Vladimir Shuglya: ‘I have both feet on the ground’

[b]Back in his youth, this successful person, an Honorary Consul of Belarus in Tyumen, decided to build his life relying on the principle — ‘Do what you should and let it be what it should’. His success is the result of a hard-working person’s career, who, when moving towards the peak of his material and spiritual wealth, understood that it’s impossible to conquer this peak and stay there forever. Otherwise, a person won’t see new horizons. Mr. Shuglya is constantly in motion, and he doesn’t lack purposefulness, so he can allow himself such a luxury as becoming a poet. He sees the philosophical implication in ordinary things, and generously shares his experience of life apprehension with others.[/b]
Back in his youth, this successful person, an Honorary Consul of Belarus in Tyumen, decided to build his life relying on the principle — ‘Do what you should and let it be what it should’. His success is the result of a hard-working person’s career, who, when moving towards the peak of his material and spiritual wealth, understood that it’s impossible to conquer this peak and stay there forever. Otherwise, a person won’t see new horizons. Mr. Shuglya is constantly in motion, and he doesn’t lack purposefulness, so he can allow himself such a luxury as becoming a poet. He sees the philosophical implication in ordinary things, and generously shares his experience of life apprehension with others.

Of course, the meeting with Mr. Shuglya was part of our plan for our trip to the remote Siberian land. When talking to him in the Consulate office, we’ve learnt how wide the range of his interests is, and how great a sphere of the Honorary Consul’s application of force is. Moreover, the Consulate branch is more like an embassy, which the Honorary Consul maintains at his own expense, developing trade-economic, humanitarian and cultural ties between Belarus and the Tyumen Region (which unites the Khanty-Mansiysk and Yamalo-Nenets autonomous districts — a vast territory).
Learning that we’ll visit the Taiga villages of the Vikulovsky District, the home of descendants of Belarusian migrants who, during the time of the Stolypin agrarian reform in the early 20th century, emigrated to Siberia in search of a better life, Mr. Shuglya proposed to meet with us after we return to Tyumen. We didn’t object. It was rather difficult to object to this person. The president of Mangazeya Holding is very energetic and self-asserting. His charisma is felt both in his appearance, his manner of speech, and even in the atmosphere of his aesthetically decorated office interior.
Of course, Mr. Shuglya has organised and filled the interior in his own fashion, with good oak furniture, pictures in expensive frames and rare items in glass-enclosed shelf stands. However, the major pride of this man is that of his genealogical tree. Mr. Shuglya so enthusiastically tells about his search for his ancestors, and meetings with his fellow countrymen in Belarus, that one may feel rather uncomfortable, since we haven’t found time yet to take a deeper look onto our own family mysteries, even though we understand how wonderful it is to know more about our forefathers.
Mr. Shuglya presents us with his collection of verses with the same enthusiasm, while beautifully and, suitable for the occasion, reads lines from them, reinforcing with his verses the speculations about particular affairs: life, personal and state. We also speak about the value of business, which should be based on an honest approach. In this way, Mr. Shuglya started, orienting towards the best old Russian traditions of entrepreneurship, which is why he chose the name ‘Mangazeya’ for the trade house, — to honour the city, founded four centuries ago by pioneering merchants who traded sable and fish on a large scale. Mr. Shuglya also has his own price for life in the form of three formulas; we’ll later speak about this.
We didn’t have too much time to talk, as he had to attend a gala-concert at the Stroitel Palace of National Cultures, which closed the Days of Belarusian Culture events in the Tyumen Region. This year, they marked 15th anniversary of the Lyanok Belarusian song folk ensemble, headed by Klavdia Zueva. This is a wonderful reason for celebration, when people can heartily rejoice at their creative achievements. Mr. Shuglya was also inspired, since the band considers him to be their godfather. He had what to be pleased with and what to be proud of…

Fifth in the family
I was a late child, the fifth for my parents. There were seven of us in total but our elder brother died. I was searching for my family roots for around two years and found information in the Borisov civil registry office which, fortunately, had preserved a most precious document for me. Because of this, I’ve learnt where my father came from.
At that time it was called: the Korelichi Volost [a traditional administrative subdivision in Eastern Europe], Novogrudok Uezd [district], Minsk Province [region], Rutitsa village. Even now I can’t look at this piece of paper, yellowed with age, without excitement. It is the marriage certificate of my parents, which reads: ‘Anna Usova, a factory worker, single and Fiodor Shuglya, a military man, single, enter into marriage for the first time’. I see my parents signatures, placed as a sign of love and consent. I feel as if I can touch that distant year of 1924.
While I was involved in my searches, I visited my father’s homeland and met with my folks. There’s a whole ‘tribe’ of the Shuglya family in the Korelichi District. During this time, I began to look at life in a different way. I even felt that I have both feet on the ground. I’m a son of a military man who travelled all over the world, we didn’t stay very long anywhere, so I didn’t have the feeling of a homeland. However, when I wandered along the cemetery, where I saw around 30 monuments bearing the surname of Shuglya, and when I sat at the same table with four generations of the Shuglya family in the village of Zapolie, I felt this homeland…
When I visit Belarus, my mother’s relatives invite me, while those of my father cook draniki. I feel very comfortable in Korelichi, as if some of God’s grace descended upon me…
Dozens of Belarusians joined into public associations in the Tyumen Region thanks to Vladimir Shuglya and his colleaguesI met, and continue to meet people who were not born in Belarus, reside beyond its borders, yet feel themselves more Belarusian than those who were born and live there. The same goes for me. Probably, this feeling was laid down in my childhood, when I often heard my father’s recollections about the places where he spent his youth. I worked much in childhood. My father, a staff officer, retired, and was building a house in Sverdlovsk, so I helped him. I still remember how his brother-in-law and he felled trees and did everything, like in Belarus. They hauled, constructed the frame themselves, sanded the rough logs, put them on this frame and made half-timbering. Everything was done with the least material expenditures, but this greatly assisted in strengthening the relations between the family members.
Everybody probably wonders who they are, where they came from and where are they going to… I’ve come to understand that the person who knows their roots has both feet on the ground. Twenty years ago, I made my family tree, ‘digging’ back to 1680. Many are surprised and ask me why I need to do this, since I’m not a descendant of dukes, and I’m not ‘blue-blooded. It’s necessary. These ‘Roots’ oblige us to be human and to have both feet on the ground because of them. I know that currently, there are about 300 people in the world bearing the surname of Shuglya and I feel proud of them. In ancient times, ‘shuglya’ was a big dugout boat made from a solid oak trunk, so my hard-working ancestors are likely to be connected with rivers and lakes.
I welcome the present day, when children draw their family cards at school and wonder who their forefathers were. I’m glad that they won’t become people who forget their folks.

Major life formula
I’ve shaped three formulas to guide my life. The first is that of the three S’s: Shame, Sense of conscious and Sympathy. The second formula comprises three more vital elements: labour, creativity and tolerance while the third formula is to not to be afraid, not to surrender and not to trust. Why ‘not to trust’? Because it is impossible to trust anyone in business.
It is women who keep us, the men, on the Earth. Scientists have confirmed that intellect is transferred to children through women. It’s necessary to respect a beloved, a friend and a sister in the woman, who’s going together with you in life and who is the mother of your children. Women are multi-faceted. If a man appreciates these features in a woman, she’ll definitely endow him with these. I try to do this. When I go to church, I primarily approach the Mother of God of Kazan icon: this image is closer to me for some reasons. There was a time when I had troubles with my heart. I stood near the icon and immediately felt better.
My mother is a holy person. She brought up six children: I have four elder sisters who were born in Minsk and Borisov. While my father was at war, she brought up them on her own. She lived in Novosibirsk, where my father’s unit moved 18 months before the war. It’s difficult to imagine what would happen to her if she — a wife of a red officer and commander, stayed in Belarus. Meanwhile, in Minsk, the father’s garrisons were located in Zakharov Street, which was called Proviantskaya Street at that time. My elder sister, Yanya, told me about this. When I was looking for a flat in Minsk, I found it, between Engels and Krasnoarmeiskaya streets, 150m from school #3, where my sister studied. When I visit Minsk and wander along these streets, I think that once people, dear to my heart, also used to wander here.
My father used to say that there are many nationalities, yet only two nations: scoundrels and decent people. I agree with him and I often tell about this to my listeners at our poetic meetings and book presentations. They like this thought.
Even now, I sometimes wonder whether I’m an internationalist or a nationalist, and I always come to the conclusion that the middle should dominate — ‘love your own and respect others’. I don’t understand avid nationalists or those for whom nationality is merely an empty phrase. For five years I headed the Co-ordination Council for National Public Associations and National and Cultural Autonomies of the Tyumen Region, and this time has taught me much.

If verses are born…
Some may be surprised learning that an Honorary Consul and a businessman is also a poet. But if the verses are born, then it’s necessary to write them. I write my verses because I must. I apprehend life via these artistic images and I’m happy that I publish my verses and that people read them. I’m doubly happy if someone enjoys them, touching their heart. It’s very precious for me that the Belarusian composer, Igor Luchenok, has written a song ‘Forget-me-Not’ using my verses, and that Tyumen’s Vitaly Serebrennikov has written music for my ‘Darling’ verse. We’ve also recorded a whole CD of songs with Yekaterina Chernyshova.
During book presentations, I eagerly meet with young people and tell them about my creative activity, as well as about Belarus, how I discovered and loved my homeland and how much I learnt about my ancestors. I remember that, during one such meeting, with students of the Tyumen State University who were studying the Belarusian language, youngsters were keen to learn why I also became a businessman. I told them a parable about Solomon and a sluggard. This is how it goes: ‘Look at the ant, you lazybones. Consider its ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, or officer, or ruler, it prepares its food in summer and gathers its sustenance at the harvest. How long will you lay there, O lazybones? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want, like an armed warrior’. I didn’t want to be poor, so I wasn’t a lazybones. I’ve always enjoyed working. Maybe, this is the reason for my success in life. Therefore, I trust people based on their desire and ability to work, as well as for their entrepreneurial spirit and initiative. I like purposeful people, who work with great devotion.
I refer myself to people who are able to work on themselves, deriving benefit from everything I meet on my life way. Therefore, I was always thankful to those who told unpleasant things in my face. I understood that this disappointment will enable me to become ‘pleasant’ in the future.
I didn’t become a military man, though I entered Chelyabinsk Higher Military Aviation School for Navigators. Seven months later I wrote a request for dismissal and entered the Moscow Institute of Economics (named after Plekhanov), whose branch is located in Sverdlovsk, and this greatly disappointed my father.
He, a professional military man, saw me in the same role, but I’ve chosen my own way. It seems to me that for many years I was trying to persuade him and others that it’s not shameful to trade. Rather, it’s complex and interesting, like flying in the sky. I undertook many endeavours. I’m able to organise any production, headed the district consumer union, was deputy chairman of the regional consumer union, a head of the supply department at Sverdlovsk Railways, and thus found my way to Tyumen.

Money tests people
It so happens that I have led people since my youth and I enjoyed this. Youth wasn’t a barrier for me. Vice versa, people tried to support me, and I eagerly accepted assistance, not being offended by critical remarks. My respect towards those older than me also helped greatly, as did the ability to get on with everybody. Of course, I had to adapt. At that time, I didn’t know wisdom — If a fact and a notion collide, then change the notion. However, I felt intuitively how to act. Later I also understood one more truth — If a fact repeats several times, it means you’re not right somewhere, so you need to change the approach, your mental orientations, behaviour or attitude towards what’s going on, and finally, your thoughts.
It’s necessary to be guided by moral criteria in business, just like in other professional spheres. Honour, dignity and conscience should be present, always and everywhere.
Money tests people. A person needs to clearly determine the area, where to invest the money, and then the result will be apparent. I decided to ‘specialise’ in the Union of Russia and Belarus. I’m confident that, as long as the union of the Slavonic states exists, we’ll be fine. Although I live in Siberia, I often visit Minsk and live there for a while. So, being well aware of Belarus and Russia, I perfectly understand the importance of their Union. When I arrive in Minsk I’m proud to tell everyone that I’ve come from Siberia. Meanwhile, when I return back to Tyumen, I underline with no less pride that I’m a Belarusian. I feel myself to be a connecting link between Belarus and Russia. Heading the Union — Integration of Brotherly Nations public organisation, I try to do everything possible, sparing neither efforts nor money, to promote the strengthening and dynamic development of Belarusian-Russian relations.

Belarusian island in Siberia
Why did I begin to unite the Siberian Belarusians and become the first chairman of the board in 1997, thus laying the foundation of the organisational establishment of society? I can’t easily answer this question. Probably, this is responsibility before the homeland of my ancestors and the desire to express myself in public-national movement, as well as a passion for communication with those who have made a big contribution to the development of the land.
There’s a conference hall near my working cabinet, a corner of Belarus, close to my heart. A map with the coats of arms of each Belarusian town, flags, books, albums, framed certificates and letters of acknowledgment, alongside an ancient spinning wheel, brought to Siberia by the first Belarusian emigrants. This is the place where the ‘first’ Belarusians, well-known and respectful people in Tyumen, have gathered. As I thought, we knew what to speak about and how to start the work of our society.
At present, two regional public organisations are functioning in the Tyumen Region — The National and Cultural Society Autonomy of Belarus and the Union — Integration of Brotherly Nations. I’m very pleased that, due to the established ties with the Ministry of Culture of Belarus and the office of the Plenipotentiary for Religions and Nationalities under the Council of Ministers of Belarus, we can do everything to preserve the language, customs and culture of the Belarusian nation in the territory of the region. I also work a lot with Belarusians in Tyumen and with those who aren’t indifferent towards my homeland. Only together will we be able to develop our economies and strengthen our friendship, which guarantees any success.

By Valentina and Ivan Zhdanovich
Minsk—Tyumen—Minsk
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