Got an idea! And not even one...

<img class="imgl" alt="" src="http://www.belarus-magazine.by/images/09/080907.jpg"/>IN 1989, SOLNECHNY (SUNNY) YOUTH RESIDENTIAL COMPLEX — THE FIRST AND ONLY IN BELARUS — APPEARED IN GOMEL. IT WAS CONSTRUCTED SOLELY BY YOUNG PEOPLE — STUDENTS AND NEW SPECIALISTS. NOW, THEY HAVE THEIR OWN FAMILIES; HOWEVER, THE IDEA CONTINUES TO LIVE AND DEVELOP<br />
IN 1989, SOLNECHNY (SUNNY) YOUTH RESIDENTIAL COMPLEX — THE FIRST AND ONLY IN BELARUS — APPEARED IN GOMEL. IT WAS CONSTRUCTED SOLELY BY YOUNG PEOPLE — STUDENTS AND NEW SPECIALISTS. NOW, THEY HAVE THEIR OWN FAMILIES; HOWEVER, THE IDEA CONTINUES TO LIVE AND DEVELOP.

In Soviet times, these micro-districts of new buildings were called youth residential complexes; abroad, they were known as communes. We need to be aware of the atmosphere of those years to clearly understand the difference. It’s not easy to build a house with your own hands while nurturing a spirit of social community. The first initiative took place in Russian Sverdlovsk. Then the movement swept across all USSR republics.

“After graduating from the university’s Radio Physical Department, I was appointed to work at Luch’s design bureau in Gomel,” Vladimir Makarov, the Chairman of the Solnechny Youth Residential Complex Public Association tells us. “During my studies, I was extremely active; now, I’m involved only in family life and work. When we read — with our young colleagues — about the residential complex in Sverdlovsk, we were greatly encouraged to recreate the same idea in Gomel.”

Young enthusiasts from the design bureau addressed the enterprise’s administration, who surrendered under their pressure. The enterprise gave money to begin construction and allowed flexible working hours for the bureau… In the mid-1980s, a statute and social development programme for the future residential complex appeared, followed by the project of six buildings. Potential residents had to construct them with their own hands after learning new construction techniques. At that time, the housing queue was long — as was common in the Soviet Union. Youth residential complexes opened up an opportunity to receive a comfortable flat in just over four years.

“To observe the principle of social justice, it was decided that each person should build two flats: one for himself and the other for the city. As people were working together, they became good neighbours; they jointly participated in trips to the countryside, organised holidays and contests… Usually, a competition was announced between construction brigades; rates and quality of construction were judged, as well as the unity and cohesion of builders and their mutual assistance. During construction, a good neighbourly atmosphere was essential, so that people would support and help each other,” Mr. Makarov explains.

“We elected the director ourselves. The first nine-storey house was built in 1989, marking the beginning of the history of this youth residential complex. Everything created looked like an experiment, using new technologies, materials and approaches. We frequently went to Minsk to address various ministers to achieve our goal. Enthusiasts also insisted that the project should undergo definite changes. For example, according to the plan, the area for construction was to have been cleared of pine forest, but the young people insisted that nature was precious. They suggested leaving the pines inside the estate, giving up the construction of a kindergarten, which was moved outside the borders of the micro-district. Only now do we realise how logical their decision was. As soon as you find yourself in the Solnechny, you immediately feel as if you are in a forest. There is a healthy pine aroma, the chatter of birds and … silence. Moreover, everyone here knows each other — very unnatural for a megapolis, where you rarely hear ‘hello’ from children or adults.”

Over 20 years, almost everything that had been planned was achieved. Even a museum of this residential complex was set up — with photos, documents, greetings, equipment, outfits and the first brick. The history and achievements of the dwellers are catalogued (their success at various competitions and Olympiads at home and abroad). With time, Solnechny acquired its own ‘twin’ complexes in the cities of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and Ireland. Close contacts were established and joint events are still organised.

The last — 6th building — was constructed in 2005 with the help of bank credit. However, people personally took part to create a common water purification system, autonomous heating, and gas and fire safety systems.
Republican workshops on housing and communal services frequently send participants to learn from the project. Mr. Makarov tells me of the latest developments with genuine pleasure.

“We’re now working to introduce an energy-saving programme and to install movement sensors. If someone appears on the stairs, the light automatically switches on; as soon as they leave, the light switches off, enabling us to save energy.”

Recently, Mr. Makarov — a laureate of the State Award for Inventions at Luch’s Design Bureau — has devoted himself entirely to Solnechny and the guidance of its public organisation. 1,500 people — 600 of them children — currently reside there.

Each building has its own council and housing and communal services — overseen by the dwellers themselves. A month ago, a voluntary people’s brigade was set up from local men, who regularly patrol the micro-district in the evenings.

“There’s an urban forest here with silence and peace,” explains Vladimir. “Strangers are attracted, so we carefully observe that they don’t misbehave.”

“What about the social programme of the residential complex?” I ask. “I expect you’ve done everything that has been planned.” “Not everything!” asserts Mr. Makarov, opening a programme in front of me. “There’s still much to do. Now, with support from the Education Ministry, a single computer network is being created in the micro-district as an experiment — based at the nearest two schools.”

Makarov’s eyes glow with enthusiasm. If this network becomes operational, school concerts would be watchable from afar, progress in studies could be monitored and video conferences with teachers and parents could be organised. New horizons open up before us.

[i]By Violetta Dralyuk[/i]
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