Trip to Bashkiria. Sergey Aksakov.

We have returned from a trip to Bashkiria recently. It was not quite a regular voyage we take on vacations. My wife's friend, a geography teacher in a school, wanted to take a group of schoolchildren from the school's ecological club to Bashkiria and asked us to help her in the trip. The plan was to visit some places described in the books of Sergey Timofeyevich Aksakov, a 19th century Russian writer.

He is best known for his books on fishing and hunting and for his fairy-tale "The Scarlet Flower", a variation of which became the basis for the plot of the "Beauty and the Beast". But most of all I liked his "Family Chronicle", which describe the life of the Russian village in the early 19th century.

After long and hectic preparations, we, 5 schoolchildren, 1 little girl and 5 adults, finally departed in a little van. The first point we visited had nothing to do with Aksakov, it was the Blue lake in Samara oblast. The children visit the place regularly and study the ecological situation there. This time they just wanted to put some "keep the nature clean" signs around the lake. It was the first time I saw the Blue lake and I was impressed. The lake is a carst doline, about 20 meters across and 20 yards deep, filled with sulphorous water, blueish, dead cold and absolutely transparent. I found a great photo made from under the water in the Internet: check here.

On the next day we left the lake and entered Bashkiria. We stopped for the night on the southern shore of Kandrykul lake. The southern shore is an "organized" place for the rest. We payed 400 roubles for our minivan and stopped at a strip of grass between the road and the lake. Kandrykul is a nice looking place, but a little bit too noisy. It seems that half of Bashkiria and a quarter of Tataria come there for week-ends. The lake is quite large, 8 kilometers long and 4 kilometres wide. There's a nature reserve on a small island, Utrau, in the middle of the lake.

We planned to visit a museum of Aksakov on the third day. The museum is in the village called Aksakovo, near Belebey. It's a relatively new museum, it's only four or five years old, but looks quite good. It is located in the building which reproduces the old family house of the Aksakovs.

Then we went to Ufa. We came there late in the evening and stayed on the shore of the river Belaya (or Agidel in Bashkir language, both names translate as the White river). On the fourth day, we went to Ufa. We saw the city three or four years ago and didn't like it very much. This time the impression was much better, probably because we had a car this time :). We met some really friendly people there. A local Bashkir guy who served in the army in Samara invited us to his home and asked us to call him if we need some help. A Tatar girl who turned out to be a chemical engineer had a city map and shown us some interesting places we should visit. Liana, a schoolgirl who met our geography teacher at some science conference came to us and spent some hours with us showing around the city. Thanks to everyone of them!

We saw the Friendship monument built in 1957 for the 400th anniversary of the union of Bashkiria and Russia, monument to Sergey Aksakov, monument to Salavat Yulayev, the new Congress Hall, where the Kurultai (the parliament of the republic of Bashkortostan) sits, another Aksakov museum and some other places. One of them was a little suspension bridge. They have a tradition when newly married couples hang padlocks on the bridge, lock them and throw away the keys. Like, their love will last as long as the padlock is locked. Liana told us that some years ago the bridge almost broke under the weight of the padlocks and was reinforced. I don't know if the divorce rate was affected by this accident :).

When we left Ufa, we planned to reach the last point of our route, river Zilim, by 2000 or 2100 hours. Unfortunately, the bridge across Belaya that we planned to cross was broken some years ago and we had to go back to another bridge. We came the the village Tash-Asty about two hours late when it was already dark. We decided not to cross the ford, but we found a good place on the meadows between the village and the mountains.

The name of the village Tash-Asty means "the mountains are opening" in Bashkir. It's located right on the border of the Urals mountains and plains, under a 200-meters high rock Uklukaya.

We spent a couple of days in this place. We went up the river, to the mountains, where we found an interesting well spring. It was a bit like the Blue lake: a small karst doline (6 meters in diameter and 2 meters deep), but full of clean, fresh, most tasteful drinking water, without that smell of rotten eggs.

We went further and in the valley of a small dry creek there was a large cave Pobeda (Victory). The climate is very cold inside, the floor is covered with a layer of ice and huge icicles hang inside.

From Zilim we returned to Kandrykul, but this time we came to the northern shore, which is more accessible and you don't have to pay for the car to stay there. Of course, lots of people come there. You have to cross about 200-meters wide stripe teeming with tents and cars to get to the water. Just terrible.

We continued our way, spent a night on a meadow in the Orenburg oblast and finally came to the last Aksakov museum in Aksakovo near Buguruslan. It was the barton of Aksakov's grandfather which he described in details in the "Family Chronicle". Very interesting. The garden is almost intact. They still show the pine, under which young Sergey was lying when he was ill and the parents thought he was dying. There's also a huge willow, see the picture below.

Well, that's about all. We came back to Samara and immediately went to the other side of Volga where we spent the last days of the first half of my vacations.


July 30 in Russian history. Polish wars in 16th century. Theory and practice of communism.


During the Fifth Russo-Lithuanian war (1534-1537), after the initial successes of the Muscovites in the north, king Sigismund I counterattacked in the south. They occupied Homel and on 30 July the Polish-Lithuanian army led by hetman Jan Tarnowski besieged Starodub, a large city and an important fortress. Moscow decided to reinforce the garrison, but on 18 August the Crimean Tatars raided Ryazan and the reinforcements had to return to river Oka. The warlord of Starodub, Fyodor Ovchina Obolensky organized the defense and the city withstood the enemies for four weeks. Finally, the Polish sappers mined and destroyed a large part of the city wall. In spite of this, they could not enter the city for a long time. Twice Ovchina Obolensky forced them to leave the city. When he finally decided to leave the city, he attempted to break through the Polish camp, but failed and was captivated. 13,000 citizens of Starodub were killed after the victory. Ovchina Obolensky and about 20 nobles were spared and became prisoners.


The Soviet of People's Commissars issued the decree "On the Russia-wide liquidation of hallows". It was the second such decree. On 14 February 1919 the ministry of justice ordered to begin opening the church shrines. By July 1920, 58 shrines were opened in public. In the occasions when the relics were not intact or missing, they were proclaimed fake. During the campaign there were many occasions of public opposition, when people attempted to protect the shrines. Many of them were killed. Lenin welcomed these reprisals and in 1922 he wrote: "The more representatives of the reactionary clergy and the reactionary bourgeoisie we manage to shoot on this occasion, the better."


The third Program of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was published in newspaper "Pravda". In 1956, when the party decided that the socialism was firmly established in the USSR and the time has come to prepare a new political program. A special group of scientists worked on this project. They didn't want to give any dates, but Khrushchev insisted on the following phrase:

The party solemnly proclaims: the current generation of the Soviet people will live in communism.

Another quotation:

By the end of the next twenty years the public consumption funds will compose about one half of the real income of the population. It will provide the possibility for the society to finance:

  • free boarding schools;
  • free education in all educational institutions;
  • free medical services for all citizens, including free medicine and sanatory institutions;
  • free apartments and community facilities;
  • free public transportation system;
  • cheaper and partially free recreation centers and stadiums;
  • wide coverage of benefits, preferences, scholarships;
  • gradual transition to free meals on factories, offices and kolkhozes.

Thus, in the face of the whole world the Soviet state will demonstrate the example of really complete satisfaction of the material and cultural demands of the man.

I have to admit that to a certain degree they succeeded. Free medicine and education were a very important achievement. Recreational centers were often payed by the organizations where people worked. Scholarships were payed to all university students. Unfortunately, the apartments, community facilities, transport and meals remained payed services.

However, the word "communism" always made us laugh. I recall I asked our teachers if the CPSU program failed. No, they replied. We live in socialism and socialism is the first phase of communism. Hence, we live in communism.