Gleb Tyurin /
To sweet memory of my mother in law Elizaveta Medvedeva,ordinary peasant woman from the village of Dolgoschelie which despite her hard life was a person of kind hear and tender soul
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I am greatly impressed with the local self-management achievements in the Arkhangelsk Region which lately have been made by Gleb Tyurin and his Institute of Social and Humanitarian Initiatives (ISHI). In my opinion, the circumstances of the work and the results are overwhelming.
I must mention here that I am not easily impressed with any results in the sphere. Having been involved in local development processes for more than 15 years, I think, I am well acquainted with the topic and understand the subject matter. I was an organizer and a chairman of the Association of Siberian and Far-Eastern Cities (ASFEC), the first in the USSR, which still exists and is successful. In 1989 I was one of the main contributors to the first Law on Local Self-Management in the USSR, later my colleagues and I worked out the first Law on Self-Management for the RSFSR. I am the author of more than 110 publications (12 of them are monographs) on social development and organization problems, they were published both in our country and abroad - in the U.S.A, Bulgaria, Poland, Rumania - wherever they have experience in solving the problems of local development.
I am sure that local self-management should be started at the very beginning - with those who must become their own masters - local people, citizens, inhabitants. It is absolutely necessary that the people living in a certain area would take all the responsibility for the area and for their actions and work for the area. The problem is not only in making laws to outline their rights and responsibilities, it is most vital to ensure they are realized practically. There still exists a widespread view that it is impossible to solve this problem in Russia at present - it will take several generations to reach success.
The ISHI experience in the Arkhangelsk Region shows that many crucial ideas of local self-management are being successfully brought to life in our days, that there do exist modern social technologies that provide for the success. Their experience is very important for our country.
I do hope that ISHI initiatives will receive well-deserved support from their Regional Administration which will allow them to continue and further develop the work they have started, because I think they have most wonderful perspectives here.
Fridrich Markovich Borodkin , Doctor of Economics, Professor of the Higher School of Economics, Professor of the Russian Humanitarian University, Full Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (RANS)
The story I am going to tell here is very dear for me. For many years my Institute colleagues and I have been developing territorial organs of self-management in rural districts of the Arkhangelsk north. When we started the work we wanted the ordinary village people to stop hoping that someone from outside would help them, but to unite and to find ways and means to change their life, to manage it on their own. It was imperative that the changes be real and positive. Some years ago the task seemed utopian, a dream that would never come true. Today it is a reality!
In more that thirty Arkhangelsk Region villages there have appeared such groups of self-development, territorial organs of self-management (TOSes), they have actually been reviving their native places. The experience has been highly appraised both at home and abroad, some experts have named it "the Arkhangelsk miracle". More than fifty projects have been achieved. Many of them have been a wonderful success.
I am very happy that I can tell here one of such stories of success, a story of a territorial organ of self-development (TOS) from a small Mezen village of Zaozerye, which is tucked away in the very north of the Arkhangelsk Region, practically on the border of the tundra.
For me this story, among others, is worth millions. It helps me live and have faith in people.
The heroes of the story, our TOS members, are ordinary villagers, but they create something we all lack in our everyday life - our faith in ourselves. They have shown us that we all, irrespective of the place we live, of our age and education, possess enormous strength, resources of our human ego can help us to overcome all the obstacles and misfortunes to build our future. They have also shown that even in a god-forgotten place where many things had been devoid of their price and lost, there had been no future, where nobody would give a straw for a life, - that here there was something that still depended on people.
They have shown us that their faith and united effort are the key factors of any development, they can bring wonderful results, create miracles. Full-scale results can be achieved even in areas which have, seemingly, no future, no resources to speak of. Even in far-away places of our vast Region the development of territorial organs of self-management can result in a true break-through, can bring a true success.
In villages God lives not in corners Josef Brodsky
The truth is it was difficult to expect any village development in the Mezen District, one of the most notorious municipalities of the Arkhangelsk Region. It was impossible to find more difficult situation, more unfavourable conditions for any village projecting in principle. Mezen is the farthest Northern district of the Arkhangelsk Region, one of the farthest in Russia (historians say this is the farthest Russian area with the ingenious Russian population). The Polar Circle, if projected on to the sky, would be seen by villagers through their windows. The climate corresponds to the location.
The isolation from "mainland" is almost complete. The district is autonomous, almost like an island.
The automobile road (of more than five hundred kilometers) exists only in winter, from December to March. At other seasons the District is connected to the Region centre by local airlines, which are unaffordable for most people. The cost of a ticket is about 1300 rubles - where one can get the money to buy it? Even if one desperately wants to leave, one cannot do it - the native land’s embrace is too strong. Fuel and food are imported here - the prices bite like hungry wolves. Salary money is scarce. Major part of the villagers lives by the rules of natural economy. Agricultural production was the only production in the villages of the District is in ruins. What to suggest people here? What production to develop? The sad situation in other districts of the Arkhangelsk Region, when compared with that in the Mezen area seemed to be not so disastrous.
That was how matters stood when in winter of 2001 the Institute of Social and Humanitarian Initiatives started their active work in the Mezen District. The initiator of the work was the young Governor of the District Igor Leonidovich Zaborsky, who had been just elected to the post. But the new Governor was insistent, moreover, he himself came to take us to his District in his car from the neighboring Pinega District where we were having a seminar. Having made a detour of a thousand and a half kilometers, he opened a door of his UAZ landrover and asked, 'Ready to go to Mezen?' What one could possibly say to such an invitation? To tell the truth we are still happy we went there and are very grateful to Mr Zaborsky for his pressing and for his later support of our work.
I am sure that the Govenor's attitude, his efforts to help in every possible way to make our work effective, were decisive at the first stages when so many obstacles were facing us. It was a serious support.
Three years ago Igor Leonidovich already understood ( few people in the Region did) what consulting and social technologies were about, why we need them and what might be the use of them. He knew that any change cannot happen without a certain movement and he was sure that modern consulting techniques would provide for positive changes in his District. It was a pleasant and fruitful cooperative work with the District Administration, it became our partner and this partnership has helped us through many years of hard work. The most important was the fact that the partners had the same understanding of the basic problems of development and were convinced that our main task was to initiate people’s activity.
True, the situation in the villages was gruesome, we clutched our heads in despair. But there were some resources and possibilities, though scarce, in the District. We had to make them work! People could live here, the area could develop…The potential of this stern northern land is truly huge.
We had to switch it on, to use new approaches to the problems. We badly needed new understanding, new behavior models on both sides - administration and people. We needed responsibility and self-reliance so that the villagers would change their life themselves, not waiting for the help from the outside.
Our primary task was to initiate people's activity. We had to wake them up, to stir the community, to level the 'paternalistic' mood when they just waited and waited when someone would come and solve their problems for them - and arrange their life. We had to show them that even under the existing conditions they could solve many problems, to change their life for better. It meant introducing the mechanism of local development, something practical being done in one of the villages by the local inhabitants themselves, let it be one village and a small group of people.
People are the main resource of development. Other resources without people working on them mean nothing. Every district has its own resources, some means of supporting the local population. To use these opportunities for developing the area we had to find people who would do it for their compatriots. We understood that the task was not easy. There were few footings to rely upon.
Resources, too, were scarce. Besides, here, due to the long distances, traditionalism in opinions, conservatism in thought were much stronger than anywhere else. It was not very promising for our project. By that time we had acquired technologies that were giving good results, we had had the experience of other Districts’ communities. Our project «Local Self-Government Leaders’ Club in the Arkhangelsk Region» was financially supported by the Euroasia Foundation and by the US Agency of International Development. We had a certain support from the Arkhangelsk Region Administration, together we organised a Regional Competition of the village projects "Local Development", and the village projects-winners of the Competition were to receive some financial help from the Regional budget. In a word, by the time we had some experience to back us. The main thing, though, was our sencere wish to start the 'development model' in Mezen - people who have a will to reach some goal can achieve much.
Thus, we started our work, our regular trips to the villages of the District with meetings, speeches, discussions where we and local Mezen people expressed our vision of their participation in revitalizing their villages, spoke of their wishes and their possibilities. The scenario was each time different: in some places people did not trust the things we told them, in other places they just marveled at our projects (they simply could not grasp them, our approach seemed unreal, fantastic, or crazy as they sometimes put it). "What are you talking about? What development? We are close to dropping, we are starving, and you tell us tales here!", such was the usual reaction of the villagers. Besides, in many villages, people would splash out all their spite and resentment with their life, with the humiliating conditions they were left to face. We had to take the outburst of these sentiments upon ourselves.
At our first meeting in Zaozerye which went into small hours of night, the male population would not be sparing of words. The curses ignited the air. We were not surprised. By that time they had no faith, no hopes for the future.
Zaozerye is a smallish village of 30 households, the like of which is innumerable in Russia. It is situated favourably - by the side of road (about 25 km from the District centre along the road from Mezen to the bigger village of Dorogorskoye), at the same time not on the outskirts.
In Soviet times there was a collective farm division , where practically all the inhabitants used to work. At the end of the 90s the collective farm here was closed due to its complete unprofitability. Though the recess of agriculture which resulted in farms ‘boarding up’ was all over the District and the Region, all over Russia, for the local people it was unexpected like a bolt from the blue. In short, the cows were taken away, all the farm building were boarded up, workers were given the sack. Nobody bothered to explain them how to live from now on. The villagers were left without work, without any future, without understanding how to live further on. Those who were able to leave they left. The rest tried to survive the best they could.. In a word, the 21st century brought the Hamlet’s question to the Zaozerye inhabitants - to be or not to be for their village. The Zaozerye men talked about all that with much bitterness and resentment at our first meeting. Step by step we managed to bring the discussion to the constructive side. How to solve the problems that faced the village? Who had to solve them? How could the locals participate in solving them? What should be done to change the situation?
People in the village started to search for the answers to their questions, to show the first signs of initiative and all this was thanks to a woman, whose name was Tatyana Nikolayevna Korotayeva, a teacher of a primary school in Zaozerye. She is a lively person, not indifferent to the needs of the village, she is held in high respect by the villagers, they voted for her as a deputy to the District Deputy Council. She might have settled somewhere else without any problems, she is a good teacher with years of experience behind, she has got a university diploma of a psychologist at the extra-mural university. She knew one thing for certain - she and her family would never leave Zaozerye.
That was why she took it upon herself to develop the local self-government. Long ago she had understood that they had to thing of the village future on their own. To tell the truth, it was the villagers’ luck they had Tatyana. Of course, there was a ‘group of supporters’ - the whole village supported her. Her true follower was Irina Gershpigel, a very reliable and responsible person, also grieving for the village. She was not local, she came from Arkhangelsk. This group started the changes in Zaozerye, introduced the public self -government.
The joint efforts to unite people, to create the feeling of community (psychologists call it ‘we-concept’) developed gradually. They had to base on people’s traditional opinions and customs which had survived since the pre-revolution times through decades of the collective farm experience. Some of them were lost (or discredited by the Soviet power), but villagers still had them, more or less. People feel nostalgic about their lost heritage. The feeling of community, the 'sense of neighbor's shoulder' which once was called "the fundamentals of Zemstvo" have been characteristic for a Russian since time immemorial. The villagers had meetings, discussed things, argued about the priorities. This was a good beginning, a step forward to the development.
It was important that some deeds followed the words.
And the deeds soon started to happen. First, the Village Council appeared and solved the daily routine questions - they restored the village well, collected money and installed a water pump into the artesian well, - water supply had been the burning problem for the village. They put in order the medical station , arranged the passport exchange. They chose things important or necessary for the whole of the village. They understood that everybody would benefit from them. It was the right approach as it allowed to involve more and more people. The factor of joint work made them feel anxious for the community. These little victories helped them to become more sure in their potential and possibilities: ‘eyes are afraid, but hands keep working’. Gradually Zaozerye villagers began to solve many problems on their own. They saw it was quite possible.
Frankly speaking, these achievement did not impress some of the Zaozerye people very much. "Well, you restored the well - what's in it? Nothing very special in it!"
Further steps should be carefully chosen. They were to step up to a higher level of community activity. They needed a new, bigger project aimed at development of the village. They had to learn how to work with development ideas (co-creativity), with project technologies. We had to help them to decide what might become a challenge for a big project and to teach them how to write it.
We started this work at our seminars and training sessions in Mezen and Kimzha in spring and summer of 2001.
One of the seminars, on the District Governor’s request, was held at the beginning of April for the District Administration members. It was devoted to the optimization of the municipal management system and to introduction of the elements of strategic planning. It was meant to help them to solve their own problems and we also paid special attention how to develop the area by means of population’s participation in the development processes.
The second seminar, a training- session, was aimed at the villagers and initiative groups. We invited many municipal authorities to take part in it so that from the very start the local development was help in close contact, as a cooperative work. We wanted our village development groups and municipal people to have joint approaches to the development of the area, to choose the ways and directions of their joint work. Then it would be easier for all of them to do the work itself, it would be easier for a villager to come to the local administration for help.
The decision to have a training session not in a District centre, but in a village was right: if we want the village to develop we must go to the villagers to discuss it. We chose an ancient and unbelievably beautiful village of Kimzha, a pearl of Northern Russian architecture.
The most active people from Kimzha and Zaozerye and 40 more Kimzha villagers (the development group from Dolgoshchelye failed to come) collected in a dark and cold club of Kimzha, which was situated near the famous huge Church of Odighitria.
The ideas for development were successfully discussed. We talked about employment, creation of new working places - these questions were the most important for the people. If there is work - there will appear all the rest.
As usual we tried to make people see their problems in a new light while discussing them. So that they would not go round and round about, but see them as if from a far. Some participants were not ready to do that. Well then, let us formulate the task a bit differently: let us discuss things that are under our feet, that is find the local resources which every village can use for its development. And later let us think of non-traditional use for the resources. They all seemed interested.
In general we have discussed more than 20 directions in which to develop, which could become beneficial for these areas. Then we selected the priorities - there was much sense to work on them first.
1. People’s meeting place or Home for veterans
2. The local architectural heritage should be used - facilities for rest for those who visit the village
3. Stock-breeding farm for local Mezen horses
4. Gathering and processing of wild plants (berries, mushrooms, herbs)
6. Sheep farm
8. A small processing shop for agricultural produce
10. Crafts and trades (sleigh-making, horse gear)
11. Furriery (raw material could be bought from other villages)
13. Repairs workshop ( cars, tractors, saws)
14. Vegetable growing
16. Grain production (rye, barley)
Later we named the top priority tasks of the village development ( e.g. we worked out a plan of actions for the nearest future).
1. To make calculations and measurements for the Veterans’ Home Project (the house for elderly people would be the people’s house). To have talks with the Regional Department of Social Security on financing part of the project. To decide what the villagers themselves could invest into its construction. (G.N.Korotayeva, I.I.Gershpigel will be responsible for the projecting).
2. To start the project of horse-breeding farm. The main goal was to create the broodmare group of animals, to make the Mezen breed better. The task was to find a good stallion (The projecting was done by I.F.Avdeyev).
3. To survey the market, first in the Mezen District itself for:
5. To write a project of moving the inhabitable building from the neighbouring village to house a public complex, which would consist of a primary school, ФАП, an office for the TOS meetings and village gatherings and events, a room for a small workshop ( e.i. for wool processing). To solve the problem of the transportation costs with the District Administration.
6. To find out the legal basis of Territorial Organs of Self-Government, to write the regulations of the TOS and register them, to broaden people’s legal knowledge
As a result of the seminar Zaozerye villagers found several directions for development, each of then could be the base for a big project. At the end the idea of having the Home for Veterans was found the most attractive.
The idea itself was borrowed from our presentations. At our meetings, discussions and seminars we had introduced the European local development projecting experience. We had told them, particularly, about organizing small, cozy cooperative homes for elderly people, which were much cheaper and had more comfortable conditions to for the inhabitants. The foreign ideas were appealing, they were vital and adapted to the local situation.
The Home for Veterans seemed to be a very constructive and alluring, it could help solve many problems in the village. First of all, it meant employment, though part-time and not for all the villagers. Jobs would allow young couples stay in Zaozerye. This, in turn, would save local school. Second, the veterans’ home would consume local products, it would be some addition to the villagers’ earnings. The Home for Veterans might become an original social centre of the village - the Home for Hope.
The idea turned out to be a burning issue for the District - even two neighbouring Districts of Mezen and Leshukoniye. There were no such institutions in them. The need for it is really huge, lonely aged people are abundant in the little villages there. Many of them are in a great need of help during the long snowy winters, but how can social workers get to the far-away villages? A comfortable small home for veterans would be a blessing for many.
Such institution should have a separate and proper building. Where to get it? How to build? During the discussion people remembered that in a village of Lampozhye near by there is a house of former kindergarten which had been empty for many years (and was beginning to rot). Once it was planned to have a kind of a social centre there. What if they dismantle it, bring to their village and assemble it again to make a Home for Veterans ?
This idea became the principal goal of the project, which Tatyana Korotayeva and other activists started to develop at a projecting seminar the ISHI held in Mezen in June, 2001.
I remember, this seminar well, we invited local Administration members and development groups from several Mezen villages: Kimzha, Zaozeye, Doloshchelye. I remember how hard working were the Zaozerye people, I was terrified by the volume of their project, which increased and increased while becoming more and more concrete. I had mixed feelings towards their idea. On the one hand I was happy and impressed with the desperate undertaking of the Zaozerye villagers who had big ideas about their cause. On the other hand, I knew that they should undertake a lesser scale project as their first case. The risk was too great. The village needed success. No need to undertake huge big and risky business. We kept saying , «Better less and more successful ». One year was too short a period for such a project, besides, the village could hope for a very small financial support. But Tayana and her group, having jumped at the idea of the house for veterans, would not thing of anything else. So they decided to cut the big project into several stages. During the first year they had to prepare the architectural design and technical and legal documents ( The District Administration promised to help with them), to dismantle the house , mark its parts and transport them to Zaozerye, where the site and the foundation should be ready for it. Then, during the second year they could finish the construction.
The first stage project was presented at the Regional Projects Competition, which was announced by the Institute of Social and Humanitarian Initiatives and the Arkhangelsk Region Administration. The authoritative independent commission after analyzing the project application had no questions, and the project received 24 600 rubles to support its fulfillment. At that time, in August 2001, the villagers organized the Territorial Organ of Self-Government (TOS) at their general meeting ( to be precise, they formally confirmed the fact of its existence).
The head of the TOS, and the responsible for the project of the House for veterans, became Tatyana Korotayeva.
The work began. Not just work, it was a true battle against all kinds of problems, as one of TOS members put it. Many of the TOS members could never imagine such problems before.
The money from the Region came with a great delay, the account opening took a very long time, some documents, too, were quite difficult to get. The amount of paper work was unbelievable.
Besides, it turned out that the money was too little, and some of the old materials cannot be used
for a new house. They had to find building materials somewhere else. But where? Problems mounted one upon the other, sometimes it looked as if they were cornered by them for ever. We tried to support the Zaozerye people (development is , in our opinion, solving problems), we were monitoring the project as well as all the other projects in the Region. When we saw that the problems were dangerous, and the villagers failed to solve them on their own we were there to interfere.
The District Administration gave them regular and very substantial support, too. Every week N.D.Ryadchina, Vice-Mayor of the District, who supervised their project, had to interfere and help them. She persuaded the Mezen Saw-Mill Board to give them 30 cubic metres of timber for new poles of the foundation.
In a word, they all worked on the project in Zaozerye, old and young. Men dismantled the old house in Lampozhye, trying carefully to preserve each board, each piece of glass so that they could be used for a new building. Other people dug out the ground for foundation, processed poles to protect from rotting and mounted them, marked the premises. They worked hard and with a good quality – foundations are very important for a house. Local children also helped - they cleaned the construction site. As they were very short of money women decided to sew mittens for sale to add to the budget of the project . When frosts came they began to transport the dismantled building to Zaozerye, the way was across the river. They could not wait till the ice on the river would thicken, they started as soon as it would stand the timber weight. Soon they faced another obstacle - the roads were not cleaned of snow, there were no road cleaning services there. They had to deal with this problem , too. To store the brought materials they put them into an empty farm building. It is wrong to say that Russians are not accustomed to order and accuracy. Zaozerye villagers stored everything in the most accurate way, everything was marked and numbered. As they would do in Germany. The project was finished ahead of time. The first stage of construction was successfully realized. One could possibly address the villagers with the words of praise but the TOS members understood it was early to talk of successes. The main part of the job was ahead.
In 2002 the TOS of Zaozerye did not rack their brains over a new idea for the project. Within a new ISHI project «By Village Community» (also backed by «Eurasia» Foundation and USA Agency of International Development) they developed their next project, a continuation of the previous one, - of assembling of the building they had brought to the village. That year they received even a bigger amount of money (59 411 rubles) from the Regional Administration as winners of the Regional Competition «Village Development 2002» held by ISHI and The Regional Administration. The sum was twice as big as the first project support. Nevertheless, it was hardly enough to cover part of construction expenses. As Tatyana Korotayeva later wrote in her report, ‘ we had a very difficult problem facing us : having a small support from outside, we had to mobilize our own forces and resources, to bring the construction of the house to the end, to put a finish to it. Doing this we would bring an opportunity of a new life to the villagers, we would not let them become disappointed at the moment when they wanted to work together, when they started to have hope and faith in themselves’.
It was planned to begin the construction work in the first days of May. But somehow they were a bit late. Before starting to assemble the house, they once more checked all the materials they had brought (squared beams, boards, roofing slate). They had to refuse some of them as they turned out to be worn out. ‘We decided we’d better not use them, especially for the foundations we did everything honestly. So that not to do over again later, so that no to be ashamed for our work in front of the people’.
To buy new logs was out of question, they had no money for it in the project budget. They didn’t lose their hearts, and the problem was solved as they continued their work. They tried to appeal to all the possible instances, the District Administration, the deputies, but could not find the necessary materials. Time went, soon the hay-making season came, the most fervent time in the country. So they decided to use round timber and using their axes they chipped it to make their own squared one. The work was not easy, but the construction continued. Major part of the work was done free, the project budget allowed only the supervisor to have a salary, as the most qualified worker. Without him it was impossible to assemble the building, he was responsible for the work done in accordance with state standards and norms.
Meanwhile Tatyana Korotayeva continued haunt the District authorities’ thresholds. The Chairman of the District Deputies Council V.M. Lichutin helped to make arrangements with some enterprises that agreed to give some squared beams and roofing slate. They asked for 5 metre long beams, but were given 1.5 - 2 metre long. But the resourceful supervisors managed to use them, too. There were two of them, they shared their responsibility for the construction . One of them was local. Dmitry Ivanovich Korotayev, , the second was a stranger there, Nikolai Ivanovich Matveyev. He lived in Zaozerye in summers, but their problems roused a ready response in him. The local people’s enthusiasm was contagious, and if the business was worth of joint efforts, how could he not join them?
This might be the reason why many people would come to take part in ‘subbotniks’ - to clean the territory, to load or unload something. Car owners would transport the materials in their cars (the transportation money envisaged by the budget was not enough).
Soon new trials arrived. The biggest volume of work on the walls of the building fell on July, when hay-making was in full swing. At this time the villagers forget about everything - a cow for many families is the foundation of their well-being. Therefore, several tons of hay is a must. The Russian saying goes, ‘a summer day feeds a year’. The construction, nevertheless, was not stopped. Having discussed the situation, they decided to work in shifts: two men worked on the construction site, the rest were hay-making. These sliding shifts allowed them to do both - the hay and the walls were ready. Of course, the builders were helped by other people - schoolchildren would gather moss in the forest to seal the walls, two women worked with them. They would bring the moss by a horse-cart. Others would transport the building materials, panes and doors. Ceilings were made in no time.
Then they saw the accuracy with which they had stored the materials in proper perspective - it helped a lot in the process of assembling the house. Later, though, when they began the roof the same problems appeared. There were not enough boards and slate. Again they asked the Mezen Saw-Mill for help, the board of the mill gave sawn timber worth of 3 000 rubles. How to bring it across the river, if the ferry cost was 1500 rubles for a lorry? N.D.Ryabchikova, District Vice-Governor, came to help. The ferry transportation costs became a sponsor’s support, she also found a private lorry to transport the materials. The driver and the supervisor were on the road for 12 hours - queuing for a ferry, crossing the river on a barge. They were very tired but happy, ‘here is the sawn timber, the construction can go on now’.
The building grew by eye, by every day. In the middle of September the house was ready, the roof was made and it was laid up till the next year. There were no proper floors yet, no interior finishing. But the building itself- a huge construction, here it was standing in the centre of Zaozerye, in all splendor, as they say in the village. One could come close and touch it and wonder at the villagers’ acomplishment…
That September day when the construction was finished, the TOS members could hardly believe they had managed to make such an accomplishment. As Korotayeva told us, ‘we were sitting there and were just wondering at the result ’.
How did they manage it? What helped them to manage it?
The TOS members said it all depended on the human factor. Or the people’s enthusiasm. They managed to ignite it, to inspire and unite people who had a goal important for all of them, who believed in it. And people worked as they had never done before.
A truly active and capable local community appeared to solve problems on their own. This is another proof that at the core of the development process there is neither money nor resources, but a change in people’s consciousness, in their relations, their collective understanding of the process.
A man, his energy, his faith and enthusiasm are the basic motive force of any development, any success. During the last decades villagers have lost their skills of self-reliance and enterprise, have forgotten how manage their lives. This is not their fault, but their tragedy. For a very long time our life was decided by the authorities above, initiative and independence were not welcomed. The result was people’s apathy, indifference, loss of faith, alcoholism.
It was impossible to speak even of the village existence unless the abilities to solve problems on their own was restored, unless faith in their own power was reborn.
Nothing could be changed in today’s situation in rural areas unless a new collective understanding of peoples’ abilities and role appear, unless new relations which we call we-concept are formed.
In Zaozerye we gradually managed to create the we-concept, a concept of a positive attitude to life.
People took the responsibility on themselves, they understood that nobody would come and change their life for them.
Step by step there appeared a collective understanding that in the circumstances they should develop their village by joining their efforts. They believed that much depended on themselves and much could be changed. Later we managed to develop skills of collective interaction, to create new relation in the village. This gave them strength. One of the most wonderful features of such a community is that resulting energy of the community is not just the sum of efforts of every single member of the community. It is called CINergetic effect. It makes a powerful developmental impact, which is immediately recognized by people and attracts them.
In Zaozerye during the summer more than 30 people regularly worked on the project, helped to release the burden. And when somebody would not appear on the site, they would be sincerely exasperated, ‘How’s that?! We’re doing it for ourselves!’ The lack of any experience in building, never-ending problems, rains that poured through the whole summer - nothing could stop the TOS members in Zaozerye in completing the construction.
This very special atmosphere, this collective understanding did not occur all of a sudden, the process was long and painful. There was nothing idyllic about it. Skeptics were numerous, they kept saying, ’Your work is in vain. You won’t be able to build anything’. To continue working under such pressure was difficult, this misunderstanding, scepsis and sneers were sometimes unbearable. Strange enough, they made the workers unite - when someone came with the usual remark that there would not be anything worth there, one of the workers answered, ‘We shall do it to spite you.’ While the building grew higher, the people’s confidence grew, too. The project won them immense authority among the villagers. Later, even the old men would come and offer their help. One elderly lady came to cheer up the workers, and touching the wall with her hand said, ‘ Make this corner warm, I will live here!’
Today we can say that people who has achieved this project has also utterly changed the general mood of the villagers. The idea ‘ We can do much ourselves!’ is truly dominant in the village. People started to see themselves with different eyes, they believe in themselves. They believe they can do everything serious and important. It shows in their eyes and their manner. Very important was the fact that they had a clever and industrious leader, Tatyana Korotayeva, and her group of support. The Zaozerye people understand well that without help from outside they would not be able to reach such success. Tatyana Korotayeva says, “ the support the TOS has received from the ISHI played a great role, we felt it constantly. We always knew that we could ask for their help and advice at any crucial moment. We were taught to work, our problems were shared by them.” It is like a football game, to teach boys how play football one should have a good coach who knows all about the game and knows how to teach to play it. In my opinion, one of the main problems of local self-government in Russia is that authorities do not understand this condition. They think, it is enough to give money, and everything will go swimmingly, on its own.
No doubt, one of the most decisive reasons of the Zaozerye success was the Region and District authorities attitude to the project, they sincerely wanted the people to achieve it and they tried to create conditions for the changes to happen.
The Zaozerye Project success clearly shows that the local communities development, the human potential development which revive faith and enthusiasm can also have a serious economic effect.
This is very important when we have in mind development of our depressive rural areas. The human energy becomes here the only resource which allows to involve other resources into the process of development.
The depth of the village crisis is greatly conditioned by the fact that administrative resource of solving the problems of villages is not enough at present. Enormous investments are needed, but most local municipalities’ budgets are state subsided. Local authorities simply cannot afford to finance the things they used to support, so they have to close some institutions, to refuse some items. As a rule it means these resources are excluded from production, and become refuse. When authorities cease to finance an institution, it loses its balance price. Let’s take a closed kindergarten, a club or a farm building. They are usually destroyed, equipment stolen and in a short time they become ruins. Moreover, they acquire ‘negative’ price, as they present destruction, they cry of economic failure and thus they program people.
In many villages one can see numerous examples of these dying resources. Many things have become refuse – our cultural heritage, our architecture, production units, fields, schools, post-offices, etc.
Purely liberal economic approaches do not work here, businesses are not interested in moving into the far-away areas as their resources are not very promising, expenses are high and benefits are nil. Meanwhile the disappearance of these resources will have the saddest impact on a village.
Nevertheless, these refuse resources can be returned into circulation, they can start working again if local community takes responsibility for them, and if territorial self-management is developed in the area (all these happened in Zaozerye). This management model is does not require expenses, it is aimed at searching and implementing of low-cost techniques because people understand they themselves will use the techniques. As a rule these techniques are effective enough. Our experience shows that when villagers receive consulting help and some financial backing (social investments) this model demonstrates a very high profitability and effectiveness. We have many examples when investments of some thousands roubles resulted in assets worth hundreds of thousands roubles or in solving the problems which otherwise would not have been solved at all.
Zaozerye is an outstanding example – the investment of 84 thousand roubles and two years of systematic work with the local community brought an asset worth of two million roubles (such was the price of the House they had built in autumn of 2002, today its price is much higher).
One more example of the effectiveness of the model. They have a pump in Zaozerye which supplies water for the village. In winter they warmed it with an electric heater, which was very expensive, they used the whole amount of money the local administration paid them as a subsidy for electricity. They cannot afford to light the streets. Winter days are very short in the North, it is very dark in the streets one could easily lose one’s sight. The TOS in Zaozerye solved the problem – they gathered together and made a stove to heat the pump. That was easily done with their own hands. Isn’t it good? If it were not the initiative of the people living there, they all would live without light in the streets till the end of the world –nobody would give them money for it. They learned that they can use the money they had more effectively. Someone can say that this is nothing to talk about, but these little things of no importance give huge results and bring true success. успехи.
In autumn Zaozerye was on everybody’s lips. Guests frequented the village both from the Region and the District. Deputies, social security officers, chief doctor of the District Hospital, members of different commissions came. They all wanted to see what was it that the Zaozerye people had constructed and what should be done after it. Since that autumn the Zaozerye project had become a reality which could not be ignored. The visitors kept saying ,’wonderful… amaising…unbelievable…’ Sometimes the neighbouring villagers would drop in to see with their own eyes the house is a reality. They would stop in bewilderment and meditate.
Make sure there were no lies here. They would return home with the story and the it would spread further and further.
As it often happens in Russia visitors from inspecting authorities also would come which resulted in much headache for the TOS. It is natural for the Russian reality. In December the fire inspectors came to Zaozerye and sealed up the house- the villagers had not submitted their plans to the Fire Inspection’s approval. In particular they decided to dig a fire pool later. The TOS members managed it. They agreed to the inspectors’ criticism and made corrections. To foresee inspections from other supervising organs (they usually come post-factum) Tatyana Korotayeva decided to outstrip them and applied for the permission papers from State Sanitary Inspection.
Having finished one house the TOS members began to relish the business. They decided to bring another ownerless house to Zaozerye, this time not from the nearby village but from Mezen town, from the former military settlement. They did not lose time. Without any financial help they dismantled and marked the parts, transported them and accurately stored. When the work on the main building is finished this building will be assembled in the vicinity, as the House for Veterans will need some subsidiary and household houses.
Then they planned to move one more building from the same place. The village is in a great need of a school and a medical first-aid post. They tasted their first success.
The work on the main building continued too. In December of 2003 the TOS members worked out the third project and presented it at the Regional Competition «Village Development 2003», it was devoted to the finishing and opening of the Home for Veterans. It also received the financial backing. The work on the project started in early spring of 2003, long before the money arrived – they had to buy the necessary materials in Arkhangelsk while there was a winter road to transport them.
In May one could hear the sound of hammers and axes again – the TOS members were building the walls between the rooms, putting floors and sealing them, caulking walls, covering them with panels. Then men began to build stoves, mantled the heating system, installed the heater in the stokehold, they also built a bath house, fire-wood store and other auxiliary buildings near the House. Women were busy plastering, papering, painting. Problems haunted them here, too. The Fire Inspectors forbade to put electricity in the House on their own, an organization with a proper licence should do it, but the organization asked the sum for it which was worth the sum of the Project. The same story with the mounting of the heating system, the sum asked was even bigger the the Project. It seemed as if the Project was swept by tornado. The District Administration steped in to help, they paid the expenses. The Head of it said, ‘Do not be afraid, we shall support you. We must open the House for Veterans!” By the end of 2003 all the major works were done, authorised establishment was ready, and in February 2004 the House for Veterans was opened. It meant 20 working places in Zaozerye, which is fantastic for a village where there were no jobs. Tatyana Korotayeva was appointed the Director of the House. Zaozerye people wanted to save their school with the help of the House. The school problem has been a burning issue for several years, in December it was on the verge of closing again ( it was too small - there were only two pupils in it). They worked hard to defend it and were happy when they succeeded in it. The TOS group is going to suggest some working places for couples with children through mass media announcements. They will persuade them to come to live to the village. Later there will be more children, they hope. Though there is another problem – no housing for those who might move to Zaozerye. The Head of the District administration said,’ We have lots of empty houses everywhere. Move them to your village – you know how to do it!:’ It seems there will be another construction soon in the village!
Zaozerye villagers have managed to solve the problem of medical first-aid service, it has been quite a problem for several years, there has been no
medical assistant there. This is a typical problem for many even more prosperous villages of the Mezen District. How to attract specialists to the far-away Mezen villages. Many years ago they were sent to serve three years after graduating from their institutions.
The Zaozerye villagers decided to solve the problem themselves - they published an announcement in the newspapers that they needed a medical assistant, and promised to help with accommodation. Where to get the flat? They moved their primary school from a small flat in a standard block of flats to another building. Several people answered the announcement, the villagers honestly wrote them what they could suggest. Zinaida Alekseyevma Bondareva, a charming young woman with two children, came from the Smolensk Region to work. She was very pleased with how the village received her. That was not all - the men at the village meeting decided regularly bring fire-wood for her family in turns, so that she would not be distracted from her business by the household problems. Zaozerye villagers are happy they have their own medical assistant. Other villages can only envy them.
In summer the village saw that those who work well, have new opportunities. The Germans got interested in their project , they work in the Arkhangelsk Region with gerontology projects. In August Tatyana Korotayeva visited Germany , she had a probation course of working with elderly people there. The German partners gave them some financial support, but what is more important they are having plans of further partnership relations. Other plans of helping the new Home for Veterans are being discussed. Maybe they will support the villagers in training the staff of the Home in nursing elderly people, or they will buy them some necessary equipment.
I am ready to talk seriously about local development, about territorial self-government. These are vital questions. For several years we have been working together with the Institute of Social and Humanitarian Initiatives which is the regional source on local development to create conditions for developing territorial self-government. This work, in my opinion, has wonderful results. Nowadays, it has become a reality that any village development in Mezen is the task of the villagers themselves.
We have been aiming at reviving the people’s activity. Every village has its own possibilities, growth points, some foundation for its revival. How to make people want to do something for themselves. Since Soviet times they have accustomed that they mean nothing and decide nothing. Someone must come and do everything for them. It is impossible to do anything without changing people’s thinking, without creating their community. A community - here we call it a civic society - on a village level is our main goal.
I travel extensively over the District, and wherever I go I try to discuss the local territorial organs of self-government with the Mezen villagers.
I know for certain it is almost impossible for the people to turn from former Soviet thinking to understanding of the civic society. They need help to do it. The task is unbelievably hard.
Thanks to the ISHI work we are sure we can work on it quite effectively. We can solve the most difficult problems connected with the new understanding and new forms of work of the local people on the village level. And solve these problem quickly enough. It took two or three years to create a close and able community from separate passive individuals, the community that is able to manage a full scale and a very complicated project.
The Zaozerye events are phenomenal. They are a break through. The huge house is built by the village. It has been almost complete, it has a roof. The people here managed to unite their efforts, to find a goal and to reach it. They made a great thing. They have to make just one step more to open the House for Veterans. To think they have started with zero! With negative and destructive attitude of the kind, « Bring somebody to supervise it. We shall do what he says’. Today these people decide for themselves what to do. This is the objective reality for the village.
Their work has helped to create a new life model we are searching for. People begin to think, to act, to count the money, to look for the way out. They start to think of common village problems, not only of the private needs. It is a precious experience that they have gained in this village.
Their experience helps to stir others. The population of the whole District has been watching the Zaozerye construction. They watch them closely, in disbelief, ‘Oh, these Zaozerye villagers! They will clean out everything, they will have nothing there!’. They haven’t stolen a bit! They did it!
I think their experience is of great importance for preserving and developing our country territories. And we will continue our cooperation with the ISHI. We will support their efforts.
(From a video film of April 2003)
‘Life in Zaozerye has changed. This is true. People used to leave the village because there was nothing to hope for. Now, with the TOS appearance in the village, people’s hopes are revived. They see that the life somehow is showing them its brighter side. Doctor’s assistant has arrived, their school is functioning. The TOS solves many problems for the village. You see, it is like the former administration. People live in a remote place here, now they have somebody to answer their numerous questions. Take the change of old passports for new ones. The situation has changed so that people don’t want to leave. They don’t see the reason. Even those who have already left are thinking of coming back. Here we are’.
I told the story of the Zaozerye Project at many meetings, round-table discussions, conferences, etc which I held last. People from other districts who had just been telling of the difficulties they had had would stop and respectfully ponder.
Yes, life in major part of our villages is very sad these days, but if people from Mezen who had even more difficult situation due to their living in a far-away Northern area, nevertheless had achieved such wonderful results, then the rest should never hesitate to follow their example.
The Zaozerye Project once more shows that the main secret of any development is neither money nor any other resources. The main condition of success ( or failure), as it seems, is our consciousness. It is our vision of the world, of ourselves in this world, our faith.
People’s faith, their activity, energy and abilities are the main factor of development. Other resources to support it can always be found. Sometimes people do not see them.
Development is the sum of people’s faith, of their joint efforts, their will and initiative. In other words, we can achieve everything we want if we know what we want and who we are.
Our most sincere thanks to Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn for everything he has done for us.
I am greatly obliged to all my colleagues and co-workers who for many years have helped in my work in the villages in different corners of the Arkhangelsk Region.
My gratitude to our friends and partners : Nina Ivanovna Mironova, Kyrill Yuriyevich Zendrikov (Institute of Economics, Moscow); Galina Kozlova (Discussion Clubs Programme, Friedrich Neumann Foundation, Moscow); Irina Ivanovna Orekhova ( Editor-in-chief of the "Rossiyskaya Munitsipalnaya Gazeta") and many others for their constant support and participation.
My thanks to great artists Sergey Kustikov and Irina Ryzhkova for their beautiful drawings, to T.Chornyak for design and pre-publication work.
I would also like to thank Igor Leonidovich Zaborsky, Head of the Municipality "Mezensky District", Nadezhda Dmitiryevna Ryadchina, his assistant in social issues, for their support and cooperation.
My most sincere gratitude to all the Zaozerye villagers, our Project participants.
My thanks to T.D.Rumyantseva, Vice-Governor of the Arkhangelsk Region Administration who is in charge of social issues, without her assistance our work on organizing Territorial Organs of Self-Management in the Arkhangelsk Region would not have been done.
We are very grateful to all those whose names are not mentioned here, without their help this publication would not appear. Thank you all !
My thanks to T.S.Kipchatova, P.V.Kudryashov, E. Y. Filippenko and to all other officers of the "Eurasia" Foundation in Moscow and Washington who have worked with us. We are so grateful for your support.
This publication is maintained within the Project "Vsem Mirom" ("By all the Community") which is backed by "Eurasia" Foundation with the money from the Barents Euro-Arctic Secretariat / Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway. The points of view expressed in this publication do not necessarily correspond to the views of the "Eurasia"Foundation, the Barents Euro-Arctic Secretariat / Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway.