhozes, as far as possible, acquire more willingly light, easy-to-use and cheaper German machinery than domestic mastodons. Bicycles and motorcycles of the Minsk motorcycle and bicycle plant sell very badly. The poor and ruined home customer stopped buying the produce of the plant as people cannot afford a bicycle at the price, not to speak about a motorcycle that has to be filled up. By the way, the price is much lower in dollar equivalent than it used to be, but salaries… A few developing countries such as Vietnam, Egypt and some others support the sales of motorcycles of the plant for the time being.
Most plants have to manufacture for stock. They have no other way out but the one well-tried, i.e. they have to raise prices for their produce to make both ends meet. Who can afford to buy it, bearing in mind the universal poverty and even misery? Most of our enterprises do not have any access to world markets. The produce competitiveness of Belarusian enterprises leaves much to be desired in many cases, while our people and poor kolkhozes and sovkhozes cannot afford to buy quality things and expensive machinery. This is a kind of a catch-22 situation… Agricultural enterprises have some hopes for state credits and lease but this does not alter the general situation.
It took about 10 or 15 years for Belarus to turn from an exporter republic into an importing one, blocked up with poor quality imported goods. It turned into a real trouble when the tenth wave of low-standard goods from all over the world, even from distant China, overflowed the republic. Domestic manufactured products, foodstuffs and other produce that are next best to the imported ones in many respects do not have the call with the population. State commerce is flowed over with foreign goods. This trouble added to all other economic troubles…
It should be noted that Belorussia's agriculture developed in a complicated and conflicting way. The efforts to increase industrial output and labor productivity, to enhance the quality of the produce and speed-up scientific and technical progress, undoubtedly, had definite results. The dominance of Belorussia's industry within the Union economic complex testified to that.
However, the republic's achievements could have been more significant and substantial. The negative trends typical for the whole of economic and political public life, oversights and mistakes were a serious obstacle in the process of production intensification, increase of its efficiency and adoption of scientific and technical achievements. Alienation of a considerable number of working population from political power, from property and from social and spiritual values became extremely widespread. Social apathy gained strength. On the other hand, there was governing machinery interests' isolation, and a definite stand that defended stagnation and generated more and more new arguments against reforms in the country's economy was taken. Thus, there emerged a real conflict defined by K. Marx at one time as a 'contradiction between reality and management principles'.
The command style of party leadership, concentration of leading functions within the system of party bodies, decline in responsibility for implementation of decisions taken, lack of coordination between word and deed and weakening links with the working population brought about social crisis.
The analysis of reasons for negative tendencies and processes shows that they form a definite system of interdependencies and interconnections that make up a single hampering mechanism. To overcome the barrier as quickly as possible, it is necessary to reject power monopoly, to change manpower policy drastically by nominating initiative people to the governing bodies who would do work in a resolute and bold manner and who could carry on a dialogue with the masses and live for the sake of their needs and requirements without losing contact with people, and carry out total democratization of production control. In general, a number of reforms aimed to improve the situation both in industry and national economy of the republic had to be performed. Unfortunately, they were not, as a result we have the present state of affairs in economic and social spheres today…
The things that happened to Belarus' highly developed industry literally shock one. The republic that was universally recognized as one of the leading in the former USSR languishes in poverty now. Thus, of August 1, 2003 4584 enterprises, or 40.5 per cent of the general number, were thought to be unprofitable. The amount of losses totaled 408.1 billion rubles (from January to July of 2002 the amount was 324.5 billion). The number of unprofitable enterprises in Brest region reached 38 per cent, in Vitebsk region it was 51.2 per cent, in Gomel region - 47.8 per cent, in Grodno region - 36.6 per cent, in Minsk region - 47.9 per cent and in Mogilev region 51 per cent.
As of January 1 2003 4544 enterprises, or 40.1 per cent of their total number, did not have any owner's working assets, while 2511 enterprises, or 22.1 per cent of the total number, had owner's working assets less than the standard required. 620 industrial enterprises, or 26.3 per cent of their total number, had owner's working assets less than the standard required, 193 of them were machine building and metal working enterprises, 128 of them were food industry enterprises, 101 were enterprises of timber, woodworking and pulp and paper industries and 92 were enterprises of light industry.
Energy supply arrears as of August 1, 2003, including internal accounts, totaled 3.3 trillion rubles, with domestic accounts accounting for 90.2 per cent of all energy supply arrears, including 44.2 per cent for natural gas and 42.5 per cent for electrical power. Total overdue arrears as of August 1, 2003 made up 5 trillion rubles and increased by 3 per cent as compared to the beginning of the year, while consumer prices increased by 16.2 per cent during the same period.
The reasons seemed to have been found out, so it was time to eliminate them. Contrary to the public statements that things are good in the country, much better than they were in Russia, that we managed to keep our industry, to speed up production and so on, the true situation was the other way round. I think present day Belarusian industry ranks one of the last in Europe. Even our best quality goods are unable to rival with foreign ones.
It is the most vital question where to take means to create new industry. If we do not solve the question we are doomed to poverty and misery. The issue of paramount importance is investments. Will an oligarch turn up or will the country itself be able to invest money in its economy? If so, we are going to face a breakthrough for better life. If not, the country will collapse and inevitably get completely dependent on stronger countries.
When we speak about industrial decline, we have to state that political and economic policies were defined in the wrong way, which brought about frontal crisis not only in economy, but in all spheres of life of the society. Where is the way out? If they overcome at least some of the problems, it would enable the republic to resolve the economic deadlock. Drastic and resolute measures are necessary, e.g. complementary investments into manufacture and overcoming world isolation of the republic. One wants to believe we are going to solve the problems in several years' time. The Belarusians undoubtedly deserve a better lot after so many centuries of humiliation, grief and offence.


CHAPTER XII

EDUCATION IS THE FUTURE OF THE NATION

We entered the third millennium that requires from people, the young ones in the first turn, those who are thought to be the country's future, up-to-date knowledge, the ability to be autonomous, to pattern their behavior in the world that is changing rapidly, to set tasks and , what is most important, to be able to solve them efficiently. Attitude to education, especially to higher education, is changing all over the world nowadays. The stance that it is exactly education that is going to be the most significant factor of progress in the new millennium gains a foothold. These requirements are brought forward by modern manufacture and life itself. It is important to be able not only to read and write grammatically and correctly, but to learn solidly the computer, legal, economic and ecological competence, too. The country's intellectual resources are increasing extremely quickly, exponentially.
In order to be really fruitful and effective, education should be grounded upon the basis common for teachers and students alike. Religion played the role of this basis for many thousand years. It was accepted equally and without any shadow of doubt by the whole of society, regardless of their age, class, status and sex. Nowadays religion no more plays the role of the cementing basis in society due to a number of objective and subjective reasons. We may come across quite many believers, though. I class myself as one of them, by the way. Education, as a result, devoid of its firm moral basis in the form of religion, turned into purely dehumanized process involving quantitative piling of a store of knowledge. People possess a lot of knowledge in different spheres that are even impossible to enumerate, including philosophy which is the cream of human wisdom, but very few ponder and, moreover, are aware of the underlying processes of human existence and the meaning of life as it was understood literally by billions of those people who lived and live on the Earth. What is more important and what principles should one follow, and what basic landmarks should one be guided by?
Sooner or later every intelligent man faces the question of what he is and what a human being in general is, what is his place and predestination in life, what he should do in the first turn and, most importantly, for what purpose, and what expects him in the near and more distant future… It is evident that not only the youth live by hopes. Hope, just like a dream, is something a human being is unable to exist without. In my opinion, the answers to the questions above should make the basis of up-to-date education.
I may be objected there was and there is no religious doctrine common to all earth's inhabitants, as well as there is no teaching of morality, with distinctive features of its own. There is no universal wisdom whose authorship would belong to one particular man or a particular nation, but for Bible, though its teaching is often neglected and forgotten by people in the fuss of everyday life. There were many of those who tried to teach the world kindness, justice and wisdom as they understood them. They were Krishna, Socrates, Pythagor, Confucius, Marcus Aurelius, Galileo, Kiryll Turovsky, Russo, Kant, Rerikh, Chernyshevskiy, Lev Tolstoy, K. Marx and V. Lenin… None of them, though, managed to excel the eternal truths set forth briefly and clearly in the Holy Scripture. I have always believed in God and was convinced that a human being without God in his soul is just a physical form. Really, it is in God's power that even a hair falls out of a person's head. This spark always smoldered in my soul and flared up brighter with the time.
I sympathize deeply with Christian dispensation that teach people kindness, harmony, love and respect for our neighbor and aversion for wealth, though the ideas may seem a bit maximalist. 'Do not collect riches on the earth where moth and rust destroy them and where thieves undermine and steal but collect riches in the sky where neither moth nor rust destroy them and where thieves neither undermine nor steal. For where your riches are, there your heart would be. Isn't it true? How can one object? No one can serve two masters at a time, for he would either hate one and love the other, or he would take pains to serve one and would fail to take care of the other. You cannot serve God and mammon at a time. Therefore I say to you: do not worry about your food and drink and about the clothes to cover your body. Have a look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow, do not reap and do not collect harvest into granary, their God feeds them. Do you think to be better than birds? Which of you can grow at least an ell higher in your worries? Why care about clothes? Do not care and do not worry about your food or drink and about your clothes. Let pagans care and worry, because your God knows you have these needs… Look for the Kingdom and its truth, the rest will add. Thus, do not care about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care about itself, everyone should have his own cares.' These were God's words. Jesus liked to mention, as an example of madness, a man who accumulated a lot of wealth for many years ahead in his granaries and died before he managed to use the property.
It goes without saying we should not understand everything said by Jesus literally, word for word. The world has changed and there are other values that rule it. No one wishes to offer his right cheek after he was slapped on the left one, just like he does not wish to love his enemies. No one is willing to give away his undershirt after they take off his shirt. A human being today should also have some riches, i.e. some supply of food and clothes. We should think about the future, too. These things are not essential, though, but spiritual wealth is… Isn't it blasphemous and inhuman to grow fat and rich outrageously while the overwhelming majority of your fellow countrymen live in poverty, to fiddle while Rome burns and, similar to Troyekurov from Pushkin's novel 'Dubrovsky' (it was established that Dubrovsky's prototype was our fellow countryman, a landowner of modest means Ostrovsky from Igumenshchina) who caRed much more about his kennels than about his subject peasants.
There are enduring values in the sermons of Christ. 'Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Forgive, and you will be forgiven… You should give rather than take. The one who elevates himself will be humiliated, while the one who humbles himself will be elevated. Be merciful, just like God is… ' Has anyone been able to contest the truths during the two thousand years Christianity existed? Let's take the major dispensation from Christ's Sermon on the Mount that says 'do not kill, do not steal and do not crave for your neighbor's wife'… If only people took any notice of them!
I can't but remember once again my home village Rudna and its ordinary people who seem to be akin to the poorest inhabitants of the ancient East where Christ lived and preached. They lived more or less in accordance with Christ's commandments from time immemorial. Theft, disrespect of each other and, moreover, disrespect of God, was considered a grave sin. No one even dared to use an axe or a scythe on a holy day Sunday or on some religious feast. These traditions and beliefs of the nation which took shape for centuries were ruined, defiled and forbidden by Bolsheviks who imagined themselves to be local idols and to be even more elevated than God is. Churches were destroyed and shrines were desecrated, while one's neighbor's life was thought to be worthless. Human blood became similar to water and it became the custom and the rule to shed floods of it. So didn't divine retribution catch Bolsheviks? Some seven decades passed, an instant in the tables of history, and Bolsheviks were washed away by a new wave, the former masters of life vanished as if they were dust. Their new teaching of Leninism that was considered 'correct, inviolable and everlasting' not long ago went to rack and ruin.
It seems to me in this respect that it is not enough that every man of culture should know Bible. Education itself should be based on the main propositions of Bible. In other words, there should be some pivot as the foundation of teaching and studying every subject and discipline. We should understand why we study this or that subject or discipline, what the subject is meant for and whether the humankind makes use of its basic laws for the benefit or to the detriment, and whether the laws give rise to constructive or destructive forces?
It is also absolutely clear that one should bone up on some science being guided by good intentions, love and a keen interest in the subject under study. In order to love and respect the subject, one should make a correct choice of his profession, so that he could be led by his vocation, not vice versa… So far as religion in modern society has lost its prerogative positions of uniting and joining people due to many reasons, we need to have something to substitute it. This substitute may and should be education which is a unity of knowledgeable and intelligent people holding the same views, humanists and patriots like those trained at International Humanitarian and Economic Institute and other higher and secondary special educational establishments of the republic, as well as colleges, gymnasiums and schools. This is dictated by present-day reality and suggested by many centuries of educational system development.
It would be not quite right, to put it mildly, to maintain that pre-revolutionary Belarus was entirely illiterate, dim and backward. It is considered that about 75 per cent of its population was illiterate. The whole of the world at the time could not boast its education, so Belarus looked quite in line against the general background in this respect. Moreover, if Russia ranked fourth in the world as for its industrial development level before World War I, it now ranks approximately 60th, though its population is generally literate. The independent Belarus ranks even lower…
Machinery at plants and factories was rather perfect for the time. Otherwise the country would not have been one of the four most developed ones. Its administrative and executive bodies were competent and, what is most important, professional, at least they were able to solve problems quickly, without the present-day multistage bureaucratic runaround. You should just try to register sole proprietorship or to solve even an insignificant issue without any official circumlocution today. There are legends going about the patriotism and honesty of officials of all ranks and especially of the merchants in tsarist Russia.
Let's take later period as an example. Today our old mothers and grandmothers who finished four classes before the war could leave in the dust a present pupil of the 10th form. It means teachers worked much better at the time, while a pupil's mind was not filled with a lot of useless subjects of minor importance. It is no wonder they talk today about the need to have the so-called directed education, i.e. if a child has a gift for exact sciences let him specialize in this direction, if he is more keen on history, literature and language, let him specialize in the humanitarian area.
In 1950s UNESCO ranked the USSR the third in the world in education sphere, while the Russia of today ranks approximately 80th. Belarus does not rank any higher in the list. According to the so-called human potential development index that accounts for basic social indicators, Belarus ranks 57th in the list of 174 countries that is given in the annual report of the UN Development Program. With an allowance for many statistical data including income level per head, life expectancy, public health availability and, most importantly, education system arrangement and literacy level of its people, Belarus is assigned a place among countries with average development. The nearest neighbor of Belarus is Cuba that ranks 56th, Russia ranks 62nd, while Ukraine ranks only 78th. The list is headed by Canada, Norway, the USA and Austria.
Ulyanov said in his time that Bolsheviks elevated the teacher to the height he could never be to in tsarist Russia. They really 'elevated' the teacher… Today a teacher who gets scanty salary has to drag out a miserable existence. He is driven into a corner by permanent want and problems… The money is not enough even for more or less decent existence, not to mention more or less civilized life. A teacher of a rural school in tsarist Russia was paid 30 or 40 rubles a month, while a teacher in urban schools and gymnasiums received even more. The sum was equal to three or four minimums of subsistence and was enough to buy 30 poods of wheat. How can the present-day teacher bring up patriots of their country if he faces the attitude of the kind to himself? The tragedy of the nation is evident today. Tomorrow it may turn even into a bigger trouble.
A system of educational establishments with no single governing body and no connections between them emerged in Belarus by the beginning of XIX century. The range of different systems enabled the one who had wish and possibility, to get education that answered standards of knowledge in the previous centuries, the education process being in Polish, Russian, French or German languages. Before the school reform of 1803-1804 there were about 130 primary, 33 secondary and incomplete secondary schools, a considerable number of Jewish religious schools and 40 schools of different Catholic orders in Belarus. The total number of pupils did not exceed 4 thousand people at the end of XVIII century. School education was primarily available to children of the gentry, the clergy and prosperous townspeople. Those peasants who had some savings and kept them carefully could give their children primary education in a parish school and in many cases they hired private teachers if those peasants understood the importance of educating their children.
At the beginning of XIX century education reform was carried out in Russia. The Ministry of Public Education was set up in 1802 for the first time in Russia's history. The European part of the country was divided into six educational districts, each headed by an administrator appointed by Tsar. Belorussian provinces became part of Vilensky educational district headed by magnate A. Chartoriysky. The university in Vilno was educational, methodological and administrative center of the district. In the course of the reform in Belarus the number of circular secondary schools, as well as the number of their pupils, grew while the number of monastery schools declined. Natural history subjects took a considerable place in the academic curriculum. Girl's education was gradually receiving recognition. Nevertheless, Catholic educational establishments continued to occupy a significant part in the school education system of Belarus. In 1812-1820 there functioned the Polotsk Jesuitical academy which was a center of a special Jesuitical educational district. The educational establishments in Belarus, that were part of the academy, numbered 700 pupils, i.e. over 20 per cent of the total number of pupils in gymnasiums and schools.
There were 38 district schools (including 23 monastery schools), 4 gymnasiums and over 100 parish schools in the late 1820s in Belarus. The majority of their pupils were noblemen. They were 84 per cent of the total number of pupils at schools and gymnasiums and almost 50 per cent at parish schools. After the Decembrist uprising in 1825 and the rising in Belarus in 1830-1831 the education system was reorganized, the reorganization followed the path of intensifying such reactionary principles as orthodoxy, autocracy and national spirit. Russianization policy, great-power negation of Belarusian language ethnic independence and closing of the university in Vilno in 1832 were the embodiment of the principles. The Vilensky educational district was temporarily eliminated until 1850.
At the beginning of 1850 there were 576 educational establishments, including one higher educational establishment that was Gory-Goretsky agricultural school which was set up in 1840 and acquired the status of an institute in 1848, 12 secondary schools, 45 incomplete secondary schools, 45 girl's schools, both state and private and over 400 primary schools, among them state, departmental and private ones, on the territory which is present-day Belarus now. About 16.5 thousand pupils studied at the schools in the late 1850s and the early 1860s.
Educational establishments of different departments were placed under the authority of the Ministry of Public Education. District schools of the nobility were done away with in western provinces. Rural primary schools turned into public schools and two-year primary schools. Educational establishments of lower level in towns turned into town schools. Boy's gymnasiums were divided into two types - classical and non-classical. It was allowed to set up girl's seven-year gymnasiums in towns with a small number of the population.
School reform results in Belarus were less significant than those in central provinces of Russia. The province rebelled. Neighboring Poland that was divided more than once did not give a moment's rest. Uprisings broke out, the response to them being strengthening of the reactionary regime, especially after the disturbances of 1863-1864 were suppressed. Gory-Goretsky agricultural institute, Novogrudok gymnasium, Svisloch and Molodechno gymnasiums were closed in 1864 as their students participated in the uprising. At the end of XIX century there were 13 gymnasiums, over 20 district schools and 1400 primary schools in Belarus. The total number of the students at all schools (except private ones) did not exceed 160 thousand. At the turn of XIX-XX centuries the backwardness of popular schooling became evident. It put the brakes on economic progress. From 1900 to 1914 the number of primary and secondary schools of all types, including private ones, in the Vilensky educational district increased from 6297 to 7593, while the number of their pupils grew from 248 thousand to 490 thousand. There were 88 secondary educational establishments at the time.
World War I, the revolution and violent spreading of Bolshevist power threw the public educational system in the republic far back. They had to start a lot of things all over again. In the first years of the Soviet power, Soviet labor schools uniform for all sections of the population, were set up. There were schools of the first stage with a five-year term of study and schools of the second stage with a four-year term of study. Primary and seven-year schools were established in 1922, nine-year schools were set up in 1926 and secondary schools were established in 1931. The school became uniform, i.e. secondary school was divided into primary, incomplete secondary with a seven-year term of study and secondary with a ten-year term of study. It was primary education that was compulsory at first, before the Great Patriotic War incomplete secondary education turned into compulsory, later secondary education was made compulsory for the country's population, though one had to pay for it up till 1956. We should give the Soviet power its due as it worried about the education of its citizens and did a lot in this direction. The current law 'On education in the Republic of Belarus' of 1991 determines fundamental education with a nine-year term of study as compulsory.
In the 1926-1927 school year there were 4190 schools that taught subjects in Belorussian, which was 85 per cent of the total number of schools, 467 schools taught subjects in Russian, 147 schools taught subjects in Jewish an132 schools - in Polish. They worked hard in Belarus to ensure the opportunity to be educated in their mother tongue for workers of all nationalities. Most primary schools, a number of seven-year schools and technical secondary schools, as well as some higher educational establishments taught subjects in Belarusian. People's Commissars of Education in the BSSR V.M. Ignatovsky and A.V. Balitsky made an outstanding contribution to the establishment of the Belorussian school.
As we can see, they paid a lot of attention to national attributes, including education and language, in the first years of the Soviet power. The policy of the Russian empire (I have to use the term again as the imperialism of Russia until 1991 bore evident and increasing signs) was aimed at autonomy and more respected attitude to 'brotherly' republics.
Everything turned upside down very quickly, starting with 1932 as if somebody woke up in the morning and thought, 'What for is all this?' Schools with subjects taught in Polish and Jewish were closed quickly, their staff was infrequently declared to be enemies of the people, saboteurs and spies. In Belorussian schools subjects started to be taught in the language of their Russian 'big brother'. Another reform of the Belorussian language was going on. 'Tarashkevitsa' (after the initiator of the previous reform, the head of the society of Belorussian school, an academician of the Academy of Sciences of Belarus B.A. Tarashkevich) was driven away, which could be justified to a certain extent, as it is characteristic of the language, like of all other public categories, to improve, develop and be simplified. It has been calculated, for example, that if they used the hard sign in the 50 volumes of L. Tolstoy's works, it would take up 300 pages. The soft sign would require no less place if it was still spelled in Belorussian… We observe the results of those past events today. I should have written the lines in my native tongue, but I am writing them in Russian, instead…
They talk and debate a lot of late about the need to reform secondary and primary school. It goes without saying the reform is brewing but is there any point to reform right now? Who is going to carry it out? Should it be the hard-up teacher? He is not ready at the moment, yet the reform should undoubtedly be carried out by the teaching staff of schools. There remains the way that was tested more than once, i.e. the Ministry of Education would issue heaps of directions to regional administrations, and they in their turn would redirect them to district public education authorities. The result is known beforehand. They are going to fail. The expected positive result is unlikely, for the reformer personnel are not trained. One might agree with definite items of the reform, nevertheless, there is a doubt whether we need a twelve-year school system. Is there any pressure to adopt western experience? We may burn our fingers if we resort to borrowing unskillfully. I am convinced this is the case we should 're-invent our own wheel'. The matter is so delicate we'd better not act on impulse. We probably need first to carry out some experiment and only afterwards, after we see its outcome, we may decide what way school should be reformed.
It is goes without saying that historically established national traditions play an important part in education. Any unjustified change of the traditions has negative consequences, as a rule. Should we really copy the structure of the secondary school in Germany where they have a long-established tradition to enable the youth to obtain professional training as early as possible and where access to higher education was strictly limited for the majority of pupils? The so-called fundamental school was meant for this majority. The second level in the form of the so-called lyceum classes was established for those who planned to enter a higher educational establishment. In our country they also try to divide school into two levels, i.e. ten-year fundamental school and two upper lyceum classes to prepare pupils to enter higher educational establishments. They suggest that lyceum classes should be separate from the fundamental school.
This contradicts the historically established structure of the national school that enabled all pupils to receive full-fledged secondary education and that corresponded fully to the current global tendency of universal education.
We are offered to adopt 12-year education at the secondary school, with one class added to the bottom level, the so-called preschool class. They assert that 12-year education will enable to eliminate overload of pupils. The 12-year school is not going to improve anything, neither will it eliminate overload of pupils. The transition from fundamental 9-year school to 10-year education will not improve the quality of comprehensive training of pupils; it will remain on the same level. Only those pupils who will manage to get into the so-called lyceum classes will benefit from 12-year education. They will really have an extra year to expand and broaden their knowledge. There is another problem we may face. Fundamental school leavers will be 16 years old. Bearing in mind the admission to vocational schools is reduced today, they are going to remain beyond the reach of pedagogical influence. What is going to happen to these teenagers then? Is this likely to bring about crime increase in the juvenile environment? In short, there are many questions but, unfortunately, there are no well-reasoned answers to them.
The situation in the higher school in our country is far from being the best one. The teaching staff, i.e. professors and higher school lecturers, is in great distress. In Soviet times an associate professor was paid 320 rubles while a professor was paid 420 rubles which was a decent sum of money. At the same time, they had to do their best and to work flat out, which I know from my own experience. The work of a teacher at a higher educational establishment was prestigious, as well as noble and rewarding. Officials sought to educate their children in prestigious institutes and universities. This circumstance was also of no small importance, it did not allow one to relax, to some extent. There was professional duty and serious responsibility. Like any other teacher, I could not come to a lecture or a seminar unprepared. I worked, as they said at the time, at the chief sub-department of the Belorussian State University. The sub-department was headed by Doctor of Philosophy, the corresponding member of the BSSR Academy of Sciences Professor V.M. Sikorsky. We respected Vsevolod Mikhailovich and, to be quite frank, were rather afraid of him. There are hardly any scholars of his level today…
There worked about ten more people at the sub-department who had doctor's degree, professors, who were mainly expert scholars and pedagogues. They supported their young colleagues, helped them about their work, pointed tactfully to their methodological mistakes in conducting lessons and gave advice and leadership of scientific work. One could count on their support about everything. I realized later that they thought about the future, brought up successors for themselves and worried about their young colleagues.
Social science sub-departments, naturally, were advocates of the communist regime. It was practically impossible to introduce something new into the courses we gave, among them CPSU History, Marxist-Leninist philosophy, political economy of socialism and USSR History. Lectures on the disciplines turned into voicing dogmata, quotations of classics, resolutions of CPSU congresses, Politburo resolutions and speeches of General Secretaries. Any digression and invention meant you were under suspicion of the appropriate authorities who kept you under their close surveillance. The incidents happened more than once… Entirely different things happened in actual life, it was evident even to a common collective farmer or a worker. Who needed the practice of the kind? Deception and brainwash of the people, substitution of truths and values when one had to call black white and vice versa resulted in the outcome we faced a decade ago…
The teaching staff kept silent as most every person was afraid to lose his job and risk their family. I remember that shortly before the USSR disintegration professors, associate professors and teachers had to confirm their professional qualifications at district party committees. It looked like humiliation. The process was headed by the chief of the district committee department. Party functionaries who were often our former students sat at the table covered with red calico and looked down on us. They did not treat us as equal. They were assessing our compliance with the profession and could make any decision. We had to endure everything. Indeed, the communist power, as if it had a presentiment about its end, took the most abnormal and wild decisions and actions.
Today one can see a lot of changes in the higher school system. It is natural there has been a change of generations, younger and more energetic people came to teach students but I would not say they are more talented teachers. People of my generation who are over fifty treat their work with more responsibility. They infrequently work for nothing which has always been a distinctive feature of our intelligentsia. Present-day young teachers are mainly rationalist. They wish to gain success both in science and in the teaching career hastily, they want to gain everything at once, though no one managed this on the thorny path of science…
In recent years we may see not even undistinguished people but sheer mediocrities who come to pursue the teaching career. Structural organization departments of higher educational establishments, as well as the establishments themselves, are sometimes headed by incompetent people with a low standard of professional training and culture. It is a widely known fact that education is the future of the nation. The trouble is that material security of the teaching staff leaves much to be desired. A police sergeant, for example, is paid the same salary as a professor who works in a higher educational establishment. The need to carry out a staffing reform in education system, including higher school, in order to have more intellectual and honest people as its staff, is brewing.
I am convinced the notion 'education' is closely connected with the category of culture. It is clear that upbringing constitutes the fundamental element of culture in general and of a cultured man. A man with good upbringing will be a man of culture. It mean that well-brought-up implies cultured.
I think the foundations of upbringing are laid down in the family. If one of the parents in the family went through the school of upbringing in his or her time, they would have something to pass on to their children… I remember my parents implanting in my mind since very childhood the need to be honest, truthful, to respect the elders, to greet an older person first. These are common truths but they should enter our mind from the cradle. I realize now that my parents based the upbringing process on Christian dispensation, even being unaware of this. They were taught by their parents in their time, they taught us and we, in our turn, teach our children.
Unfortunately, we may observe entirely different things if we have a look at the present-day youth. Nearly every young person smokes, including girls, who seem to smoke even more than boys. This must be all the rage now, yet, it is their own business. Meanwhile, cigarettes are not cheap. Many young people choose to smoke expensive ones, worth about a thousand rubles a packet. At the same time, clothes of many students are far from being neat, clean and fresh. A student cannot afford to buy a new shirt that costs as much as four or five packets of cigarettes. Very often young people react to criticism intensely, with an insult. Moreover, an angry parent may ring and ask why we infringe upon their children's rights and dare reprimand them. The parents say it is their privilege and their own right. How can such a parent be responded? We may only pity him… I think the one who said first that clothes count for first impressions only was not quite right. Clothes are also an attribute of a cultured person.
The things that seem to be trifle at first sight and ordinary everyday situations mould not only a person's character but also the culture of the would be member of administrative staff, a manager and a head. How can everyone be highly cultured, if everything around us ranging from the family as a social 'cell' to the state itself and the life of its population, requires perfection, improvement and change… We brag about being situated in the very center of Europe. Unfortunately, to be situated in the center and to be the center is far from being the same. We have to do a lot to reach the standards we had a decade ago, not to mention the leading position on the global arena.
I think it would be unjust not to mention such a significant stage in my life and the life of the whole of my team as establishment of International Humanitarian and Economic Institute. In 1994 I managed to jump onto the step of the train named 'Higher education'. Thanks the foresight, I was lucky to choose the correct and noble activity. All in all, there are 12 private higher educational establishments, the number of their students is growing every year and exceeds 30 thousand at present. In state higher educational establishments the number reaches 190 thousand. This number tends to grow steadily, too, but we should not fail to take into consideration that paid education at such institutes and universities is gaining in scope year after year, so in some of them half of the total number of students get their education on a paid basis.
What is International Humanitarian and Economic Institute like today? Over 5.5 thousand students study at the higher educational establishment. There work about 220 lecturers and senior lecturers, there is also auxiliary staff. All in all there are almost six thousand people who work and study at the Institute. The IHEI team is comprised of people holding the same views and united by a common idea to give high quality education to youth and to bring up true patriots of their country.
We secured the annual full-fledged admission to the institute, selected and placed our personnel in a sound way. We also created and strengthened our equipment and facilities. The training is computerized; lecture rooms are equipped with audio and video equipment. All departments have their computer classes. Dean's offices and sub-departments are equipped with copying machines and computers, too. We have also established financial and economic structure of the institute. The library of the institute numbers about 35 thousand editions. There prevail books on economy and legal literature, as most students of IHEI study jurisprudence and economics as their chief subjects. Among the library readers there are both students of our institute and those from other higher educational establishments in Minsk.
Scientific work is paid much attention to at the institute. It is a well-known fact that the way to serious science starts in a person's university years. IHEI initiated annual scientific student conferences with students of other educational establishments of the republic as their participants. Many papers are notable for their high degree of researching problems. They were estimated at their true worth by competent commissions with major academics of Belarus as their members. It will not take long before International Humanitarian and Economic Institute develops scientific schools of its own.
We have a publishing house that issued tens of thousand copies of scientific literature, teaching and methodological aids, as well as other types of literature. As experts of International Personnel Academy estimated, our teaching aids were found to be one of the best at different contests. The teaching staff and the publishing house were set the task to issue learning aids for every course given at the institute.
It is the indisputable achievement of the leadership and the whole of the staff of IHEI that the institute gained international recognition of the International Personnel Academy accredited by UNESCO and the Council of Europe. This enables our graduates to receive diplomas of international standard valid in many countries all over the world. In 2000 a post-graduate course was established. We are going to train people for bachelor's, master's and doctor's degrees. It will enable us to improve the professional skills of teachers and the quality of education.
The names of sportsmen who used to be and are students of the Institute are well-known far beyond the borders of Belarus. They are even difficult to enumerate. We are proud to train fifteen Honored Masters of Sports, over fifty masters of international class, about a hundred masters of sports and masters of sports candidates. National teams in particular kinds of sports consist of the students of IHEI mainly. These students have conquered the highest sports summits and become prizewinners of the Olympics, World and European championships, as well as winners of Belarusian championships. Thirty students of the IHEI participated in the Olympic Games in 2000. Our deep gratitude goes to these true patriots who bring fame to their home country Belarus by their hard titanic work.
We do a lot for the country and we require practically nothing in return. At the President meeting of chancellors of Belarusian higher educational establishments on May 3, 2000 I came forth with a suggestion and a request to pay attention to the hardships private higher educational establishments face. We were promised on the highest level to go deep into the matter, to examine it and to assist, of course. Several years later the very same assistance I requested for was rendered solely to state higher educational establishments that have departments providing students with education on a paid basis, i.e. these were practically all state higher educational establishments. The concerns and problems of private higher educational establishments were never mentioned as if there were no establishments of the kind in the country…
God suggested me an idea and assistance in the good cause of establishing the institute where spiritual values and upbringing of the youth according to Christian canons was made a rule since the very first day the institute was set up. Is there any activity that can be nobler than to train the youth and to give young people a start in life thus securing the future of the state and to help exercise their right written down in the constitution, i.e. the right to be educated and to actualize their abilities and spiritual potential as much as possible. I do my best to assist young people in everything, let my contemporaries evaluate my efforts. My conscience is clear… I appreciate truth which, as is known, is far from always being on the surface. Let everyone bear his cross predestined by the Lord and be lavish in sharing the fruits of his labor with others.

CHAPTER XIII

THE PREDESTINATION OF A HUMAN BEING IS TO BE HUMAN

Today they speak a lot about the need to humanitarize and humanize the society. The great attention to the problem of intellectuals both in our country and all over the world testifies to the effect that there is social want to shape an individual of a new type. The only thing all those who participate in discussing the problem agree with is that the features the individual should possess are scholarship, culture and civility, i.e. the level of culture in the broader sense. They are true to suppose the humankind will manage to overcome in the future the conflict between high level of specialized knowledge and agonizing spiritual and moral state on the basis of humanizing and humanitarizing society. It is beyond any doubt that the destinies of human kind and biological survival of the generations to come depend on the successful solution to the problem that could be considered a global one by right. Unfortunately, the area of theoretical accord of researchers is limited only to the parameters mentioned above. The problem is really complicated and complex, as it touches all spheres of human activity and all of its essential manifestations without any exception. It ties into a knot the numerous processes of social and spiritual birth, making and shaping of an individual. What is most important, the root of the problem is hidden deeply in vision paradigms. Let's begin with clearing up the meaning of the notions 'humanitarization' and 'humanization'. They both derive from the terms 'humanitarian' and 'humanism'. The Latin word 'human' unites the notions but it does not identify their content. Thus, the term 'humanism' comprises a whole range of qualities that characterize a human being from the viewpoint of the display of the properties of humaneness at the emotional, sensory, psychological, or spiritual, level, as well as at the conscious and rational level, or the level of reason. In any of the interpretations the initial premise of interpretation of the notion 'humanism' is to declare the value of human life, assertion of human dignity, the right to be happy, free, respected and loved. Besides, humanism presupposes manifestation of such qualities as philanthropy, sympathy, compassion, mercy, tolerance, kindness, honor, dignity and responsibility.
Thus, the notion 'humanism' reflects the hypostasis of human existence characterized by the display of humaneness and elevated existence in all spheres where human essence is realized. Humanization of social relations is a most complicated process aimed to create conditions to nurturing and expanding humaneness in every individual and in society in general.
The notion 'humanitarian' (derived from the Latin word 'humanitas' meaning 'human nature', 'scholarship') means 'concerning a human being, his social being and consciousness'. 'Humanitarian' means 'human'. In this respect the term reflects the whole range of relations where a human being is included irrespective of his social and moral estimates. Its content presupposes structures that can be defined both negatively and positively. Hence, in the broader sense the notion 'humanitarian' embraces all spheres of human life and activity. There is nothing inhuman about human existence. K. Marx and F. Engels wrote that 'the so-called 'inhuman' is the same outcome of present-day relations as human is'.
The term 'humanitarian' has a more narrow meaning. It is used to classify fields of learning (natural, technical and humanitarian), to differentiate cultures (humanitarian and non-humanitarian, or technological and technical). On the assumption of the given interpretation the process of humanitarization denotes purposeful expansion of the scope of humanitarian knowledge influence in different spheres of social life. Humanitarization in this respect cannot be an end in itself. It is impossible to foster and cultivate the feelings of love, compassion, empathy, etc. solely by way of scientific knowledge. It is not so much essential nowadays merely to accumulate information. What is more important is to realize its sense in the general picture of conscious existence. This, in its turn, requires cardinal quality changes of those areas of social life that participate immediately in upbringing and education process.
Education system is of particular importance in the process. Practice shows that changes in education sphere from the point of view of its humanitarization are connected, as a rule, with the narrow meaning of the notion 'humanitarian'. The innovations boil down firstly to the emergence of educational and other establishments with the adjective 'humanitarian' in their names and, secondly, to the increase in the number of subjects and teaching time for humanitarian disciplines. It goes without saying, activity in this direction is important. It is evident, though, that the efforts undertaken are not enough, moreover, the activity itself will not transform the quality of education. My experience testifies to the effect that the humanities taught at higher educational establishments, such as philosophy, ethics, history and theory of culture, religious studies and others, do not solve the task of training a man of culture. They offer a student a range of knowledge that cannot make any significant progress in spiritual and moral development of an individual, as the knowledge is acquired formally. In most cases higher school graduates are professional whose intellectual background is filled with the knowledge of individual narrow fields of activity. The knowledge of the humanities fails to function in their minds, as a rule. It is common with students to forget the information after they pass an exam or a test. The individual and social lack of demand for this information produces an illusion of minor importance or sometimes irrelevance of the humanities. Such attitude to the subjects is especially typical of students in technical higher educational establishments. It is not the fault of students, though, rather it is their problem. There are no grounds to count on another outcome of teaching as education system itself, its structure and correlation of components within the structure and its interaction with other social systems do not provide for and do not intend to train a man of culture, i.e. educated and well-brought-up person. Instead we have a licentiate who does not quite answer the image of an educated person.
I have worked in the higher school system for about thirty years and I cannot stop wondering the 'wisdom' of those officials who work out academic training curriculum and determine the sequence of teaching subjects. I wonder, for example, how philosophy can perform its functions, the vision one in the first turn, if it is taught in the first and second years of study at higher educational establishments. How can philosophy realize its rich spiritual potential if the mind of a young person is absolutely unprepared to perceive a most complicated theoretical information for a number of subjective and objective reasons? It turns out that philosophy does not perform the function of the subject meant to develop logical thinking, critical self-actualization, independence of thought, the ability to wonder and doubt and, in the long run, to foster love for wisdom. Rather it turns into the opposite, i.e. into a set of incomprehensible terms, into the process of learning by heart definitions and someone else's thoughts distant from everyday problems and spiritual needs of a young person. Thus, philosophy is not perceived as 'the live soul of culture', it is thought to be lifeless abstraction and parody of life. This seems to be the reason why young people turn to religion more willingly rather than to philosophy in search of spiritual and moral support, though philosophy, according to Immanuel Kant is called 'not to teach thoughts but to teach to think'. This is one of the aspects of the problem of education humanitarization.
Speaking about some tendencies concerning changes in education structure I cannot but mention the problem of university education. There are tens of universities in our republic at present. Most of them are former institutes that have recently acquired university status. They changed the name, their organization and administrative structure underwent changes, but I wonder whether the content and strategic focus of the educational establishment changed. The practice indicates that significant quality transformations have not occurred. What is a university? First of all, it is not merely an educational establishment but also a social institution aimed to shape and work out overall cultural strategy and tactics, to determine basic outlines and content elements in spiritual and intellectual area. This is global civilization predestination of a university. University education system is meant to mould interacting unity of the world, spirit, science and culture. No wonder a classical west European university developed under the aegis of one dominant discipline that was philosophy. The integrity mentioned was realized through this discipline. Western university was directed at development and transfer of knowledge, the aim of the knowledge being spiritual mastery and interpretation of social and cultural space in its integrity.
It goes without saying university took upon itself the solution of more particular tasks connected with professional training, e.g. medicine, jurisprudence, etc. Professional training presupposed their integration into a single integral system of knowledge whose development was subject to the primary goal of ensuring the unity of professional knowledge and the whole wealth of global culture. The university fulfilled the pragmatic function and thus was indirectly related to the solution of economic and other problems the society faced. It was aimed at training and bringing up the spiritual elite, at developing the social layer of people who could be called educated and well-brought-up in the true sense of the word.
This was and must be the essence and specific nature of university education. It is no wonder the greatest achievements of the past centuries in the area of understanding global eternal problems of human existence were accomplished by university graduates. The prominent Western Europe philosophers were the people whose spiritual potential was determined by the integral unity of specialized knowledge such as physics, medicine, mathematics and astronomy, as well as of the humanities, such as philosophy, theology, history, ethics, aesthetics, rhetoric and logic, with the latter playing a dominant role. It was the humanities that enabled specialized knowledge to function in the mind as essential components developing critical thinking and theoretical doubt, surprise and love for wisdom. The series of the disciplines developed and put into shape vision paradigms. Specialized knowledge, in its turn, played the function of a catalyst that encouraged thought and directed it at deep comprehension of the essence of the universe and the place and role of a human being in it.
The considerations expressed above, undoubtedly, draw an ideal model of university system. It was not completely realized in the past centuries, though universities of the past were focused mainly, in modern phraseology, on educational humanitarization.
The situation at present is different in the main. In the past century the gap between professional knowledge and overall cultural and humanitarian training widened and came into conflict. This might be the reason why XX century did not give rise to its own scholars similar to Marx and Gegel. I think most of our human and social troubles, misfortunes and catastrophes are the consequence of the gap.
What is the difference between a university graduate and an institute graduate who acquired the same profession? The answer is evident. There are no essential differences. Both the former and the latter are people who at best gained professional skills of approximately the same level, who have uncoordinated and scrappy knowledge of the world in general and of themselves, who are not accustomed to think critically for themselves, to be aware, to reason and to understand everything around them, rather they are trained to rely on faith, on submitting authorities, opinions and are suited to manipulate themselves. In other words, present-day university education does not fulfill its functions, thus, the number of universities does not change and, moreover, does not transform the education system itself.
The major predestination of a human being on earth is to be a human being in the first place, rather than an economist, engineer, doctor, lawyer, teacher, etc. What does the society do for an individual to seek to develop humaneness in him, to pattern his behavior and actions on humanist ideals and principles? The first thing that is revealed distinctly is complete public disregard of the most vital and complicated science of how to make a man and to carry out one's main earthly purpose in the inexhaustible flow of life. Thus, it turns out that society is comprised of functioning units playing specific roles of managers, lawyers, accountants, etc. The roles are played professionally and skillfully, though, taken together in their integral unity and interrelation they do not lead to the desired result. The play is doomed to failure if it does not go by the rules of the genre and is devoid of single deep inner sense. Society should not count on the safe present, not to mention the promising future, if its activity is based on the rules and principles turned upside down and if the activity is carried out with disregard of the key condition of its own self-preservation, i.e. humaneness of a human being.
Secondly, we may trace quite clearly the tendency whose essence can be defined as purposeful shaping of an anti-human. The tendency expresses itself in the concentrated attack at human mind with the aim to 'finish off', to destroy the qualities typical of a human being. Television and other media play the primary role in the process. There arises an impression that their primary function is not merely to inform people but to supply them with spiritual nourishment that is able to infect the mind with lethal illnesses similar to AIDS and cancer. Mass dissemination of different technologies of violence, cruelty, murder, ways of deception, swindle and sharp practice flow into human soul and mind like dirty poisonous torrents, washing away and destroying all before them the 'clear streams of humanness'.
Cruelty and violence were eternal concomitants throughout human history. The current situation is peculiar, nevertheless, because they turned into a means of bringing up mass immorality owing to the well-developed system of the media, in other words, the means of mass anti-upbringing. Its influence over the inner life of a human being can be compared to HIV-infection. There are invisible changes on the subconscious level that a human being is unconscious of. Indifference to pain and sufferings of other people followed by satisfaction and pleasure at seeing the suffering of those who fall victims of violence gradually occupy more place in his soul. There is gradual everyday purposeful occupation of people's minds on the state level, its destructive violation and substitution of human features by anti-human ones. Thus they pave the way for selfishness, aggression and cruelty to spring up.
In this respect I'd like to recollect an episode from my childhood that my memory still keeps, though it may seem to be insignificant. I was watching a film in our village club. The events unfolding on the screen were nothing special, terrifying and tragic from present-day viewpoint, though I perceived them like a real tragedy. A beautiful and graceful roe runs away from a wolf. The wolf catches and kills it. The scene was unpretentious and devoid of any psychological nuances. I sat in the hall crying, as I was shocked so deeply by the death of a defenseless animal. I remember being amazed and puzzled why other people look at the screen silently and indifferently. Today, as I watch the emotional reaction of people, especially the youth and children, to the scenes of sophisticated cruelty and ingenious violence always shown on the TV screen, I discover in their eyes interest in the events going on, curiosity and even delight at seeing torments, blood and suffering, rather than tears of sympathy and compassionate worries. I wonder if a person's spiritual and moral immunity is on the brink of complete extinction. Or there might still be possibility and time to discover an efficient medicine to rescue the life-giving bases of human spirit.
Television and other media are the greatest human invention. They are neither evil nor good in themselves. Everything depends on the people and the aims and tasks they seek to attain by making use of the media. We come across an absurd situation at this point. On the one hand, it is clear to the whole of society, including its structures that fulfill power and administrative functions, that current policy and content of the media are not just harmful but even dangerous for a human being and society. On the other hand, who is responsible for carrying out purposeful, conscious, theoretically substantiated and rationally planned actions aimed to destroy humanism and morality and everything human in a human being? The answer is evident. Those who realize and know what they do are to blame. The situation really goes beyond the reasonable limits. The mind must be utterly insane if a man is unable to respond to nothing but golden or, rather, 'green' calf.
There is another aspect to the problem. We live in transition period. As is known, critical stages in development of society are dangerous not just by their economic, political and other cataclysms and catastrophes but rather by the shock human consciousness and spiritual sphere of social life experience and endure. Transition period consciousness is by right called 'unhappy consciousness', for it faces the most complicated destructive processes linked with collapse of established notions, beliefs, former faith, moral and social norms and principles. People who are deprived of any firm spiritual and moral support find themselves, figuratively speaking, to be thrown into a stormy sea. Those who can swim will come to the surface, while those who cannot swim will go to the bottom.
The events of 1917 and the end of the previous century are similar in this respect. In both cases social, political and economic transformations were implemented and are being implemented under immaturity and public consciousness lack of readiness to fundamental quality transformations in its content. That is why the same method was added to armory both at the beginning and the end of the century. It was the method of outside compulsion and violent influence that deprived people of any chance to independent inner choice of moral principles to be guided by in their behavior and activity. The whole set of public relations worked out the only life maxim, namely, if you want to live and survive socially you should act according to the way, either socialist or capitalist one, chosen by politicians. As is known, the process was accompanied by ugly forms of spiritual transformation.
We may observe something similar at present, though with the sign 'the other way round'. Something that used to be black turned white, evil started to be perceived as good. There are differences, nevertheless.
There was some social ideal at the time, though illusive, but still there was one that functioned in public consciousness as a uniting and guiding idea. Labor activity was attached special importance to as a way to realize the ideal. At present there is no ideal at all. Market economy is unable to fulfill these functions, as it is merely a means to attain something. Nobody knows what 'something' means, may be a means to gain capital in the future. Capitalism in its present form as we can observe it in Europe and America does not quite correspond to the notion of an ideal.
Thus, there is no public ideal and, consequently, there is no idea that could unite people. Public 'storm' is going on and gaining in scope, human spirit is rushing about in search of some solid support to survive. The further the process is the more difficult it is to find this support. The stark realities of life have already touched the mind of every individual. They say if you want to survive and keep afloat, your behavior and activity should be guided by anti-human principles and norms such as 'do steal, kill, tell lies, deceive, give false testimony and commit adultery' and you will get to the top of the social hierarchy structure. You are going to be rich and powerful. Honest labor, just like honor, dignity, love, sincerity and many of those things that determine the basis of human and social survival are vanishing and becoming obliterated under the current circumstances. Reality forces even those who still retain the 'warmth and light' of moral guidelines in their souls to make a bargain with their conscience. Truly, we may speak about 'unhappy consciousnesses' and tragic society. I wonder if society that bases its activity on the values contrary to its nature and essence is going to have any future.
We may often hear as an argument justifying mass immorality, lawlessness, wild outburst of violence and crime that all these events are indispensable side effects typical of the initial stage of public relations capitalization process. The history of capitalism formation in the West testifies to the effect. They survived these negative pages of their history, so we may somehow overcome them in the end, too.
Indeed, the processes to do with transformation of property forms and types have always been accompanied by violence and blood. Yet, we have to make allowance for an extremely important circumstance. The world has changed drastically. The processes of integration of countries and people, as well as their interrelation and interdependence, make a single social space and cosmopolitan global community whose well-being depends on every country and nation. This is the world of interdependent essences. Events taking place in a particular state tell on the whole global community this way or another. Spiritual and moral focus is of primary importance against the background of aggravating global crises under unprecedented scientific, technical, information, military and technological advances. Lawlessness, anti-humanism, immorality, brutality and irresponsibility spread in some country or another are a potential threat to the whole world. Thus, it is hardly legitimate today to find an excuse and to seek consolation in any historic analogies. Our present may not only ruin our own future but also destroy the future of the global civilization.
I have touched just some of the aspects of the complex and many-sided problem of education and culture. At first sight, their brief analysis is followed by a rather deplorable conclusion that it is impossible to teach a human being morality and culture and to implant him humanistic principles of existence in the society that lives according to laws denying their vital importance, significance and usefulness.
At a kindergarten, school, technical school, a college or a higher educational establishment a person is persuaded he should be kind, just, treat the elders, the weak and the sick with respect, that he has to love his parents and his Motherland, to protect nature. He is also taught to see and understand the beauty. I wonder if a person's mind can absorb the acquired knowledge as inherent moral principles determining behavior and actions of a human being if his inner circle and society in general are full to the brim with injustice, envy and evil.
In other words, humanitarian education functions today as an autonomous independent system isolated from other social structures. This is like a state in a state that should fulfill the task known to be impracticable, i.e. to develop an educated and well-brought-up, i.e. cultured, individual. The task may be achieved only through joint efforts of the whole society. I think the first step we should make in this direction is we should realize the need to humanize and humanitarize all social relations. We are already able to make at least some changes, say, it is quite possible to change the content strategy of television and the media, to introduce appropriate amendments concerning administrative personnel recruitment and appointment, etc.
I'd like to say a few words about the manpower question. Things in any team depend a lot on its leader. To perform his function successfully he should possess a range of qualities. In the first place he should be a skilled professional with a talent for organization, he should get on with people, be a diplomat, a forecaster, etc. The higher is the rank of the leader the more is required from him. Yet, the hierarchy of selection criteria lacks those that would characterize an individual from the viewpoint of his humanitarian training and his cultural level.
An aspirant should have doctor's degrees in philosophy and theology and to have command of foreign languages in order to be appointed the Pope of Rome. To defend his Candidate's dissertation in any academic field an applicant should pass an exam in philosophy and a foreign language. All this is not required in order to be a leader, e.g. a minister or a director of an association. It should be quite the opposite, though, on an assumption of common sense logic, i.e. the higher the rank of a leader is the higher level of humanitarian knowledge he should possess and the more ability to critical and logical thinking he should display. He should also be an example of scholarship and culture.
I can't but touch upon the problem of deputy corps electing. It is absolutely clear that people who take such a big personal responsibility for the state of affairs in the country and for the society that entrusted them with the duty should be aware that efficient lawmaking activity depends on the knowledge and competence of its players.
Both politics in general and lawmaking sphere in particular are most complicated social organization structures that perform the functions of public relations management and adjustment. It is right here where the destiny of the country is decided and determined, so political activity of deputies concerns interests of every individual one way or another.
It goes without saying that fruitful lawmaking activity requires sound humanitarian knowledge not only in the sphere of jurisprudence but also in the field of history, philosophy, political science, economics, culture and religious studies that enable one to take decisions that should not only satisfy momentary social needs but also take into account as much as possible the whole range of social interaction and decisions involved within the area.
In other words, deputy corps requires knowledge of society as an integral body, of the structures it comprises and of forms and types of correlation and interaction. On this condition they might manage to avoid corporate isolation of interests of different social layers and groups, i.e. the defective practice when every player in lawmaking tries to ensure his own interests. Workers, farmers, entrepreneurs, doctors, teachers, scientists, pensioners, the handicapped, servicemen, i.e. representatives of every social sphere make appropriate laws to express and defend their own interests. The laws in their aggregate, though, do not ensure the lawmaking initiative unity. With respect to society in general they not only turn out to be underproductive sometimes but they even contain destructive elements that force social tensions and promote social instability in the country.
I think it's far from being enough to be a professional in some field of activity and claim the deputy mandate on that ground. Not every cook, metalworker, machine operator, engineer, teacher, economist and doctor is able to run a state. We should get rid of the illusion otherwise we are going to make no headway for a very long time. The society and each of its members should make more serious requirements to elected representatives of the people.
I sometimes think the number of those who are nominated candidates for deputies would decline significantly if they took some preliminary test, e.g. if they had to pass a candidate's exam in some humanitarian discipline. If a scientist who studies, say, some particular problem of this or that science should know philosophy why a person who aspires to run the society shouldn't? Today the problem of humanization of social interactions and social structures is shifted to the plane of extending humanitarian education. The solution to the problem is based on the notion that humanization is an outward feature that may help introduce knowledge into life. The knowledge of a human being, though, is unlikely to introduce any significant changes into spiritual focus dealing with the meaning of life. Elevated ideas will not turn into real life as they themselves are unable to 'revive' the soul.
The process is similar to collecting items of folk arts of the past that testify to the effect that the items do not constitute part of everyday life any more. In the same way the aspiration to solve the problem of humanization by way of introducing 'human features' into consciousness is nothing but museum piece display, though one should not ignore importance and significance of humanitarian knowledge. According to an outstanding scholar, who is called 'English Lomonosov', a Nobel Prize winner Bertrand Russell, 'Human thought cultivation rarely breeds positive and humane feelings, though it occurs sometimes. The thing is that it implants into a person interests different from those that make him spoil his neighbor's life. It also familiarizes a human being with sources of self-respect other than lust for power.'
Thus, developing humanitarian knowledge and society education appears to be one of the most important components of humanistic focus. Yet, it is far from being the only and the primary one. It is impossible to foster and cultivate the feelings of love, sympathy, compassion, etc. through knowledge alone.
At the beginning of the third millennium human kind begins to realize the fact that knowledge devoid of love and morality poses a real threat not only to human existence but to existence of all living things on earth. It must be high time to live according to commandments of a Bible prophet who said, 'I will come to people to spare them knowledge that does not know love'…

CHAPTER XIV

HUMANISM AS THE BASIS OF THE NATIONAL IDEA

Both Marxist doctrine and life itself provide a lot of facts to prove the great role of ideas in society development. They may both promote and prevent its improvement or they may either be an obstacle to or slow down its pace of movement or accelerate it. The ideas that can carry along vast masses unite them and direct their activity at implementing a common goal, play an especially significant role.
That is why the problem of spiritual basis of society and its ideological unity never lost its currency. Yet, in transition periods of society development it acquires primary importance, for it needs ideological grounds for political, social and economic policy the country chooses. I'd like to express my views on the problem of state idea and ideology development.
Let's find out what ideology means.
Ideology is a notion that denotes a whole set of ideas, conceptions, political mottos, party program documents, philosophical concepts, etc. that reflects vital practical interests and social goals, as well as contains action programs. The core of ideology is a range of ideas to do with the issue of seizure, retention and employment of power by political players. (Ideology. New philosophical dictionary. Minsk, 1999, page 256). As follows from the above definition the essence and purpose of ideology is to support and defend the existing system or, on the contrary, to oppose it. State ideology in this respect is primarily political ideology that defends and grounds actions of the political power. As soon as the institution of the state emerged, ideology became its indispensable element, though the term 'ideology' began to be used much later. The term belongs to the figure of late Enlightenment in France Destut de Trese who used the notion 'ideology' to denote a science of correct reasoning laws. Soon it started to be used in another meaning, namely, as a special field of state activity, including development of state policy theoretical justification and drawing up technological methods and ways of influence over human consciousness. In XX century ideology turned into one of the main spheres of state activity and most powerful state influence over people. The state of affairs does not excite any surprise. State places an order for ideology as it is inconceivable without any ideological basis. Political power requires support and protection of the present political course, i.e. the basic function of ideology is apologetics of the political power in force and, thus, of the state.
This is the essence and purpose of state ideology. Although any socially stratified society has opposing ideology that performs contrary functions manifestly or in a hidden way, either legally or illegally, it goes without saying that the priority role is played by official, or state, ideology.
Thus, the first demand made to ideology is that it should present a theoretically grounded concept pointing at the advantage and virtue of the political course pursued, as well as at long-term possibilities of the political power to implement hopes and expectations of the country's population. I cannot but agree with the opinion that to 'raise the economy is easier than to arrange ideological work system and to obtain its outcome'. Society functions on economic basis. The more successfully it develops and the more significant its achievements are, the more opportunities it gives people to realize their abilities, aspirations and wishes and the more the space enabling to satisfy the needs in the social, political and spiritual spheres of social life extends. The more prosperous the country is the more significant is the role it plays on the global arena. All these are common truths. Here also belongs the fact that there is no activity more complicated than to efficiently organize social activity as an integral system which is ensured by economy, in the long run. Historic experience indicates that in countries with adjusted economy mechanism that practically never fails, state ideology is present though invisibly. There is no need to prove anyone that the state pursues proper policy.
People feel the policy is true as they are paid decent salaries and pension provision, guarantees are provided by the state, etc. By the way, the USA state ideology shaped in the conceptual ideas of 'common welfare society' and 'society of equal opportunity' has economy as its basis. On the contrary, in time of crises and economic and political instability the role of ideology increases significantly. By the way, it was due to economic reasons mainly that the USSR paid so much attention to the problems of ideology. If economy developed efficiently in our country at present, there would be no need to discuss ideology issues and think over the problem of the state idea. Intellectual efforts of the country would then be concentrated on the problems of spiritual development. We have what we gained, though. It is an extremely complicated task to enhance economy, especially to raise it from the ruins. Yet, if we fail to do this no ideological doctrine whatever carefully worked out it is would help us survive. It may stabilize society for a while but the wave of economic problems will break through sooner or later. The Soviet Union was an evident example.
The state idea is necessary. Its role in social life is of enormous significance. It can unite people and fill them with enthusiasm, e.g. the idea of communism, to direct their efforts and will to realize a common goal. For the idea to fulfill its function it is not enough just to define it. The idea should be adopted by mass consciousness.
The idea should be attractive to the majority of the population and to reflect its immediate interests and aspirations, as well as hopes and dreams. It is complicated to develop, as it arises in public environment and in mass consciousness rather than in officials' offices and the minds of scholars and theoreticians. It floats around and ripens on the unconscious level. The idea in its undeveloped state seems to be waiting to be given birth to. The task of theoreticians is to help the idea be born. They should shape it logically and express social intuitive aspirations in a reasonable way, transfer it to the level of awareness and make it comprehensible. It is only under this condition that we may speak about conscious and voluntary adoption of the idea by the country's population. Yet, there is another way. One may use the potential of theoretical intellect to develop a concept that would present black as white, non-existent as existing and mythic as real. A full-blown system of the media today enables to implant any idea, even the one far from public interests, into mass consciousness and to turn it into some material force. Let's recollect B.N. Yeltsin's election campaign. The slogan 'Vote, or you will lose' it was held under was implanted into public consciousness. People voted and … lost. The essence and functions of ideology are manifested quite evidently in the situations of the kind.
We went through the same in Soviet period and we remember ideology of developed socialism. The possibility cannot be ruled out completely at present, too.
The greater is political, economic, ethnic and spiritual society differentiation and the more complex its organization is, the more difficult it is to discover fundamental basis for its ideological unity. The problem gets more sophisticated when the society goes through transition period that requires conscious choice of social and political strategy. The present-day situation is characterized by a diversity of interpretations and estimates of the processes going on, as well as by lack in any social accord in defining goals and ideals of the country's long-term development. On the one hand, Soviet socialism displayed its historic groundlessness and thus compromised the idea of socialism. On the other hand, the experience of pursuing the course aimed to develop market reforms in Russia testifies to losses, failures and mistakes rather than achievements and gains. Besides, the raised Iron Curtain enabled us to see what modern technologically and economically advanced society is like, the society where the devilish image of reality prospers and is combined with obvious economic and social achievements. This is the reason why present-day public consciousness displays the evident tendency to disregard authority of the West and the USA as the ideal one should strive for and the model to be followed when implementing changes. Thirdly, the focus on joining state socialism and market reforms (with the former as a priority) in our country did not as well produce any results that would inspire most of the population to make a conscious choice of the suggested policy. I'd like to direct your attention to the following circumstance. It seems to me that relative social and economic stability during the restructuring development period in our society has acquired the features of stagnation. Stability prevents inner sources of social self-development and self-perfection from functioning. Hence its state is characterized as making no headway. The situation does not seem to be improving, at least everyday life and its perception do not testify to this effect. Real life is still full of problems and contradictions. They deepen and multiply day after day rather than diminish. One may speak about the problems endlessly. It hurts me to think about my long-suffering fellow countrymen and the fates of my Motherland. I wonder what idea they could be offered to inspire them with hope for the better future, at least the future of the children and grandchildren of those who live now. Frankly speaking, I do not see any state idea that would justify and defend the activities of the political power, on the one hand, and unite and inspire people, on the other.
There is another aspect to the problem. During the perestroika period our people learnt a lot. The main lesson they learnt is not to trust fine words and politicians' promises of equality, brotherhood, happiness, justice, etc. By the way, the history indicates there has hardly been any emperor or president who did not use the notion 'people's interests' to ground his policy. When Lenin considered the tasks of the socialist state that were of paramount importance he pointed out that first of all it is necessary to present interests of the proletariat as interests of the whole people by means of ideological influence. This was successfully implemented. Moreover, the following regularity can be traced, namely, the longer is the distance between the policy pursued and the real vital interests of the majority of the population, the more appeals to people's interests ideology contains.
Thus, the task of developing ideology and the state idea is rather complicated in principle. Moreover, the solution of the task gets more complicated in contemporary society.
I think that irrespective of the strategic way of political, social and economic development our country will choose, the main thing is that vision humanist paradigm should be assumed as its basis. Its specific character is determined by the idea of global essence of a human being who is integrated into a system of the unity 'space, nature and society'. It follows that the basic principle regulating interaction of individual hypostases of existence, their life and development is co-evolution and co-development principle. Within the system a human being acts as a player whose supreme duty and the meaning of stay on the Earth consists in personal responsibility for maintenance and increase of Life in all its diversity. Unlike anthropocentric humanism that places Human Being as supreme value in its center, modern humanism asserts that the core of vision focus is Human integrity, while Life is supreme value. Life is perceived as the only way and condition of co-existence of the world and a human being at all levels, i.e. at the biological, natural, social, emotional, spiritual, cosmic and trans-cendent. Life is also seen as a way of unfolding abilities of an individual and his creative potential.
The specific feature of contemporary social space manifests itself in globalization and integration processes, as well as in the processes of interconnection and interdependence of all players of the historic process. World history and the integrated global historic process is reality rather than theoretical abstraction. Integration tendencies in economy, technology, politics, etc. are quite evident, while things are quite different in the spiritual sphere. Both diverse religious forms and political and ideological doctrines separate people as they sometimes turn into insurmountable obstacles to mutual understanding in time of combined action. This is one of the reasons for global crises aggravation and impotence of human kind in the face of common problems, e.g. economic and demographic one, threats of thermonuclear war, drug addiction, AIDS, criminalization, terrorism, etc. Life in all of its manifestations is threatened as a result. Human life at present depends a lot on preserving cosmic, natural and social value of existence. A human being is deeply integrated into the diversity of links and relations of being. Its ontology is far from being sovereign. The spiritual hypostasis of a human being is not free, either, for it is made conditional on inherent laws of integral Being. The world is diverse but integrated. We may count on diversity only if we preserve the integrity. We all belong to the human race; this is what unites us all. We live on the same planet in the same universe, the same sun shines and warms us, the same moon and stars light up darkness of the night, we have the same sky and the earth. These are common truths. Yet, the way to recognize them and develop a moral maxim inside us which teaches us not to harm, to love and protect the world we came to, to make our stay on earth an event of cosmic significance, is very long.
In my opinion, the vision paradigm with the idea of unity and interdependence of a human being, society, nature and space as its fundamental basis could make the matrix determining the structure of values. It does not materially contradict either religious or atheist world view, thus it could be the base uniting efforts of science and religion aimed to shape an individual who is morally responsible for the destinies of human kind and the universe and who aspires to preserve and develop live in every Living Thing, spiritual in the Spirit, kind in Kindness, beautiful in Beauty, true in Truth and loving in Love.
Humanism as a vision principle does not boil down to some particular basis. It is peculiar as it synthesizes the spirit, the soul and feelings into a single space of high moral standards. It should be noted in this respect that humanist paradigm displays specific features of Belarusian ethnicity national character, as well as peculiarities of its psychology and spiritual and moral focus.
If spiritual paradigm of effective practical humanism makes the basis of the national (state) idea that will mean our country is laying down the foundation for the promising future of both our nation and the whole of humanity.


CHAPTER XV

PRIORITIES OF INTELLECTUAL ELITE IN XXI CENTURY

The contemporary world faces a range of problems that can be solved solely by joint efforts of intellectuals irrespective of their fields of activity. We can single out the following groups of problems among the common ones, e.g. the global ones, where the problem of vision crisis with spiritual and moral degradation of social players as its result can be put in the forefront. At present the majority of countries including our state lives according to the formula based on worshipping one idol which is its majesty dollar and is concerned with gaining highest possible financial and economic efficiency. Thus, we are busy with other things, rather than with perceiving a Human Being as a goal. A human being, nature and cultural wealth turn into a means to gain material wealth. Hence we face economic crisis, military threat, demographic crisis, drug and alcohol addiction and so on. These problems are common for all human beings. The future of our home country, of our Motherland depends on whether they will be solved or not. The second group of problems is conditioned specifically by the historic situation in our republic, i.e. organization and life sustenance of the social body. The problems should be solved by intellectuals, i.e. people who are notable for their education, scholarship and the level of their culture, those who are able to create and take action and who feel personal responsibility for the outcome of their action.
Those who are employed in education sphere have a lofty mission and take special responsibility for both solving many problems and developing an intellectual layer.
There are quite many problems here, too. It is necessary to clear up the basic task of education in order to determine them. It is obvious that the primary task today is to shape an individual who is cultured, educated, well-brought-up, responsible and has some spiritual and moral dominating idea, rather than to develop an individual who possesses some particular specialty.
Hence, education should not be concerned merely with teaching knowledge. It should develop a personality in the broadest sense. Thus, education should perform the function of bringing up an individual. This type of education is an objective contemporary need. Knowledge in itself is neutral with regard to moral assessment. It may be used both for a good cause and to harm. Bacon's aphorism 'Knowledge is power' bears a negative connotation rather than a positive one at present. That is why it is important to give knowledge a creative status. The task may be implemented through education that performs the function of bringing up an individual. In my opinion this education is an inherent feature of education system, rather than an external one implanted artificially into the system of education, i.e. upbringing is an indispensable attribute of education, rather than its individual component. In its broader sense, education means upbringing, and vice versa. In practice, unfortunately, education and upbringing appear as two parallel processes. What can be undertaken to change the situation? I think our efforts should be concentrated in the following directions.
Education should be concerned with developing the ability to reason, think, doubt, compare and think critically rather than with introducing well-known truths and bare information into the mind. For the time being our school system is concerned with implementing its informative function rather than its educational one.
Knowledge domain-dependent learning should be accompanied by some meaning and value mounting, with developing humanist vision paradigm as its goal. What does it mean? Education in the Soviet school was integrated inherently into the overall education process, with Marxist-Leninist ideology as its basis. Upbringing in the vein of the ideology was not carried out solely as special program activities such as labor, patriotic, moral, aesthetic, etc. It was not only an important independent part of education process and its indispensable element. It was none the less important that program activities themselves performed the function of bringing up. The Marxist-Leninist ideology ran through both the humanities (history, philosophy, ethics, aesthetics, etc.) and natural and technical disciplines. The result was that education system shaped a definite type of vision, namely, communist one, i.e. view of the world in general and the place and role of a human being in the world, hence it set a definite spiritual and moral matrix that motivated behavior and actions of the players.
In other words, education performed the function of bringing up. What do we observe nowadays? In a decade both the society in general and education system lost their consolidating spiritual pivot. Hence, education fulfills merely the task to inform and teach. It trains individuals who possess some particular specialty, rather than a human being who is humane, well-brought-up and cultured. The process of upbringing is carried out entirely by the 'school of life' that requires and reproduces an 'anti-human' who is cruel, merciless, and avid and who is directed toward such processes as to steal to kill and to lie by the ideology of success. The one who is honest and decent is unlikely to gain any prosperity. Children dream to be whoever they like but none of them thinks about hard labor.
They make efforts to overcome the current state of affairs by humanization and humanitarization of education. Yet, the reforms carried out in that direction concern more the outward and formal aspect, as a rule. The novelty boils down to the following, firstly, to the emergence of educational and other establishments with the adjective 'humanitarian' in their names and, secondly, to the increase in the number of subjects and teaching time for humanitarian disciplines. It goes without saying activity in this direction is important. It is evident, though, that the efforts undertaken are not enough, moreover, the activity itself will not transform the quality of education. My experience testifies to the effect that the humanities taught at higher educational establishments do not solve the task of training a man of culture. They offer a student a range of knowledge that cannot make any significant progress in spiritual and moral development of an individual as the knowledge is acquired formally. In most cases higher school graduates are professionals whose intellectual background is filled with the knowledge of individual narrow fields of activity. The knowledge of the humanities fails to function in their minds, as a rule. The individual and social lack of demand for this information produces an illusion of minor importance or sometimes irrelevance of the humanities.
It goes without saying we have the opportunity to humanize education and knowledge and to unite all of its numerous streams by means of a single matrix with the ideas of space, nature, a human being and society unity and interrelation, the ideas of preserving and confirming life in all of its hypostases, and of personal responsibility for the outcome of one's actions, as its basis. Education will be able to perform its functions of upbringing and teaching only when it has the triad 'knowledge - humanism - action' as its basis.
It goes without saying the period our country goes through is characterized by synchronous global and national crises aggravating the social situation significantly. The crisis phenomena unfolding in all spheres of society's vital activity act as a basis for 'anti-upbringing'. They develop the personality type contrary to the ideal being shaped. In a decade we turned to be quite dissociated from the type of personality whose basic features are being educated and well-brought-up, i.e. cultured. It seems to be extremely important to neutralize and moderate the anti-upbringing effect. This problem has to be solved by the education system that should be directed toward education performing the function of bringing up. This type of education implies learning and perceiving any natural and humanitarian discipline as an individual element integrated into the general system of the diverse and qualitatively different universe that is uniform in its structure.
Human dimension of being is a central part of education aimed at upbringing. In this aspect primary attention should be given to teaching young people to interpret the knowledge they acquire from a point of view of solving eternal issues such as the essence of a human being, the role he is destined for in the general structure of the universe, what the destiny of a human being is, what life and death mean, what the essence of human life is, etc. rather than making young people memorize bare facts from the domain of physics, chemistry, biology, dates of historic events, philosophic and religious doctrines, social regularities, etc. Human dimension of being is primarily spiritual and moral dimension. Education with this dimension as its basis enables us to develop a personality who is knowledgeable and moral, responsible for his actions, for the fate of other people and for keeping life and peace on the planet.
Human dimension of being is active dimension. One should make adjustments into the theory and ideology of social activity when implanting moral principles of activity. Philosophy of ancient India asserts human achievements should be based on the triad 'the way of knowledge - the way of love - the way of activity'. One should remember the wisdom and supplement the social development structure by the vital humanist, moral and social elements in compliance with the wisdom.


CHAPTER XVI

PEOPLE WITH HARD DESTINY

My maternal grandfather Alexander Vikentyevich Kirbai was born in 1890s of XIX century in a family thought to be big even at the time. There were five boys and two girls in the family. They worked from morning till night in the field and about the house, as there was always something to do. Yet, they lived just like others and somehow managed to make both ends meet. At least my mother did not remember the grandfather ever complaining about their hard life under the tsar…
It was the time when vain and, as it turned out later, utopist ideas of tsar dethronement, seizure of power, establishing dictatorship of the proletariat and establishing a society of equality, justice and good hitherto unseen in history were emerging and maturing in the depths of the movement of advanced revolutionaries like Vladimir Ulyanov and others similar to him…
Time proved it was adventure pure and simple. It was impossible to set up the society of the kind, moreover, in the economically backward, uncivilized and illiterate country like Russia was after the wars and revolutions at the beginning of the century that brought it to ruin. The country had to rise to the level and mature, it was unwise to act on impulse. Almost a century passed, yet, we still bear the fruit of those utopist plans.
Vladimir Ulyanov was quite young when he got acquainted with the works of K. Marx, transferred Marxist theory to Russian reality and reduced his intentions with pathologic persistence to the only thing, namely, to the seizure of power no matter what way it would take place, peaceful or armed. Yet, the founder of the doctrine, the author of 'Capital' thought to be the 'Bible' of communism, when an old sick man, warned the zealous revolutionary Vera Zasulych about malignancy of the step. The conclusions of 'Capital' were based on the economy of such countries with developed industries as Germany and England while they were absolutely unacceptable for Russia. Nevertheless, Zasulych ignored the warning. G.V. Plekhanov, a true scholar, thinker, an expert and judge of Russian culture opposed Lenin's risky venture, too.
Vladimir Ulyanov, nevertheless, was obsessed with the idea to rearrange the world and change it radically. Most of his articles and books are devoted to the theory of revolution where dictatorship of the proletariat is assigned the part of universal panacea. The tactics of hypocritical flirting with the nation under the slogan 'factories should belong to workers and land should belong to peasants' bore its fruit. Who could explain at the time the intimidated and illiterate people these plans were unlikely to come true. Moreover, who could foresee the extent of the tragedy of Bolshevist putting theory into practice?
The proletariat dictatorship Moloch started to gain its terrible strength right after the October coup. This became evident to the majority of the intelligent population both in the young Soviet country and outside its borders. Yet, the problem was it was impossible to hide, to run away and to sit on the fence anywhere in the country as the Moloch was ubiquitous and merciless… It was already in the first years of Bolshevist rule that many of Russian provinces rebelled against the murderous terror of Bolshevist dictatorship. Kroonstad, the first to rise against the dictatorship in February 1921, was drowned in blood soon afterwards. The starving Ukraine and many Russian provinces, especially in the south of the country, driven to despair by predatory surplus and appropriation system carried out by armed detachments, were in a state of unrest and revolted. The peasant rebellion in Tambov province crushed mercilessly by M. Tukhachevskiy, a would-be red marshal who later fell the victim of the system he applied a lot of efforts to establish, went down in history. Even 'tolerant' Belarus did not stand aside, as Slutsk peasants rebelled at the end of 1920. The uprising was crushed mercilessly, and this page of Belarus' history was never mentioned for over seventy years.
Cruelty was always characteristic of Bolshevist leaders, e.g. V. Lenin gave orders 'to execute by shooting and punish severely every swine', to send regime opponents to concentration camps or to exile them from the country; F. Dzerzhinsky who was called 'iron' not without reason, the founder of the XX century Inquisition known as Extraordinary Commission (later Central Political Administration, People's Commissariat of Home Affairs, KGB); J. Stalin, a dictator and true grave digger of all humane revolutionary ideas, not to mention L. Trotsky, the merciless revolutionary tribune who shed rivers of blood in his time, and many other 'ardent revolutionaries'…
It always held good, under any rule, under tsars and commissars that peasants suffered first and most of all. These submissive, hardworking and meek people who fed the whole country, including their torturers, deserve respect and admiration. Rural population for many centuries and up till the present day has not got rid of serfdom, stultifying hard work and as F. Engels put it, of rural life idiocy. A peasant continually carried the burden of serf labor and on account of his state as a serf he could not and still can't touch elementary culture. This was and is the practice…
Bolsheviks' plans were, contrary to theories of 'pedants' of all types, to conduct political a coup, assume power in hand and to advance with rapid strides to the peaks of culture. Nevertheless, they failed. They could not succeed, anyway. They needed some cultural basis, in the first place, to put what they planned into practice. The basis could be acquired from nowhere, as three quarters of the country's population was illiterate.
The top of the new power was not notable for their high culture and education, either. V. Lenin who had taken an external degree and had never worked anywhere, lived comfortably, like a lord, he lived either off his mother or on the party money. L. Trotsky was a gifted man but he did not study anywhere. J. Stalin was a half-educated seminarian, an unaccomplished priest and an expropriator with gangster manners. L. Kaganovich was a shoemaker, K. Voroshilov was a metalworker from Lugansk, M. Kalinin was first a peasant in Tver, then he was a turner at Putilov plant. F. Dzerzhinskiy was even unable to finish a gymnasium. They were all worth one another. None of them, as a rule, studied anywhere, in most cases they did not even work. Their universities were tsarist prisons and exiles to Siberia and Zapolyarye where they lived as if in sanatoriums as compared with the life in the concentration camps they set up later… They were obsessed with the only idea to seize the power that would give them access to creature comforts. They had stormy quarrels with each other after Lenin's death and killed each other as if they were spiders in a jar. Indeed, there is some supreme justice…
Yet, we sang the praises of Vladimir Ilyich and 'the most just' party in the world he established. We did this at all stages of the so-called socialism and later communism, that is more appropriate to be called cannibalism. The Bolshevist regime managed to hold its ground for a little over than seventy years on people's blood that deserves to be called holy, on the feeling of fear genetically implanted to the Soviet people, the fear imbibed at their mother's knee, owing to most cruel despotism. Even the future generations are unlikely to get rid of the fear, we are still afraid to tell the truth about the power and politics aloud, as well as to evaluate one event or another…
Among the 100 million innocently killed for the triumph of the radiant tomorrow the lives of my grandfather Alexander Vikentyevich Kirbai, whose name I inherited, and his brothers Nikolai and Vatslav were lost, as if they were unnoticeable grains of sand. My grandfather was mobilized during World War I. He fought heroically to defend the tsar, faith and his Motherland. He was awarded with St. George's cross and was wounded in the chest. At the front, of course, he was persuaded by Bolsheviks to join their ranks and hoped to be given a piece of land on returning home. The assurances of Bolshevist agitators seemed to be very sincere. They promised land to peasants and plants and factories to workers. It was difficult not to yield to temptation to fling away a chance like this. Many people fell for the bait and paid for this with their lives afterwards. Twelve years after the revolution the country faced the notorious forcible collectivization with all its terrors, exiles and death of the best and most hardworking part of rural population. Violence went on for several decades. As a result, my native place today bears signs of devastation and escheat.
When he returned from the front, sure of the gained freedom and justice of the new people's rule, my grandfather and most of the village poor started to join for collective farming in the middle of 1920s, although the experience of the neighboring village Buikovichi that was joined into a commune several years before turned out to be deplorable. When they did away with collectivized pigs, cows and horses and fought with each other for the remainder of foodstuffs in the common pot, they realized the commune was not their cup of tea.
The commune in Buikovichi went to pieces while things with my grandfather and those who held the same views were quite good, the peasants made somehow their both ends met. They did not have enough, though, to live a full life in winter, nevertheless, they had some potato and grain to live on. Many people started to doubt whether the revolution, the committees of the poor and commissars were necessary if their life under the tsar was no worse. No one expressed the thoughts aloud, naturally. They were already afraid, as they say, of their own shadow, people expressed their thoughts in whisper and were cautious at what they said. The best way to behave was not to say anything, and to see and hear nothing…
Bolshevist propaganda machinery, in the meanwhile, was going forward at a steady gait. Stalin was developing a reputation of God, tsar and father for the people. All achievements were linked with the name of the great helmsman, there was unrestrained praising of the regime, while all failures and misfortunes were attributed to 'the enemies of the people' who were looked for more unyieldingly and persistently year after year. As we know, the one who looks for will always find. Even yesterday's like-minded people and friends turned into enemies, not all of them at once, first they selected single people or whole groups. The hands of the ubiquitous People's Commissariat of Home Affairs reached most people's commissars, the name suggested by L. Trotsky for ministers, as well as almost all Soviet and party officials, among them secretaries of kolkhoz party organizations, chairmen of village soviets, secretaries of party regional committees, chairmen of executive committees, Politburo members and leaders of Union republics. Then the turn of the Red Army commanders, commissars and marshals came.
After 1937 it was a different country, neither socialist nor capitalist. It was an ugly feudal and slaveholding hybrid, a crushed and coerced country that was once a great power. Fifty years later the country had to go through greater humiliation, with the roots of this humiliation going down to the Leninist theory.
About 900 of my fellow-villagers from Zhitkovichi district, both peasants and workers who were diligent people with their hands toil-hardened, were executed by shooting throughout the period of several months in 1937 and 1938 in Mozyr, not far from the crossing of roads leading to the former region center and Kalinkovichi, in the vicinity of Mozyr. All in all, according to the latest data, 2896 lives were ruined here, including Alexander Kirbai, Kotsubinsky brothers and many other of my relatives and fellow-villagers. All of them, as a rule, were young or middle-aged. These were people who had all their life ahead of them, those who were full of energy and strength, and those who could bring up children, strengthen their country and defend it. Yet, they were destined to fall from the bullet of their torturers with a question on their lips, 'Why?' They were executed for the sake of utopist socialism, for nationwide happiness and for the future of those who went on living. Yet, those who remained led a gloomy and cheerless life…
My native village Rudna suffered more than any other village in the district. About 40 of its inhabitants were arrested and executed by shooting. The oldest one, Ivan Shlyakhtin, was 68, the youngest one, Lyudvig Yukhnevich, was only 28. Lyudvig was executed with his brother Anton, just like brothers Petr and Nikolai Kotsubinskys, who were my grandmother Marpha's brothers, Adam and Geronim Rozhalovskys and others. It follows clearly from the materials of Gomel region KGB department that Nikolai Kirbai was executed by shooting on September 27, 1937, while his brother Vatslav Kirbai was executed on December 1. Day after day lives of tens of people in Mozyr alone were claimed. Yet, who can count the number of those whose lives were claimed all over the country?
Mass executions started in September 1937. Like any crime, this one was beyond any reason, and had ideologists and inspirers, as well as executors of its own. On July 30, 1937 people's commissar Yezhov submitted for consideration of Stalin's Politburo the operative program 'On repressing former kulaks, criminals and other anti-Soviet elements'. The document that could by right be called a blasphemous one enumerated in detail the population groups that were subject to repressions, ways of punishment; the plan of carrying out actions in different regions was brought to notice, ways and methods of investigation, enforcing sentences, as well as its cost and accountability… The section 'On punishing those who were subject to repressions and the contingent figures' pointed out that they fell into two categories, their number considered a target figure. It seemed they spoke about crop yield or giving in raw product and animals to procurement stations… Belarus was primarily set the task to repress 12 thousand of its citizens, of them 2 thousand fell under the first category, i.e. they had to be executed, while 10 thousand fell under the second category, i.e. they were meant to be exiled, or sent to concentration camps for long terms or infrequently, they were sentenced to life. The unauthorized exceeding the task was strictly forbidden, just like the shortfall. The plan was approved by the Politburo of the 'most philanthropic and just party in the world', the 'operation all over the Soviet Union had to be started as early as August 5'. Rivers of human blood followed the approval of the document…
…My mother remembered September 19, 1938 for the rest of her life, as that night a Black Maria approached their house, a Bolshevik and peasant Alexander Kirbai was taken away to a point of no return before the very eyes of his children and wife who were struck dumb with terror and understood absolutely nothing, as well as the astonished fellow villagers who knew Alexander Kirbai to be an honest and conscientious man and an indefatigable toiler. He did not escape his brothers' lot, therefore … They were tactful enough not to ask him to pay the fare to Mozyr. It is known that Nazis, i.e. national democrats who had the same roots as social democrats, the Bolsheviks prototypes, included everything into an account and sent it for a person's relatives to be paid. They took stock of everything, including keeping costs, the cost of the straw wretched person lied on, digging a grave for him and even the cost of a bullet to execute him… There was a prison in the former Orthodox Mikhailovskaya Church in Mozyr. This was just in the spirit of the times to turn churches into dungeons everywhere, at best they were turned into storehouses for grain and potato. There was a pioneers' palace just opposite the prison (or the church?) where 'enemies of the people' were held. One could hear songs and the sound of bugles and drums from there. Wasn't it really a life of happiness? The humaneness of security officers can't but win over as they allowed visits of prisoners. My mother who was 16 at the time came to visit her father, too. She told later the grandfather was self-assured and said it was a mistake and that Stalin would look into the matter, so they would soon release him. One may see how much he believed the leader!
Grandfather's confidence passed on to everyone. They started to sing Stalin praises, said he was their only hope, he was kind and just and he would defend the innocent man. Time passed but the grandfather did not return. They somehow scratched up money and my mother set out on the journey to Mozyr once again. After several days of trying experiences they were allowed one more visit. My mother recollected it was hard to recognize the grandfather, he was depressed and broken, made irrelevant replies and hardly raised his head. He was crying and did not want his daughter to see his tears. Still he managed to say he was battered heavily and he signed everything they wanted. The things that he was charged with, staggered by their absurdity and foolishness. They accused him of keeping a portable radio transmitter in the hollow of an oak and of keeping in touch with Pilsudsky. In November 1938 Alexander Kirbai was charged with being an agent of the Polish intelligence service and sentenced to execution by shooting. The sentence was enforced without delay. Thus, all Kirbai brothers were crushed by the steamroller of mass repressions…
Grandmother Marpha was left with five children on her hands to be taken care about. Lida, the elder one, was 18, the rest were one smaller than the other - Liodya, Alexandra and the twins Venera and Apollinariy… The things after the grandfather's arrest were aggravated by humiliation inflicted by district authorities and some fellow villagers. The family was firmly stuck with the label 'enemies of the people'. The children were pointed the finger at, as they were children of 'the enemy of the people'. The older ones who were LYCLSU (the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League of the Soviet Union) members were summoned to the district komsomol committee and offered either to repudiate openly their father who was an enemy of the people or be expelled from the komsomol. My mother refused the deal flatly, so she was expelled at once. One of my mother's sisters yielded to the psychological pressure and … remained a Komsomol member.
What is most terrible is that it was not an isolated case. The state of affairs assumed a mass scale, the whole of the country suffered. Stalin advanced a thesis that class struggle would inevitably aggravate as the country advanced in building socialism and thus 'enriched' Lenin's theory, in the first place, and, secondly, he freed his hands to exterminate working peasantry, intelligentsia and the military men with the object of keeping the country in constant suspense and thus subdued.
His successors 'made happy' thousands of unfortunate families several decades later by the happy news their fathers and sons were rehabilitated … posthumously. We are 'grateful' to them for their care and sympathy. Today quite many people who experienced paralyzing fear for many years say with their heads held proudly 'Anyway, justice triumphed, they rehabilitated …' We should add they rehabilitated those who were innocently killed, humiliated and disgraced. Indeed, one may speak about 'great happiness' and 'unprecedented' justice…
The Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics was the only country in the world with dictatorship of the proletariat fully implemented into practice, the dictatorship being, in fact, the one usurped by its leaders. It is terrible that a whole nation found itself to be hostage of ruling murderers after October 1917. What Bolshevist leaders cannot be denied is their supreme demagogic ability that enabled them to carry masses and to rule them later, by means of such key factors and means as violence, lies, terror and fear… The contemporary reality makes one stop once again, glance back and think why all this could happen. Why were they able to twist us round their little finger and why did the tacit consent of the majority of people lead to this absurd and even wild state of affairs?
There are many reasons why the questions have to be answered. The answer should primarily be looked for within people themselves, in their scholarship, culture and traits of character. A deplorable picture emerges, though. Those who belonged to the top of the hierarchical pyramid were mainly dull, half-educated or lacked any education at all. People were nominated to the top or to members of administrative staff solely owing to their devotion to communist ideas, the party membership being compulsory, as well as owing to their phrase-mongering skill and the ability to weave plots and please their bosses … One may ask what kind of state machinery we were going to obtain? The answer is as clear as noonday. The one that was unprincipled, incompetent, dim and dull. Thus, having implanted into human mind the idea that intelligentsia was blue blood and counter-revolutionary, a hard-working peasant was a kulak, a specialist was a saboteur, the authorities gained new victims of abundant bloody reaping. What or, to be more exact, who did they remain with, as a result? They had to do with a mass of slaves oppressed by excessive toil, dull and featureless, devoted to their leaders but meek, inactive and lacking any initiative.
The 'true follower' of V.Ulyanov-Lenin needed exactly this kind of people to implement the adventurous dictatorship. Could a down-and-outer Labutya resist the temptation to have a free hand at making use of the power he came to in the village, a district or a region if the power was sole and unlimited? Stalin's byword 'Cadre determine everything' is both simple and wise. If modified a little, it would sound 'Cadre would do away with everything'. The People's Commissariat of Home Affairs cadre who were the party elite… The ungifted, half-literate and impertinent people ran the show. The more ungifted, illiterate and impudent they were, the higher they ranked in the hierarchy.Yet, they were exterminated from time to time, as they were witnesses and immediate participants of evil deeds. Stalin did not like to leave any 'traces'. These people humiliated openly those who had clear heads and were conscience of the people. Let's recollect, for example, the outstanding scholar Nikolai Vavilov, the poet Osip Mandelstam, the marshal Vasily Blukher and the peasant Alexander Kirbai… How could the tradition be reversed and changed? May the present day be a beginning of the new tradition? One wants to believe this.
The fact that it was not Belarusians who advanced all these misanthropist theories and put them into practice afterwards may be cold comfort. The cadre of the new Soviet state started to be established as early as under Lenin. Russia was a great multinational power, while Belarus, also called the Northwest province, was entirely under its aegis since the third partition of Rzech Pospolita in 1795. Lenin's theory seemed to give an answer to the most acute issue with the main point that after they won Russia back from the rich for the poor it was necessary to learn how to rule it. They said any cook should be able to rule the country. It is a well-known fact, though, that a cook should be able to make soup, similarly, a shoemaker should be able to make shoes, while a country, an enterprise or a farm should be ruled and managed by the most intelligent, highly intellectual and educated specialists.
However, this demagogic theory was never put into practice. Cooks, workers and peasants did not rule the country. At best, they played the part of extras in the Supreme Soviet that was outward appearances of people's power. Yet, the top in power itself, due to their education and intelligence, never represented the better part of their country's population (we know that secretaries of district and region committees, as well as officials of higher ranks, were never notable for their high level of education and culture), while the depths of the huge country could suggest a wealth of unclaimed talents and people of natural gifts. Only the selected few who were reliable and devoted were allowed behind the scenes of the caste. The problem was they did not think carefully before the coup the issue of who was going to rule the dull and illiterate country. Bolsheviks conceitedly seized the power that was unattended at the time, as we cannot regard the demagogic 'phrase-monger' A. Kerensky to be the ruler of the country that remained without any government after Nikolai II abdicated the throne.
During the late 1930s Stalin finally formed his 'wolf pack'. Each of them had to be ready to bite their fellow citizen's, colleague's, relative's, father's, mother's or their brother's head off at their 'Master's' command any moment. It was exactly this team that enabled Joseph Vissarionovich to hold everyone in his fist, to commit violence over those out of favor with him by somebody else's hands while he himself seemed to keep out, just and 'pure' and to rule with a rod of iron the whole of the country that worshipped the leader beyond measure and sang him praises and endless hosannas for three decades. People worshipped their torturer as he was so clever to create the image of a fair man.
… When Lenin suggested in March 1921 a new economic policy should be implemented he stretched the truth, as it turned out later, for there was nothing new about the policy. Both in Russia and all over the world they spoke about lease, concessions, free trade, etc. They both discussed the policy and implemented it gaining significant progress and proving in practice the advantage of this type of management method. What was the novelty, then? Many adherents and supporters of Ilyich, as soon as they heard about free trade, entrepreneurship and other 'new economic leverage', considered this to be betrayal of revolutionary ideas and return to capitalism, so they left political arena and sometimes even committed suicide. Life made Lenin realize the negative consequences of October revolution and the policy of 'military communism' that ruined the village that was poverty-stricken enough as it was, but it was late to retreat. Though Lenin said that 'new economic policy was in earnest and for a long time', the supposedly new economic policy held out not long due to the all-out attack against the private sector launched by uncompromising Stalin after Lenin fell ill, was removed from the political arena and died soon afterwards. At the same time they pursued the policy of accelerated collectivization of agriculture and industrialization of the whole country. These measures were burning and timely in many respects though the 'great victories' were paid a high price for.
The triumphant party (it turned out later the party gained victory over itself) faced economic, political and cultural tasks global in their nature. Absolute power centralization was indispensable, in the first place, to defend the achievements. One was not allowed to take a step left or right, back or forward, otherwise the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission would punish them. Secondly, the strictest discipline at all levels was essential. Thirdly, it was necessary to develop the country's countless natural resources. They also had to employ the enormous human resources efficiently and to the maximum advantage possible… The list could be continued, but we have already determined the basic points. We should also remember about the fear suppressing even the voice of reason that was already implanted into people's minds, the drudgery of tens millions of 'free slaves' - all this could not but yield results. Then the slaves started to learn the basics of reading and writing, their first phrase being 'We are not slaves', while their favorite leader who stood on the tribune of Mausoleum and greeted the May 1 demonstration uttered in a low voice, 'A flock of sheep…'
The achievements of Stalin's five-year plans that were in many respects evident and incontestable had slave forced labor of the people as their basis. There is no country in the world where people are given a cross, a tick or a line for their hard work from morning till night to denote a workday (unit of work on collective farms). This was thought to be a kind of pay. Tens millions of people passed this way, thankless and unworthy of a human being, the way that began with a cross in a register and was over with a cross at the graveyard… This is where I see sources of our current impotence and miserable life…
Barrack-like socialism as a system started to function in the country in full in 1930s. Forcible collectivization of peasantry was a departing point of the kolkhoz system that is becoming obsolete nowadays. It is known that history does not know any subjunctive mood, nevertheless, if Bolshevist men of wisdom had not turned kolkhozes into a kind of slave collectivization of peasant labor, but had had a bit more brains in their heads, agricultural development would have gone the way pointed as early as at the beginning of the past century by the Prime Minister of the Russian government P.A. Stolypin. His concept places emphasis on a strong and prosperous peasant who could be called a farmer. He intended to strengthen and enrich the country relying on a rich peasant. The theory is sound and reliable. Now, almost half a century later, we make attempts to get back to it after so much effort, time and resources wasted and, most importantly, after so many people, peasants, true workmen, those who could be called the salt of the earth, were exterminated.
Accelerated forced collectivization gave rise to mass-scale famine in the country. The famine assumed extremely acute forms in Ukraine and Povolzye where cases of cannibalism were infrequent. Once again, just like during the civil war, provision detachments had to acquire grain violently, since the surplus-appropriation system experience of the civil war period was not yet forgotten. Did peasants have any incentives to develop their private homestead? No, they didn't. They knew they would be taken everything away anyway, moreover, they would be announced kulaks and repressed, exiled or put to prison, or even executed by shooting. It was only in 1920s that everyone sought to live a better life and to grow rich, later on, on the contrary, it was more advantageous to be poor… Friendship, mutual assistance and, moreover, any social emulation was out of the question, as they had to toil without a moment's rest from morning till night either in a field or at a farm. Nobody would express any pity or sympathy with the sick or the weak one, neither your fellow worker who would have to do your work for you nor the chairman of the kolkhoz, a stranger in most cases at the time, one of those twenty-five thousand workers sent from towns, who was to submit laudatory reports to district authorities every day. You had to work and that's that, otherwise you were doomed, you would die, they would take you to a graveyard, place a cross on your grave and that was all there was to it. There were a lot of farmers, why spare them? It was at the time that one could speak about the country's turning into a huge concentration camp where prison guards of different ranks ran the show headed by the 'head of the prison camp' Dzhugashvili-Stalin himself. A neighbor reported on his neighbor, or even on his own brother, a son or a daughter labeled their father as the 'enemy of the people' and repudiated him, a son informed against his father, while fathers killed their children. There were such mass ideological convictions at the time. All this practice was regarded as building the radiant future and the most just society in the world called communism…
The work of a passportless peasant deprived of his rights or of a worker was far from being emancipated, creative and joyful, as it was communicated by the propaganda machine, all the more, day-to-day activities were never a holiday. Grudge against one's neighbor and oneself prevailed over people's minds. This contradicted the very God's commandment saying one should love his neighbor. It is quite natural the outcome of this labor was polar to the one expected. Such was the country built and relations nurtured by ideologists of Bolshevist communism.
Thus, economy with slave labor as its basis could not be live and effective for a long time. Reality itself proved it, yet, it took over 70 years of suffering of several generations, torrents of blood and seas of people's tears to realize this…
Ideological backroom worked in a masterly fashion at the time. The turbid streams of the surrogate it made were implanted in people's mind every day. Could the dull, intimidated and downtrodden people doubt that the USSR was a country of working people, the happiest and most just country, that we flew higher and further than anyone else and that the Red Army was the strongest one? They sang and believed they did not know any country in the world where people enjoyed so much freedom. This was an example of hypocrisy, though there was really a grain of truth in the words, people indeed knew no other country as the Iron Curtain was firm and impenetrable… Public conscience was shaped in the proper direction, the cult of Stalin, the great helmsman of both the Soviet people and the whole world, was inculcated every day and every hour. A peculiar cult of the country's citizens was shaped in close connection with it. Could anyone suppose at the time there were some nations more civilized, more democratic, more economically developed and more prosperous than the Soviet nation?
The bitter day of reckoning was at the country's doorstep. 190 select Reich divisions, thousands of tanks and planes were kept in readiness at our borders. The very first weeks of the war debunked Stalin's myth of the unprecedented power of the USSR and his assertions that nobody would dare violate our borders, that we would fight only on the enemy's territory and would have insignificant losses … One should be a 'genius' politician to allow the catastrophe to happen, as Nazis occupied Minsk in less than a week and then two months later Wehrmacht units occupied an enormous part of the Soviet Union and actually threatened Moscow. A great many of scientific and historic works, as well as fiction, were devoted to studying the reasons of the tragedy. It is difficult to add something here, but there is one thing that is beyond any doubt, namely, the roots of the tragedy should be looked for much earlier than on June 22, 1941 and they should be looked for straight in the Kremlin….

CHAPTER XVII

PEOPLE'S GRIEF

'…The third Angel blew and a big star burning like a lamp fell from the sky onto the third part of all rivers springs. The name of the star was 'polyn'(wormwood), so a third of water turned bitter, so many people died of the water'…These are the words from the Revelation of St. John the Divine. The text named 'Apocalypses' is almost two thousand years old, so one may wonder it is so visionary, for 'chernobyl' is nothing but a kind of wormwood and indeed, a third of all water on earth was contaminated after the catastrophe at the Chernobyl power station… If the atheist atomic scientists and designers, as well as 'leaders' of all ranks had read the Holy Writ and pondered over the interests of their people and ecology they might not have built the atomic power station in the fatal place and might have renounced peaceful radioactivity at all. Anyway, there is no escaping from something that was predestined. Moreover, Chernobyl catastrophe is going to take away a lot more lives, while economic losses, according to expert estimates, resulting from the catastrophe will total 235 million dollars; that exceeds the state budget of Belarus in 1985 30 times.
… I recollect the spring of 1986. It was one of April weekday with its usual worries. I was going to visit my mother at the weekend as there was sowing time and it was time to plant potato. The spring was warm and bursting. This April would not have stayed in my memory if it had not been for the black 1986. The whole of the huge country lived by everyday cares even being unaware the world had already shuddered at the terrible disaster that happened not far from the long-suffering Belarus. The mortal nuclear ashes blew over the population of tens of countries, in the first turn over Belarus' territory, and went on swirling. Yet, we lived being in the dark, planted potato and were getting ready for May celebrations to sing praises to the party and its leaders for another 'happy' day. The phrase-monger and adventurer General Secretary announced another perestroika and glasnost in the country … People were offered a 'new way of thinking' instead of improvements in their life. All this in point of fact turned out to be bluff, idle talk and hypocrisy, of course. The Chernobyl catastrophe displayed this in full and might have played a decisive role in self-consciousness awakening of millions of people, including Belarusians.
However, no one envisaged at the time the consequences of the catastrophe at the Chernobyl power station. The people knew nothing about insidious radiation, though the state spent huge means to support the so-called civil defense (as people put it neatly, the 'coffin system') and they carried out keeping special staff everywhere, e.g. at enterprises. What were the specialists doing when the catastrophe occurred, what practical assistance did they render to people? Radiation as an invincible and inaudible enemy (and it is especially fatal due to its perfidy) was doing its part; yet, no one even tried to resist it. A lot of angry words were addressed to ' imperialists' who dropped atomic bombs on Japanese towns Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, yet, the power of the bombs was just small as compared to the Chernobyl explosion. The reactor that blew up in Chernobyl emitted into the atmosphere as much radionuclide as 500 of bombs of the kind would give.
Both country rulers and leadership of the republic could not but know about the terrible and destructive catastrophe in Chernobyl. If only they had had at least a bit of conscience and responsibility before their people and mere sympathy with them! They could have warned and protected them… The rut , negligence of their 'subjects', backward hypocrisy went on spinning in the regime determined by Joseph the Bloody and developed by his successors, who said people should not dare doubt the collective reason of the party and, most importantly, they should strengthen the socialist camp and display every day and everywhere that things are better in our country… The same could be observed in contaminated Gomel and many other Belarusian towns on a hot May day when thousands of urban dwellers went into streets several tens of kilometers away from the hell in their light clothes holding half-naked children in their arms to praise the party and its leaders, as well as communism once again. The first Secretary of the Communist Party of Belarus, the Kremlin deputy in the republic, through some misunderstanding a native of Gomel region Nikolai Slunkov always acted watching the reaction of Moscow. He himself did not see any radiation with his own eyes, so he pretended there was no radiation at all, so he could not dare disobey and break the sacred Bolshevist tradition of celebrations held twice a year, on May 1 and November 7, in order to display the unity of the party and its people, as they were not going to pat him on the back foe this.
The leader of Belarus Slunkov committed another deed at the time which is impossible to explain from the point of view of common sense. Even highest-ranking officials from the Kremlin seemed to know about the trouble Belarus encountered. Nobody knows what the deputy's considerations were, when he rejected the material assistance offered by Moscow to eliminate the consequences of the catastrophe. Was he really unaware of the scope of the tragedy?
It seems to me the leader must have been concerned with the idea of preserving and, if he was lucky, raising his career. They said Nikolai Nikitich, though he was transferred to Moscow, regretted his passive behavior following the catastrophe afterwards. Fate provided him with a wonderful chance to display philanthropy and humanism, to take care about the people who got into trouble, and thus to win their respect and gratitude. He missed the opportunity, though, and soon abandoned the political arena…
There were rumors all over the republic that were contradictory, but far from being favorable and reassuring ones. Influenced by these rumors, people lived in anxiety and panic. They bought huge amounts of iodine at the chemist's, red wine 'Cabernet' and, naturally, vodka that was said to remove radiation from the body. Gorbachev, as ill luck would have it, announced another anti-alcohol campaign. There was feverish demand for radiometers, it would have been a good idea to organize their urgent mass manufacture, but the thought never occurred to anyone.
The catastrophe at the Chernobyl power station proved to be especially fatal for Belarus. On the tragic day the wind was blowing in our country's direction, so the radioactive cloud swept over the territory of our republic from south-east to north-west, reached Vilnius, floated over a number of West Europe countries, turned around over Britain and went to the Scandinavian countries.
In Russia the area contaminated by caesium-137 which is the most dangerous and long-lasting radioactive element totaled about 2.5 thousand square kilometers, in the Ukraine this area totaled over 1.5 thousand square kilometers while in Belarus it totaled over 7 thousand square kilometers. Approximately a fifth part of this area is not used for agricultural purposes any more. The tragedy made hundreds of thousand people forever leave their native places, say goodbye to the graves of their ancestors and the property they accumulated for many years and turn into pariahs in their own country. Only some districts in Brest and Vitebsk regions, which is several per cent of the country's territory remained practically uncontaminated. Some days following the catastrophe the increase in …exposure rate on the territory of Belarus was so powerful that most instruments returned an off-scale reading as they were not meant to measure such rates. The level of radioactive contamination by the iodine-131 was so powerful (it affected several million people) that scientists call this 'iodine strike'. At present 2.1 million people, i.e. almost 20 per cent of the country's population lives on the territory contaminated by radioactivity.
My native Zhitkovichi district situated in the south of Belarus suffered much, of course. There is a distance of some 100 kilometers from Zhitkovichi to Chernobyl. Most of land at Zhitkovici district (over 28 thousand hectares) is contaminated by radioactive isotopes with the rate ranging from 1 to 5 curie per square kilometer. In some places, mainly in the vicinity of the village Lenin the rate reaches 10 curie. Several years following the tragedy people were paid for living in the contaminated area. The sum totaled 6 rubles a month. It seemed they thought people could buy health with this money. Several years later they stopped paying money at all. Now we are more or less educated as far as the radioactivity issues are concerned, so we smile indulgently when we look at the indicators placed in prominent places that indicate that radioactivity rate in Mozyr district is 0.25, in Slutsk it is 0.17, in Zhitkovichi it is 0.19 micro roentgen per hour as we understand this is solar radiation rate.
Other things are more dangerous today, namely, the things we eat and drink, the areas materials and foodstuffs are brought from and what levels of contamination by cesium and other elements fatal for the human body the objects surrounding us and the foodstuffs we eat have. We know that in Belarus where 70 per cent of radio nuclides from the radioactive clouds fell, people gather mushrooms and berries, drink milk, grow grain and hand it to the state everywhere, even in the areas with extremely contaminated soil. Do you happen to know anyone who carries a radiometer when going to a forest or a field? Does everyone know and take into consideration that, for example, radiation accumulates in soil in forests where mushrooms and berries grow, that pines accumulate radiation in their needles and less in their wood, an oak respectively in its bark and leaves, a birch tree has leaves contaminated most, while the alder tree has its wood contaminated mostly? Every agricultural crop accumulates radioactivity, too. People who are concerned with other problems take no notice of that any more. Be that what it may… They got used to radioactivity, as a human being gets used to everything very quickly, all the more radiation is an invisible and inaudible enemy…
Over twenty years have passed since the Chernobyl catastrophe …The catastrophe has already become past history. People have forgotten many misfortunes and worries concerned with other problems. Other topical issues worry them. The facts and statistics are far from being reassuring one. We face a huge increase in cancer, cardiac and other illnesses, as well as weakening of child's organism and decline in birth rate… Here the unfavorable radioactive state, as well as social factors, is to blame, of course…
I can't stop thinking about my home village Rudna. Joyless news comes from there more and more often; a lot of people die, either of stroke, heart attack or cancer… My friends and relatives are among them. People had no idea of many of the illnesses before. Is it conceivable that the age of 40 or 50 is critical with men? I often recollect in this respect the reasoning of an old man from Polesie, a born 'philosopher'. He asked me if I had seen old oaks in the forest. I answered I did. He asked then if I had seen oak saplings. I thought a little and recollected I sometimes saw young growth of oaks. The next question was if I had noticed any young oaks. Indeed, I did not see any trees of the kind in our forests. 'Tell you!' the old man concluded, 'the same with the middle-aged generation, it is short-lived'
…Radiation, according to the statistics, is most dangerous by its influence over the increase in cancer and cardiac illnesses, as well as TB. Doctors are more and more concerned with the increase in the number of cancer illnesses in Belarus. The tendency to increase is especially evident in Gomel region. What is surprising, though, is that the picture is practically the same in Minsk region, in Minsk itself it is no better. Even Mogilev region has smaller increase rate. Rural population, of course, is most vulnerable, as they are closer to the places where radiation is accumulated. Thyroid gland troubles, especially among children, spread of leukemia are traces of the Chernobyl catastrophe. One should note it is not our country alone that is followed by misfortunes and tragedies, though we take the global lead, as usual, due to the scope of the consequences. Catastrophes with more or less serious outcomes occur all over the world more frequently in the epoch of technical progress. Specialists from the USA came to the conclusion that even their prosperous country faces 17 or 18 emergency situations involving emission of poisonous strong substances into the atmosphere daily. In 1974 as a result of the accident at a plant producing caprolactam in Great Britain 40 tons of cyclo-gexagen were emitted into the atmosphere, producing a cloud of 200 meters. Forty-five seconds later the cloud exploded. The explosion was equivalent to the charge of 50 tons of tolite. A fire broke out on the area of 4.5 hectares Tanks storing poisonous substances on the territory adjoining the plant were damaged so that the area was practically destroyed; 29 people were killed and 26 were injured. Outside the plant 53 people were injured seriously and hundreds of people suffered minor injuries. Almost 2000 buildings were seriously damaged.
In November 1979 there was a train crash in the province of Ontario in Canada. There were tanks with chlorine, sterol, toluol and other poisonous substances. Due to the accident they had to evacuate over 200 thousand people from the affected territory for a week.
In December 1984 there was an emission of about 43 tons of dangerous substances at the chemical plant of an American company 'Union Carbide' in the town of Bhopal in India. The contaminated area totaled five kilometers in length and over two kilometers in width. The accident resulted in 3150 people killed and 20 000 becoming completely crippled… The list can be continued…
Now we face an entirely new historic stage of human and nature relations, with its fundamental and new in its quality historic stage, its peculiarity being increase in the industrial pressure over the environment. The rapid increase in the number of Earth's population (in 1900 its population totaled 1.6 billion people, in 1990 its population numbered 5 billion, while by 2020 it is expected to total about 8 billion people), accompanied by rapid production intensification in all spheres, exhausts the Earth's deposits. According to forecasts, reserves of gold, silver, oil, lead, tin, tungsten and other rare metals are going to be exhausted as early as in XXI century. In the last two decades of the past century we have processed more raw materials than we did throughout the preceding history…
Very few people were concerned with the state of nature, i.e. flora, fauna, its air and water oceans, before. Its resources were considered to be inexhaustible. This turned out to be wrong, as production output increased sixteen-fold while the Earth's population increased twice. In 1980s the annual use of mineral raw product, for example, totaled about 3 tons per head. Only 2 or 3 per cent of this amount was used reasonably, the rest went to waste products. The consumer rashness of the kind, that is tactfully called 'anthropogenic influence' now, disturbed the natural ecological balance and conditioned all nations of the world to face the situation when 'ecological catastrophe' is more likely and no less dangerous than a war. The conclusion is confirmed by definite examples from the life of Earth's nations. About 30 million tons of oil and oil products, 6 million tons of phosphorus, 2 million tons of lead, 5 thousand tons of mercury and 50 thousand tons of pesticides go into the world ocean annually. About 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide, 200 million tons of carbon monoxide, 146 million tons of sulphur dioxide and 53 million tons nitric oxide are emitted into the atmosphere annually. All this brings about ozone layer depletion and the increase of the greenhouse effect over the Earth.
The woods on the planet are destroyed at the pace of 20 hectares per minute, which is 18 times faster than their increase rate. Nineteen or twenty per cent of the earth surface face the threat of desertification. Over a thousand of animal species and 25 thousand of plant species are on the brink of extinction… I think even these examples are enough to become aware of the scale of the … catastrophe, to stop, glance around and ponder what direction the human kind is moving, what expects all of us, especially our children and grandchildren, in the near future…
We entered XXI century. What is the new millennium going to be like? … In May 1986 the Metropolitan of Kiev Philaret said, 'A human being should not know the terms set in Apocalypse. Christ said neither a human being nor angels know the day and the hour, God alone does. Apocalypse can be applied to different times. During the two thousand years we encountered many situations that proved the Revelation of St. John the Divine. People would say then, 'The time has come'… The problem is most people do not realize this and infrequently … Doomsday by their words and deeds…'

CHAPTER XVIII

SPIRITUAL CRISIS

We live in transition period. Any period of change in society development is terrible by the shock the spiritual sphere and public conscience experience and go through, rather than by their economic, political and other cataclysms and catastrophes. History indicates the worst blow of transition epochs has always been directed into the very heart and soul of the people. This blow required revision and reorientation of the established norms, rules and values destroyed the former convictions and beliefs, vision guidelines and the essence of human existence. The tragic nature of such situations is couples with the processes of deep psychological collapse, confrontation of the old stereotypes of thought and the need to adopt new ones. Transition period conscience is by right called 'miserable conscience'. People who are deprived of firm spiritual and moral support find themselves, speaking figuratively, to be thrown into a stormy sea, when those who can swim will survive, while those who cannot will drown…
Tragedy of transition periods in the history of all nations was always coupled with reality demythologization, when reality did away with illusions, destroyed all veils that embellished and obscured life and displayed itself to a human being in all its unsightly, misunderstood and estranged appearance. It may be said human life in this respect is a hard school of experience, a lasting and poignant lesson that displays gradual ruin of ideals and rigid disclosure of their illusory nature and inconsistency. The human kind wasted most of its efforts, time and strength pursuing falsehood rather than the truth.
Social reality and public transformations developing on the territory of the former USSR are striking evidence to the effect. Throughout a century the people witnessed twice that the distorted face of the truth and the devilish face of reality tore away the illusory veil over actual public relations and revealed the fear of life…
Both in 1917 and at the end of the past century people found themselves in the situation that required vision and historic choice. When we compare these two events we should note their surprising similarity as to global nature and range of their goals, as well as the ways and means they were implemented by the historic choice of the 'old' and 'new saviors of the world.'
The historic choice of the 'old' and 'new saviors of the world' resulted from the 'project logic' aimed at radical changes and alteration of the whole public body according to the predetermined model. The socialism building project failed. Why not make an experiment aimed at 'social alteration' according to the capitalist model, then? Society development, nevertheless, is natural historic self-organizing process. Any drastic attempts to change the direction of the process are fraught with extremely tragic consequences.
Is there any objective basis for capitalism? Is 'human material' suitable from the pint of view of its physical, psychological, moral and spiritual state, to implement the plan? As far as western industrial society is the outcome of the long natural historic evolution, is it possible to arrive at the same outcome by means of accelerated drastic administrative decisions imposed from the above?
Let's underline another feature that the two transition periods in our country's history have in common. The ideas of the socialist revolution and the perestroika penetrated mass consciousness and transformed into material force. This proved to be possible as the people adopted the ideas and utopist illusions they were offered, such as justice, equality, freedom and happiness. The main thing that comes to light is that it probably was the desire and aspiration to destroy the old order rather than the positive ideal that inspired people!
Socialism carried people along by its power of rejecting the old order rather than by its positive ideal, by something it rebelled against rather than by what it strived for. The class struggle doctrine found its ground in the feeling of hostility against 'barins' inherent in common people. Struggle against capitalism was perceived and carried out by people as anticipation of the hated masters. From the social and political aspect people sought merely to divide bourgeois riches rather than strive for socialism, thus socialism was a success as it sanctioned the distribution ideologically through its political tendencies. The same description is also quite appropriate for 1980s.
Thus, both the projects supposed complete destruction and annihilation of the existing order. The famous proletarian hymn says, 'We are going to raze the old world to the ground, then ……' Now let's answer the question what the aim to destroy the old world really mean? It aims primarily at destroying those notions of the world, society and the human being that function in the human mind and shape human spirit. Human world is a world of perceived essences. This is spiritually assimilated world that is always interpreted. Thus, any material and social transformations initially suggest some changes and remodeling in the spiritual domain. The functional primary of consciousness manifests itself as the objective law of society development of primary importance. (In this respect, social existence, i.e. space, nature, society, etc., depend on social consciousness and spiritual purposes and will of historic beings).
The specific nature of transition periods manifests itself in the fact they require drastic and quality spiritual reorientation and change of the vision paradigm, rather than determine the need to correct singular notions, ideas, principles and norms of human behavior and actions. Thus, our history saw the requirement realized in reorientation of human mind from the religious to the atheist world outlook. At present we observe agonizing spiritual process of vision self-determination.
Spiritual reorganization and making of new principles of behavior and actions is an extremely complicated and lasting process. The people of my generation were born and grew up under socialism. We were 'socialized' by totalitarian ideological influence that shaped communist world outlook. We perceived the world, the society, our place and role in the country's life and made plans for the future in compliance with its ideas. From present-day point of view the illusory nature of this kind of social reality perception is obvious. Yet, another thing is more important, namely, the fact that the system itself produced an individual aimed at inherent unity with society and at the priority of group interests. Ideological influence did not comprise solely implanting political stereotypes and social ideals in social consciousness. It was based on the actual progress and achievements of the country, as well. This so-called practical argument was the basis of our belief in the radiant future.
The generation born in post-war time inherited the country of developing socialism. We witnessed large-scale revival of its towns and villages from ashes, construction of plants, factories, dwelling houses, schools, hospitals, houses of culture, etc. We considered an electric bulb and a radio set to be a miracle. We saw the well-being of our families growing, were happy to have sugar, butter and white bread for meals, we were also glad to be given suits, shoes, boots, toys and books bought in a shop. The country's development was gaining pace and we were provided with more opportunities. We took for granted going to different societies according to our interests, sports sections, amateur art activity groups, etc. And most important of all, we felt we were cared about by both our parents and the state. We were growing up confident of prosperity and stability of our future. The confidence was a source of inner unity of 'the I' and 'the country', the feeling of deep and inseverable link and interdependence of an individual and society. Thus, any social progress and advances were perceived as individual ones. The inner integrity shaped and cultivated the corresponding moral principles such as mutual assistance, mutual support and mutual help. We regarded work as a means to obtain individual and public prosperity.
Pride for our country and love for Motherland were not mere ideological cliches. The feelings grew from the depths of consciousness and from inner experience and assimilation of reality. We were firmly convinced that the USSR was the most just, the most advanced and the best country in the world, while we were the happiest people as we were born and lived in the country.
Naturally, the spiritual image of the post-war generation I drew did not boil down to the features mentioned above and was far from being unambiguous. Nevertheless, the above features manifest one of the significant areas of the socialist system functioning until 1970s of XX century. Beginning with the middle of 1960s, spiritual and psychological state of affairs in the country started to be changing, though economic, social, political and ideological machinery went on functioning in the same way.
We lived under the guidance and direction of the Communist party, in the atmosphere of fulfilling and exceeding five-year plans, the increasing pace of scientific progress, Soviet people prosperity increase, etc. Nevertheless, communism as feasible future of the Soviet people was acquiring illusionary features and was perceived rather as a fairy tale.
Progress in socialist building was estimated in one definite way. The period was marked by public conscience catching and fixing on the sensory and unconscious level the discrepancy (and in some cases the contradiction) between the reality and its spiritual and ideological manifestation. The daily conscience doubted correctness and truth of the ideological and spiritual interpretations of social mode of life, i.e. of single actions implemented by the CPSU, as well as the party strategy in general. The mistrust of CPSU and its leaders, party functionaries and the state increased. Ideological deterrents stopped to function properly. Moreover, the more persistently they advocated advantages of socialism, its progressive nature, etc., the more increasingly the public mood displayed non-acceptance and mistrust of state tactics and strategy. The main reason was deeper divergence of ideology and real life, primarily in economic sphere. This meant the country was evolving into both economic and system crisis. The specific feature of the local crisis was that it was unfolding being coupled with the global crisis of human civilization. In this respect, our regional problems are aggravated, while their solution is complicated by the necessity to take global present-day problems into account.
Human existence turned out to be oversaturated with destructive processes, while their empiric manifestations started to stifle the spirit and the soul so much, that there arose, whether intentionally or not, the question of whether human mind is reasonable at all? Is it legitimate to identify all spiritual embodiments with mind?
The end of XX century saw increasing tendencies that changed significantly the mechanism of social and cultural dynamics. First of all, we mean mass social movements. They increasingly claimed their rights in economic and political sphere, as well as in spiritual one. Their status and role in society increasingly promoted leveling of historic differences and establishing uniformity of life, elimination of the line between the educated and uneducated, the cultured and uncultured.
More than half a century ago the best minds saw a sign of decline of Europe in this tendency. 'Bad manners of all parliaments, the general tendency to participate in unscrupulous deals that promise easy money, jazz and dancing that turned into the manifestation of the soul of different circles, ladies who paint their faces and lips as if they were tarts, the aspiration to mock at strict views of noble society in novels and plays, bad taste that manifests itself in avoiding any public duty and denial of former customs - all this testifies to the effect that bad taste sets the fashion. Traditions and customs, as well as any sign of refined culture, beauty, grace and refined speech annoy low instincts to the utmost and inspire a wish to set on fire, break and crush. Culture in all its superiority is an enemy in itself, no one even thinks of teaching people true culture, as this requires efforts and is connected with inconveniences. It turns out, the society structure should be mob-leveled. It means universal equality should rule, everyone should be equally vulgar.'
The tendency that was very subtle at the beginning of the century turned into a key feature of society's state. Indeed, economic, social and political stratification of society couples with increasing uniformity of spiritual life. The latter becomes stereotyped due to the average model of cultural worlds of the majority of population. The 'upper', 'higher' cultural layer is gradually becoming less significant and influential.
On the other hand, 'socialization' of life lives no space for individual self-assertion of a personality. Every person inevitably has to stay with his own interests, his work and his life within a group. Finally, there remain only communities that grant a particular person a choice of either to join and submit or be forced out and destroyed. The problem of an individual fighting group pressure was externalized in the works of F. Nietzsche. We hear an astonishing cry of an invalid who wishes to remain himself and does not want to be crushed and stifled by the masses.
A human being himself is a subject of humiliation and suppression in the phenomena called culture nowadays. He is suppressed for the sake of the ideal and the social worlds, for the sake of spirit and matter, for the sake of God and animal. The body is free and respected; the spirit is liberated, though in a very limited sphere, while the soul is dying… A human being of flesh lives an animal life, while the human being of spirit lives an angelic life. The spiritual one remains a human being. Thus, an animal and an angel (or devils) tear a human being to pieces. Recent centuries revived the spirit and the body, but did not extend the spiritual content; on the contrary, they absorbed it. Physical life acquired …self-contained nature. Savage wildness and barbarity were defeated, a human being released himself and rose high over its essence and created a special form of another existence, i.e. the world of material objects, social interactions, feelings, emotions, meanings of life, values, etc. This is another kind of existence in the sense that 'non-natural nature' turned into a place of human existence and that a human being himself turned into an artificial being, rather than a natural one. The specific nature of another being manifests itself in the fact that being conscious human creation, it turns into self-contained independent force that gets out of the control and rule of its creator. The spontaneous tendencies of its development and functioning acquire objective nature and result in 'a human being facing chaos again, which is more awful as the majority notices nothing at all, for machinery and establishments function everywhere and educated people talk incessantly' The another being reveals former abyss of primitive times that acquire the form of civilized barbarity, the suffocating and all-absorbing paws of the civilized body, monsters and phantoms, terrors and darkness surround a human being once again. This global artifact deprived of any sense resists a human being in the same degree as the degree our distant ancestor was in front of nature, lonely and defenseless. 'Civilization barbarity' manifests itself most evidently in the type of a personality that was singled out in the past century by an ideologist of populism P.P. Lavrov and called 'a savage of supreme culture'. In his opinion, they are 'cultured animals'. Just like savages, they belong to the product of supreme culture, such as religion, science and philosophy, and consume only that part that corresponds to their understanding of comfort. They have capital at their disposal, they shape the public opinion, they hold the majority in parliaments, at university sub-departments and they occupy constitutional and autocratic thrones. Owing to them, society is gradually turning into a governed 'human anthill'. P.P. Lavrov's thoughts are in keeping with the end of XX century that strengthened the processes of civilization running wild and that produced on a large scale dull people who did not know the things that should be known, moreover, they lost the things that used to be public.
Today we discover 'human gap' that runs through 'technical civilization'. This human gap displays itself in science and technology coming off humanist links and problems. The famous Russian philosopher N.A. Berdiayev perceived the victory of technical element over the natural and biological one as regeneration of culture into something different, something that does not look like culture. 'Technology and ecology', he wrote, 'could be neutral, while the attitude of spirit to technology and economy inevitably turns into spiritual one…. Technicalization of both the spirit and the mind may be perceived as their death…'
Indeed, XX century was a century of science and technology. The unprecedented take-off of scientific thought and the power of its material objects that run through all hypostases of human existence and, thus, tell on the state of the spirit and the soul, as well as influences interstate and interpersonal relations. Politics, art, religion and even morality, almost in the same degree as economy, are under the domination of the ubiquitous technological demon, appear today as idolized computer entities whose transpersonal being shapes public spirit state, its customs, social feelings and emotions, behavior responses and activity incentives. Technical means of education and upbringing, radio and television, video- and audio-equipment, etc. set up a special life space that materially and initially brings a human being into virtual reality regime. The space, being devoid of any animate features, breeds and develops 'a mechanical human being' who lives according to the laws of mechanics.
As part of a big computer system he turns out to be able to 'respond' and act in accordance with the set program. It's like an electronic game when you push the button 'to kill' and a lot of people start to destroy each other physically with violent cruelty. You push the button and collective insanity takes place, a terrible drama unfolds where devil's face distorted with anger and hatred, the thrust for power, murder, violence and destruction rejoices, with an ugly smile. Reality seems to be deprived a living source and becomes similar to a change of computer pictures, where there is no place for love, compassion, sympathy and empathy. The tendency to priority and dominance of technological dimension of human existence deepens and expands every day. This is especially typical of our country that made a historic choice owing to the principle 'we shall destroy the old world, then …' for the second time in a century
In this respect discussing the problems of spiritual development is especially topical. On the one hand, this concerns the fundamental problem of scientific and spiritual progress correlation. Nobody would object today that the two directions do not coincide; moreover, they diverge and polarize. Yet, could it be considered a symptom of the death of culture? How legitimate is absolute contraposition of culture and scientific progress? The consequences of scientific and technical expansion such as weapons of mass destruction, fatal experiments over nature, animal and plant world, interference into biological and psychological nature of a human being are contrary to the phenomenon of culture. On the other hand, a more particular, though no less important problem of the so-called pop culture requires interpretation.
It is customary today for everything 'voiced', painted or drawn, represented by films, etc. to be called culture. We think that senseless rhymed words, the cacophony of sounds, films where technical advance is accompanied by undisguised vulgarity, are far from being art or culture. They are more likely to be a special kind of mass ideological produce meant, just like all the rest under market relations, for sale. The cult of the gold calf here, in the same measure as in economy, determines its quality and direction. Instead of cultivating elevated spirit and feelings they sell low sensuality that appeals to instincts and needs of the flesh. The ability of a human soul to love and be loved is substituted by sex and pornography. By the way, the process has already been embodied in the language, e.g. there appeared an expression 'to make love', where the essence of love is perverted so much that the notion 'love' itself acquired the content contrary to this phenomenon. The notion 'show business' is used as a synonym to the world 'culture'.
Social processes and interactions are in dialectic links and integrity with individual, spiritual and psychological states and features. The social sphere forms the basic features of a human being, as well. It sets a definite tone and 'background' for his moral, spiritual, civil and material existence. Yet, an individual possesses uniqueness, relative independence and sovereignty, the freedom to choose his own goals, ability to adjust to the social situation, conformism or, on the contrary, confrontation and resistance to everything that does not correspond to the human and humane. When we analyze the present from this point of view, we observe an evident tendency for general unification and standardization of the inner essence of a human being according to some average model model, built according to 'uncultured' principles, i.e. non-scholarship, non-civility, non-respect to others, non-morality, non-sympathy, non-love, non-beauty, non-justice, non-good, non-humaneness, etc. All this is respected, cultivated and is perceived as a norm. Contrary purposes and qualities are rejected by the society as alien ones and are subject to repressions. It is unfashionable, unprofitable, not useful, reproached and even unsafe to display tolerance, love, compassion, respect and sympathy, to be well-brought-up, honest, kind, spiritually rich, etc. It is symptomatic that the words 'intellectual' and 'refinement' are used with a negative connotation, in a scornful manner.
F. Nietzsche's words 're-evaluation of all values' that turned into a slogan at the end of XIX century and the beginning of XX century did not lose their topicality under present circumstances. Over a hundred years passed, yet, the European society still lives in a 'dislocated time', at the age of 'embodied fairy tales that no utopian has ever dreamt of, absolutely inconceivable experiments possible to be implemented both in laboratories and in life.' Most gloomy forecasts of F.M. Dostoyevsky that the genre of the future tragedy would be determined by an open account for life, with death playing the role of an unlimited lender, rather than by 'terror and compassion'.
Global anthropological crisis manifestations aggravate spiritual antagonisms in our country and complicate the problems concerned with their solution. Spiritual life of society has been especially plural and diverse. The ideas of Christians and Krishnaites, Evangelists and Muslims, Baptists and Buddhists, believers and atheists, democrats and communists, psychics and magicians are interlinked and antagonizing within it. Here belong also the authors of words, audio- and video produce promoting dissipation of violence and destruction. Every consumer of the produce turns into an involuntary participant of the subtle psychological game named 'the hunt for a human being'. Though it is plural and chaotic, there is a tendency that can be traced quite evidently, with its essence defined as purposeful shaping of an anti-human. It reveals itself in the mass attack against human consciousness aimed to finish off and destroy the qualities typical of a Human Being. Television, as well as other media, plays the primary role in the process. We gather the impression their main function is not merely to inform people, but to supply them with spiritual 'nourishment' that is able to infect consciousness with fatal illnesses similar to AIDS. Mass dissemination of various technologies of violence, cruelty, murder, ways of deception, swindle and sharp practice enter the soul and the mind of a human being like dirty poisonous flows that wash away and destroy before them the 'pure streams' of humaneness.
Cruelty and violence were eternal concomitants throughout human history; the current situation is peculiar, nevertheless, because they turned into a means of upbringing mass immorality owing to the well-developed system of the media, in other words, the means of mass anti-upbringing. Its influence over the inner life of a human being can be compared to HIV-infection. There are invisible changes on the subconscious level that a human being is unconscious of. Indifference to pain and sufferings of other people followed by satisfaction and pleasure at seeing suffering of those who fall victims of violence gradually occupy more place in his soul. There is gradual everyday purposeful occupation of people's minds on the state level, its destructive violation and substitution of human features by anti-human ones. Thus they pave the way for selfishness, aggression and cruelty to spring up.
Today, as I watch the emotional reaction of people, especially the youth and children, to the scenes of sophisticated cruelty and ingenious violence always shown on the TV screen, I discover in their eyes interest in the events going on, curiosity and even delight at seeing torments, blood and suffering, rather than tears of sympathy and compassionate worries. I wonder if a person's spiritual and moral immunity is on the brink of complete extinction. Or there might still possibility and time to discover an efficient medicine to rescue the life-giving bases of human spirit.
Today they promote the idea that religion is the most efficient means of spiritual salvation and that spiritual crisis could be overcome by means of religious consciousness. There arises the question what exactly they mean, what religious denomination should be given priority to and why. At present there are over two thousand religious trends and denominations of Christian, Jewish and Muslim religions, over 600 associations and 30 nominations of the so-called neo-cults. All of them shape a personality type corresponding to their doctrine. Religious pluralism aggravates social differentiation processes, as it forms strata that sometimes differ from each other significantly according to the religious feature. Each of the strata is a 'closed' type of a personality with specific features of social and spiritual focus. There is hardly any reason to assert today that there is increase in the population is piety. As an argument to confirm the illusion they give a number of the churches built, sacraments administered and the number of people who adhere to this doctrine or another. All thus testifies rather to the effect that there is a growing fashion for religion and its outward, as a rule, pragmatic use. All people ask God for something, but there are only few who can give Him something other than money. If we take such personality features as love, kindness, aspiration to beauty, justice, etc. as piety criteria, the will be no traces of the religious renaissance left …
I think it is not essential whether we are believers or not. There are people who are immoral, irresponsible, indifferent to the pain and suffering of others , unable to love, poor in spirit and socially dangerous people, just like there are the opposite personality types, that can be found among both believers and non-believers. What is important is how much the spiritual, moral and social constructive basis is displayed in all of us. Constructive means responsible, with responsibility being the seamy side of freedom. As a rule, perception of freedom by social consciousness boils down to free will and the ability to realize any wishes and preferences, while ignoring the most significant hypostasis of freedom, namely, that freedom presupposes personal responsibility for the free choice we make. Democratization 'stormy winds' eradicated awareness of responsibility for people's notions of freedom and thus turned the latter into an antisocial and abnormal phenomenon. Moral and social irresponsibility runs through all structures and levels of the social body.
At the level of the state, freedom, with responsibility for society's fate left on the other side, implemented through reforms that develop a personality type aimed at the ideology of material success. As we have already mentioned, the mass media today are a means of mass anti-upbringing, developing an anti-human and an anti-personality. On the one hand, it is clear to the whole of society, including its structures that fulfill power and administrative functions, that current policy and content of the media are not just harmful but even dangerous for a human being and society. On the other hand, who is responsible for carrying out actions aimed to destroy humanism and morality and everything human in a human being? The answer is evident; those who realize and know what they do are to blame. The situation really goes beyond the reasonable limits. The mind must be utterly insane if a man is unable to respond to nothing but golden or, rather, 'green' calf.
Love, just like freedom, is the greatest heritage of human essence. Just like the case with interpretation of freedom, there is mythologized idea of love that is rooted deeply in mass conscience. Love is associated entirely with feelings and emotions of pleasure, satisfaction and unclouded happiness for a man who is in love. Yet, egocentrism makes him neglect the seamy side of love, namely, that it suggests some inner responsibility for the object of your love, participation in his life, empathy, suffering in connection with the object and, finally, love provides for attaining personal happiness and joy at the happiness and gladness of the person you love. In short, love and freedom are two phenomena with personal moral responsibility as their core.
Family as a social institution is facing a deep crisis nowadays. When I hear assertions that the family is the basic cell of upbringing I can't but ask the question what kind of family is meant. Do they mean the family with parents unable not only to bring up their children, but even to see them be awake due to their professional employment or the need to earn their living? Or do they mean one-parent families? May be, these are families with parents who are drunkards and alcoholics? Or large families where children are deprived of elementary living conditions?
Unfortunately, the list may be continued. What kind of rearing influence does a family have over a child? Strange as it may sound, the contemporary family today in most cases is an anti-rearing factor. It shows children the example they have no wish to follow. The findings of public opinion poll carried out by D.M. Pankova from Russia are rather significant in this respect. Asked whether they would like to follow their parents' experience, senior pupils gave the following answers. 87 per cent gave a negative answer, 10 per cent were willing to follow their parents' experience, though with reservations, while only 3 per cent considered their parents to be an example to follow. The results were practically the same for problem and problem-free families from urban and rural areas. What is ironic about the situation is that 92 per cent of children still follow their parents' experience, despite their negative attitude to it. This experience is far from being the best one if we take into account that most families split up.
Divorces have always been a feature of human history. Yet, the problem of divorces is a social problem in contemporary society, rather than an individual one. The problem is peculiar due to the continual increase in the number of divorces. A broken up family today is a norm, rather than something out of the ordinary. The public opinion does not condemn a divorce, rather it encourages and stimulates it. The same attitude is observed to giving birth to children out of wedlock. The specific feature of divorces is that their majority concerns marriages contracted at the age of 18 or 20 that is considered to be socially and spiritually immature. There are many reasons to this. The drawbacks in upbringing and preparing children for family life rank among the most significant. What can we expect from young men and women whose mind identify sexual chemistry with love and who associate marriage with pleasures only? It goes without saying, the first encounter with family life hardships leaves no traces of the feeling that was perceived as love, while happiness turns into its opposite. Could one expect to have stable family relations if those who get married are dependent financially on their parents, if those who are children themselves give birth to children? The marriage of the kind is initially doomed to failure.
I'd like to pay special attention to the problem of orphan children, the social layer of 'abandoned children', children who are thought to be orphans though their parents are alive and those children who formally have both parents or one parent but who are nevertheless deprived of any parental care. What is special about the children is that they are aware they are neglected by their father and mother. Economic and social exposure, destructive processes in their psyche and consciousness, the feeling of irrelevance to parents and society develop a special personality type.
'Abandoned children' are a problem in our society. Today we have no grounds to believe their number is going to decline in the nearest future, thus we cannot expect a decrease in the number of the homeless, drug and alcohol addicts, criminals, prostitutes, etc.
In this connection I'd like to direct your attention to the brewing objective need to develop responsibility of a mother for the life and fate of her child. There is no greater responsibility than to give birth to a living being who is unable to survive on his own, though it still does not mean to become a mother. Could we consider those women who deny their children food, clothes and home, to be mothers?
It seems to me the cult of a woman and a Mother should take a distinguished place in the process of bringing up an individual. What does the notion 'to give birth to a human being' mean? The notion does not denote merely to give biological existence, it means also to give birth to him in all dimensions of human existence, i.e. cultural, social, spiritual, moral, etc. A mother 'gives birth' to her child during the whole of her life, in the course of the process she is born herself. She bears responsibility for her child before the past and the future generations, which is her predestination and responsibility.
Depopulation problem, i.e. population decline due to the death rate exceeding the birth rate is acquiring special importance. At present about 20 countries in the world face depopulation problem. Thus, the population in Russia has declined by 4.5 million since 1992. According to the forecasts of the Paris demography institute, by 2025 the population in Russia is going to decrease by 20 million, while other estimates suggest the figure of 40 million. They also forecast a significant decrease in the population of Belarus. Thus, the country's population might total just 3.5 million by 2050.
Naturally, family crisis, as well as depopulation, results from a range of social, economic and political reasons. The task of the society and the state is to stabilize the situation. The problem is unlikely to be solved by appeals to increase birth rate alone; rather it may aggravate the situation. Families in our country, for example, lack conditions for maintenance and upbringing of even two children, so appeals to increase birth rate are, in fact, appeals to give birth to human beings whose safe future is rather doubtful. Are they going to thank their parents for the life they were given?
There is another aspect of the problem. The growing number of children with inborn pathology and diseases is a sad feature of the present. According to the statistics, every country in the world has three morons per hundred of its population, twice as many the so-called marginal persons and two time s more children incapable of abstract reasoning. Only 20 per cent of the children are able to cope with higher school syllabus. This is a profile of mental and psychic health. With biological and physiological aberrations added to it, the picture seems to be oppressive. The situation in our country is especially dispiriting in this connection due to the 'Chernobyl effect'.
Depopulation, abandoned children, children deprived of childhood, parental love and care, on the one hand, while left to the mercy of fate, aged and infirm parents on the other, increasing violence and murder of parents by their children and vice versa indicate the tendency of human kind self-reproduction and self-preservation instinct dying. I think education and upbringing are to blame a lot for the tendency to be unfolding. First and foremost, I trace drawbacks in the lack of attention to developing moral responsibility as a spiritual phenomenon uniting such two vital values of human existence as freedom and love.
I'd like to make a few remarks about the role of political ideology in solving spiritual crisis. A distinctive feature of contemporary ideological situation is that it lacks any positive ideal. In 1917 they had the ideal of the kind. Though illusory and utopist, the image of socialism and communism occupied public conscience as a uniting social idea. Today we lack any idea of the kind. Market economy idea is unlikely to perform the function as market relations are a way to achieve something.
The bigger is political, economic, ethnic and spiritual society differentiation and the more complex its organization is, the more difficult it is to discover fundamental basis for its ideological unity. The problem gets more sophisticated when the society goes through some transition period that requires conscious choice of social and political strategy. The present-day situation is characterized by a diversity of interpretations and estimates of the processes going on, as well as by lack in any social accord in defining goals and ideals of the country's long-term development. On the one hand, Soviet socialism displayed its historic groundlessness and thus compromised the idea of socialism. On the other hand, the experience of pursuing the course aimed to develop market reforms in Russia testifies to losses, failures and mistakes rather than achievements and gains. Besides, the raised Iron Curtain enabled us to see what modern technologically and economically advanced society is like, where the devilish image of reality prospers and is combined with obvious economic and social achievements. This is the reason why present-day public consciousness displays the evident tendency to disregard authority of the West and the USA as the ideal one should strive for and the model to be followed, when implementing changes. Thirdly, the focus on joining state socialism and market reforms (with the former as a priority) in our country did not as well produce any results that would inspire most of the population to make a conscious choice of the suggested policy.
I'd like to direct your attention to the following circumstance. It seems to me that relative social and economic stability during the restructuring development period in our society has acquired the features of stagnation. Stability prevents inner sources of social self-development and self-perfection from functioning; hence, its state is characterized as making no headway. The situation does not seem to be improving, at least everyday life and its perceptions do not testify to this effect. Real life is still full of problems and contradictions; they deepen and multiply day after day, rather than diminish. One may speak about the problems endlessly. It hurts me to think about my long-suffering fellow countrymen and the fates of my Motherland. I wonder what idea they could be offered to inspire them with hope for the better future, at least the future of children and grandchildren of those who live now. Frankly speaking, I do not see any state idea that would justify and defend the activities of the political power, on the one hand, and unite and inspire people, on the other.
There is another aspect to the problem. During the perestroika period our people learnt a lot. The main lesson they learnt is not to trust fine words and politicians' promises of equality, brotherhood, happiness, justice, etc. By the way, the history indicates there has hardly been any emperor or president who did not use the notion 'people's interests' to ground his policy. When Lenin considered the tasks of the socialist state that were of paramount importance, he pointed out that first of all it is necessary to present interests of the proletariat as interests of the whole people by means of ideological influence. This was successfully implemented. Moreover, the following regularity can be traced, namely, the longer is the distance between the policy pursued and the real vital interests of the majority of the population, the more appeals to people's interests ideology contains.
Contemporary political ideology is an ideal ground for political myths prospering. Their ideological platform comprises negative appreciation and evaluation of the past and positive and optimistic view of the expected prospect of emancipated democratic development of market-type society. The existence turned upside down and the world of 'phantoms' covers reality and functions as a sort of reality in ideological consciousness.
… There is something that does not actually exist, i.e. democracy, state independence and sovereignty, humanistic values, reforms for the sake of the people, etc. Failures of the experiment carried out are attributed to whatever reasons such as mistakes of their executors and initiators, schemes of enemies, etc. In other words, an illusory world of another being is being established in a conscious and purposeful, the world that nevertheless has the feature to half-open its curtain and reveal the 'terror of life.'
Today the illusory and idealist cover of the policy of reforms of 'new saviors of the world' reveals a tendency that is extremely menacing and tragic in its consequences, i.e. destructive processes acquire grass roots and objective nature, they develop following some inner logic and turn into a kind of specific reality uncontrolled by conscious human activity.
The public 'storm' is going on and gaining in scope, the human spirit is rushing about in search of some solid support to survive. The further the process is the more difficult it is to find this support. The stark realities of life have already touched the mind of every individual. They say if you want to survive and keep afloat,your behavior and activity should be guided by anti-human principles and norms such as 'do steal, kill, tell lies, deceive, give false testimony and commit adultery' and you will get to the top of social hierarchy structure. You are going to be rich and powerful. Honest labor, just like honor, dignity, love, sincerity and many of those things that determine the basis of human and social survival are vanishing and becoming obliterated under the current circumstances. Reality forces even those who still retain the 'warmth and light' of moral guidelines in their souls to make a bargain with their conscience. Truly, we may speak about 'unhappy consciousness' and tragic society.
We may often hear as an argument justifying mass immorality, lawlessness, wild outburst of violence and crime that all these events are indispensable side effects typical of the initial stage of public relations capitalization process. The history of capitalism formation in the West testifies to the effect. They survived these negative pages of their history, so we may somehow overcome them in the end, too.
Indeed, the processes to do with transformation of property forms and types have always been accompanied by violence and blood. Yet, we have to make allowance for an extremely important circumstance. The world has changed drastically.
The processes of integration of countries and people, as well as their interrelation and interdependence, make a single social space and cosmopolitan global community whose well-being depends on every country and nation. This is the world of interdependent essences. Events taking place in a particular state tell on the whole global community this way or another. Spiritual and moral focus is of primary importance against the background of aggravating global crises under unprecedented scientific, technical, information, military and technological advances.
Lawlessness, anti-humanism, immorality, brutality and irresponsibility spread in some country or another are a potential threat to the whole world. Thus, it is hardly legitimate today to find an excuse and to seek consolation in any historic analogies. Our present may ruin our own future, as well as destroy the future of the global civilization.
The major predestination of a human being on earth is to be a human being in the first place, rather than an economist, engineer, doctor, lawyer, teacher, etc. What does the society do for an individual to seek to develop humaneness in himself, to pattern his behavior and actions on humanist ideals and principles? The first thing that is revealed distinctly is complete public disregard of the most vital and complicated science of how to make a man and to carry out his main earthly purpose in the inexhaustible flow of life.
Thus, it turns out that society is comprised of functioning units playing specific roles of managers, lawyers, accountants, etc. The roles are played professionally and skillfully, though, taken together in their integral unity and interrelation, they do not lead to the desired result. The play is doomed to failure if it does not go by the rules of the genre and is devoid of single deep inner sense. Society should not count on the safe present, not to mention the promising future, if its activity is based on the rules and principles turned upside down, if the activity is carried out with disregard of the key condition of its own self-preservation, i.e. humaneness of a human being.
As an immediate participant of the events going on both in our country and other post-soviet countries, I am haunted by the question whether all economic and political reforms can be justified, if they are accompanied by the killing of Humane in a Human Being, literally and figuratively. The system of moral values is driven out by the system of market prices, such notions as love, kindness, beauty, compassion, tolerance, conscience, etc. are eliminated from human dimension.
Mass crimes, corruption, an army of refugees, homeless and unemployed people, drug addicts, prostitutes and children who were deprived of their childhood turn into an actual 'achievement' of democracy. The price to be paid for the chosen policy is too high.
It seems all this is nothing but the symptom of 'badness of the rescue plan itself'. The current interference into the historic process seems to be conscious counteraction to its natural logic, as well as violence and outrage against the objective existence processes. This seems to be another proof to the 'collective mental suicide' going on.
It is still possible to suspend the processes of self-destruction of a human being and human kind, in case every person, single nations and ethnic groups, party and state leaders will correlate their spirit, will and activities with humanist focus. Unlike ever before, human life today depends on retaining space, natural and social value of existence.
A human being is deeply integrated into the diversity of links and relations of being; its ontology is far from being sovereign. The spiritual hypostasis of a human being is not free, either, for it is made conditional on inherent laws of integral Being. The world is diverse but integrated. We may count on diversity only if we preserve the integrity. We all belong to the human race; this is what unites us all. We live on the same planet in the same universe, the same sun shines and warms us, the same moon and stars light up darkness of the night, we have the same sky and the earth. These are common truths. Yet, the way to recognize them and develop a moral maxim inside us which teaches us not to harm, to love and protect the world we came to, to make our stay on earth an event of cosmic significance, is very long.
In my opinion, the vision paradigm with the idea of unity and interdependence of a human being, society, nature and space as its fundamental basis could make the matrix determining the structure of values. It does not materially contradict either religious or atheist world view, thus it could be the base uniting efforts of science and religion aimed to shape an individual who is morally responsible for the destinies of human kind and the universe and who aspires to preserve and develop the live in every Living Thing, the spiritual in the Spirit, the kind in Kindness, the beautiful in Beauty, the true in Truth and the loving in Love.
Humanism as a vision principle does not boil down to some particular basis. It is peculiar as it synthesizes spirit, soul and feelings into a single space of high moral standards. It should be noted in this respect that humanist paradigm displays specific features of Belarusian ethnicity national character, as well as peculiarities of its psychology and spiritual and moral focus.
If spiritual paradigm of effective practical humanism makes the basis of the national (state) idea that will mean our country is laying down the foundation for the promising future of both our nation and the whole of humanity.


CHAPTER XIX

HUMAN CRISIS

In 1960s the figure was 500 people, while in 2006 it was about 50 people… The figures testify to the effect of the tragedy unfolding in rural area in recent years. The figures indicate the number of the population in my native village Rudna in Zhitkovichi district. Forty years ago, in the late 1960s and the early 1970s there were 500 inhabitants in it, while today the population totals 50 people. In some years there will be hardly anyone living in the village at all… The people witnessed many things during their lives, two or three times they even faced the alternative 'to be or not to be'. Now I am afraid the village graveyard is going to merge with the village itself in the nearest future. This is the way things develop at present. This is the outcome of the state managing the most valuable material, i.e. human one. The tragedy touches the whole of my native country Belarus, not just my home village alone… This is a tragedy of the nation that lives nowhere but in the very center of Europe, with several Slavonic countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia as its neighbors, not to mention Germany, France, Scandinavian and other European states. Most of the countries have their population increased, while Belarus' population is decreasing annually. One may speak about miracles happening in France. It became a record-winner as far as life expectancy is concerned with the figure of over 80 years.
The Council of Europe in Strasburg revealed the data of the annual demography report dealing with 44 countries of the Old World. According to the data, Belarus is one of the three countries with the lowest life expectancy figure. In Vitebsk region depopulation has the quickest pace with the rate of natural losses 8.6 people per 1000, Minsk region goes next with the figure of 8.1, followed by Mogilev region with 7.2 people per 1000. Brest region has the lowest figure of 3.4 people per 1000, while Minsk takes the lead among the cities with the figure of 0.9 people per 1000. Natural increase was registered in 29 out of 110 Belarusian towns and 16 urban settlements out of 103.
The intensive decrease of the republic's population, unfortunately, has a strong positive dynamics totaling 6 or 7 per cent annually, which means an annual decrease of 40-45 thousand people. The country's population today is only 9 million 738 thousand, contrary to the figure of 10 million that was considered to be true before. The basic reason why we suffer human losses is death rate exceeding birth rate. In general the population loss could be more significant, yet, natural losses are compensated by 9 per cent by the positive migration balance. The data concerning child mortality in Belarus are deplorable. It is known that in the European Union country approximately five out of a thousand children die annually, while in the CIS countries the child death figure is over 10 children per thousand. In Belarus the figure is even higher.
The country faces a sharp increase in the number of diseases that are major reasons for population deaths (84 per cent). The number of lethal cases due to infection and parasitic diseases has also increased by 16.2 per cent, of respiratory apparatus by 8.1 per cent and of blood circulation by 4.9 per cent.
Many misfortunes that have fallen to the long-suffering Belarusian nation brought about life expectancy decrease, among them aggravated economic and political crises, the Chernobyl disaster consequences, ecology catastrophe, lack of funds for quality medical care of the population, low salaries and pensions, as well as poor nourishment of the majority of the population. Belarusians as far as the feature is concerned lag 15 years behind Japan, Sweden, Norway, Canada, the Czech Republic, the USA and the Scandinavian countries, with their life expectancy of about 80 years.
Let me give one more fact. The majority of Belarusians die at the age of 65, i.e. a man lives for about 5 years after he retires, while inhabitants of practically all Western Europe countries - there are about 44 of these countries - regard the period of about 20 years after retirement to be the happiest one in their lives, as people travel a lot, rest and have a lot of fun. In our country, speaking figuratively, people order a coffin and expect their funeral to occur… Sometimes there is no money to bury a person. At present most of the population is paid a pension of 180-200 thousand rubles, while rural dwellers are paid even less. In winter one has to pay 120-130 thousand rubles for a three-room flat, as well as to pay electricity, phone bills, etc. Practically nothing is left to live on. There is neither strength nor possibility to work as they did before. What should people do, then? Why people are paid so scanty pensions, why does the pension fund lack money? There are a lot of questions people ask and they expect a competent and honest answer to the questions, though it is doubtful if there is going to be any answer at all.
Thus, we face a terrible crisis that is human and biological in its nature. The crisis brings about dying out of a whole Belarusian nation. Human history witnessed a lot of crises, both significant and insignificant, yet, there has never been one similar to the current crisis. Political crises brought about destruction of statehood, elimination of democratic freedoms, establishing dictatorships and authoritarian regimes, etc. Economic crises resulted in collapse of economy, chaos, misery and famine… Ideological and cultural crises led to human soul erosion and to development of anti-human sources in a human being. All this brings about destruction of everything human in a human being.
Let me mention the crisis that occurred in Soviet Russia in the early 1920s. The crisis was of frontal nature, i.e. there was lack of foodstuffs, butter, nails, etc., though there was never any lack of men and women.
The present situation testifies to the beginning of human crisis. Our people found themselves to be unprotected by the state in time of many troubles, among them economic, ecological, as well as those to do with nation's health. Radioactivity that is thought to be the plague of XX century brought about a lot of grief, suffering and harm. An old wise man from Polesiye was quite right as he said, 'If only we drove using a horse, and never encountered any radiation'… The experts in the sphere of peaceful radioactivity should have asked the old man for advice first, before they started 'making a coffin' for many thousand people.
Undoubtedly, human crisis has its own sources and reasons, it started a long time ago. Naturally, it is impossible to embrace the huge problem, though we may try to …
I'd like to draw your attention to the one who always suffers most than other social layers, i.e. a peasant. The policy pursued by the powers to be in his respect makes one surprised and, to put it mildly, reproach. No one has ever really cared about a peasant and his family. In the last century peasants, as a rule, were either half-literate or had a low education level. This, in its turn, supposed the lowest level of culture. It never occurred to anyone you would never gain any profit in manufacture unless you invested money to increase this level, thus the principle 'take more, and throw further' was in practice. I myself went through the same school once. Peasant labor was mostly based on applying muscular force. One had to work hard at cow and pig farms, in the field or in a forest… A horse was the only help in most cases, later a tractor and a lorry came to help. Nevertheless, they did not save the peasant from backbreaking labor.
One should not play a man of wisdom saying that physical labor is easier than mental one. This is pure lies. After 12 or 15 hours of work at a farm or in a field one could not even dare think of lying on the sofa watching TV after coming home. After the collective farm drudgery one had to spend 3 or 4 hours working at the homestead. One had to go through the same routine day after day, month after month, year after year, the whole of the life, without any holidays or days off, as private and collectivized cattle should be fed both on holidays and at week days.
The life of my mother who worked for almost a quarter of a century at a farm and the whole of her life at the homestead is an evident example to this. It was nothing but purposeful turning a human being into cattle and a slave. Now practically everyone realizes who profited from destroying human in a human being. Owing to this practice, a human being turned into a live means of labor, meek, frightened, so that a human being never thought of anything human. As a poet put it, he was just like a horse, driven too hard and covered with foam. It is clear who the rider was. The rider spurred a horse, i.e. a peasant, did not feed him, did not allow him any rest, did not heal his wounds, exploited him mercilessly, with the inevitable result being a human being losing his human features. The physical, spiritual and psychological state of a completely exhausted human being was nothing other than a crisis, an evolution from a human being to a non-human being, to a biological species in the form of a human being. One should not go far to provide the examples. The whole group of rural proletarians today is the exact example of the group.
Everything was planned accurately and definitely within the anti-human system. There was no need to be cunning as a human being, turned into a non-human being, would have realized nothing. After the head of the family died, his children came up to take his place. They could expect their father's lot after a time. Things went their usual way, as there was no lack of men and women. Suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, there emerged a most acute problem of workforce in the agricultural sector.
We have provided one of the fundamental factors of the start of human crisis taking one of the classes of contemporary Belarusian society, namely, rural dwellers, as an example. The specific feature of the crisis is its permanent nature. The most acute economic crises in the USA occurred in 1928-1929 and 1932-1933, while our country's human crisis has been going on for decades. We may suggest the crisis will be over when human 'material' will come to the zero level. West European scientists have estimated this might happen by 2035. I think there is no need to hold any disputes in this connection. No matter whether it happens a year later or year earlier than the forecasted year, it is vital to us is to stop the human crisis evolution. The problem pushes the rest of the problems into the background, though it has comprehensive nature and is closely interconnected with other problems.
The human crisis that began in XX century reached it s climax by XXI century. Its nature was extremely acute within the rural layer, as it was of complex nature there. Along with exploitation, peasants were subject to powerful spiritual brainwash. A huge ideological backroom operated against them and splashed its surrogates into the mind of everyone, both young and old. It is a well-known fact that before the October coup of 1917 rural inhabitants were 100 per cent believers.
The mind of a rural dweller absorbed God for centuries. The faith in God determined, in the long run, moral and spiritual customs of the village, with the result being staggering, as family customs and the family were stable. One could see no drunkards, as well as lazybones; the rate of venereal diseases was very low, especially in the rural area.
It was a common practice to assist each other about work or in time of any trouble. The hard rural life had a powerful basis in the form of God and faith, which brought about a positive outcome. There was no need to support a huge army of ideologists and agitators against AIDS, alcohol and drug addiction, as well as many other vices of today. It was enough to address a neighbor with the words 'You will be punished by God' to stop the one who violated the customs of village life.
The October of 1917 and the period of nearly 80 years that followed turned everything upside down. The way of life with faith that had been established for many centuries were ruined by a devil wearing a leather jacket and carrying a gun in his hands. He, as they used to say in the village, became tsar, God and a military commander. The sacred things such as God and church were subject to humiliation and perversion everywhere and daily. People even had to hide icons. They were afraid to say prayers lest they would be noticed by the one carrying a gun in his hand… As the famous V.V. Mayakovski put it, it's your turn to speak, comrade gun…
I myself witnessed rows between my father and mother more than once. My mother was a believer, while my father was a communist and an atheist, though his mother was a believer and donated the church each time she was paid her scanty pension. Unlike his mother, my father was a man who was brainwashed by the misanthropic propaganda of the greatest apostates in the world who were Marx and Lenin. Rows occurred in our family when my mother placed an icon in the prominent place. This made my father lose his temper so much he started cursing and crying he would be expelled from the party and tried i somebody saw the icon in the house and informed the district party committee. This was the way antichrists tried to substitute God by the district party committee. Yet, they failed, which is no wonder.
All of those who were believers went to underground, if we may put it this way, they did everything secretly - prayed and baptized their children. I was christened at the Zhitkovichi church, as well. This is undoubtedly my mother's merit, I am very grateful to her that she had me christened. God has protected me since childhood…
This was the way new life based on fear, terror and blood implanted with devilish persistency all over the country. I think this was the starting point from where the human crisis period, the most terrible period in our history started. The period that has lasted for almost a century bears the name 'yoke'.
I doubt whether the people may get rid of it as they have no strength left to do so. Some infrequent attempts are unlikely to change the situation.
Fate willed that the people of our long-suffering deeply loved country Belarus found themselves to be in the crisis situation with no way out of it to be seen in the nearest future…


CHAPTER XX

AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURIES

XX century is going to enter Belarus' history as the time of social shock, revolutionary storms, wars, optimist hopes, dreams and bitter disappointments. When we try to restore the events of this century and to analyze them, we inevitable come to the conclusion that the inherent logic of the historic process was determined by two social cataclysms that have no analogs in the world history. These two are the October revolution of 1917 and the so-called perestroika of 1985. While the period preceding and following the revolution received coverage, though it was far from being comprehensive, and sometimes rather one-sided, 1980s and 1990s will still be both an object and a subject of research, discussions and arguments.
There are three distinct periods that can be traced in recent history, the first one lasted until 1985, the second was the period from 1985 up to 1991 and the third one started in 1991 and has lasted up till now. The first one was characterized by focus on socialism, while after 1985 things changed drastically. Throughout the second period, i.e. before the CPSU was denied its leading role and the USSR disintegrated, the idea of modernizing and renewing socialism was considered as a strategic line. In 1991 there started a new, radical stage in society development, with public relations capitalization being the primary incentive. One of the vital issues in this connection is estimates of correctness and true-to-life nature of selected priorities. The research of the problem is especially topical nowadays, when the public opinion does not perceive the situation unambiguously, moreover, there is a clear tendency displayed by many social groups to neglect the pursued political and economic course.
After 1917 our society's development had official Marxist-Leninist socialism doctrine as its basis. Its basic quality features achieved by 1985 are quite well-known. Production based on public form of property, planned strictly regulated economy, priority given to the sectors manufacturing means of production and military industrial complex domineering were its characteristic features. In the social sphere such features were dominance of the state system of …distribution and maintenance, while in the spiritual one the undivided rule Marxist-Leninist ideology. By the middle of the 1980s it was evident the system of 'developed socialism' was unable to develop further. The situation was predestined. On the one hand, it was a result of the objective contradictions within the social and political system, and the predominant way of production. On the other hand, the processes were aggravated by arbitrary attempts to reanimate the old-fashioned public system and mistakes and arrears of the leadership. The organization structure that did not meet development requirements, excessive centralization of management, poor implementation of high-technology processes and equipment into production, poor availability of power-driven tools, lack of essential raw materials for basic industries, especially metal-intensive ones could not but have negative influence over the republic's economy in the late 1980s.
The problem of providing industry with qualified staff aggravated, too. It was exactly at this period that industries defining scientific progress such as microelectronics, radio equipment and some fields of machine building that required sufficient professional training of those who were involved in the industries, started to develop.
The hindrance for the industrial development of Belarus, as well as for the whole country's, was also the style and methods of administrative and management system. Workers, as a rule, were completely denied participation in production management, the working class creative potential was used insignificantly. Extremely low salaries paid to workers and black-coated staff did not did not promote production, either.
In 1985, owing to the 'glasnost' practice they made public the shortcomings in the political and practical activity, unfavorable trends in economic, social and spiritual spheres, as well as some reasons for the phenomena. For many years due to objective and subjective factors the problems in the country's development aggravated more quickly than they were solved. Sluggishness, ossification of forms and ways of management, decline in dynamism of work, as well as bureaucratic practices, brought about stagnation. No wonder Soviet economy in 1982 was stagnant, in fact, as the tasks set by the 9th and the 10th five-year plans turned out to be unfulfilled.
Under the circumstances perestroika ideas and its vital necessity seized masses in full and turned into a factor defining public conscience. They realized there was no alternative to revolutionary changes in all spheres of life. Yet, the leadership interpreted 'revolutionary change' in a very peculiar way. Their perception was, in fact, a demagogic veil of the so-called reformative management methods. In the first place, the very idea of perestroika and acceleration did not have a leg to stand on. In fact it is impossible to implement changes and acceleration simultaneously even within one particular economic sector. In the second place, they intended to implement changes and acceleration while retaining socialist production and, moreover, strengthening and improving it in order to have socialism with 'a human face'. The society aimed at carrying out another ill-conceived and unjustified social experiment. The experiment was carried out by way of trial and error, with their consequences determining significantly the current crisis social and economic state of all post-Soviet republics.
As is known, economy, in the long run, determines the state of all society structures - social, political and spiritual one. They seemed to have begun exactly with this, as in 1988 they adopted a law on the state enterprise (association), meant, according to the authors of the idea, to provide independence of corporate staffs; besides, they adopted laws on co-operation and lease. Yet, the laws remained on paper. Their implementation was hampered by ministers and departments. The decision to implement economic innovations was not supplemented by changes in the country's political system. The XIX All-Union party congress drew attention to the fact, so they decided to carry out reforms in economy and politics at a time, though economic reforms had to be of primary importance. The conclusion, nevertheless, was far from being anew one. It was already Lenin who stressed that 'politics should not prevail over economy', when he considered the correlation of economy and politics. He emphasized the significance of economy as the basis of politics, yet, he drew attention to relative independence and active nature of politics. He developed the idea and pointed that economic tasks should be solved on the basis of political approach and that primary role within the integrity of politics and economy should be played by political approach, rather than economic one.
The one-sided and purely metaphysic approach, when the priority of politics was interpreted as its independence of objective economic processes and laws, resulted in extremely negative consequences. It would be too simplified and one-sided to attribute errors and flaws in economy management from the point of view of purely economic approach. The interdependence and interaction of all public life spheres, i.e. economic, political, social and spiritual have much more complicated and many-sided nature. The need to take this into account was proved both theoretically and practically. The failure of the economic reform in 1960s due to lack of any radical reform in the political sphere and comprehensive democratization of public life testified to this. The situation did not change for the better in the 1970s and the 1980s, either. Throughout the announced perestroika period it was infrequently noted, too, that the headway is hampered by administrative methods of management of society.
Democratization of public life, elimination of formal nature of administrative bureaucratic structures and radical economic reform are fundamental tasks, yet the solution of the latter is impossible without solving the former. It is here that we discover the primary and basic problem. The effectiveness of Marxist formula 'the class that predominates economy prevails in politics, as well' is evident. When we regard social reality in the light of the formula we can't but notice that these classes were neither workers nor peasants; they were solely administrative layer. It was this layer that was in charge of means of production, resources, workforce, and thus ensured its dominance in economy and politics. This layer (class) supported and preserved its privileged position employing all structures of political and legal system, ranging from making political decisions to the employment of such bodies as the CGB, militia, the army, etc.
It would be naive to expect that the administrative layer would voluntary give up its power. Nevertheless, there is an impression it was exactly the layer that those who put the idea of perestroika forward did not want to take account of. The representatives of those political layers that took political decisions, enactments, laws and decrees were not interested to change the situation drastically. As a result, all vital decrees turned into nothing other than bureaucratic paperwork.
It seems it was these circumstances that explain the half-way nature of many laws to do with economic changes and many political enactments can be attributed to. The administrative and bureaucratic system made use of its experience, it opposed quite actively, moreover, it went into the offensive. This displayed itself most in economic sphere. The main thing that should be noted is that no other result could have been expected with the account of the existing system. Otherwise, the administrative system would have to destroy itself consciously.
'Where is the way out?' This was the question that worried most of the population that was not integrated into bureaucratic bodies. One could hear quite contradictory answers to the question, ranging from demands to introduce a multi-party system to appeals to return authoritarian methods of rule. The hope for cardinal changes of the power structure on the basis of the outdated election law failed, too. They needed a new law based on democratic principles.
The provision about the CPSU as the guiding and directing force, the core of the political system secured in the 6th article of the USSR Constitution adopted in 1977 gave rise to a lot of heated debates in the society. Owing to the provision, the party performed its guiding function in many spheres, including economic one. The result of the administration became extremely evident by 1980s. No wonder the USSR Supreme Soviet election campaign displayed mistrust of party functionaries. The stereotype excuse that the party put the idea of perestroika forward failed to work. When we analyze the situation we come to the following significant conclusions., firstly, there was objective situation that prevented one from ruling in the old-fashioned manner as crisis phenomena displayed the threat of an 'explosion' from the bottom, secondly, in the authoritarian state with lack of democracy and glasnost only the party was allowed to suggest such and anti-socialist ideas, as perceived by ideological yardsticks of the past.
What way did the party carry out its predominant role in the economy? By way of dictatorship, in the first place. Party bodies turned into centers that determined activity of corporate staffs, namely, what had to be produced, how to arrange production, how to share profits, etc. The dictatorship practice was carried out by people who possessed neither special nor economic knowledge. One of the fundamental issues of transforming educational activity, differentiation of functions of party bodies, ministers, departments and Soviets of people's deputies was brewing. It was evident the advance of the economic reform depended largely on the solution of the problem, in the meanwhile any economic decisions had to be coordinated in different party instances. The situation did not result from unconscious mistakes, rather it was determined by the natural state of party functionaries who were integrated into the administrative system and constituted its core. Lack of any mechanism to fight bureaucracy might be attributed to this.
It was evident to everyone, with the exception to the supreme leadership, that perestroika in the economic sphere was failing, as party administrative approaches of the past prevailed in the sphere.
The 'strength and effectiveness' of the existing management mechanism manifest themselves very clearly when we analyze work of particular enterprises. Let's take the Belarusian metallurgy plant in the town of Zhlobin as an example. The foundation of the plant was laid by an Austrian firm 'West Alpene' in cooperation with contractors from Italy and other European countries in the early 1980s. It seemed there should not be any problems from the technical point of view as they had up-to-date equipment. Nevertheless, the plant failed to meet the expectations of both those who came to work there and those who constructed it. The situation concerning the plant displays the badness of administrative way of economic management.
It is interesting to compare Austrian and Soviet styles of work, all the more that similar plants were built with the employment of Soviet technology in other places in the country. Accuracy in work of every section, labor discipline, lack of any outside interference and control, careful attitude to everything, including nature (the upper layer of the soil where buildings were to be erected was cut and used for planting greenery) was Austrian style of work. The number of the buildings constructed for similar plants in Rybnitsa turned out to be twice as much, while in Komsomolsk-na-Amure it was three times as much that that of the Austrians'. Naturally, they used twice as much fertile land for construction, to be more exact, 110 hectares in each case. The plant in Zhlobin started to operate in due time, while the plants in Rybnitsa and Komsomolsk-na-Amure a year after their startup were unable to start fusion process.
Yet, as soon as the Austrian firm handed the plant to the Ministry of ferrous metals after ensuring manufacture of its production the plant was infected with the diseases common to the whole economic sector. In the first year of its work, when they exploited the equipment excessively and the plant was ordered an excessive target foreign machinery started to fail due to disregard of technological rules, etc. which resulted in huge material and moral losses. In the end, the plant in Zhlobin turned out to be on the brink of failure.
Who was to blame for the chaos, foolish waste of workers' intellectual and physical potential? It was considered order could be established only by political means. They thought any technological solutions to the problem would fail. Thus, the structure of the administrative mechanism displayed its complete inability to change the economic situation radically. The true perestroika suggests another way that is revolutionary in its essence. This variant could be attained only after they solved two basic issues - those of power and property.
Many enterprises manufactured quality produce at the time. They were the production association 'Integral', 'Electronic machinery', the Minsk plant of large-panel construction #2 and others. The Minsk plant of large-panel construction #2 had to pay to the government budget the sum that totaled 2 million rubles annually. It seemed the staff had to be fully encouraged; yet, profits tax totaled 90 per cent, while with unprofitable enterprises the figure was only 2 per cent. The state of affairs was .advantageous merely to the administrative center, namely, to the ministry, with its structure being one of the basic reasons for hindrance.
The issue of fundamental changes in the principles of approach to the administrative system was brewing. It became clear every administrative level was to have the bodies with the functions and number that would satisfy the lower strata. The existence of any administrative body is justified only if its need is conditioned by manufacturing interests. It seems if the simple rule had been taken into account, the ill-conceived decisions similar to building a tractor plant in Smorgon and many others would not have been taken.
At the very first steps the economic reform encountered resistance of the administrative system that was unwilling to yield its positions. They said at the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Belarus plenary session in June 1989 that stagnant phenomena in the economy and public sphere of the republic continue to persist and, moreover, tolerance to them was displayed. The plenary session attempted to analyze the reasons for the ongoing stagnation and acknowledged that although the forms and ways of the work of the republic's party organization had changed, the strategic line remains unchanged, though it had no significant influence over the situation. Due to the analysis of the situation in the republic, the plenary session noted, 'The changes in the economy and social sphere management by the Council of Ministers of the BSSR, ministers and departments, as well as the executive committees of the people's deputies soviets are going at a slow pace.'
When getting acquainted with resolutions of the …plenary session one cannot but ask the question, 'Did the perestroika of the party boil down to this?' They did not mention any definite strategic development principle, any scientifically grounded direction aimed at actual transformation of economic management. What does the notion 'perestroika' really mean? Even at the time it was evident they had to break everything and build anew rather than rebuild.
Another extremely important issue was economy management mechanism. They started to work out in Belarus a new general plan of economy management. Yet, the plan had not been worked out by the middle of 1989. The only thing they did was to reduce the number of the administrative staff, which had no influence over the basic economy management mechanism and did not touch its essence.
The Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the BSSR of June 16 1988 introduced changes into the administrative system and did away with a number of ministers and departments. The administrative body, at the republican level, was reduced twice, at regional organizations and departments - by 30 per cent, while all over the republic in general - by 26 per cent. The official result of the changes was that 26 thousand people were merely transferred to other positions. Was the intended goal achieved? Did they start to work more efficiently? The answer is negative, the economy development tasks could not be solved merely by the change, moreover, new problems added.
Due to the unrealistic nature of perestroika and acceleration concept and uncoordinated activities to reform the basic structures of economy and society in the middle of 1990 the economic crisis aggravated. It started in 1988 and is still going on, being the longest one in the world history. During 1989-1991 the decrease in the gross domestic product totaled 33 per cent. This figure corresponds to the level of the gravest crisis in the USA throughout 1928-1933. The tendency went on increasing in the years that followed.
Economy transition to the principles of regional (republican) cost accounting resulted in the misbalance of the USSR's single economic space. The economic links with the former socialist camp states declined. Against the background of the ongoing events, the influence and authority of the center headed by the USSR President declined too, destructive processes and tendencies in economy and politics began to play a dominant role. Chaos, disorder, corruption, mass crimes and moral degradation began to gain pace under the guise of public relations democratization and glasnost. Decrease in production output and living standards of the population, political instability and inability of the leadership to cope with the problems that emerged were aggravating at an unprecedented pace.
In August 1991 putshists used the drastic situation as the major argument for the need to introduce changes in the country. The events that followed brought about great historic events, namely collapse of the CPSU and the USSR disintegration.
… The overall political and economic situation in 1970s and the early 1980s exercised influence over all regions of the country. The following subjective factors played the primary role at the stage, namely, the level of party's economy management, recruitment and appointment of personnel, and the ideological one. Those regions where party leadership pursued well-thought-out and scientifically substantiated policy had economy and social sphere levels somewhat higher than generally all over the Soviet Union.
Belarus in many respects left behind significantly other republics and by the middle of 1980s took the lead in the single country's economic complex. The production and working efficiency rates in the preceding 15 years were more than three times higher than in Tadzhikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. As compared to the all-Union indexes, the republic's economy development rates were higher, too. Thus, in 1985 the production output increased three-fold as compared with 1979, the working efficiency increased by 2.5 times, while the average salary of workers increased by over 1.6 times.
Belorussia of the 1970s and 1980s was one of the most developed economic regions of the USSR; its industry included over 150 specialized branches, 1197 industrial enterprises and production associations, industrial production made up approximately 60 per cent of the gross domestic products. It topped the chart in the production of potash fertilizers and ensilage harvesters; the republic ranked second in the output of chemical fibers, motorcycles and watches; Belarus took the third place in the manufacture of machine-tools, TV sets, bicycles, tractors, mineral fertilizers and household refrigerators, etc. Many goods produced in the republic were exported to a number capitalist states. Economic integration of the republic into a single a multi-sector complex of the former USSR was a specific feature of Belarus' economy at the time. The complex with over 45 thousand industrial enterprises, 400 sectors, subsectors and industries, 46.2 thousand manufacturing firms, scientific production associations and enterprises that produced over 25 million items of goods was formed for a long time. It is quite clear that the huge production required proper organization, considered and efficient structure and established inter-sector, sector and regional connections. Union republics supplied the Belorussian SSR with cast iron and black rolled metal, non-ferrous and precious metals, coal and oil, as well as the produce of timber, paper making and wood-working industries, building materials and so on. Ukraine alone supplied over 100 items of different goods. Tens and hundreds of co-operating enterprises from other republics participated in manufacture processes of such giant production associations as production association 'Minsk tractor plant', 'BelavtoMAZ', 'Gorizont', 'Integral', 'Atlant', 'Gomselmash' and others. There was further intensification of Belorussian economic region specialization within the system of the country's national economy complex; it was also the period when its industrial potential was built up. At the time no one could even imagine the disintegration of the greatest power in the world could take place …
December of 1991 witnessed a new stage in development of our society. The stage could be called revolutionary in its nature. Its specific feature was the cardinal change from the socialist strategic to development of market economy. The political leadership of the USSR put forward the market economy policy as early as in June 1990; yet, they supposed to implement it within the concept of renewed socialism, which turned out to be impossible; it was unlikely to do with halfhearted measures at the time. The new economy focus was peculiar as it suggested a radical change of the existing system; they had to switch from socialism to capitalism. Once again the country found itself to be at a historic crossroads.
There is every reason to believe that market economy development is objective reality; this way is followed by all industrially developed states. There is no other more effective way that enables to realize creative potential of both an individual and the society in general. The attempt to ignore this way of development that was undertaken in our country for many decades and brought about extremely negative consequences is the best proof to this. By 1917 capitalist relations and the market were going through the stage of formation, their further development was prevented by World War I, the February revolution, later by the October coup and the civil war. The country's development contrary to the natural historic logic seemed to start deviating from the due course, the further the deviation went, the greater self-destruction effect of the public system could be observed.
Market relations in contemporary industrial countries shaped in a natural, historically determined way, they developed gradually, in an evolutionary way, throughout many centuries, creating an integral system of different structural levels interrelation (economic, social, political and spiritual) Yet, in our country market economy transition manifests itself as a historic precedent and is implemented be means of revolutionary break of the established public and social customs, which requires conscious and purposeful activities. Due to this the period we go through can be qualified as extremely complicated and dangerous. Defining basic directions and ways of transition to market economy is a complex task. It is necessary to take historic, political, economic, social, spiritual, national and other factors into account in order to solve it successfully.
Transition to market economy suggests a solution of the fundamental problem of quality changes within the system of productive relations, namely, property relations transformation, establishing conditions for heterogeneous economy, private property shaping and development. The governmental focus in solving the task was defined quite clearly - denationalization and privatization. Its practical implementation boils down to adopting laws, providing legal basis for transformation of state property into private, mixed and collective one. The mechanism is clear enough - property is transferred from one owner to another. Yet, historic experience, including the one of socialist changes in our country, indicates the way of solving the problem is fraught with negative consequences, the basic reason being ignoring objective processes and the logic of natural historic development. Property relations are not merely reflection of productive means of ownership; rather they are relations between people based on property ownership. Thus, we may transfer property from one owner to another by adopting a corresponding law or even forcibly, though it is impossible to develop necessary relations this way, as they require appropriate objective and subjective prerequisites.
Market economy and private property relations require practical principles different in essence from those typical of socialism. The bases of the principles are individualism, private initiative, freedom of choice and individual responsibility. In the West business qualities of market economy subjects were shaped throughout many centuries, their characteristic features being a definite degree of complementarity with generally recognized ethic norms of human community and conscientiousness. One may say that property relations, to a certain extent, unfold themselves due to the examples of reasonable egoism. I wonder if it is possible to attain the result in our country and to establish the basis of market economy, rather than economy itself, by adopting laws on privatization. The answer would be negative. Privatization, in fact, turns into 'grab-what-you-can privatization', with destructive processes developing instead of stabilizing ones. A human being, a businessman in particular, finds himself to be driven into artificial bureaucratic conditions of initiative hampering, pressed by the tax burden, when he has to solve the problem of how to survive, in many cases physically, rather than how to arrange his business and expand production. No wonder most contemporary businessmen display creative initiative and business efficiency in order to pursue their private selfish goals rather than to improve public well-being. One of the features of the interaction with the people around is increasing violation of moral and ethic norms of life. What about common citizens? Life realities force him to violate moral principles and laws frequently.
Another important circumstance should be noted. The 70-year-long experience of socialist transformations left its negative traces on the mind and psyche of a human being, moreover, it saved him from independent management. Economic skills and knowledge transferred from one generation to another turned out to be lost mostly, so it is a kind of a naive illusion to expect that property ownership will turn out to be a magic means that might transform a human being himself and the whole of society.
Thus, the republic lacked the necessary objective preconditions to successfully implement the governmental program. The political profile of the problem (all spheres of the public system are interconnected and interdependent), as well as ill-conceived economic decisions (tax, investment and others) added to this, crisis aggravation may be regarded as a logical and even a planned process. Let's give a definite example. It is quite evident that solution of political and economic problems should be interdependent. In this respect focus on political independence and sovereignty supposes a comprehensive account of the peculiar features of the republic's economic development, with former profound integration into the USSR economic system as its specific feature. BSSR industry, in fact, was a kind of two huge and technically equipped workshops, one being engaged in processing raw materials supplied from other regions, the other engaged in the assembly of the final product, which was machinery primarily. The focus on the export of the produce, poor raw material base and, thus, dependence on other regions required more serious and well-considered solutions to the problem of political sovereignty and independence. Shushkevich, demob happy, did not think about it in 1991 in Viskuli, other initiators of the historic document did not pay attention to the problem, either, though they were aware of its painfulness later.
Owing to the declarative nature of the political course, lack of any theoretical interpretation of the situation and the aspiration of the leadership to rid of the problems at one stroke the republic began to fall into the abyss of the crisis rapidly beginning with 1989. In 1991 they witnessed complete decline of industrial and agricultural output, the gross national product totaled 98 per cent of the level in 1990.
In1992 industrial output dropped by 11 per cent, while in 1993 it was 82.5 per cent of the level observed in1992. Yet, the main 'achievement' of implementing the concept of Belarus' transition to market relations was its completely destructive effect. This meant destruction of the economic management system, deformation of production structure, decline in economic relations with the CIS states, technical backwardness aggravation, uncompetitiveness and low profitability of many industries, financial system disorder, etc. The conclusion suggests itself that although the idea of socialism discredited itself and outlived its historic usefulness, the democratic idea has not produced any desired result both in our country's politics and economy, either. The seeds of the democratic ideas must have fallen into poor soil, so the result speaks for itself…
The idea of society democratization and the reforms to do with it is perceived by the public opinion as being increasingly discredited, too, which is far from being accidental. The notion 'democracy' acquires the meaning far from being its true feature, i.e. it is perceived as anything ranging from permissiveness to anarchy. Thus, it is quite evident we have a long historic way to take to be called a true democratic society. Democracy does not emerge and cannot be born due to somebody's order. The wish alone to turn society into a democratic one is not enough. The experience testifies it took Western industrially advanced countries centuries of natural historic development to arrive at the contemporary state, with the essential features shaped and acquired gradually. Our country displays an absolutely different historic prospect. They decided to make a transition from serfdom, feudal monarchy, and socialist authoritarian and totalitarian regime right to democratic society, though it is utterly impossible…
They managed in their time to create and implant in human mind the sources of Bolshevist socialism forcibly, though the price paid was high. It was implanted by terror, fear and loss of the most part of historic, cultural and intellectual heritage. Nowadays this way is utterly impossible, though the current situation has some features similar to those in 1917. The similarity displays itself in subjective arbitrary purposes prevailing over the objective conditions of social, economic and purely human existence. Those who are in power are unlikely to take into consideration the objective economic, spiritual and moral readiness of our society to the western-type market when making their political decisions. The analysis of the decisions taken testifies that we lack any basis for the transformation of the kind at all. Thus, it follows the building is erected on sand, without any foundation at all. This circumstance, i.e. incoherency and poor coordination of the reality and the decisions taken to transform it might be one of the major reasons for the ongoing destruction of the social body.
It was as early as in the 1920s that the Russian philosopher S. Frank noted the reasons for the failure of our dreams is 'primarily the unfitness of the human stuff of the saviors themselves', rather than badness of the salvation plan … The 'saviors' blinded by hatred overestimated the evil of the past, the evil of the empiric life around them and guided by their blind pride infinitely overestimated their own mental and moral powers, the very badness of the salvation plan they designed was due to their moral blindness. The proud saviors of the world opposed themselves and their aspirations as the supreme reasonable and good source to the evil and chaos of the reality; yet, they themselves turned out to be the worst manifestation and product of this most evil and chaotic Russian reality, as the evil accumulated by the Russian life, i.e. hatred, lack of attention to people, bitter resentment, light-mindedness, moral dissoluteness, ignorance, gullibility, the spirit of repulsive petty tyranny, disrespect of law and the truth turned out to be their inherent features'…
The characteristic is in surprising harmony with the present day. By the time the reforms were started the 'human stuff', i.e. mass consciousness was characterized by the features radically opposite to those required by market economy. Moral principles that were taking their shape for decades cultivated faith in the image of a benefactor, a savior, a Messiah and produced the mood of expectation and social naivety. The fact that mass psychology lacked such features as freedom of free choice and responsibility, the ethics of enterprise basics, respect of the state and the law, not to mention respect of one's neighbor, could not but tell upon the distortion of the chosen strategic course. At the same time, the preceding historic period shaped the image of a Soviet man who was a toiler. Labor as supreme sense and value of human life was a supreme ideological notion that was rooted in the deepest areas of public and individual conscience and turned into a true vital necessity. The significance of the developed feelings as team spirit, mutual support and readiness to help should not be ignored, either.
Contemporary reformers 'emptied the baby out with the bath' giving preference to the principle 'We are going to destroy the old world completely'. And what were they going to do then? The revolutionary slogans of 1917 are not effective at present. It follows that the historic experience of the whole century sank into oblivion, vanished, though the future depends on the past which makes itself felt in time of crisis.
Our present 'blindness and deafness' concerning the past takes a turn for extremely alarming tendencies manifested by public conscience. The society threw off the pedestal the value of labor and substituted it by the idea of personal enrichment attained by any means (once again we see the principle 'the end justifies the means' working) and thus it got itself trapped into crime race, corruption, lack of ideology, immorality, anti-humanism and so on.
There arises a natural question of whether it is possible to neutralize the dangerous tendencies and by what means. To solve the problems one should turn to serious analysis of past experience, in particular that of the administrative command system.
No wonder this mechanism of control is characterized as a system. Indeed, it was a directed system of interrelation of all levels of management, control and upbringing. The main section of the system that ran through all of its subdivisions was ideological support and upbringing. Communist leadership cannot be denied their insight in this respect.
They realized it was necessary first to change the inner world of the people, the system of their notions, values and norms and only afterwards to regulate activities, as compulsion alone was not enough for the successful work of the totalitarian system. It was essential that people should perceive common goals as if they were their personal ones. Even forced convictions had to become inherent and turn into true faith that would make every human being act in the predesigned direction.
The subjective sense of pressure in countries with totalitarian regime is not so acute and evident as those who live in liberal countries imagine it to be only due to the fact that the authorities manage to make their citizens think and act in the 'proper' direction to a considerable degree. A totalitarian state controls the thoughts and feelings of their subjects in the same effective, constant and persistent way as their actions. Rigid system of ideological control is an essential and indispensable feature of any totalitarian regime, with the Soviet one being no exception. Its implementation supposes fabrication of political doctrines, concepts, ideas, programs and slogans, as well as their constant introduction into human mind.
The results of the dedicated work carried out for decades by means of different ways and practices could not but yield their fruit, though we cannot assert that communist ideology firmly entered the mind of all people who belonged to the so-called socialist camp and turned into their flesh and blood. There were quite many dissidents, while the rest kept silent and suffered…
Old practices turned out to be unacceptable to establish new ideology, so they chose to follow the way of complete denial of the former world outlook and refusal of many of its undoubtedly valuable qualities, advances and obvious achievements. This new way implied idealizing the western way of life by all ways and means.
Today this view of the world and a way of life is actively advocated and spread by means of the media, the major one being television. It is still doubtful whether the growing generation is going to accept unconditionally the ideology and way of life with its majesty dollar being the only criterion of conscience, decency and kindness…
Are they right saying that everything resumes its normal course? At the very end of XX century they returned to what they rejected in 1917. Now after we lost eight decades when all countries of the world, even the most backward ones at the time, the former colonies, made a giant step forward, so that we have to catch up with them once again. Are we going to catch up? What expects us on the thorny way?


CHAPTER XXI

TRANSITION PERIOD POLITICS

About twenty years ago, by the middle of 1980s, the USSR faced the situation that could rightfully be called 'revolutionary' one, making use of V.I. Lenin's terminology. Just like at the beginning of the century, it was characterized by the crisis of the upper strata and the lower strata when the rulers were unable and the ruled ones were unwilling to go on as before. Stagnant economy incapable of further development and aggravation of economic conditions of the country's population reached the critical point. The war in Afghanistan, unprecedented crime rate, social confrontation of the administrative party top and the exploited majority, as well as aggressive policy of western countries, the USA in particular, that took the superpower crisis to their advantage in order to undermine its might definitively played the role of powerful destabilizing factors.
The official Marxist-Leninist ideology that played the role of public conscience basis for decades shaped and reproduced social ideals that were both doubted and rejected by daily conscience. Mass ideological influence failed to accomplish its ends and had an increasing reverse effect.
The objective conditions that took shape by the 1980s required drastic quality changes. Was there any consciousness adequate to the objective situation and ready to solve the crisis formed? The question is far from being a simple one; its theoretical interpretation is quite problematic. Now we are going to underline the following features that were characteristic of the subjective factor. In the first place, there was an extremely low level of rational and theoretical interpretation of the situation, lack of any, at least general theoretic platform and model of public development that would assert positive ideals. Their diversity displayed itself in the process of perestroika spontaneously. Secondly, public conscience was prevailed by sensory and emotional structures that displayed themselves in the feelings of hostility, displeasure and anger directed at the powers to be and aimed the will and aspirations of people at destruction, rather than create (by the way, no one knew what to create and how to build). Thirdly, there was lack of any solidarity and organization of the population who were ready to come out under any slogan directed against the existing system. Obviously, the subjective factor was unprepared to implement changes. Public conscience evidently lagged behind and fell behind public being development.
Here life displayed collision of the historic need and chance once again. The objective need for changes moved out by chance into the center of events an initiator of the so-called perestroika. We should remind in this respect one of Marxist theses that it is great epochs and turning points in public transformations that call personalities into being, not vice versa. Thus, the 'appearance' of Gorbachev before people was determined in many respects by mere coincidence. If there had been no Gorbachev, the historic need would have used somebody else instead. Some analysts say seriously that he had rather positive influence on the country's history; if it had not been for him, they say, nobody knows how much time the USSR would have agonized… Gorbachev's phenomenon is going to be studied comprehensively, yet , today it is important to bear in mind that his playing the main role on the proscenium of our history a coincidence rather than the result of his personality features, political insight, innovation, bravery and responsibility.
Thus, the specific nature of the transition period is determined by the whole range of most complex objective and subjective factors, while inner discrepancy specificated political transformations. All this enables us to make a number of theoretical conclusions.
Political process is not merely realization of political will of the politics subjects, this process involves also a number of consistent actions that include several stages. According to the theory of political systems, this political process is regarded as reaction of the system with the aim to eliminate and neutralize inner controversies and lack of coordination, as well as to meet requirements of the external environment with a view to self-preservation and self-development. External environment includes social reality into the limits of the political system. Political process is realized in political decisions and actions of power structures.
Negative reaction of the external environment to political decisions in the form of radical requirements induces authorities to make new decisions; this gives the political process some permanent nature and provides persistent reproduction of public politics.
Deep integration of politics into all spheres of social vital activity, its interaction with economy, social, cultural and spiritual spheres hampers theoretical analysis of political processes from the point of view of their structure. Political process as a totality of political activities includes the subject of activities, the aim and ways of activities and the object of activities. Peculiar nature of the political process is discovered through the concrete analysis of specific nature of its structures. Subjects of the political process are public officers, legislative bodies, the executive power, administrative services, and courts.
Such unofficial participants of the political process as groups of public and political figures united by their aims, as well as political parties are considered to be subjects of the political process, too. They play an important role in politics, though they do not possess any powers of authority and do not influence decision-making by power structures.
Composition of participants of the political process in transition periods manifests particular diversity. Deep quality changes of the subject of the political process are indispensable for the transition from totalitarian regime to democratic one to take place. Among the changes we should mention increase in the role of independent personal choice of ideological and political priorities, expanding space of the political process, growth in possibilities to influence decisions taken. This refers to both official and unofficial subjects, though their degree of participation in the political process and influence on it is different. Political elite acquires special importance for the political process dynamics in time of policy change.
Political elite as a social layer includes representatives of the higher echelon of power structures. The theory of the elite was thoroughly worked out by western political scientists and sociologists. Their theoretical conclusions deserve serious attention. Thus, according to Thomas Dye and Harmon Zeigler, elites influence masses much more effectively, than the latter influence the former. High selection level and consolidation of the elite provides them with a significant advantage in abilities and opportunities to determine the main ways of society development, thus ensuring their decisive role in making the most significant political decisions. Robert Dahl considers as far as solution to key political problems is concerned, priority should be given to the qualified and organized minority.
Quality analysis of the contemporary political elite in our society shows the elite is just being formed and possesses the following features. The majority of the elite lack necessary qualifications and professional skills of political activities. It is formed by former party functionaries, latter-day leaders of political movements and parties, public figures who are notable for their ambitiousness and populist aspirations, rather than by their knowledge and skills of political activities. The inherent contradictory nature of the political elite displays itself in the fact that, on the one hand, it is delegated with high powers of authority and plays a dominant role in vital decision making, while on the other hand it lacks the indispensable skill competence. All this adds to the political process instability, inconsistency, dashing aside and general inadequacy of political actions to the objective requirements of the situation, It should be noted in this connection that such 'democratic' way of rule implies grave social danger as destinies of the people are determined by an incompetent minority. The ancient philosopher Socrates warned of the danger of this kind of democracy.
The essence and content of the political process is conditioned by specific nature of political problems. Thus, its analysis should begin with investigating the essence of the public agenda. Tracing the problem and its adequate definition enables to find out the content and essence of a definite political process. Public problems may pertain to different levels. Yet, only those that capture the majority of people and induce them to act acquire the status of political ones. The issue of political priorities or the proscenium of politics (the agenda) is of special importance. The agenda of the political process in any state includes a number of topical issues (for example, economic and social regulation, ecological, cultural and other issues).
In transition periods the choice of strategic political priorities acquires special significance. Priorities choice process is complex and multi-stage; it begins with the stage of 'introduction' at the proscenium of politics. The next stage suggests entering on the agenda ways to solve it in the form of struggle, clashes of different alternatives, as well as interchangeable and mutually exclusive preferences. Decision-making depends on many circumstances and factors of both objective and subjective nature. Anyway, the decision made is a result of interpreting some public problem in the light of interests of a definite social group. That is why strategic and political courses never coincide fully with the interests of the whole people, in the first place, and they infrequently do not correspond to objective requirements of social development, in the second place. Both our country's experience and the whole of human history testify to this, hence there are two important conclusions. The first one is that the category 'interests of the people' is theoretical abstraction that in fact has no real object of reflection and thus is an illusion. It was already Marx and Engels who wrote about this, maintaining that for socialism to win there should be a system of measures and activities aimed at perceiving interests of the proletariat as public ones.
Appeals to interests of the people and their defense conditions an illusory, mythological element participating in any conscious strategic political choice. The second conclusion is that dominance of interests of particular groups in defining political priorities brings about violation of public self-development objective logic and is displayed in the fact that results of strategic political course practical implementation do not correspond to and even run counter the primary aims and goals. Thus, putting into practice socialist orientation brought about the result that discredited the goal that was set. The practice of contemporary political strategy implementation is another proof to the conclusions. Here two basic tendencies display themselves clearly. On the one hand, we may witness increase in and strengthening of destructive tendencies in all spheres of social life and their turning into grass roots process that is increasingly superior to conscious regulation and control. On the other hand, the sphere of political mythology is gaining strength and expanding limitlessly.
Thus, the stage of making a political decision on defining a strategic course is most significant and responsible one. An effective solution to a significant social problem depends on its choice. The definite analysis of strategic policy choice and pursuing the course to capitalize market relations in Belarus is characterized by the following features.
Its dynamics traces several obvious stages when political priorities were ripening. Political processes at the initial stage of the transition period were characterized by two trends. The first one was based on the ideology of absolute denial of the existing social and political system. The second one chose for its initial position the idea of preserving the political course on the basis of renewing and reforming state and party structures, as well as ways and mechanisms of their activity. The exponent of the first trend was the Belarusian People's Front, while the second was carried out by official party and state structures headed by the Communist Party of Belarus. The confrontation and struggle between the representatives of the two trends lasted up to the USSR abolition and elimination of the leading role of the communist party.
In 1991 there began the next stage in development of political processes connected with the victory of the first trend. Representatives of the new way headed by S. Shushkevich came to power in the republic, the market economy and political independence course took the proscenium of politics, a new constitution was adopted, the State Emblem, Flag and other symbols were changed. The third stage of political transformations in Belarus was connected with the idea of national sovereignty, national identity and the problem of relations with the West and Russia coming to the proscenium of politics. The Belarusian Popular Front took a definite course for Belarusization of the republic's population and its integration into Western community, with rather rigid, uncompromising and clearly pro-western methods being offered. Yet, these aspirations of representatives of the Belarusian Popular Front failed to find any support with the majority of the population and brought about its self-isolation and defeat at parliamentary elections in the end. The next stage was connected with the name of V.F. Kebich. It was characterized by undisguised focus on cooperation with Russia and by irresolute and moderate attempts to reform the economy. Finally, the last stage of unfolding political processes was conditioned in many respects by the activity and personality features of the President of the republic A.G. Lukashenko.
Despite differences in priorities at each of the stages, political processes in Belarus are united by their strategic aims at market economy and democracy development. Nevertheless, the contemporary political course has no theoretical grounds and social ideals of its own. Market economy and democracy could be regarded as a way and means of development of the state, rather than as its goal. When we ask a question about the purpose of the changes the only answer we hear is that the changes are carried out in the name of people's well-being and in state interests. At the same time such phenomena as impoverishment of the population, lack of social and legal protection, spiritual and moral destitution and numbness, lack of stability, loss of ideals and faith in the future are gaining strength. It is not clear where we go and what we build…
Thus, during transition periods public self-development and strategic self-determination depend on the political process and its immediate participants, as well as on their competence, knowledge and responsibility for the decisions they make.
The considerations and conclusions offered for readers' attention do not claim to be universal and exhaustive. They could be regarded as a stimulus for in-depth study of the political process from the point of view of its essence and definite ways of its implementation.

CHAPTER XXII

STAGNANT SOCIETY

The known formula of the priority of politics over economy depicts a complex dialectics of social life. The one-sided and purely metaphysic approach interpreting the priority of politics as its independence of objective economic processes and laws brought about negative consequences. Thus, the decisions to develop the country's economy in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s were limited and half-hearted; they poorly embraced the social structure and were not supported by real measures to expand democratic institutions. As a result, they were not secured in practice.
It would be simplified and one-sided to attribute mistakes and holes in economic management to economic approach alone. The interdependence and interaction of all social life spheres, i.e. political, economic, social and spiritual, is much more complex and many-sided. The need to take account of this dialectics is proved both theoretically and practically. The failure of the economic reform in 1960s that resulted from lack of any radical reform in the political sphere and broad democratization of public life testifies to this. The state of affairs has not changed these days, either. Progress is hampered by former backward administrative methods of management and control, while the experience says unity of economic and political transformations is of primary importance.
Democratization of social life, elimination of excessive formalities and administrative and bureaucratic structures in general, as well as radical economic reform are priority tasks, though the solution of the latter is impossible without the former being solved. It is here that we discover the primary and basic problem. The effectiveness of the famous formula 'the class that that prevails economy predominates in politics, as well' is evident. When we regard social reality in the light of the formula we can't but notice that these classes were neither workers nor peasants; they were solely administrative and layer. It is this layer that … means of production, resources, workforce, the product of activity and thus ensured its dominant position in economy and politics. This layer (class) supports and preserves its privileged position employing all structures of political and legal system, beginning with making political decisions and … … of such administrative bodies as the CGB, militia, the army, etc. This was the common practice of all antagonist ….; there has been no significant change of the situation as far as our society is concerned. It would be naive to expect that the administrative and … layer would voluntary give up its … and its privileges. This is a mere illusion. One cannot fail to notice the evident social fact. … is that those social powers that take political decisions, …, laws and decrees are not interested to change the situation drastically. As a result, all vital …turn into nothing other than …
It seems the society is not fully aware of the danger of such imitating action, while it is exactly this process that is seen as the major threat to the society. The reason is not only the fact that such actions implant in the mass mind the germinating seeds of pessimism and lack of faith in the future; what is more important is that the practice brings the situation in the country to a deadlock.
'Where is the way out?' This is the question that worries most of the population that is not integrated into bureaucratic bodies. One could hear quite … answers to the question, ranging from demands to introduce a multi-party system to the appeals to return to authoritarian methods of rule. It seems we should turn to the thoughts of classics about social revolution once again in order to examine the problem. It is known that social revolution is preceded by nationwide crisis, with the conflict between productive forces and relations of production as its start. The conflict reflects in the social sphere, paralyzes the political one and results in the crisis in the spiritual sphere (all of the signs can be observed in our country).
The greatest problem for any country's economy, especially for the one that is thought to be a developing one like Belarus is inflation. Even reputable Americans were anxious, as they expected an inflation rate of 3 per cent by the beginning of the new century, needless to say about Belarusians who experienced official inflation of 352 per cent in 1999. Moreover, the National Bank gave us a surprise in the form of denomination, the third one in the short history of independent Belarus.
Five years ago the dollar exchange rate was 11500 rubles, it held for almost a year, yet, this seeming stability was a serious blow to the country's economy. Inflation escaped the rigid limits and increased by 344 per cent that resulted in the losses suffered primarily by exporters of the few Belarusian goods, as their production expenses increased, while the profit remained unchanged. The number of unprofitable enterprises exceeded the number of those that somehow managed to make their ends meet.
In the period of 1997-1999 the economy was given as much money supply as it required. Inflation rate started to grow once again, the Belarusian ruble rate started to fall increasingly, in fact it was rolling into abyss. Those who exported their produce found this to be an advantage to a certain extent, they went on working, while those whose production was meant for the domestic market, as well as agriculture, faced problems. The influx of domestic investment stopped, fixed assets had not been renewed for a long time, their tear and wear rate reached staggering 75 per cent.
On the eve of the third millennium the National Bank of Belarus took an extraordinary measure of carrying out another denomination. The only result was it was easier to count money. It was still impossible to buy something with the ruble; its printing expenses were higher than the value of the ruble itself. They even did not manage to issue metal money that last for years, only paper money that could turn for about a year was issued. The overall amount of the new money was amount a hundred vans, i.e. almost two trains. This cost a whole fortune. Yet, any denomination should have some economic sense, so it was extremely important to limit currency issue. One should say there were some positive trends that could be observed. In 1999 they issued 90 billion rubles of extra money, while in the first six months of the following year the figure was only 36.6 billion rubles
The stable ruble-to-dollar rate is extremely important for the economy. Its decline by 5-10 per cent a year would be quite admissible for countries with developing economies, such as African, Latin American and Asian. The inflation rate of 15-20 per cent is not fatal for the economy, either. Thus, there is nothing tragic about some degree of inflation and ruble decline.
Nevertheless, I would like to draw your attention to an important issue to do with inflation. This is the problem of acute lack of money in the national finance system. The republic fulfilled the task of introducing the single ruble rate. Yet, the activities of the National Bank in this direction boil down primarily currency issue reduction. Unfortunately, this gives rise to new problems as inflation of the ruble in the republic almost caused complete economic demonetization. In early 1990 there turned about 30 billion Soviet rubles in Belarus. Translated to the nominal quotation, the national monetary aggregates in Belarus' economy were equivalent to approximately 50 billion USA dollars, i.e. there turned about five thousand conventional dollars per head. With the account of all denominations the national monetary supply increased by about 1 million 200 thousand times since 1990. The official ruble-to-dollar rate was reduced by over 100 million times. With the account of the inflation at the time, including that of the dollar by about 30 per cent, the total value of the national money that turned was reduced by 100 times.
There was acute lack in money, especially cashless, in the country's economy. Hence, there were frequent defaults in payment, increase in bill payable and bill receivable, as well as arrears to the budget. Hence, the forced barter; enterprises resort to the immediate trade barter as they are unable to sell their produce and acquire raw materials and components for the next manufacture cycle. Currency issue reductions and taxes for barter aggravate the problem, rather than solve it.
How can the ruble be protected against further collapse in rate? There is no definite answer to the question. Recent years have faced some increase in turnover. The export has increased by a quarter as of 1990, while the import has increased even more. Thus, we should not expect any national currency stabilizing by means of currency earnings.
One of the most serious problems is decline in profitability of enterprises. In the first six month in 2000 it amounted 10 per cent, while throughout 1999 it totaled 14 per cent. One cannot speak of any development and new technologies. According to official statistics, a third of our enterprises today are unprofitable, their expenditure exceeds the profit, while the unofficial figure totals 70 per cent.
One cannot pass over in silence the 'innovation' of the end of XX century that is called defaults in payment. It may seem strange but they turned into a form of money. Some enterprise fails to pay for raw materials, another does not pay for integrated products. The cases when the debt of an enterprise is equal to the amount it is owed are quite frequent. Hence, there is another 'novelty', i.e. offsetting of debts and mutual settlement of accounts system. Mutual debts reached the staggering amount of 1.8 trillion rubles. This is nearly as much as the country's gross domestic product. No country in the world faces the phenomenon of huge monetary aggregates that lack any monetary form turning in their economies.
American dollar is considered to be the most stable currency in the world, although recently it is increasingly replaced by the euro. According to international rules they are considered to be reserve currency in the post-war period. The USA banks fulfill requests of other countries to provide them with paper dollars without any restrictions. Dollars turn into commodity in these countries. Belarusian enterprises face a growing need in reserve funds in connection with the necessity of investments. It is impossible to accumulate funds in Belarusian rubles as they devalue constantly, so they try to acquire dollars. By the way, it costs the USA a trifling sum to issue a 100-dollar note, they say it is less than 3 cents. Yet, citizens or enterprises have to give away goods and labor worth no less than a hundred dollars to acquire them as a means of hoarding. The result is unfair exchange when the republic's population acquires dollar notes to be accumulated while goods and resources worth the corresponding amounts are exported. Well-off countries like the USA go on growing rich while the poor ones move forward to the poverty threshold.
The euro is another safe currency today. The Japanese yen is popular in south-east Asia. The sterling passes in the former British colonies. By the way, there is a wide network of British banks all over the world where they take national currencies of other countries without any restrictions. Yet, our national currency is not accepted and is unlikely to be accepted in the near future as long as our economy's state is deplorable. In the meanwhile we are going to remain the country where the dream of any average American citizen to earn a million comes true easily. Yet, it is increasingly difficult to last till the advance payment day…We work hard, yet, we earn little, as our current ruble is hardly worth a tenth part of the American cent, while the prices, especially for foodstuffs, are in most cases higher than all over the world..
I suppose the following facts would be of interest to the reader. In 1990 the Soviet ruble was worth approximately 0.6 dollar, now the ruble-to-dollar rate is over 2000; with the account of denominations of 1994 and 2000 it devalued by 100 million times. At the same time, throughout a decade since 1993 the prices for consumer goods increased by over 20 million times with respect to the dollar equivalent, those for industrial produce increased by 49 million times. If we compare the prices for basic foodstuffs regarding the dollar, bread is going to be a record winner in this respect, as its relative price increase amounted to a quarter. At the same time, vodka that used to cost 6.9 dollars is priced as much as 2.7 dollars today, i.e. less than a quarter of its former dollar value. The cost of most foodstuffs as regards the dollar has decreased significantly, as well, which seems to be an advantage. Yet, it is necessary to compare here the current real salary with the salary of the Soviet period, the salary of the post-Soviet period, as well as with salaries in different countries where a worker is paid a day or an hour as much as our worker is paid a month.
We have not set the task to analyze all of the problems here. In fact, it is impossible to do, as well as to suggest a solution to each of them. Nevertheless, it is impossible to neglect the most significant ones.
At all levels today they make a lot of decisions and speak a lot about helping economy recover from recession. Both experts in politics and economy and average citizens give a lot of reasons for the crisis and suggest a great many ways out of the complex situation. Yet, the miracle is unlikely to occur. The cures for the bad economic illness do not further its recovery, as the illness acquired permanent nature. The only way to help the agonizing economy is to provide outside assistance as economy itself is unable to cope with the problem. Huge financial investments are necessary in order to raise the economy and industry. Unfortunately, our country's resource is exhausted, we lack any inner resources. The only way out is to appeal to rich countries for help. The question is what interest the countries may pursue and what advantage they might expect to gain from this help? Unfortunately, the answer is negative; rich countries see no point in helping us. They let us balance on the brink of poverty and near poverty and content ourselves with what we have.
Nevertheless, we are not the one to retreat and, moreover, to give up. We worked out the program of rescuing our industry. It should be noted we have always been great experts as far as working out programs of various kinds is concerned. We have had many of them, the most notorious being the one that supposed we were to live in a communist paradise for 20 years. Unfortunately, the program failed. The republic's priority for the export of its produce is unlikely to go through, either, for the produce is uncompetitive. The leading powers have gone so far that they disappeared from the scene.
The notorious concept of accelerated social and economic development of the country put forward 15 years ago as the basic strategic task come s to mind. Our know-alls, theorists and genii went as far as suggesting some idiocy a sane mind would never think of. How could they implement their plan on a national scale when the task was hardly practicable in any branch of economy, as we had no basis to accelerate and move forward? The technical state of affairs in industry was very poor, they lacked funds to re-equip their enterprises with new technological lineup, machinery and equipment. In a word, they bluffed and rent the air.
The current situation is similar to the one 15 years ago. Unfortunately, we have no basic element to implement our export policy. If developers of the strategy meant 50-100-year prospect then there should be a condition that other countries will stop their development.
I am absolutely certain we have to implement a radical economic reform. It would be a good idea to give up metal-intensive and power-consuming industries; this problem has been widely discussed, yet, things are still where they started. As long as we pursue the policy of spending we are going to be destitute.
We need well-conceived and resolute actions to reform our industry and economy in general. We need a Belarusian model and a scientifically substantiated concept of radical reforms. We need most clever and gifted developers that would give our country prospects for life with the account of our national interests and making use of the global experience, rather than borrow it thoughtlessly. The concept must be systemic, complex and comprehensive in its nature. It should describe development priorities and take account of temporary factors.
Unfortunately, there is hardly any time left to solve the task. If we do not solve it right now, the future of the country and its people seems to be unpredictable.


CHAPTER XXIII

ARMY AS THE DEFENDER OF THE PEOPLE

I survey mentally the history of humankind and cannot but be amazed as my soul, as A.N. Radishchev put it, is filled with sorrow, because the whole of the history, huge and many centuries long, starting with the first conscious actions of a human being, from the origin of civilization up to now, at the beginning of the third millennium, boils down to continual uninterrupted clashes, rebellions, unrest, struggle, confrontation and wars. Bible itself gives more than one example of this, i.e. the Flood the Lord had to resort to as he saw depravity and disobedience of people. As a result of the Flood, everyone died, both old men and children, only Noah survived in his Ark. Cain kills his brother Abel. Christ himself was crucified… I wonder if confrontation, bloodshed, wars and the terrors associated with them are features inherent in human nature.
One may stretch his imagination and imagine the peaks the development of the planet would have achieved if the innumerable means spent on wars throughout centuries had peaceful and constructive uses. If all those people who were taken up by the countless wars who were the best, youngest and strongest , the peak of their nations, stayed alive instead of being devoured by the Moloch, there would be many of them on the Earth, so the progress of civilization would have been advanced and the Earth would have attained significant progress. The wars resulted in talents and genii who did not manage to display their abilities and realize their mission and predestination in being relegated to obscurity. Only a few of them managed to survive, so now they are a pride of their country. Among them we can mention such writers as Vasyl Bykov, the 'Triumph' prizewinner, Konstantin Siminov who had his share of grief at Mogilev at the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, Alexander Tvardovsky who fought his way through Belarus, Anatoly Ananyev who distinguished himself in action and was wounded when liberating Kalinkovichy in January 1944, Viktor Nrkrasov who defended his Motherland in the trenches at Stalingrad and who was forced to become a dissident, the front-line soldier and anti-aircraft gunner Ivan Shamyakin, Alexander Solzhenitsin, the Nobel Prize winner who was allotted to the Second Belarusian Front and took part in the liberation of Belarus, as well as some others, who brought down to their descendants the bitter truth of eyewitnesses about the war.
Under the totalitarian regime one had to be as brave as at the front to resolve to the step like this. Vasyl Bykov made a lot of ill-wishers after he depicted the war as seen by a soldier, rather than by a commander. Alexander Solzhenitsin who was a gulag prisoner for 11 years, was the first to dare tell the world about its terrors and thus turned into an enemy of the Soviet power and a pariah out of favor with his country, though recognized all over the world.
I cannot but remember in this respect another wonderful person, my fellow men from the neighboring Lelchitsy district Ivan Kolos who was a former commander of a partisan brigade and a Red Army scout who coordinated the uprising in Warsaw in August 1944. The State Defense Committee member, the deputy People's Commissar for Defense of the USSR N. Bulganin gave a report about him to Stalin personally. Ivan Andreyevich was awarded with the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union as early as in 1945. Yet, history is an uncertain and subjective discipline as far as our country is concerned. It was advantageous to it or, rather, to our supreme leaders, to give an unfavorable depiction of the Warsaw uprising, so Major Kolos was considered to be a hero no more. He wrote a book about the war 'Sorrowful reflections of a front-line soldier' that revealed a devastating truth about the war. Yet, Justice prevailed, so Ivan Kilos became a Hero of Russia in 1994.
The Soviet power was increasingly decaying from inside, though it seemed to be safe and sound to an outside observer. The process resulted from huge expenses to the detriment of its citizens. It drove them to poverty and outspoken destitution for the sake of some imperial ambitions. Despite the abnormality and perversions that were quite numerous at all times, the country had a sound, combat-ready and well-armed army that displayed high morale. Yet, in the past decades, due to lack of talent, stupidity and narrow-mindedness of the leaders, including military ones, we witnessed the disgrace of the war in Afghanistan, the foolishness displayed in Algiers, Egypt and other alien countries, as well as impotence in Chechnya…
Thanks God, the history is developing and advancing with seven-league strides. Belarus gained its independence and the attributes that it involved, i.e. the Flag and the National Emblem that after a short while turned to their former Soviet form, color and sense, as well as administrative and representative bodies, the militia and the army. All the attributes, including the army, are indispensable for any state. Even the microscopic Vatican, not to mention such countries as Monaco, Luxemburg and others, has an army of their own. The question is what an optimum, sound and combat-ready army should be like, the one that is far from being a burden on the state and that serves the country's interests in an adequate manner. The question cannot but worry any person who is a true citizen and patriot of his country.
The army of any country has always been its pride and joy. The very best and most developed spiritually, mentally and physically men served in the army. The armed forces have always been considered to be the elite of the society. There could be nothing more honorary and responsible than to serve the Motherland in the literal sense of the word. Officers have always been provided for better than anyone else. It might seem strange at first sight, as the military produce no wealth, on the contrary, it they enjoy complete state support which implies huge sums spent by the state… Yet, if we take a closer look at the problem we should understand the army protects our life, our work and family being at the forefront day and night. Should there occur any conflict or a clash that is quite possible today the army is going to be the first to confront the enemy and die. The year 1941 demonstrated this clearly. The military men were given many of their advantages, ranging from free uniform to substantial upkeep as an advance, reckoning that they would stand up staunchly for their Motherland in case of need. This was a long time practice, the decades of the Soviet rule being no exception. I remember we envied those of our fellow villagers who became officers and came to visit their parents. They were an example to others, the model many strived for, yet, far from everyone managed to attain the ideal and to become an officer.
I am a purely civilian man though I am nearly related to the army as I served in a rocket brigade for three years, so I have first-hand knowledge of the army problems and hardships of the military service. Thus, they are not indifferent to me. Like any other citizen who is a patriot of his country I am worried about the state of our army, its fighting efficiency and its prospects.
In this respect I cannot but compare the present-day army with the army I served in. The army reality and its problems concern everyone both directly and indirectly. We should be certain that somebody defends and protects us to have confidence in the future and to be able to work and rest with no worry. Is there any confidence of the type today, I wonder?
I was mobilized in the 1960s which was the time of 'flowering' socialism in our country. The service in a Guard's rocket brigade stationed on the territory of the then Democratic Republic of Germany was very hard.
The discipline was very strict; the slightest breach was followed by immediate severe punishment.
I often ask myself a question why they treated us so strictly, sometimes cruelly. I come to the conclusion the army secretly solved the task to deprive a soldier of any dignity, to robotize him and to turn him into a thoughtless automation ready to fulfill any task. A soldier was not supposed to think, to have any feelings. He had to be under the constant stress of fear both in the army and later, in civilian life. Any disobedience, failure to obey an order and violation of discipline was followed by immediate and most severe punishment as a soldier was merely a cog in the bulky military machine… 'Yes, sir!' and 'No, sir!' was everything one was allowed to say. I realized later it was exactly the army that gave an impulse for my will and human dignity to be developed. When you are educated in the school of army training, you start to perceive many things in a different way. The army, on the one hand, practices suppression of your individuality, the practice resulting in mute opposition, while, on the other hand, you are given wide powers. When I was twenty I was an army sergeant and a computer operator, I was responsible for providing missile launch data, such as range and flight angle, which was a great responsibility and trust. The battery of a bit over a hundred people and several surface-to-surface missiles could determine the fate of whole powers in case of need. Yet, the idea to take vengeance on offenders by negligence of the duties never occurred to anyone.
The discipline was very strict as outside the fence around the unit there was a foreign country, besides, rocket forces are special ones, as accuracy and precision in maintaining up-to-date equipment and weapons had to be at the top level. Our 3rd rocket battery of the 181st Novozybkov Guard's brigade with its three launch batteries and one control battery was model in the German alignment, the strongest in the USSR Armed Forces. In time of training missile launches we always received a high appraisal, while other units and teams were withdrawn from launches for blunders.
There was sound battle training of crews, control sections and launch batteries for firing practice at the firing ground in Kapustin Yar. In summer we proceeded through Belarus to Russia in several troop trains to a firing ground in Astrakhan region. We were brought in goods wagons for several days. There was an episode that I still remember. A troop train stopped at ours at a station. It turned out that Czech rocketeers were going to Kapustin Yar. It arrested our attention that they were going in top-class coaches, drank beer and enjoyed themselves. They were well-fed, pleased with their lives and apparently with their service. We even managed to talk to them. We found out they served in the army for a year and a half, while those who served more than a year also called themselves old-timers. When Vitya Sychev told he had already served 36 months, they did not believe him. Later we discussed the news in an undertone, being afraid a political supervisor or an officer of the special department could hear us…
In Kapustin Yar we were quartered in barracks near the 71st ground where a monument was erected to rocketeers who were killed at the time of the first launch as it proved to be unsuccessful. The Czechs, the Germans and the Bulgarians were quartered nearby. They were our brothers in arms and in class who came to the Astrakhan steppes to display their 'battle craft'. They really 'demonstrated' it when the fighting team of the Czechs created emergency conditions while preparing for missile launch. The high commission from Moscow withdrew them from the launch. The next day they were at the fighting position again and launched a missile into nowhere… They turned out to do everything in a slipshod way…
At the firing ground we received evidence of who was who. They established tough army routine there with the same load as under quarantine. Before, we ran three-kilometer-long cross-country races once a month. The six-kilometer-long quick marches with heavy marching order were less frequent. At the firing ground, though, they were more frequent. Moreover, we had to run when the temperature was above forty. At the command we dressed chemical protection uniform and gas masks. Tasks at the position having been practiced, we were sweating all over. Our commanding officers might have wished to demonstrate their brothers in arms our soldiers were strong and capable of great endurance. It seemed the outcome of the war was at stake or, at least, the prospects of the socialist camp. Playing a war turned out to be petty scheming in reality. Two decades later the formidable missiles were dismantled, the great power collapsed… The former 'brothers in arms' are on the other side of barricades now. Practically all of them live in NATO member states. Today some of those Czechs, Germans, Poles and Bulgarians might be in command of divisions or brigades or set their sight at us.
One cannot but think about how much the arms race cost the people who reassured itself if only a war did not break out. Still, there was a war fought, though it was undeclared and local. It was continually fought in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan, not to mention the permanent war against our own people. As Y. Yevtushenko put it, 'We lost millions in the war against fascism, while the number of those whose lives were lost in the war against people inside the country is even more'. Weren't the hearts of our country's of General Secretaries of all ranks wrung at the sight of people's miseries and suffering? The thing is that they knew about their people only from reports of different instances. Being isolated in their studies, government dachas and sanatoriums, dissimilar to their people, though they came from the thick of these people, they did not see old women tearing off grass at swamps to feed their cows that, in their turn, had to feed hungry children. They did not notice village dwellers who were walking to the district hospital wearing rubber boots when there was 30 degrees of frost, while fell-fed bosses who sat inside their warm and comfortable cars rushed past. Might they be super-humans, aliens, strangers who were not aware of their people's sorrows and misfortunes, rather than those who came from a family of common people?
We finished the shooting exercise with distinction. After that my life changed drastically, as I was due to serve in the far away Germany, the country that we gained victory over in 1945 and that revived quickly and with confidence and got ahead of its victors by all rates. I knew some facts about Germany from the stories of my father, a former front-line soldier who embraced Americans at the river Elba in the spring of 1945. I always associated Germany with Hitler and fascism. I was comfortless and uneasy at the thought I was going to serve there. The country that ruined tens of millions of lives of innocent people was building socialism, just like our country. Fascism that turned into socialism was thought to be a miracle.
Yet, why not? Berlin itself was built in the place of former Slavonic settlements in the early XVI century. It was stormed by our armies more than once. In the course of the seven-year-war the capital of Germany surrendered to Russian troops in 1760. Thus, the background of Slavonic and German unity and confrontation comes from the depth of history. Socialism itself had to be built in Germany initially, as this was the birth place of its 'godfathers' K. Marx and F. Engels. 'Capital' was written on the German basis. Yet, Germany lacked the resolute Bolshevist party like the one they had in Russia, so the spark of revolution that blazed up there in November of 1918 was put out quickly… Indeed, the history, as well as the fate of the German and Russian peoples, has a lot in common. Why not try to resume Slavonic and German unity at a new historic stage and at a new level. They did so, with the outcome known to the whole of the world. M. Gorbachev, who was declared 'the best German' of the year, yielded the whole of the socialist camp together with his ideological 'friend' and brother Erick Honneker who was aged and incurably ill, overnight. The undertaking of building socialism in the eastern part of Germany was nothing but another shady enterprise of Kremlin strategists. Any more or less competent politician realizes that existence of two Germanys is unnatural. The Iron Chancellor Otto Bismarck had every reason to unite over 30 appanage principalities, counties and states in the 70s of the XIX century by fire, sword and blood. They all turned into a single well-knit power that is impossible to divide by force.
Yet, at the time we lived in a world of ideas of brotherhood and internationalism and believed sincerely that we were building classless society together with the GDR citizens. The 181st Guard's rocket brigade was stationed in the suburb of the town Dessau Kokhshtete. Our 3rd rocket battery, being the best one in the brigade, was quartered not far from a town Yuteborg, near the firing ground. The barracks we lived in were once occupies by Nazis. There were traces of inscriptions in German on buildings. They were often painted over. Nevertheless, the paint faded and peeled off, so Gabbles' slogans showed through clearly. There were only old buildings in the garrison. The Germans suffered a defeat. Yet, they did not blow up and destroy the buildings as if they had known that they would be able to take them back quietly and peacefully after a while. The Soviet Army suffered huge losses during the Berlin operation alone. They lost over 300 thousand of their soldiers and officers. Many of contemporary historians and commanders assert that this operation, as well as many others, could cost fewer losses. In our country the end always justifies the means… Though, as a poet put it, any one can be a strategist when observing a battle at a distance…
Unlike ordinary soldiers, officers and career soldiers of our unit could visit the town freely. They enjoyed the privilege willingly and went there to drink the famous German beer, to buy durable German clothes and food at supermarkets. Once a Soviet officer had his hair cut at the barber's. The barber saw the emblem of a tank in the buttonholes of his client and wondered why he did not wear the emblem of a rocket, as Gagarin was associated with a rocket. The trinkets of the kind were used to camouflage the 'secrets' of stationing military units, especially rocket ones. One could frequently see tanks in front of the boxes with missile launch pads with their engines roaring. This was the way they tried to convince those unbelieving there was a tank unit stationed there. The battery chief of staff would examine the trash dump every morning in search of some garbage that could reveal a military secret. If he happened to find a scrap of a letter from Azerbaijan or Siberia in the litter, they would relate us to foreign intelligence spies, so we suffered the punishment immediately. At first we took the 'discoveries' of the over-vigilant soldier seriously. Later we got used to them, so his rendering the air just made us smile…
I had to move over the GDR territory a lot during my service, especially in time of command and staff exercise. Ridiculous incidents occurred sometimes. Thus, once the deputy brigade commander responsible for rear services Colonel Omelchenko took a launch battery to a pig farm at night. Another night a high-powered haulage tractor carrying a missile launch pad caught on the corner of a dwelling house and made havoc of it. Frightened sleepy Germans rushed out of the house. It did not come to excuses. The occupier powers had to make up for the costs. Any old wives' tales that the people's national GDR army and the Soviet army defended socialism achievements and thus helped Germany to build socialism were nothing but propagandas tall tales. The Germans considered us to be occupiers.
There is a military cemetery near the highway in the German town Alteslagere where hundreds or, probably, thousands of Soviet soldiers and officers are buried. The graves are so numerous they are impossible to glance over. Once we stopped at the monument to the fallen Soviet soldiers. There were civilian Germans standing nearby. I approached them, apologized for worrying and inquired about what happened there during the war and why there were so many killed. A grey-haired German whose Russian was quite fluent told us in the spring of 1945 there was furious fighting there of the tank army under command of General I.I. Yakubovsky against Nazi forces. The German had the air of a person who was acquainted with military science. He might have been a former military man, probably a Hitlerite soldier. Nevertheless, he pitied our fallen soldiers. He blamed the incompetent 'commander' Yakubovsky for flinging his troops on the enemy in a frontal attack, though there was a chance to turn the fortified enemy's area flank. At the time fourteen or fifteen year-old 'soldiers' shot panzerfaust and burnt our T-34 tanks. Tanks burnt, people were killed, while one could hear triumphant kettledrums ringing out in honor of the great commander Stalin and his marshals. Fate willed that whole battalions and companies of our soldiers were buried there, while some two decades later young Soviet soldiers happened to be passing by, happy and completely of any behind-the-scenes political games.
There are so many military cemeteries all over Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria!
The excursion to Buchenwald produced an indelible and sinister impression on us. It made our blood run cold when we thought that millions of people were burnt in the incinerators… This should never be forgotten. The alarm bell of history should always ring and remind us the nation that does not remember its history is a bad one. I think I am not going to reinvent the wheel if I say that memory is our salvation.
The excursion to the picture gallery located in the former residence of German kings and emperors in Potsdam, in the park San-Susie, excited entirely different emotions. I had never seen anything of the kind. The park with its alleys of surprisingly beautiful green plantations, with its neatly trimmed lawns, with flowerbeds and trees staggered our imagination… It was a fine sunny day, birds were singing, bees were buzzing, the air had some special sweet smell of grass, flowers and trees.
I did not happen to encounter a lot of Germans as rocket forces were strictly controlled-access ones. Nevertheless, even rare encounters produced a favorable impression. It goes without saying that Soviet propaganda that asserted GDR Germans also built socialism and they were our friends, class brothers and allies exerted its influence over us, as well. Today I meet a lot of German scholars, professors and teachers of different universities and it never occurs to me they are my enemies. I perceive them as my friends and colleagues. The current political situation enables us to communicate freely with the Germans, the Dutch, the Americans and the English. We consider them to be colleagues and people who hold similar views, rather than class enemies. I hope the same state of affairs will hold on…
At present they call conscripts who have served longer than one year 'old-timers'. In our time we used the same expression, yet, it did not have any negative connotations. We never experienced any humiliation, not to mention physical assaults, inflicted by old-timers, though there existed an imitation of the oath of allegiance when they could strike one at the bottom as a joke. Greenhorns in their first year of service were never humiliated. We respected old-timers as they had already come through everything we were going to experience, while old-timers helped greenhorns. I still have a kind word to say about sergeant Zbignev Grishkevichwho was from Lida, sergeant Mamed-zade from Leningrad, Viktor Sychev and Anatoliy Isakov who came from Siberia and Voktor Bondarenko from Bryansk region. I think that commanders are to blame for the unsightly phenomenon of violence against young conscripts in the army, as they tolerated customs of criminals and lords of the underworld here. These are rather shameful customs to be observed in the once 'invincible and legendary' army.
Undoubtedly, crisis phenomena in the society exert their influence over all social layers, including the armed forces. They have every right to say the army is the mirror of the country and the society. If only violence against younger conscripts was the worst evil it faces these days. Her we observe the perversion in the state machinery mechanism, i.e. violation of laws, corruption of officials of all ranks and misuse of their office… The problems are plenty. The reasons for the state of affairs are known to everyone. There is only one little thing left, namely we should start treating the illness. It requires considerable means, though, that we do not have at our disposal.
At present, most probably, primarily Belarusians serve in the Belarusian army. In the Soviet Army one could come across people of different nationalities. In our battery, for example, there served representatives of different nationalities, though the Russians, the Ukrainians and the Belarusians made the majority. We never humiliated each other, though sometimes one could hear some words associated with a certain nationality, for example, they could use 'bulbash' (a potato eater) with no offence meant to denote a Belarusian. We never had any rows on the grounds of nationality. We lived as one family and endured hardships of the military service jointly… I have good memories left about a Belarusian Alexander Samsonenko, a Ukrainian Nikolai Tyupalo and others. We often used an everyday address 'fellow' or 'fellow countryman'. I think one should not give political supervisors the credit for this as they did not manage to shape relations of the kind. Rather, they were developed by history itself and by the long-standing friendship of Soviet peoples. The everyday reality of the military life with its motto 'One for all, all for one' was of significance, too. This kind of relations between different nationalities is past history, unfortunately…
Indeed, service in the army is a hard experience. Nevertheless, I do not think my 'best years were wasted', as some people assert. I am grateful to my fate for this test. The army strengthened my character, taught me endurance, and helped develop such qualities as self-organization, self-discipline and responsibility. These features are indispensable to any human being to lead a full-fledged social life. I marvel at those parents who do their best to save their children from military service. It is indispensable to any youth as it helps develop a true man after two-year service.
Time passes quickly, everything is transient. These are old truths… This was the third year of my service and I was thought to be an old-timer. It was at the time that the USSR Supreme Soviet presented all of us with a gift of adopting a law on conscription two-year military service in the Soviet Army, in October of 1967. We benefited from the law, too, as it was the third year of service for those who were of the same conscription. Some of us managed to demobilize after two years and a half of the service. On June 22, 1968 we were leaving East Germany. Yet, some soldiers of the conscription of 1965 were to serve until December. Many men could not help crying at parting.
However much we looked for the transfer to the reserve, parting with our fellow soldiers and with our rocket unit was sad and hard. We had endured a lot together… None of us realized at the time that we all, a huge mass of young Soviet men in greatcoats, were in the front line of our Motherland and were supposed to be merely cannon fodder in case of some conflict with the hostile, as Soviet propaganda put it, capitalist world. At the time a powerful shock alignment of several general and tank armies, aircraft formations and approximately ten rocket brigades with about a hundred of surface-to-surface missile launch pads at their disposal, was stationed in Germany. All this might was meant for the first hours of a probable war until they deployed strategic forces of the first echelon. All the might bore the modest name 'A group of Soviet forces in Germany'. Powerful alignments of Soviet forces were deployed also in Hungary, Poland and in Czechoslovakia after the August of 1968, their goals far from being peaceful ones. They strengthened the Warsaw Pact, strived for global rule, while decay eroded their domestic state building. Yet, nobody in the top circles noticed this…
The non-commissioned officers and other ranks in our unit, as well as the officers, were of different nationalities, though the Belarusians prevailed. I think the Belarusians were valued and respected for their reliability, straightforwardness and ingenuousness. A Belarusian could always be relied on. We had no cases of military discipline violation, absence without leave and violence against young conscripts. This was a strong, well-knit and united body with integrity of goals and military tasks. We realized the alignment in Germany was the country's outpost, so we were not to relax under the circumstances. We defended the socialist lines honestly and conscientiously.
The country could be proud of this army and rely on it, while the soldiers took a pride in serving in the army. Most complicated and advanced military equipment, sufficient material support, lack of any accommodation problems with the officers, high professional training of the command and high morale of the whole staff turned the army into an efficient and formidable one. All 'capitalist sharks' took it into consideration, so the country felt out of danger. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the people loved its army and could be proud of it. I remember the military exercise 'Dvina' that was held on the territory of Belarus already after I was transferred to the reserve and became a student of Historic Sub-department of the Belarusian State University. After the exercise was over, there was a parade of participant forces held in Minsk. The people triumphed and greeted their army. Though it was December, people carried a sea of bouquets of flowers. A stream of people prevented machinery from moving. The military men were embraced and kissed by strangers. This was an unforgettable experience that made one feel the people and the army were indivisible…
It has been historically established that Belarus was constantly occupied by forces of other countries. They were Polish, Russian and German armed forces. In time of wars enemy troops inflicted numerous misfortunes, suffering and death. When soldiers failed to defend their country, human tears and blood poured, yet, nobody blamed and cursed the army. On the contrary, everyone assisted in fighting the enemy, gave all his strength and did their best for the Victory to be gained.
It lies heavy on the conscience of our commanders that they did not spare their soldiers to gain the Victory. However inhumane fascist ideology was, Nazi generals still spared their soldiers much more than our generals did. They did not fling their troops on the enemy in frontal attacks to take impregnable heights, they did not took towns by storm if there was the chance to turn, encircle and take in the rear, thus losing a day or two but sparing their soldiers' lives, they did not strive to gain another victory by any means in order to time it to some date or anniversary. The words of the famous song 'we need a victory, we shall not gain it at any cost' are blasphemous in their nature. Indeed, they gained victory by any means, the victory resulting in innumerable losses whose scale has not been estimated so far, as it was hidden, diminished and concealed by all means.
It makes our blood run cold when we see how easily Soviet generals sacrificed their soldiers' lives during the Great Patriotic War and what oceans of soldiers' blood it took to gain Victory… By the middle of July 1941 we had lost about a million of soldiers and officers, of whom 724 thousand were taken prisoner. In early autumn in Ukraine the enemy took prisoner another 665 thousand of our soldiers. Stalin required in a tough manner the commander of the South-West front colonel-general M.P. Kirponos not to yield Kiev and blow up any bridges without permission of the General Headquarters. The permission was allowed when the enemy encircled the front… In October of 1941 there was a battle at Vyazma near Moscow that resulted in 700 thousand soldiers lost, while 1242 tanks and 5400 guns were taken by the Germans. Four armies were lost… Marshal S.M. Budenniy and colonel-general I.S. Konev commanded in the battle. In May of 1942 the command of the South-West front lost the Kharkov operation, when more than a hundred thousand men were killed, while over 500 thousand were taken prisoner.
Now let's have a look at the excerpts from German documents. 'The fighting to destroy the encircled enemy in the areas of Belostok and Minsk is over. We have taken prisoner 288 thousand men, among them several corps and division commanders. The captured material includes 2585 tanks, 1499 guns and 246 planes. The victory over the enemy who frequently fought till his last soldier was lost was gained owing to our loyalty and bravery… The General Field-Marshal von Bock.' This defeat was presented by our historic literature in a modest and authoritative way. As they put it in the 'Encyclopedia of the Great Patriotic War' of 1985, '11 divisions of the Western front were encircled by the enemy between Belostok and Minsk where they fought until July 8, thus paralyzing about 25 enemy divisions'… Still, they never mentioned how many lives were lost…
The German document says, 'The battle at Vyazma and Bryansk resulted in breaking through several echelons of Russian defense. We took prisoner 673098 men. The captured material amounts to 1277 tanks, 4378 guns, 1003 antiaircraft and antitank guns, 87 planes and a lot of defense materials.' The Soviet encyclopedia called the defeat 'Vyazma defensive operation' and said, 'Encircled Russian troops under command of lieutenant general F.M. Lukin paralyzed 28 Nazi divisions… The battle at Vyazma promoted front restoration and enabled the Soviet command to gain time to organize resistance at the Mozhaisk line of defense.' Yet, they did not mention 663 thousand men were killed, 1242 tanks and 400 guns were lost.
In three months 2 million 200 thousand Red Army soldiers were taken prisoner, 8500 tanks and 16000 guns were captured. Around a million and a half of soldiers were killed during the same period. We should take notice of the fact the Red Army had the strength of 2.9 million men by the beginning of the war. They were deployed on the European part of the Soviet Union. This number of soldiers and military hardware is even difficult to imagine. If we formed the chain of those who were killed it would stretch from Moscow to Madrid. In his report timed to the 24th anniversary of the October revolution made on November 6, 1941 Stalin said, 'In four months we lost 350 thousand killed, while the number of those missing in action is 378 thousand'… It is worth noting that even in the course of the Battle of Stalingrad that is considered to the pride of Soviet generalship they managed to encircle as many as 300 thousand German soldiers.
In February 1946 Stalin gave the number of our losses in the war that never outshone the greatness of his 'generalship genius' and was unable to stain the shoulder straps of the generalissimo with the soldiers' blood. The figure was 7 million. He lied the world and his people. He was reported on another figure, which was 15 million. Those who reported lied, as well, as they protected their stars and stripes. Nobody has dared so far to compare the losses in particular operations with the results that were gained and with the enemy losses. If somebody had done this, the ranks of 'outstanding commanders' would have thinned out, as they would have been tried.
On November 5, 1961 Nikita Khrushchev in his letter to the Swedish Prime-Minister Erland wrote that the war 'claimed the lives of twenty million of Soviet people'. Four years later L.I. Brezhnev gave a more precise figure of 'over twenty million people.' On May 8, 1990 the USSR President M.S. Gorbachev gave a figure of 27 million. Germany reports it lost 6 million 526 thousand people at the Soviet front, England lost 744400 men, while the USA lost 1 million 761 thousand people. Note the accuracy of their figures…
D.A. Volkogonov asserted the straight losses of the Soviet people in the war range from 26 to 27 million. In A.I. Solzhenitsyn's opinion, we lost as many as 46 million, of them 22 million are soldiers, while 24 million are civilian population. The potential losses of the Soviet Union with account of those who could have been born are estimated at 100 million… This equals the population of 10 countries like Belarus!
Any nation has the right to know the truth about its history, all the more so the nation that endured and lost so much. Among those several tens of millions the lives of 2.5 million Belarusians that were claimed by the war are lost. Every fourth citizen of Belarus was killed. In Khatyn, as a symbol of this, there are three birch trees growing, while there is an eternal flame in place of the fourth one. The life of any person is an invaluable gift and biggest treasure.
I think the military doctrine of the present-day commanders has undergone little changes, whether it is called a defensive or an offensive one. I watch with pity present-day young men wearing their soldier's greatcoats. Most of them do not have the air of dashing soldiers at all. Their appearance gives away they are weak, with many of them obviously underweight. At the time of my service the division of 30 soldiers had only two or three men who failed to perform fitness qualifying standards, though they were very severe at the time. The majority of present-day soldiers would be unable to perform them. Nevertheless, I am sure there are army sub-units with decent fitness standards, either due to their specific purposes or cares of their commanding officers. I often recollect a Russian soldier who won fame for his bayonet fighting. Witnesses testified there was no match to the Russian soldier in this kind of fighting. It is no coincidence I drew your attention to the fitness of our armed forces, as it is a prerequisite for performing any mission, even the one of minor importance. A weak one may fall asleep in a boiler room, not to mention the control desk.
I happened to observe morning exercises in one of prestigious units. The soldiers left their barracks, turned round the corner and started smoking. I was astonished and staggered. If guardsmen allowed themselves to behave so, it is needless to say anything about others. In time of a parade their appearance and measured tread take our breath away, while in everyday life they are far from being model soldiers. It is true, though, that attitude to fitness is typical of the crew in other countries. At the firing ground in Astrakhan steppes we were quartered near Czech, German and Bulgarian soldiers. I never saw them do any morning exercise or run some race. Unlike our soldiers who were fit and slender, they reminded of soldiers very little. They lived a luxurious and restricted life, while our soldiers served by the sweat of their brow. The present-day fitness of military men in our units and formations lives much to be desired, to put it mildly.
I happened to hear officers complain of the poor conscription to the armed forces. The call up for military service drug addicts and those who were given suspended sentences, sick people, mentally and physically retarded for show of fulfilling the order of conscription to report to the top circles the army is manned. It is known that the military service is no picnic, so those who are weak in spirit and the body may plumb to the depth of despair, commit suicide or kill their colleagues and desert. It is incomprehensible how our high-ranking commanders may assert our army is one of the strongest in the CIS and even in Europe. I have nothing against a strong army, especially if there is a need to have one. I am against deception of the public, of those mothers and fathers whose sons serve in the army. In two years of the service they might never have the chance to shoot a submachine gun as there is lack of cartridges, neither would they acquire fitness or some military skills.
The money allowance of the Soviet Army officers was one of the highest in the world. This was quite justified. Families of officers were relatively well-to-do. They had enough money to buy foodstuffs, clothes and footwear, to have a rest and to help their parents if there was some need. Today neither a lieutenant nor a colonel is paid enough to have a worthy life. Wives of those officers who serve in the capital, some region centers or in big towns may find some occupation, other families have to subsist on one salary. Thus, there is no requiring from military men any excessive efforts. Undoubtedly, the majority of officers are responsible. Nevertheless, it is evident you cannot expect much zeal from those who are paid so little. The army is looking forward to changing, to increase in money allowances, in the first place. Is any salary increase for officers likely under the current economic situation? They see another way out of the situation, namely army reforms.
At present the armed forces of the Republic of Belarus enjoy the biggest strength as compared to the country's population. The country of 10 million has the army that is about 100 thousand men strong. This makes about 1.2 per cent of the country's population, while in developed countries the figure is 0.7-0.8 per cent or even less. Do we need the big army under the current disastrous state of our economy?
Undoubtedly, we need troops for protection of our borders, for guard duty, for keeping armaments. We also need antiaircraft forces. One may easily calculate we need an army of 25-27 thousand officers and professionals who would serve on contract basis for the purposes, while they intend to reduce our forces to 75-80 thousand people.
They speak a lot today about the coming reduction in armed forces. It has been stated the reduction would not concern officers, as it takes the country substantial sums to train an officer. The reduction should apply to conscripts mainly. The reform should be carried out in a steady and well-conceived way. It should be an optimization, rather than reduction. The reforms are supposed to be carried out for 5 or 8 years, which is too long as a lot of things are going to be changed, probably for the worse…
The army, just like the country itself, faces a lot of problems, e.g. insufficient manning of sub-units, accommodation issue, the need to carry out routine training and assemblies of pre-conscription staff. Any state institution may be destroyed by two ways, either openly or by condemning it to oblivion and neglecting. One cannot say our army is being destroyed in one of the two ways; rather, they do pay attention to it. Nevertheless, the state frequently fails to solve the problems the army is snowed under. Military equipment is becoming obsolescent. The operational readiness state of our planes is approximately 75 per cent.
The officers increasingly face decline in their prestige. The social protection of pensioners and their families is insufficient. Belarus is the only republic in the post-Soviet area that fails to provide those military men who came back to Belarus after the USSR disintegration with accommodation and social protection. Their pensions are restricted to ten minimum wages, as a result, many of those who were transferred to the reserve receive only a half of the fixed pension rate…
The law in force 'On the status of military men' curtailed the rights and guarantees of military men significantly, while the Tashkent Treaty of February 14, 1992 determines the rights and privileges of the military men and veterans as legally established in the Soviet Union should be kept.
In the year 2000 8400 families of military men were registered in order to receive accommodation, while 6860 of them had no accommodation of their own at all. Practicing the kind of attitude to the army the authorities risk losing creditworthiness with the army, this is fraught with decline in the Armed Forces efficiency. It is indisputable that under the situation the authorities are going to have a seat of social tension as represented by military men, which is inadmissible, Thus, the only way out if to reform the army.


CHAPTER XXIV

THOSE WHO HAVE REASON WOULD COME TO THEIR SENSES, WHILE THOSE WHO HAVE A SOUL WOULD ECHO

We entered the third millennium in a matter-of-fact way. We looked forward to it believing in and hoping for problem-free future. It is common to people to be optimists and to hope for the better, especially in symbolic and epoch-making periods. Unfortunately, the present-day life suggests very few reasons for optimism. Economic and ecological situation in the country is of special concern.
At first sight, according to official statistics, the current economic situation in the country might seem to be almost safe. Industrial enterprises, plants and factories manufacture their produce, while the official data indicates they make progress. Yet, most of the enterprises are huge associations that manufacture for stock mainly. Small factories and plants face an even more distressful state, with many of them frequently stopping their activity.
Kolkhozes and agricultural enterprises face hardships, too. Yet, people somehow manage to sow kolkhoz and private fields in spring. It is quite evident that crop productivity declines increasingly due to lack of mineral and organic fertilizers. The wear of machinery in kolkhozes and sovkhozes, according to some estimates, reaches 75 per cent, nevertheless, farms cannot afford buying new tractors and combines. This results in extremely low salaries in the agricultural sector.
It goes without saying the period of market relations formation suggests and even determines the negative phenomena of the kind. As a rule, the phenomena are gradually neutralized by the positive effects of the implemented reforms.
The current situation in the republic is peculiar as it lacks any positive economic changes. The layer of production means proprietors is few, while their position is unstable and changeable. Due to some unpredictable reasons their businesses face the constant threat of liquidation. This results in a peculiar state of affairs when businessmen strive for momentary profit to be gained by any means.
Uncertainty of the chance to establish a profitable business alienates many citizens from the immediate production process, its investment, creation of new jobs and thus makes premises for expanding the spheres of activity that face less state control.
The social layer of relatively well-to-do people comprises traders, dealers, bank officials and those who are employed in tourist and other non-state firms that deal with non-manufacturing businesses.
Along with the layer of the 'new rich' there also emerged the layer of the 'new poor', with the latter comprising representatives of highly skilled professions who are employed in the state-financed sphere, i.e. engineers, teachers, doctors, professors and lecturers of higher educational establishments, etc. This may be called the upper class of the poor.
There is also a middle class of the poor that comprises those who have secondary specialized technical education and who have scanty wages.
There is also the lower poor class comprising those who have sufficient education, intellectual and creative potential but who failed to succeed under the market economy conditions.
According to unofficial statistics, there are about 2.5-3 per cent of rich people in the country, 20-30 per cent of the population may be called middle class, while the majority belongs to the class of the poor, taking into account the huge prices for foodstuffs, fuel, various tariffs, etc.
Still, there is a huge difference between the middle class and an average Belarusian. The former comprises those who have enough money to survive and make some savings, though we do not have the middle class they have all over the world which is numerous, stable, problem-free and trustworthy.
A 'new Belarusian', as a rule, has a profitable business of his own or occupies some high-ranking governmental or banking position. He can afford to buy several cars, elite accommodation and to have a rest abroad. The rich spend about 30 per cent of their income to buy foodstuffs, though the same figure is considered to be a sign of poverty in the USA where the middle class spends about 16 per cent of their income to buy food.
According to the latest date, there are 3.4 per cent of those who have low income.
Most of the poor are large families with three or more children or single-parent families. If a doctor, teacher or an economist has two or three children in their families, they are never going to get out of the poverty. It is no wonder families have one or sometimes two children only. An average family in the country comprises 2.6 people.
Most of the population has sources of income other than their salary, e.g. they grow vegetables at their dachas and plots.
Pensioners in our country are really a sore issue. Every fourth citizen in the country is a pensioner. Pensions are paid regularly, their rate enjoys a steady growth, though an insignificant one. This group of the population finds itself to enjoy a more stable position. Still, pension rates are far from providing pensioners with worthy living conditions. Many pensioners, being full of energy, do their best to work as long as possible.
Can a society survive, improve and, moreover, have some historic prospects if its members are motivated by a system of values based primarily on the cult of money and enrichment? The change of the sense of the basic human values is turning into an indisputable feature of our life. We get used to immoral and anti-human aspects becoming the norm of our life. Honest productive labor, moral purity and human decency do not enjoy any respect these days, as other values come out on top.
It astonishes that in ten-year' time we managed to destroy a great power and are now destroying its main virtue, i.e. the soul of the people in a purposeful and conscious manner.
No one would argue we have very low labor productivity due to a number of objective reasons. The equipment and tools are worn out. There are neither investments nor means inside the country to acquire new ones. Foreigners are discouraged by our lawlessness, high taxes and bureaucratic barriers. Workers lose their qualification. The budget lacks money to support scientists, while private business is forbidden to support science.
As it has been mentioned, the inflation rate in Belarus has reached staggering amount, with pensioners being most vulnerable. People do not trust banks as they deceived them and got bankrupt too often. Banks do not trust the government as it forced them to finance unprofitable projects. Investors do not believe in stability of the Belarusian financial system
These are the basic troubles of our economy and the reasons for economy rolling into abyss. Nevertheless, the situation is far from being hopeless, as we have some of the former country's potential left, as well as we have hardworking, talented, ingenuous and unpretentious people. This is the country I love so dearly despite its numerous misfortunes and flaws, though to love is not enough. Everyone has to do something for the country to prosper.
This is the land gifted to us by God. There could be paradise here. Gogol once said there are two problems Russia faces, namely fools and bad roads. One can argue about the former, though the latter was definitely improved in the course of time… Beautiful nature, favorable climate and geographic location in the very center of Europe, abundant rivers and excellent communication lines, railway and automobile mains is everything we need. Besides, we have people who are ready to move mountains.
The corner of the Earth where I was born is a small islet in the universe. I was born here and realized myself to be a part of the Big World. I love the place dearly…
I feel awe when I observe the country's unique nature and the outcome of the deeds of my ancestors, relatives and fellow country men. I am proud of being a Belarusian. I admire the warmth, affability and the courage of our people and I worry about my people.
Still, as the famous film director M Romm put it, I believe. I believe in my country and its people, in the might of people's reason and wisdom. Belarus is going to revive! Bible says, 'Those who have eyes, will see, those who have ears will hear.' I would add, 'those who have reason would come to their senses, while those who have soul would echo …'


LIFE GIFTED BY GOD

Alexander Alpeyev is a prominent scholar, founder and permanent head of one of the major private educational establishments in the country. He has a Candidate's degree in history and a Doctor's degree in political sciences. He is an academician of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, an academician of International Personnel Academy in Kiev, Actual Honorary member of Ecumenical Orthodox Spiritual academy, an Honorary Doctor of International Personnel Academy, a Professor of the USA Open University. He is an author of over 130 scientific monographs, teaching and methodological aids, brochures and articles.
He is a member of the Writers' Union of Russia, a winner of All-Russian literary prize named after A.S. Griboyedov. Two poetic collections and five collections of songs are his work, over a hundred of his verses have been put to music. He has been awarded numerous prestigious awards, among them there are honorary badges of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences - 'For merits in developing science and economy of Russia', 'St. George', 'St. Andrew', a gold medal for merits in education awarded by the International Personnel Academy. The European scientific center and Oxford University in Britain awarded him with Socrates medal for distinguished merits in the intellectual development of the world community; he was recognized to be an outstanding personality by New York Bibliographic Institute.
He was awarded with a diploma of the International Olympic Committee, as well as with a medal of the National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Belarus and the honorary sign of the Ministry for sports and tourism for significant contribution to the promotion of the Olympic movement.
Alexander Nokolayevich was awarded with Gold Yesenin's medal for outstanding achievements in the sphere of literature and poetry. He has commendations of the presidents of Russia, Poland and Slovakia.
He is chairperson of the soviets of public associations 'Belarusian humanitarians', 'Belarusian center for the promotion of culture' and 'Belarusian movement to protect the people'…

CONTENTS

A humanist, a scholar and a public figure. I.A. Kolos, the Hero of Russia

Chapter I Waves of memory
Chapter II I love and remember
Chapter III The song of my native land
Chapter IV Land of forefathers
Chapter V Hard life of a peasant
Chapter VI Land, love and faith
Chapter VII Land as a breadwinner
Chapter VIII Wounded land
Chapter IX Destinies of people
Chapter X Blessed labor
Chapter XI The iron Moloch
Chapter XII Education is the future of the nation
Chapter XIII The predestination of a human being is to be human
Chapter XIV Humanism as the basis of the national idea
Chapter XV Priorities of intellectual elite in XXI century
Chapter XVI People with hard destiny
Chapter XVII People's grief
Chapter XVIII Spiritual crisis
Chapter XIX Human crisis
Chapter XX At the turn of the centuries
Chapter XXI Transition period politics
Chapter XXII Stagnant society
Chapter XXIII Army as the defender of the people
Chapter XXIV Those who have reason would come to their senses, while those who have soul would echo

Life gifted by God

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