Another Belarus

Global Voices Online
Friday, April 14, 2006

A typical Vileika backyard - by Yevgenia Mantsevich (LJ user litota_)

LJ user litota_, currently of Minsk, paid a visit to her native Vileika last weekend and posted photos from a three-hour walk she took while there (BEL). Somebody's colorful rugs hung out to dry in one of the backyards (pictured above) made her note the difference between Vileika (pop. 30,000) and the capital Minsk (pop. close to 2 million):

After Minsk, I'm not used to this anymore. But in Vileika - it's an ordinary thing.

The series - which includes photos of a Soviet-time hospital litota_ was born in, a wooden building of the music school she attended, another wooden house with a red star on it (house of a Great Patriotic War veteran) - reflects some of Vileika's small-town spirit as well as the photographer's mood:

[...] this selection isn't representative. Vileika isn't all like this. It's very diverse. And I could've shown it as gaudy and glamorous, or as [sad and gloomy]. But it turned out the way it did because, I guess, I was in this melancholic-nostalgic mood, and that was the mood I wanted to convey.

Inspired by litota_'s photos, LJ user macsim_by decided to create another_belarus LJ community (RUS):

[...] a page should be created that would have pictures of another Belarus. Everyday, lackluster, a bit too ordinary, but very dear. [...]

He began by re-posting his own pictures from another small town, Golshany, which first appeared on his LJ (RUS) - a depressing series, completely devoid of people:

We deliberately didn't photograph the people, because it's exactly the case when the wrapping isn't good enough for what's inside... I'll repeat: everyone we spoke with are wonderful people, they are called the salt of the earth, I guess... I'm sure they aren't the ones who raise bad children, and if only they were treated with a little bit more respect and were given hope... boy, do they deserve it!

The journey took place because of macsim_by's foreigner friend who's had enough of the artificially positive, "glamorous" Belarus. Afterwards, drinking local wine, the foreigner had to be persuaded that the local people didn't want to live the way they did - "because, for some reason, it seemed to him that [they] were content with their situation."

A debate (RUS, BEL) on whether it was reasonable to have an LJ community devoted to this not-so-attractive Belarus focused on the various aspects of the issue of unbearable living conditions:

ftqkatel: [...] outskirts of the european, and especially american, democracies look way worse. i think there's no point having this community.

litota_: This is about the aesthetics, not democracy. [...]

ozozo: [...] as for the european outskirts - well, yes, it's possible to find many samples of unspeakable beauty, here for example - - but this is not what we've got, because people don't live there! and our settings are filled with this special, impossibly deep meaning, such a high pitch, desperate and routine simultaneously. I am awed at this aesthetics - and I am for this community.

macsim_by: thank you for your support. "our settings are filled with this special, impossibly deep meaning, such a high pitch, desperate and routine simultaneously" - this can easily serve as the community's slogan!!!!


oskoltsev: I don't really understand what feelings these photos should evoke. as a great fan of decadence, I'm excited by these pictures, they take my breath away - I want to be there!!!!

macsim_by: [...] I understand that nothing in these photos is theater decorations. it is real life with people, children and old people standing behind the scenes, and I can't wish anyone to live in such decadance...


There's a similar community, with more history and a narrower focus, out there: another_minsk (RUS, BEL) - and a trilingual site of the same name: Another Minsk (ENG).

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