The newspaper “Sovetskaya Belorussiya” celebrates its 80th anniversary
…You can find a riddle where you do not await it at all.
“Do you know why the first issue of “Sovetskaya Belorussiya” appeared on August 2, 1927?” — asked me five years ago one of the veterans of our newspaper having recognized that together with Director of the National archive of Belarus Viacheslav Selemenev we restore its history by crumbs, on the destinies of the chief editors.

Frankly speaking, I didn’t understand at once, that there is a hassle in the question.

— The party decided to issue a newspaper in Russian for Belarusian proletarians, — I began. — That is why the newspaper was first called “Rabochiy”.

— This is right. But why exactly on August 2, and not, let us say, on August 1?

He brought me to my wit’s end, it’s true. I shrugged my shoulders: I give up, I don’t know.

— Because on August 1 a pilot issue of the newspaper appeared. One may say, a non-official one. When it succeeded, the next day a full issue of a new newspaper appeared. With a first name “Rabochiy”. This is what veterans said, who worked in the publication before me.

The version was worth attention and I decided to share it with V. Selemenev. But, first of all, for the sake of curiosity I thumbed through the first newspaper issue one more time, where I have been working in general for 12 years. There is really a riddle: the count of its biography the newspaper begins with the second day of the week, with Tuesday on August 2, 1927. It is clear that the issue was released on Monday. However, there were not any holidays for the journalists on Sunday those years — it was considered that a reader should receive a printed publication regularly. It means that the whole team could have gathered on Sunday and made a proof edition.

I imagined the excitement of journalists and make-up men, who held in hands the first proofs with news from Vienna, Warsaw, Hankow. How meticulously did they re-read the lines of a leading article: “Until recently we did not have a common republican mass working newspaper. The “Rabochiy” will fill this vacuum. It will extensively highlight a working life”.

Having heard my lyrical tirade, Viacheslav Dmitrievich nodded: yes, it could have been so accordingly to recollections of the veterans. But there is no proof edition in the archive. Alas. So the story about it, being passed from lip to lip is just an oral application to the 80-year history of the newspaper, being documented in archival dossier. Instead something was found, which the archive workers rather hoped than counted to get — unique photos from personal records of all chief editors of the newspaper — then they were called not chief but responsible editors. And Selemenev stretched me an envelope with a negative and a black-and-white picture.

I have been peering at the portrait of the first editor “Rabochiy” for a long time — intelligent face, clever look. Moisey Yakovlevich Shulman, the graduate of the physico-mathematical faculty of the Moscow university. It was not the worst man to come.

Unfortunately, I together with V. Selemenev could not find the documents on the end of a life journey of M. Shulman: the last place of work, mentioned in the preserved references, falls on 1935. And the year of 37 and the Great Patriotic War were just ahead.

Ignat Shipillo, Vladimir Gintsberg, Leonid Yakovlev, Natalya Krasina, Grigory Boykachev, Ivan Feschenko, Alexey Romanov, Oleg Zdorovenin, Alexander Zinin… They had different characters and mentality, education and human qualities, talent and life principles, the editors, heading our newspaper in different years. Searching both in Belarusian and in Moscow archives, we calculated how many of them had been heading the “Sovetskaya Belorussiya” for the last 80 years. There were twenty of them. It means, that four years of direction falls on each person. But this is an arithmetic mean index, so to say. There were cases in the history that they left their editor’s office three-four months ago. And not all of them did it voluntarily. And not all did it because of a new working place…

However, the romanticism of profession, strained journalist workdays, sleepless business trips “for the sake of several lines in the newspaper” existed in all years — even the most harsh and fatal. Travelling editors offices, and what is more, the own carriage for trips into the depth of the country, into problem regions (it was called the carriage-editors office), schools of working country correspondents, literature pages, critical feuilletons, friendly and not very friendly caricatures — it seems to me that it would have been actual even today. Something that really missed then — were photographs. When you read a note on Gorky, who in spring of 1928 was coming back to the Soviet Union through Belarusian Negoreloe station, where he was met by thousands of happy readers, or when ten years later, in spring of 1938 a famous actress Liubov Orlova came to Minsk with her performance, and you regret: let a leisured photographer to imprint the moment of history, to enliven the lines by at least one black-and-white illustration!

In 1937, ten years after its existence, the newspaper changed its name — instead of “Rabochiy” it was called “Sovetskaya Belorussiya”. The moment is significant, speaking about expansion of readership, about the fact that the issue, firstly oriented to extremely proletarian avant-garde, has boldly taken a leap into the village; that its releases were read by an intelligent “layer” — doctors, teachers, engineer-technical workers.

Perhaps, this newspaper “title” of “Sovetskaya Belorussiya” one can easily call a brand — it bears such a name not in vain today.
To the beginning of the Great Patriotic War the edition of “Sovetskaya Belorussiya” amounted to 74,6 thousand exemplars.

During the first days of war the newspaper with other editions was evacuated and in compliance with the Resolution of CC of CP(b)B as of June 27, 1941 it became being issued in Gomel. After Gomel was invaded by fascists, the question was aroused on release of Belarusian republican issues in harsh conditions of war time. On September 21, 1941 the CC of the Communist Party of Belarus adopted a resolution on release of the newspaper “Sovetskaya Belorussiya” — CC authority and Minsk regional committee of CC(b)B in Belarusian language. On October 9, 1941 in Orel its first issue appeared.

In the middle of July 1944 after liberation of Belarus from Nazi invaders instead of Belarusian-language “Sovetskaya Belorussiya” the Russian-language “Sovetskaya Belorussiya” began being issued. Already in August the newspaper returned to its pre-war printing volume — on four sheets of “Pravda”. To 1954 its circulation amounted to 123,5 thousand exemplars.
An attentive reader has certainly noted: on a front page of our newspaper The Red Banner of Labour is shining. “Sovetskaya Belorussiya” was honoured such a high prize on March 28, 1964. For fruitful work and in connection with the release of the 10-thousandth issue. Just look, what number is on the front page today? That’s right: it exceeded 22 thousand long ago!

In August 1991 the newspaper “Sovetskaya Belorussiya” became one of the biggest publications of the sovereign Belarus. Since 2000 it is released in colour — firstly it became so colourful for Minsk residents, but in the nearest perspective the regions’ residents will also see the glossy pages with all the colors of the rainbow. And what circulation does “SB” have today? Fantastic one — more than 500 thousand exemplars! Half a million subscribers, who can be easily multiplied by two and by three — each issue took out by subscription is indeed read by the whole family. So, these are not simply high-sounding words, that “Sovetskaya Belorussiya” became the most massive newspaper of the country. This is a reality.

We, journalists, come to work for the sake of coming into each home with good news, introducing our readers to worthy people, being a smart companion, counsellor, assistant, easily discussing problems, and things worrying everybody, discussing painful moments of the society together. I will not say that this is an easy profession. Because this will not be true. But the readers need it, our daily creative research. The evidence of that is a large number of letters, being sent to the editor’s office. They are brought, say the least of it, in sacks — and each of them gets the answer according to a good old tradition.

However, there is one question, which, perhaps, can not be validly answered by even very professional, very mobile and very competent team of “Sovetskaya Belorussiya” even by means of a general brainstorming. What do you think, what a question is it? And here you are: what next original idea on improvement of the main newspaper of the country thinks over the chief editor of “Sovetskaya Belorussiya” Pavel Yakubovich, smoking one of his legendary pipes? Will it be a new interesting card? Or unique reportorial act? Or massive journalist landing into the region? Let us not hinder the thoughts and wait just a little bit — I think, we will know everything soon. The creativeness of idea is impossible to dope out. You can and should surprise thereby — being ahead of the competitors.

Lyudmila Selitskaya
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