Honorary Consul General of Belarus to Tyumen Region has deeply personal reasons for developing all-round contacts between West-Siberian Region and land of his ancestors

Land and sky of Vladimir Shuglya

Honorary Consul General of Belarus to Tyumen Region has deeply personal reasons for developing all-round contacts between West-Siberian Region and land of his ancestors

For the ‘Fourth Measurement’ poetic book Vladimir Shuglya was awarded in Belarus with ‘Gold Kupidon’ literary prize. Photo: Ivan Zhdanovich

The memory of blood emerges in various ways, with some paying little attention to their family roots. As one poet noted, the ‘binding thread of times’ breaks. However, for centuries, Russians and Belarusians considered recognition of kinship as a sign of spirituality. For the Belarusian gentry, as well as artisans and, even peasants, it was a point of honour to know kin as far back as seven generations, at least.

Belarusian territory, at the centre of Europe, has long been a place of cruel battle, with residents enduring the hardships of war far too often. Noble families were extensive, and those who performed notable deeds were long revered by relatives. The custom of esteeming ancestors is embodied in such novels as ‘Ears Under Your Sickle’ by Belarusian icon Vladimir Korotkevich.

For Vladimir Shuglya, ancestral cultural traditions are vital. In the autumn 2013, when I was on a business trip in Tyumen, I toured his small ‘museum’ of exhibits from Belarus. His huge family tree (he has four children) was framed, including in a photo of his father and mother. Chatting, he recollected the native village of his father: Rutitsa in Korelichi District of Grodno Region, on the Ruta River. Its waters flow into the Servech, and then into the Niemen. In fact, his surname means ‘big boat’. Dolbenka boats were made from the whole trunk of an oak tree. It may be that Vladimir’s ancestors carved boats. As we know, Belarus is rich in rivers and lakes. His father, a former front-line soldier, taught him to build a house from logs.

Vladimir Shuglya was born in 1947 and grew up in the Ural Mountains (in the city of Kyshtym, in Chelyabinsk Region). He considers that the genes of many Belarusians, not only his father and mother, have played an important role in his destiny. He told me, “The main thing is to know and to remember your patrimonial roots. You are not simply ‘I’, but a personality representing those who have lived and still live on your native land. I’ve spent much energy studying my family tree, going back to 1670 in the archives. I felt better, as if planted more firmly in the ground, on coming to the native village of my father. I saw in the cemetery graves bearing the surname Shuglya and spent some time perusing them. When I returned to the village, I gathered five or six families and told them that we are related.”

Friends often ask why he wants to research his family, knowing that he’s from ‘peasant stock’. Without glorious ancestors to uncover, many think the pastime fruitless. However, he is adamant that he wishes to know more about his roots. After all, thousands of Belarusians live in Tyumen Region, which is three times the size of France, having helped construct the city of Langepas.

Vladimir notes that several generations live there, yet only about 50 officially identify themselves as Belarusian. As the Honorary Consul General of Belarus says, it’s impossible to count how many really live there.

The title of Honorary Consul General (the first such in the history of Belarusian diplomacy) was given to Vladimir Shuglya in July 2015. At the time, the media wrote that, in Moscow, the consular patent and exequatur (consent of recei­ving state) had been given to the Honorary Consul General by the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Russia, H.E. Mr. Igor Petrishenko, who commented, “For Vladimir Shuglya’s productive work as the Honorary Consul of Belarus in Tyumen, strengthening trade-economic and humanitarian co-operation between Belarus and Tyumen Region, the Government of Belarus has appointed him to a higher position.”

At the same time, his consular district was expanded, to cover Tyumen, Omsk and Kurgan Regions. The former includes large parts of Khanty-Mansiysk and Yamalo-Nenets autonomous districts. The ambassador praised Mr. Shuglya’s work as the Honorary Consul of Belarus in Tyumen, since 2009, during which time the level of Belarusian exports to Tyumen Region rose 2.6-fold, being worth $135 million (in equivalent). Mr. Shuglya noted that new Russian regions under his responsibility have great potential for developing cooperation with Belarus, and that their administration has shown desire to support such a move.”

Warm feelings for Belarus help Russian Vladimir Shuglya work for the good of our two fraternal peoples. He emphasises, with pride, that well-known Siberian divisions fought the Nazis near Moscow in the winter of 1941, including Belarusians who had relocated to Siberia early in the beginning of the 20th century. In one of his poems, devoted to heroes, he wrote: ‘The Soul is inseparable from Minsk…/Korelichi … In the sky there is a border …/Fastened by blood unity/The soul soars over the Fatherland.’

Today, Mr. Shuglya’s rich life experience is being used for common benefit. He graduated from Sverdlovsk’s Institute of National Economics in 1970, then worked in trade for years, including in the late 1980s, heading the Chief Trade Admini­stration of Tyumen Region Exe­cutive Committee. In 1990, he created and headed the Mangazeya Holding Company, a trade house in Tyumen. A year later, he graduated from the Ural Institute of Social and Political Sciences with a degree in politology, and, in due course, successfully having done business, he sought major challenges.

Let’s consider the work of Vladimir Shuglya, thanks to which Belarus and Western Siberia have become closer. A substantial press release from his office, prepared around the time that he was to receive the status of Honorary Consul General, states his responsibilities as ‘developing trade and economic, humanitarian and cultural ties between Belarus and Tyumen Region’. From the text, it’s easy to see the continuing progression in ties.

The agreement between the Government of Tyumen Region and Minsk Region Executive Committee, on trade and economic, scientific and technical and cultural cooperation, was signed in 2014, in Minsk, at the First Forum of Regions of Belarus and Russia.

Today, with the Honorary Consul General’s support, we’ve set up much joint production, and enterprises of various forms of ownership operate in Tyumen Region. In particular, the Tyumen Lift Plant has been up and running since 2010. This joint venture assembles lifts and produces lift equipment, partnering Belarusian Mogilevliftmash. The Tyumen plant annually makes and sells up to 140 complete sets of its own assemblage.

Mr. Shuglya’s special pride is TechnoTsentr LLC, the daughter company of TALK JSC. Since December 2010, TehnoTsentr (located in the village of Vinzili, in Tyumen Region) has been a dealer centre for Minsk Tractor Works, offering sales, repair and servicing of ‘Belarus’ tractors across Ural District. It is also the official dealer for many other enterprises: Trade House MTZ-ElAZ, Mozyr machine-building and Smorgon assembly plant. It also works with Bobruiskagromash, Dorelektromash, Lidagroprommash, Lidselmash, Belshina, Amkodor, and the Scientific-Practical Centre for Agriculture Mechanisation (at the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus) among other Belarusian partners.

In 2014, the Russian-Belarusian expo-dealer centre ‘Pyshminskaya Valley’ opened at the TehnoTsentr. The first all-Russia dealer conference of MTZ JSC was also held there, gathering more than forty representatives, from six trade houses across Russia, including the MTZ delegation. Various tractor models sell well in the region, as does a great deal of agricultural machinery.

Gagarinskremtechpred dealership, in the village of Gagarino, in Ishim District, has been similarly engaged in the sale, repair and servicing of Belarusian agricultural machinery since 2011. It partners MTZ, Gomselmash, and Bobruiskagromash, assembling ‘Polesie-Ishim’ combine harvesters and ‘Belarus’ tractors, of all modifications, as well as round-bale presses.

The name MAZservice-Tyumen speaks for itself: this dealership of Minsk Automobile Plant is engaged in the sale and servicing of all MAZ machinery in the region. It concluded a contract to deliver over 200 buses of various brands to Tyumen in 2013, with delivery accomplished in 2014. The city’s ‘PATP-1’ service centre specifically services MAZ buses, of which there are almost 400. Krasnyi Oktyabr Wood-Processing Plant produces furniture using Belarusian components, while PKF AtlantAvto sells and services special-purpose machinery made by Belarusian Avtodor, in Tyumen Region.

Mr. Shuglya has been supporting the creation of trade houses in Tyumen, developing their liaison with Belarusian manufacturers. For example, Tyumen’s Belshina Trade House partners the well-known enterprise from Bobruisk, selling various tyres and chambers: for passenger and cargo machinery. Style-T LLC partners such companies as Milavitsa and Belorusochka garment factory, supplying Tyumen chain stores selling women’s and men’s underwear.

The Tyumen Central Department Store has also established relations with Belarusian manufacturers, selling our leather accessories, clothes, jersey items, home textiles, porcelain and crystal ware, toys and other goods. FOND Holding Company sells Belarusian products to Tyumen Region.

Belarusian motive in Tyumen. Photo: Ivan Zhdanovich

Developing new paths of trade and economic relations between Belarus and Russia, Mr. Shuglya knows that strong ties rely on personal relations. One way in which integration is supported is through twin-city relations, between Belarusian urban settlements and those in Tyumen Region. A co-operative agreement in the fields of trade and economics, as well as humanitarian works and culture, was concluded between Tyumen and Brest in 2013, having begun in 1999. From 2013-2014, twinning agreements were signed between Tobolsk and Mogilev, between Zavodoukovsk and Klimovichi, between Ishim and Bobruisk, and between Yalutorovsk and Lyakhovichi.

Contracts on cooperation exist between the universities of Belarus and Tyumen Region, built on fruitful contacts between teachers, and promoting the exchange of students, as well as publication of joint textbooks and manuals. There has been joint participation at conferences, and exchange of experience to protect monuments and cultural heritage.

Tyumen State University is liaising with the Belarusian State University (Minsk), the Frantsisk Skorina Gomel State University (Gomel) and the Polesie State University (Pinsk). The Tyumen State Oil and Gas University partners the Belarusian State Technological University (Minsk) and Tyumen State Academy of Culture, Arts and Social Technologies has concluded contracts with the Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts (Minsk) and the Yanka Kupala State University of Grodno. Tyumen State University of Civil Engineering is working with the University of Grodno, while Tyumen State Medical Academy is liaising with Grodno State Medical University. Tyumen State Academy of Global Economic Management and Law is on friendly terms with the Belarusian State Economic University (Minsk). Meanwhile, the State Agricultural University of Northern Trans-Urals has three partners: the Belarusian State Academy of Agriculture (Gorki, Mogilev Region), the Belarusian State Agrarian Technical University (Minsk) and Grodno State Agrarian University.

No matter how close our countries and peoples, we live in different states. While basic Russian TV channels are available to Belarusian TV viewers, Russia’s remote regions lack objective information on life in Belarus. Accordingly, the Honorary Consul General has been working to promote greater knowledge of Belarus, via the press. Tyumen’s regional social-political newspaper, ‘Tyumenskaya Pravda’, (with a circulation of over 12,000 copies) has a Belarusian page under the name ‘Union — the Integration of Fraternal Peoples’, which is run every three months.

On Mr. Shuglya’s initiative, since 2015, ‘Soyuznoe Veche’ newspaper has been delivered to the Tyumen Region: the edition of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union State of Belarus and Russia.

Mr. Shuglya is active in public life, through which he ‘feels his pulse’. He is a member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, a member of the Executive Committee of the Public Chamber of the Tyumen Region, and heads the Commission on International Relations and Freedom of Conscience.

Many Belarusians live in Tyumen Region. Those arriving newly find no difficulty in conversing with those born and bred in Siberia, including Vladimir Shuglya. ‘Golas Radzimy’ newspaper once wrote about Gomel native Sergey Yefimchik, who graduated from Leningrad and arrived to serve in the army in Tyumen in the 1980s, finding his wife, Svetlana, there. He thought that she was a native Siberian but, after their wedding, discovered that her grandfather was from Belarus. They are now retired but have long sung with Belarusian folk choir ‘Lyanok’. As we say, birds of a feather flock together.

The Honorary Consul General has enjoyed good opportunities to become acquainted with his fellow countrymen, having headed the National-Cultural Autonomy of Belarusians, created in 1997. He launched the ‘Union — the Integration of Fraternal Peoples’ public organisation in 2005, using it to help establish integration ties. Belarus renders much aid to Belarusian organizations abroad, wishing to encourage interaction, and, to make this cooperation effective, social ties are vital.

Mr. Shuglya is supported by the Ministry of Culture of Belarus, as well as by the apparatus of the Commissio-ner for the Affairs of Religions and Nationalities, by the Republican Centre of National Cultures, and by the Embassy of Belarus to Russia. They understand Vladimir, agreeing that interaction is sure to yield fruit.

People enjoy contact with their historical motherland, and are eager to take part in cultural exchanges. Belarus’ groups of Tyumen Region come to perform in Belarus.

In November 2013, the Days of Belarusian Culture were held in Tyumen Region. We wrote in ‘Belarus’ magazine, and in ‘Golas Radzimy’ newspaper about our talented countrymen whom we met on the remote taiga, in the ‘Belarusian’ villages of Yermaki and Osinovka. It was a fascinating experience. Belarusian and Russian ethnographers have long been interested in this part of the world, and continue to be so, writing research papers and articles. We’d love to help produce books on the life of Belarusians in Western Siberia.

In Tyumen, we were told that, every year, the Stroitel Palace of National Cultures holds the ‘Raduga’ Children’s Festival of National Cultures, featuring young Belarusians. In the summer, there is the ‘Bridge of Friendship’ Regional Festival of National Cultures, which also draws Belarusian groups. They gather on Tsvetnoy Boulevard, their delicate voices blending.

A gala concert by Belarusian groups from across the region ends the event.

During the Days of Belarusian Culture, Mr. Shuglya has held workshops for those who admire his poetry. In fact, he is a member of the Union of Writers of the Union State of Russia and Belarus, and of the Union of Writers of Belarus, as well as of the St. Petersburg branch of the Union of Writers of Russia.

In 2013, he gave us copies of his ‘Fourth Measurement’ and ‘Way Home’ collections. He also presented a CD of songs using his lyrical verse and featured on a televised news programme. Recently, he released a new edition, called ‘Li-ving Time’, which continues the theme of civil commentary. In a major interview for edition №1-2014 of our magazine, Mr Shuglya mentioned his poetry repeatedly, speaking of modern ‘pain’, which led us to assume that he wrote as a form of therapy. We imagined him entrusting his thoughts, feelings and experiences to paper, creating a spiritual stronghold, in which all is beautiful and harmonious.

A colleague notes of Mr. Shuglya, “Only those offering special service to the country become honorary consuls. Vladimir Fiodorovich has deserved this status through his work.” We cannot help but recall the great man’s poetry: ‘Pain oh pain — I carve verse/The lines will catch fire, like flame. Among terrestrial and vicious elements/I break a stone of heartlessness…’

By Ivan and Valentina Zhdanovich
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