MOSCOW, December 5 (Itar-Tass) – Russian literary figures on Wednesday were expressing words of tribute to the landmark writer of the so-called ‘peasant prose’, Vassily Belov, who died Tuesday at the age of 80 in his native Vologda region some 450 km to the North of Moscow.
Belov, who will be remembered as a harsh critic of Joseph Stalin’s collectivization and a devout admirer of centuries-old traditions of Russian peasantry, is typically associated with a trend in the Russian literature of the second half of the 20th century known as ‘derevenshchiki’, or the writers on rural issues.
The other internationally recognized arts professionals who shared Belov’s visioning of historical, social, moral, and ethical issues are Fyodor Abramov, Viktor Astafyev, Valentin Rasputin, and Vassily Shukshin, who excelled in depicting rural life in short stories as well as a film director and actor.
Vassily Belov was the most important people’s writer of the second half of the 20th century, said Yuri Polyakov, the editor-in-chief of the Literary Gazette weekly.
“Belov made a huge contribution to the emergence of a new literary theme, the one of the decaying Russian village undermined by the 20th century ordeals,” he said in an interview with Itar-Tass.
“Belov not only expanded the boundaries of the Russian language and created perfect samples /of prose/ in it, reflecting all the excruciating trials of the past century, but he kept up the genetic links to the deep-lying layers of the Russian tongue of the Muscovy era,” Polyakov said.
He also praised Belov’s efforts in writing a compendium on folk aesthetics, ‘The Mode’. “I’m confident this book will provide a clue to the rural folk’s worldview for quite some time.”
Vassily Belov’s rise to the heights of the world of Russian literature coincided with the persecutions of the Russian Orthodox Church, which Nikita Khrushchev unleashed at the end of the 1950’s, and Belov who had a job with a district committee of the Soviet Communist Party then was one of a selected group of people that spoke up in defense of Russian Orthodoxy, said Nikolai Koniayev, the chairman of the Association of Orthodox Christian Writers of St Petersburg.
Belov spoke publicly about the problems of society’s spiritual tumult, which he brought to light in his short novel ‘Business As Usual’, a collection of modern folklore ‘The Vologda’s Bukhtinas’ and the novelettes that are broadly viewed as masterpieces of the genre today, Koniayev said.
In essence Vassily Belov was a bright representative of Orthodox Christian realism and he was in very many ways connected with Leningrad where he had numerous friends including his ‘elder brother’ in literature Fyodor Abramov, he said.
The Pushkin Drama Theater and other companies made a number of stage productions based on Belov’s novels, which always triggered a resounding public effect.
“Vassily Belov lived by his inner resources, he lived for the benefit of literature and he had an acumen enabling him to look into the future,” Koniayev said. “He was one of a handful of writers whose works point out pathways for individuals and the entire nation at the same time.”
Vassily Ivanovich Belov was born October 23, 1932, in the village of Timonikha, some 70 km to the north of Vologda.
Provincial newspaper first published his poems and short stories when he was still in his late teens.
In 1964, Belov graduated from the Maxim Gorky Literary Institute in Moscow. He propelled himself to fame in 1966 when a provincial literary magazine published his novel ‘Business As Usual’. It immediately caught the attention of the maitre of Soviet literature Alexander Tvardovsky, who was the editor-in-chief of the highly popular Novy Mir magazine at the time.
This was followed by series of short stories, plays and the novels like ‘Eves’, ‘The Upbringing According to Dr. Spock’, ‘Everything’s Ahead’, and ‘The Year Of A Great Pivot’.
As an in-depth traditionalist and Orthodox Christian conservative, Belov was not afraid of airing the viewpoints that were considered highly controversial even at the height of Gorbachevs’ Perestroika policy. He did not conceal his detest for the modernist and liberalist theories circulating in the pro-Western intellectual quarters in Moscow and did not feel any doubts about close cooperation with the Nash Sovremennik literary magazine known for a vehement opposition to the forces supporting Boris Yeltsin.
Belov will be buried Friday in his native village, the Vologda Region governor Oleg Kuvshinnikov said.