Vasily Belov

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Vasily Belov
Vasily Belov.jpg
Born Vasily Ivanovich Belov
(1932-10-23)October 23, 1932
Northern Krai, RSFSR, USSR
Died December 4, 2012(2012-12-04) (aged 80)
Vologda, Russia
Genre Fiction
Notable works Eves (1972–1983)
The Year of a Major Breakdown (1989–1994)
Notable awards Orden of Honour.png

Vasily Ivanovich Belov (Russian: Васи́лий Ива́нович Бело́в; October 23, 1932 – December 4, 2012[1]) was a Soviet/Russian writer, poet and dramatist, who published more than 60 books which sold (as to 1998) 7 million copies.[2] A prominent member of the influential 1970s–1980s derevenschiki movement, Belov is best known for his novels Business as Usual (Привычное дело, 1966), Eves (Кануны, 1972–1987), Everything's Ahead (Всё впереди, 1986) and The Year of a Major Breakdown (Год великого перелома, 1989–1994).

Vasily Belov's ideas and statements caused a lot of controversy, he was a harsh critic of the Soviet rural policies (denouncing collectivisation which he saw was the Bolshevik authorities conscious attempt to wipe out grass roots Russian ways as such) and also what he felt was a 'cosmopolitical' doctrines' dominance in the latter time Soviet cultural and social strata resulting in methodical repression, as he saw it, of the Russian national identity.[3] Ideological idiosyncrasies aside, unanimously praised were Vasily Belov's tough stance on ecological issues and his activities in the old Russian historic sites' and churches restoration. A great admirer of Ivan Ilyin and his legacy, Belov financed the Russian philosopher's Complete Of edition and wrote a preface for it.[4][5]

Vasily Belov, the USSR State Prize (1981) and the State Prize of the Russian Federation (2003) laureate, has been awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labour (1982), the Order of Lenin (1984), the Order of Merit for the Fatherland (IV, 2003) and the Order of Honour (2003).[2]


Vasily Ivanovich Belov was born in Timonikha, Kharovsky District, Northern Krai, now Vologda oblast, into a peasant family, the oldest of five children.[4] His father Ivan Belov was killed in 1943 in the Second World War. While studying in the 7-year secondary school, Vasily had to labour in the local kolkhoz, helping his mother to raise the family. Later he referred to just one overbearing memory of his childhood, that of constant hunger – for food and books.[2]

After school, in the spring of 1949, he went to the town of Sokol to join a local professional college where he learned the craft of carpenter and joiner. After the army he worked in one of the Molotov (now Perm) factories, then in 1956 moved back to Vologda where he started writing for a regional Communard newspaper, among other things, poetry.[4] On recommendation of Aleksander Yashin, a well-established Vologda writer, Belovhe sent some of his work to Moscow and in 1959 enrolled to the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute. It was only by this time that he managed to complete his education and receive a secondary school certificate.[2]

In 1961 Vasily Belov's first book of poetry My Small Forest Village was published, along with the Village Berdyaika novelet, his debut in prose. 1963 saw Belov's becoming the member of the USSR Union of Writers. A year later he graduated from the Gorky Institute and returned to Vologda.[4] In 1964 his Sultry Summer book of short stories was published, followed by Beyond the Three Voloks[6] (1965).[7]

It was the Business as Usual novelet (1966) published by the Sever magazine, that made Belov's name well known and talked about. The piece's main character, Ivan Africanovich, became the author's artistic trademark and one of the Soviet so-called village prose movement archetypal figure. Business as Usual was miles apart from the bravado-fuelled common Socialist realism type of literature; editor Dmitry Gusarov even had to place the "To be concluded" tag in the end of it to appease censors who refused the publication seeing the story's finale as "too pessimistic".[3] It was followed in 1968 by the Carpenter Tales short stories collection (published in Tvardovsky's Novy Mir magazine) and then Vologda Bukhtinas (1969) a set of modern local folklore pieces.[8] The latter books's humorous nature made it a kind of exception: with the years Belov's attitude to the Soviet reality was becoming more and more somber and depressive. The Upbringing According to Dr. Spock 1974 novellas collection's leitmotif was the rural-against-urban lifestyle dilemma, the latter seen by the author as unnatural, amoral and in every possible way deficient.[4]

In contrast, 1979's Lad (Harmony) non-fiction compilation of ethnographical essays came as arguably his most cheerful book, picturing traditional Russian rural way of life with its customs and holidays as an idyll of man living in harmony with nature.[3] By this time Belov's books and statements have divided the press and were being assessed mostly in black and white tones, depending which camp, 'liberal' or 'hard-line', a critic belonged to. Despite being an outspoken opponent of the certain aspects the Soviet official policy, Vasily Belov has not for a moment been considered a dissident, having found his ideological stronghold in the opposite corner of the ideological specter. In 1981 he received the USSR State Prize ("For creating works of superb artistic quality"), then the Order of the Red Banner of Labour (1982) and Order of Lenin (1984). In the early 1980s he became one of the leading figures in the Soviet Writers Union and the Russian Federation Writers Union's first secretary. Several of his plays (Over the Light Waters, On the 206th, The Immortal Koschey) were being staged in theaters all over the country, all maintaining the urgent need to stop the spread of the West-induced type of amorality (natural consequence of the urbanization, as he saw it) and start working hard on preserving Russian natural riches including the most precious one, that of the traditional rural way of life.[4][7]

In 1986 Everything's Ahead novel came out, again targeting modern/urban set of values, bringing about controversy and violent polemic in the polarized Soviet press. It was followed by the book called Such Was the War (1987) which included a novel and some short stories. Before that, in 1983, one of his best-known works, the Eves novel (on which he started working in 1972) came out, followed by The Year of a Major Breakdown (1989–1991) and The Sixth Hour (1932 Chronicle). This powerful trilogy, telling the tragedy of three peasant families' decline, became arguably the strongest anti-collectivization manifest in the non-dissident Soviet literature, based upon, as the author saw it, deep conflict between Russian rural traditionalism and the Bolsheviks-imposed new kind of 'rootlessness', the latter leading to chaos, murder and human degradation.[7]

In 1989–1991 Belov published a series of children's books: The Old and the Small, The Little Spring fairytale and others. Those were the years of his active involvement in practical politics, first as the People's deputy, then (in 1991–1992) the member of the Supreme Soviet. In 1993–1995 the Sovremennik publishers issued the first Complete Vasily Belov in five volumes. Another novelet, The Honeymoon, came out in 1996, but by this time Belov became better known as a publicist, an author of highly emotional polemical essays (appearing mostly in pro-nationalist Moskva, Nash Sovremennik magazines and Zavtra newspaper) targeting many issues, the tragic demise of small Russian villages and the degradation of the Russian language, high in the priority list.[7] In 1997 Vasily Belov became the Honorary citizen of Vologda. Later (despite his current political views described as "still quite radical")[7] Vasily Belov was awarded the Order of Reverend Sergius of Radonezh (2002), the Order of Merit for the Fatherland (IV, 2003) and the Russian Federation's State Prize (2004) for literature and arts.[7]

Belov devoted his last years of life to the restoration of the Nikolskaya church in Timonikha where he'd been christened at infancy. He financed the project and worked on scaffolds himself. In 2011 the church was robbed and desecrated . Next day the writer suffered a stroke which he's never recovered from.[9][10] On December 4, 2012, Vasily Belov died, aged 80, in Vologda, Russia.

Honours and awards[edit]

Select works[edit]

  • My Small Forest Village (Деревенька моя лесная, 1961, poetry collection)
  • Village Berdyaika (Деревня Бердяйка, 1961, novelet)
  • Sultry Summer (Знойное лето, 1963, short stories)
  • Beyond the Three Voloks (За тремя волоками, 1965, novelet)
  • Business as Usual (Привычное дело, 1966, novelet)
  • The Carpenter's Tales (Плотницкие рассказы, 1968, short stories)
  • Vologda's Buktinas (Бухтины волгодские, 1969, a collection of modern local folklore)
  • Eves (Кануны, 1972–1983, a novel in three parts)
  • The Upbringing According to Dr. Spock (Воспитание по доктору Споку, 1974, short stories)
  • Everything's Ahead (Всё впереди, 1986, novel)
  • Such Was the War (Такая была война, 1987, a collection of wartime prose)
  • The Year of a Major Breakdown (Год великого перелома, 1989–1991, novel)
  • The Sixth Hour. The 1932 chronicle (Час шестый. Хроника 1932 года, novel)
  • The Old and the Small (Старый да малый, 1990, novelet)
  • Honeymoon (Медовый месяц, 1996, novelet)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ RIA Novosti
  2. ^ a b c d "В.И. Белов". Retrieved January 1, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c Семанов, С. "Белов, Василий Иванович". Retrieved January 1, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Котельников, В. "Василий Иванович Белов". Большая энциклопедия русского народа. Retrieved January 1, 2011. 
  5. ^ Русские писатели и поэты. Краткий биографический словарь. Москва, 2000. Василий Белов
  6. ^ Volok (Волок), 'a drag': a space of dry land between two rivers across which boats and small ships had to be dragged by human force.
  7. ^ a b c d e f "Василий Иванович Белов". Retrieved January 1, 2011. 
  8. ^ Bukhtina, бухтина – in local Vologda argo, a joke, funny anecdote.
  9. ^ "Writer Vasily Belov never recovered from a stroke…". The Orthodox World. December 5, 2012. Retrieved March 1, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Vasily Belov never recovered from a desecration of a church in his own village". NTV Russia. December 5, 2012. Retrieved March 1, 2012. 

External links[edit]