Belyana: an almost finished aircraft carrier for the Volga

Belyana: an almost finished aircraft carrier for the Volga
Belyana: an almost finished aircraft carrier for the Volga

One of the consequences of the difficult natural and geographical conditions on the territory of the Russians' habitation was their developed ingenuity, which became the reason for many of our victories and … disappointments for our opponents. For example, during the Great Patriotic War, the Nazis began, without thinking, to bring our Soviet citizens to work in Germany, and this, in theory, was impossible. Why not, but because very soon stacks of reports began to fall on Himmler's table about Bauers and industrialists who seemed to be "true to the ideas of Nazism" the girls are very clean and cultured, they cut amazingly beautiful snowflakes, make delicious Christmas tree decorations and even knit napkins! Ordinary workers repair complex machines for them, which qualified German engineers could not cope with, their rationalization proposals bring them good profits, but they were told that the Russians are "wild and backward people." It was simply unrealistic to plant all these "talkers". Send all the Russians back - too. So the Nazis became hostages of a dead-end situation, which they themselves created out of ignorance. Situations at all levels that undermined the credibility of state propaganda! That is, they destroyed the information foundation of society, and this clearly should not have been done!


A huge five-span Belyana at full load: “Belyana about five cities”!

This is one example related to the influence of ingenuity on propaganda, but another is more specific and directly related to technology. Today, many engineers and economists say that "things for a long time" are gradually coming out of their everyday life and are being replaced by disposable ones - this, they say, is both more profitable and technologically easier to do. However, nothing is new under the Moon! It is here in Russia and back in the nineteenth century on our great Volga … disposable cargo ships already sailed! At the same time, their displacement reached neither more nor less - 2000 tons or more! And these ships were called Belyany, which is also very indicative.


This photo clearly shows the dimensions of Belyana and, above all, the dimensions of its anchor.

First of all, we note that ingenuity, as a rule, works for laziness, it reduces entropy and increases efficiency. So, for example, it was with the names of the Volga river vessels, of which there were a lot on our mother Volga. "Mokshany" means from the Mokhshi river, "Surskie barks", "Suriaks" - the Sura river (why invent something new - Sura - "Suriak"), "planks" - wooden barks … that's how many of them were there then and how simply and clearly they were called then! At that time, they were still identified from afar, as we today distinguish Chevrolet from Marsedes. But even among all this diversity, Belyana stood apart. And all because she was so very … well, very big! Other Belyany had a displacement of two or more thousand tons, so it is not surprising that it was simply impossible to confuse such giant ships with some other ship! There is evidence that Belyany swam along the Volga a hundred meters long, that is, their length was comparable to the size of the cruiser "Aurora", and the side height reached six meters. That is, it could easily be placed next to a modern two-story house! If we measure in poods, then small Belyany lifted a load of 100-150 thousand poods (pood -16 kg), but the largest ones could carry up to 800 thousand poods! That is, it turns out that it was the carrying capacity, albeit a small, but still an ocean steamer, although the Belyans themselves sailed exclusively from the upper Volga to Astrakhan.

It is known that the construction of one Belyana required about 240 pine and 200 spruce logs. Since the bottom of the Belyany was flat, it was laid from spruce beams, but the sides were made of pine boards.Frames stood very often, so that the distance between them was no more than half a meter, as a result of which the Belyan hulls had absolutely exceptional strength. And as it happened very often in Russia in the past, at the very beginning the Belyany were built without a single iron nail, and only later did the craftsmen begin to use iron braces. In their appearance, they resembled modern stapler brackets with pointed ends and were driven into a tree with sledgehammers. The strength of such an attachment was very high, and besides, when the need was passed, they could be removed without much difficulty and then reused.

Belyana: an almost finished aircraft carrier for the Volga!

Construction of Belyana.

The strong body of Belyana had the simplest outlines, that is, it was sharpened both in front and behind. But they controlled the belyana afloat with the help of a huge rudder, similar to the gate knocked down by their tesa, and turned it with the help of a very long log, which rose from the stern to the upper deck. Therefore, down the river Belyana was rafted not with the bow, but … with the stern! And she swam with the flow, from time to time wiggling this steering wheel, like a whale's tail, self-alloy, and with all its external clumsiness had excellent maneuverability! The fact is that, again, our artisans came up with for this purpose … a lot - a cast-iron ball on a chain, rolling along the bottom of the whitewash. Lot slowed down her speed on the rapids and helped to "steer", and when it was not expected to be shallow and the depth was decent, the lot was raised. In addition to the lot, the Belian had a whole set of large and small iron anchors weighing from 20 to 100 pounds, as well as many different ropes of hemp and bast.


Belian on one of the pre-revolutionary postcards.

But, of course, the most interesting thing on the Belian was her cargo, for the sake of transporting which it was built. And this cargo was - "white wood", that is, sanded white and yellow logs. It is generally accepted that it was precisely because of their color that the Belyans gave such a name, although there is a point of view that, again, its name came from the Belaya River. In any case, Belyana always had white color and served only one navigation, and therefore never prayed - why translate goodness ?!

At the same time, the Belians were loaded in the way they did not load, and even now they do not load any other ship in the world. There was even such a saying, which testified that this was not an easy matter: "You can disassemble the whitewash with one hand, you cannot collect the whitewash in all cities!" And the reason for this was the following: the forest was placed in Belyana not just in a pile - it wouldn’t have taken so much - but in piles with several spans (passages) between them in order to have free access to the bottom and sides in case of a possible leak. At the same time, the load itself did not touch the sides and therefore did not press on them. But since at the same time the outboard water pressed very strongly on the sides, special wedges were used, which, as the wood on board of the Belyana dries up, all the time they were replaced with new ones, each time larger and larger in size.


Belyana is the pride of the Vetluga River!

As soon as the forest slightly exceeded the level of the side, the logs were laid in such a way that they protruded beyond the dimensions of the ship's hull and formed a kind of "balconies" on which a new row of logs was again laid, and then again the next row of logs was pushed overboard and so on several times! Projections were obtained, which were called dissolutions or spacing, and which had to be positioned so that the balance of the vessel would not be disturbed and would not lead to a roll. And this despite the fact that these dissolutions sometimes protruded overboard by four or more meters (!) In different directions, so that the width of the belyana along its deck, like that of a modern aircraft carrier, could be much greater than along the hull. And for some Belians it reached 30 meters, that is, it was quite possible to dance on it! But the log luggage at the top was also not solid, but had holes for ventilation. Therefore, in the old days, the size of the whitewashed was judged by the number of spans (stands) available on it.And there were whites about three, four, and more flights.


The owner of this belyana obviously did not skimp on the material for the flags!

However, the Belyana deck itself was also a load, and it was laid either from a plank (hewn boards), or from sawn boards, and, as already noted, had dimensions that were not much different from the deck of an aircraft carrier during the Second World War! 2-4 gates were installed on it for lifting large anchors and tensioning the ropes holding the lot. Well, closer to the stern, which again makes the architecture of Belyan similar to the aircraft carrier, there were two "islands" at once located in pairs on the sides - two log huts - "kazenki", in which the ship's crew lived.

Between the roofs of these huts, a high transverse bridge with railings and a carved booth in the middle, in which there was a pilot's seat, was installed. The booth was covered with whimsical carvings, and sometimes it was also painted "like gold". And although the Belyany were "disposable" and purely functional ships, it was customary to decorate them richly with flags, not only with the flag of the Russian Empire and its trade flag, but also with the personal flags of a particular merchant, on which they were most often embroidered images of saints from whom they hoped to receive a blessing in this way. They did not spare money for this, so they were sometimes so large that they fluttered over the Belyans like sails. They did not skimp on the expenses, because the larger the flag, the higher the merchant's “image”!


Well, why not a ready-made "aircraft carrier"? Arrange a flat deck of planks and … "Nieuporas" take off!

Workers on an average Belyan could be from 15 to 35 people, and on the largest - from 60 to 80. Many people had to work on pumps that pumped water out of the building. Usually there were 10-12 pumps, since the non-resinous body of Belyana was constantly leaking. Because of this, they loaded Belyana with a trim on the nose. All the water flowed down there and from there they pumped it out.

The construction of Belyany on the Volga reached its peak in the middle of the 19th century. Numerous cities and villages in the steppe Volga region needed logs for construction, and new steamers for that time needed firewood. The latter were also imported to the Volga ports exclusively in Belyany. And only gradually, in connection with the transition to heating ships with oil, the demand for firewood on the Volga gradually fell. But until the end of the 19th century, the Belyany continued to build up to 150 pieces a year and, loaded with timber, floated them from the upper reaches down the river to Astrakhan itself.

Here, these unique ships were dismantled, so much so that they did not even have chips left. The breech huts were sold as, in fact, ready-made five-walled, which only remained to be assembled, the white forest went to log cabins for other houses and to sleepers, the Belyana itself was chopped for firewood, and hemp, matting, ropes, not to mention iron fasteners - everything, absolutely everything was for sale and brought income to the owners of the Belians!

Only the smallest belyans were loaded with fish in Astrakhan and went back in tow. Although later they were still dismantled for firewood, because keeping the Belyana afloat for longer than one season was unprofitable for their owners!

However, there are cases when Belyany gathered and sorted it out twice in one navigation! This was done with small Belyans in the very place where the Volga came very close to the Don. Here they moored to the shore, after which all the cargo was removed from them, and they themselves were dismantled into parts. All this was transported by horse-drawn to the Don, where the Belians were again collected, loaded, and floated to the lower reaches of the Don, where they were finally dismantled for the second time!


And this is how the Belyans disassembled: they simply threw logs into the water from both sides, and then they were caught and sent to dry on the shore.

These amazing ships were created on the Volga by the genius of unknown Russian craftsmen of the 19th century. And - judge for yourself how our ancestors were creative and resourceful people who, at such a distant time from today, managed to create such a highly effective non-waste product for one season! By the way, do you know why the bark was removed from the logs on the spot and transported "white"? And they dried well during the voyage, and from the bark they drove resin right on the spot, with which all other wooden ships were tarred!

Let us note, however, one more circumstance - the Belyans did not survive until 1918, because if they did, they could well have been - again, according to the famous Russian ingenuity - used as "Volga aircraft carriers" for wheeled "newports" and "farmers" … It is known that there were "aircraft carriers" on the Volga, but they were only created on the basis of oil barges, and Grigorovich's "flying boats" operated from them. They were lowered into the water along special boardwalks and lifted aboard along them. The dimensions and smooth deck of the Belyans made it possible to use them for the takeoff of wheeled airplanes!


Belyana's model in the exposition of the Saratov Museum of Local Lore.

P.S. Since at our TOPWAR there are even science fiction writers writing in the genre of alternative history among visitors, this is an almost ready-made basis for them for another exciting work. If the author is “for the Reds,” then the novel may be called “Volga Aircraft Carrier of the Red Military Air Force Stepashin,” and if “for the Whites,” then exactly the opposite. And the main idea is that another person in the past and a pilot by profession chooses the side of the Reds or Whites, builds a squadron of river aircraft carriers on the basis of two or three surviving Belians and with their help wins the civil war on the Volga and in its environs. At the same time, he greatly changes the subsequent history, so when he comes back, here everything has changed here too, and he is the main reason for that! Beautiful, poetic, and most importantly - what adventures in such a novel can be painted with the participation of these Belian aircraft carriers - well, you just lick your fingers!

Popular by topic