Vasily Belov

Vasily Belov Oleg Borozdin, «Portrait of Vasily Belov», 2001 House of Vasily Belov in Timonikha
  • Vasily Belov
  • Oleg Borozdin, «Portrait of Vasily Belov», 2001
  • House of Vasily Belov in Timonikha

Nobody knows how long else we will live…

But we’ll have to live and to live humanly,

Or rather divinely…

Vasily Belov (1932 – 2012) was a Soviet/Russian writer, poet and dramatist, who published more than 60 books which sold (as to 1998) 7 million copies. He was born in the Vologda region, in the village of Timonikha. His first book was the book of poems «My Little Forest Village» (1961). In the same year the story «The Village of Berdyaika» was published. Vasily Belov was a prominent writer and public figure. In recognition of his services he was awarded with the State Prize of the USSR in 1981, with the State Prize of the Russian Federation in the sphere of literature and art of 2003, with the Order of the Red Banner of Labour in 1983, with the Order of Lenin in 1984, with the Order «For Services to Homeland» of the Forth Class and the Order of the Saint Sergiy Radonezhsky of the Third Class in 2003. In 1992 he was also awarded with the Literary Prize of the Union of Writers of Russia named after A.N. Tolstoy, in 1996 with the All-Russian Literary Prize named after Aksakov, in 2006 with the Literary Prize «Yasnaya Polyana» named after L.N. Tolstoy. Vasiliy Belov lived and worked in Vologda, but he often and for a long time visited his native Timonikha. On December 4, 2012, Vasily Belov died, aged 80, in Vologda.

Belov is best known for his novels «Business as Usual» (1966), «Eves» (1972–1987), «Everything's Ahead» (1986) and «The Year of a Major Breakdown» (1989–1994).

Fragments of his «Autobiography»:

I was born in October 1932 in the village of Timonikha, of the Azla Village Soviet, of the Kharovsk district, of the Vologda region in the family of collective farmers Belov Ivan Fedorovich and Belova (Koklyushkina) Anfisa Ivanovna. I was their second son. <…>

As the Great Patriotic war began, I went to the second form of the Sokhotskaya primary school. We learned in the building of the former St. Nikolay Church. <…>

Before school my elder brother Yury taught me to read. My first book was about a tractor driver, who ploughed near our East frontier. A girl, it seems a Chinese one, accidentally crossed a bridge to our side. She cried when she was being brought backwards.

My father had a little library: «Qestions of Leninism» by I. Stalin, «Wood factory» by Karavaeva, «Children of Labour» – a collection of stories, «To the Moon» (I don’t remember the author), stories by L.N. Tolstoy, «Sherlock Holmes» by Conan Doyle, a great volume in a green cover by N.V. Gogol, «A Person, Who Laughs» by V. Hugo, a chrestomathy with the story by Furmanov «Red Landing Force» and the poem by Zharov «A Song about Metal». All these books, even by Stalin, I studied from cover to cover. There was a little Library in the school that consisted of books by Soviet authors: Gaidar, Marshak, B. Zhitkov and so on. <…>

After the primary school I learned in the Azla seven-year school, that I finished in 1947. All these years, and the following, were connected with physical and moral hardships. <…> In 1943 during the storm of Dukhovshinsk fortification district my father fell in battle. Hunger continued right up to the fifties years. People ate ground straw mixed in potato, ate rind, moss, dry angelica, koglina and even dead horse-flesh.

After the seven-year school I had nowhere to learn. The nearest ten-year school situated 45 km away from our village. Taxes and physical hunger prevented me from ending of 10 forms. Two years long I did different works in our collective farm. Every year I tried to «enter» somewhere, but each time I was refused. <…>

However, I left the village and homeland. It was in March of 1949. In autumn of the same year I finished the school of the FZO № 5 of Sokol and got a certificate of joiner of a quite high, of the fifth grade. Already in the FZO I learned to make panel doors, to bind frames, I mastered woodworking lathes. <…>

In summer of 1951 I went to Yaroslavl and entered the factory № 3 of the Ministry of Communications. I worked as an electrician, lived in a hostel. I entered again a night school, but again I didn’t study, as in spring of 1952 I was taken to the Army. Since May of 1952 till December of 1955, that is more than three and a half years I served in the Army, at first in a training company in a position of a radio-telegraphist, and then as a senior radio-telegraphist in the Military Unit 61240, in Krasnoe Selo of the Leningrad region. <…>

I was in my twenty fourth year, but I didn’t have even a school-leaving certificate, call-up servicemen were not allowed to study at a night schools. Even if it was allowed, it was impossible because of specifity of service. Three years long each third night was completely and each second night – half sleepless. It was the most difficult period of my life not only physically but also moral-psychologically. <…>

Being in the Army I read a lot of books, and I even spared, prolonged reading books by Dobrolyubov and Belinsky for it lasted for a longer time. To survive many of us wrote verses… I wrote them already in the Monza SMU (Building and Assembly Office), and here in the Army my poems were first published in the military newspaper «On Guard of Homeland». Alexander Reshetov published one my poem in the magazine «Star». I sent a letter to N. Aseev, but he didn’t answer me. At nights I began to write critical essays. I wrote a critique of «Garmon» («Accordion») by Zharov, a critique to some story by N. Atarov and so on.

In December of 1955 I, after demobilization, stayed several days in the village with my mother and went to the city of Molotov to my elder brother, who had there a room. I went to the factory named after Dzerzhinsky as a joiner. <…> Yearning for home as well as some private, very important, circumstances made me in summer of 1956 to go to Vologda. I came to the Vologda Regional Committee and asked for any work in any newspaper. I was refused. <…>

Since 1959 till 1964 I studied in Moscow in the Literary Institution named after Gorky. At those years I began to publish and was accepted to the Union of Writers of the USSR.

Since 1964 I live in Vologda, dividing my time between it, Moscow and the ancient Timonikha. Many books in Russia and other languages are published: prose, drama and publicism, plays are put on the stages of many theatres. For these years I visited many countries. Election as a deputy and participation in activity of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR completely contradict with basic literary work, but a present-day condition of our nation, especially of the Russian nation makes me to be involved in politics, in particular, in social and political journalism.