Natural and architectural complex «Source of the River Don»:
a look into the past and present.
My name is Danila Balashov. I am 17 years old. I live in a small Russian town located on the Central Russian upland, 200 kilometers from Moscow – Novomoskovsk. My town was founded in the 30s of the 20th century as the flagship of the chemical industry of the forming USSR. And now the company «Novomoskovskiy Azot – Euro Chem» is one of the largest chemical enterprises of mineral fertilizers in Europe. There are also representative offices of European and transnational companies – Knauf, Procter & Gamble and others in Novomoskovsk. Though Novomoskovsk industrial cluster is well known both in Russia and abroad, my friends and I have never discussed the history and culture of my town in sufficient detail.
But once when I was preparing to the school scientific-practical conference «The first steps in science» I decided to make a research and was surprised how rich the cultural and historical heritage of Novomoskovsk was. I was especially аmazed by the natural and architectural complex «Source of the River Don». Many people know that the Don is one of the largest rivers in Europe. It is famous not only for its width and splendor, but also for the fact that it serves as a connecting chain of all Russian history and culture: this is the Kulikovo battle, Peter the Great's first attempts to build a fleet, the Cossack community and the center of anti-Bolshevik resistance. And the source of the Don is exactly in my town!!!
It is interesting that the source of the Don is located in the «Children's Park» which is the largest center of entertainment and recreation for children and adults. There is also a Children's railway there. It is a ring road with a length of more than two kilometers. This is a unique structure as there are only a few dozen of such roads were built in Europe.
For a long time the source of the River Don was not properly arranged. I am proud that thanks to the initiative and efforts of local residents and the municipal authority, it was brought to the proper state, even though it had been taking more than 10 years.
Nowadays the natural and architectural complex of the source is not only a large stone, from under which the water stream that turns into the great Don flows, but also an original sculptural composition: two horses and children sitting on them. These are Shat and Don, the heroes of the famous Leo Tolstoy’s fairy tale. The fairy tale tells about two brothers. One of them, Don, passed through all Russia and, being the obedient son, became the great river. Twirling Shat sank into The Oblivion and did not please his father Ivan. The monument also symbolizes the beginning of a long road. According to the authors, horses are ready to break away and rush far away, like the River Don, free and fast, carrying its water to the South of Russia – to the Azov Sea.
The described object of natural and cultural heritage is unique for several reasons. The source of the Don is an amazing geographical object, it is the historical cradle land of the Eastern Slavs, it is the European defense outpost from the Golden Horde (as Alexander Blok wrote in his «Scythians» Holy Russia was a shield between two hostile races, the Mongols and the European on the Kulikovo field), it is the subject of numerous folklore and art masterpieces.
The River Don and its images in the works of art (from L. Tolstoy to M. Sholokhov), in my opinion, is a symbol of European civilization, an integral part of which is Russia. On the one hand, this unrestrained desire for freedom, breadth and power, on the other – responsibility, because obedience to the father, who represents the law and order, symbolizes a reasonable attitude to life and respect to human rights. Only responsibility makes a man and society truly strong and truly free.
Another point in this story, which demonstrates the rapprochement of the values of Russia and Europe, is the indifferent people’s attitude to the place where they live, the desire to arrange it and preserve the natural and cultural heritage. I am especially proud of the fact that the landscape development of the source of the Don and the installation of the monument to Don and Shat was due to the efforts of the city residents and local authorities. Everyone participated in reconstruction. Some people gave money; some people gave advice, others – their labor.
It demonstrates another basis of European civilization – freedom and democracy are not granted by the state, but grow from the civil society and local autonomy. As stated Alexis de Tocqueville who was a French diplomat, political scientist and historian, without community institutions, a nation could form a free government, but the true spirit of freedom it would not gain. That is why the fundamental document of the European countries is the European Charter of local self-government, which Russia ratified in 1998.
In the cultural and historical aspect, Russia and Europe share a common civilizational basis, which is Christianity. Ethical, behavioral norms of attitude to life, ideas about work, material and moral values - all these seem so far from Christian feelings, but nevertheless follow from them. The creative basis of Christianity was emphasized by the outstanding British researcher of civilizations A. Toynbee: «…It is this individual spiritual progress in this world for which we pray when we say 'Thy will be done in Earth as it is in Heaven.' It is for the salvation that is opens to all men of good will - pagan as well as Christian, primitive as well as civilized - who make the most of their spiritual opportunities on Earth, however narrow these opportunities may be that we pray when we say 'Thy Kingdom come.'»
Therefore the heritage of Europe is primarily the ideological principles of social structure and attitude to any man, without which it is difficult to imagine modern life: the desire for innovation, priority and respect to the human beings, individualism, humanism, rationality, ideals of freedom, equality, tolerance, private property, democracy.
I think my story demonstrates creation and genuine human freedom – the ideals, which seek Russia and Europe, though by using different historical ways!