A reader sent me this comment about foreign registration in Russia:
I realize that private registrations are the cheapest way to be in R BUT a traveler’s time is also money, especially when you are on a tight schedule. For between 125$ and 200$, you can get legal, convenient registration in less than 24 hrs through almost any travel agency. Who cares if it says that you are at the hotel Ukraine? I can testify that it will work against any Moscow cop seeking a bribe at 2pm or hunting drunks at 2am, trust me. This is a simple tourist registration and for a few more $, you can get a ‘business’ visa by the same means. It is more flexible.
On my first trip to R, I had an absolute nightmare experience with a private registration. My friend spent a lot of time and energy to get me the visa and then I had to spend 10 days trying to register it, 10 days without papers on a 65 day trip. 6 days in half a dozen Moscow police stations, all day long. Finally, my buddy got the chief of OVIR for all Moscow (a fucking colonel) to write a letter ordering the local station to register my visa. He was actually pretty understanding of the idiocy of the regs. I quote him: “These people working for me do not understand OUR rules and they never will” Imagine that! They would not even take a bribe to do it. What an education in Soviet-Russian bureaucratic ways!!
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By Sean — 12 years ago
The theft of 221 exhibits worth over $200 million from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg has proven embarrassing for Russian authorities and has raised questions about museum security. Some of the stolen icons have been found and returned to the museum. A few arrests have been made of the perpetrators. The thefts appear to be an inside job.
There is no indication that the thefts are over. It was reported today that over 274 drawings by the Constructivist artist and architect Yakov Chernikhov from the Russian State Archive for Literature and Art (Rossisskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv literatury i iskusstva, RGALI). The drawings are priced around $1.3 million. The theft was discovered when the Constructivist’s grandson, Andei Chernikhov, was asked to verify the origin of nine drawings on auction at Christie’s London. Chernikhov demanded that the sale be cancelled and returned to the archive.
Like the Hermitage thefts, those of RGALI appear to be an inside job according to the archive director Tatyana Goryayeva. “Unfortunately, I have to state that employees of the archive were involved. Because the main task of the archivist is to ensure the safety of documents,” she stated on Russian television. Now, Sergei Stephasin, head of the Audit Chamber is calling for “a complete inventory of all state museums in our country” and a tightening of control over art auctions. Such an inventory would be a nightmare for researchers.
Since their opening to foreign researchers in 1991, Russian archives have experienced a string of thefts. Harvard University professor, Patricia Kennedy Grimsted, who is an expert in Russian archives, wrote that in the summer of 1995 over 12,000 documents were stolen from the State Historical Archive in St. Petersburg. In 2000, eighteen documents, which included sketches by Repin were stolen from RGALI. The Literature and Art archive was hit again last summer. Four pages of Aleksandr Blok’s poem ‘Vozmezdie” and four files of Anna Akhmatova, Nikolai Gumilev, and Osip Mandelstam were pinched from the archive. Researchers were believed to be the culprits and after a brief closure were told that they would only get microfilmed copies of documents. The RGALI incident was followed by a theft of Nazi documents and medals from an archival exhibit at the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF). Both thefts were found to be inside jobs. Now many large Moscow State archives, which include RGALI, GARF, and the State Archive of Socio-Political History (RGASPI), only give out microfilmed documents out of concerns for preservation, but also to prevent illegal copying and theft.
The reason for robbing archives are simply, yet numerous. Archivists are paid very little for their work and the archives themselves have few resources to keep operating. This has resulted in a number of abuses by archival workers and researchers alike. Many researchers remember the conditions of the archives in the 1990s when the institutions didn’t have funds to pay for utilities, preservation, and supplies. Economic destitution drove many archives into the commercial market, making legal and illegal deals with foreign scholars, publishers, and universities for Russia’s “paper gold.”
Russian archive “commercialization” only worsened the situation even though they have produced some interesting document collections. Many sensational tales about archival and researcher abuse that have since entered scholarly lore. In one case, a researcher was said to have bought the exclusive publishing rights for documents. Another told of how Western journalists and researchers arrived with large sums of western currency to purchase documents, and how Russian archivists were happy to respond and take advantage of their salivating buyers. One American researcher was told, “Why should I bother to talk to you, when German television will offer us $20,000 for one file?” This “archival commercial bubble” only hampered the ability for less fortunate researchers to do their work. As UCLA professor J. Arch Getty described the situation in the Slavic Review in 1993:
The economic collapse has made fertile ground for the activities of unscrupulous (or just plain desperate) people on all sides. Some western publishers waive handfuls of dollars at archives and demand that their documentary “purchases” be closed to others. Panicky of greedy officials demand bribes or ridiculous “user fees” for provision of routine services. In the second half of 1992, I personally witnessed several disturbing and even sickening manifestations of the economic disaster. One archive demanded five dollars per page for photocopying (because another American has paid it); elsewhere an archival employee wanted payment in dollars to provide documents to an American in the reading room. At another archive, a representative of a European publisher was carrying documents out of the building in his shirt, while a low-level employee in a stairwell offered to sell original archival materials for an airline ticket. (Slavic Review, 52:1, 1993, 102)
Such activities made some scholars call for the adoption of a code of ethics for dealing with Russian archives and archivists. To my knowledge it was never done. Even more sadly, despite scholars hopes that the Russian archival revolution would tell us the truth about the many horrors of the Soviet regime, archival research has only colored or corroborated what was already known. No scholar using archival materials has yet to produce an earth shattering study of Russian/Soviet history.
Much has changed since the 1990s. It is now more difficult to take advantage of the economic conditions of archives since there are now more controls and legal penalties concerning archival materials. Many formerly declassified holdings have been reclassified to control their dissemination. However, as the continued thefts suggest, this doesn’t mean that archives are out of the economic hole. Many archival buildings are in desperate need of renovation and modernization. There is little money for office supplies. Last summer, I had to personally buy the toner for the copy machine at one of the archives I worked at because of the long wait the lack of funds for supplies created. The archive compensated me with copies.
One of the main problems facing Russian archives is low pay and as a result de-professionalization. Most archive staff are well trained in their craft, but they are quite elderly. Once they are gone there will be few competent specialists to replace them since fewer young people are getting archival administration degrees. Besides the few professional archivists, most archives employ dedicated elderly women, or in some cases the mentally ill, because they are the only ones willing to work for such low wages. One could see an increase in theft and abuse as this older, Soviet generation of archivists are replaced by their less experienced and trained younger colleagues.
The only hope is that the thefts will make the Russian government take its archives more seriously. More reclassifications and restrictions on researchers is not the answer. They only mask the very real economic problems facing these institutions. More funding for security, modernization, and supplies as well as providing a competent well-paid staff is desperately needed if such thefts are to cease. Recognizing archivists with a holiday like Den’ arkhivistov is simply no longer enough.Post Views: 573
By Sean — 11 years ago
There are few new details in the Paul Joyal shooting. It turns out that Joyal wasn’t shot in the belly but in the family jewels. If nefarious spooky Russians did do this, they are either cruel or just bad shots. Joyal’s wife
has consistently disputed police claims that her husband was robbed, but when asked her opinion of the motive, she said, “”We really have no idea what the reason was,” but added that “it could easily have been a random act of violence.” Police are also mum on any additional details. Elizabeth ’s police, who are handling the investigation, would not confirm whether anything was stolen from Joyal during the shooting. Prince George
‘‘The investigators are obviously aware of his background,” police spokeswoman Cpl. Debbi Carlson said.
‘‘It’s hard to determine what exactly took place there,” spokesman Cpl. Stephen Pacheco said, adding that the neighborhood where the shooting took place is typically a ‘‘quiet” residential area.
FBI spokeswoman Michelle Cornkovich confirmed that
’s police are leading the investigation, and said the FBI has offered to provide any assistance the department needs. Prince George
Of course, this hasn’t stopped the wild media speculation and accusations. It seems like everyone has an opinion about
nowadays. RussiaPost Views: 394
By Sean — 12 years ago
Last Thursday, OMON (Otryad Militsii Osobogo Naznacheniya) raided Georgian casinos, restiurants, and markets under the guise of illegal immigration operations. Everyone knows the true reason: tensions between Russia and Georgia have reached a fever pitch. Many find the conflict rather strange. Georgia and Russia have deep historical ties. The state is considered Russia’s best friend in the Caucuses. But tensions have resurrected all sorts of ghosts: Stalin and Beria have been quick mention. The Georgian mafia, which has been tolerated for so long, is now an instant boogeyman. It has even generated discussion about Russian police corruption because the cops are so ready to take Georgian bribes. Finally, the incident has sparked humor. As one joke published in Kommersant reads: “The idiot Georgians—they lost their largest colony.” (“?????? ??????? – ???????? ????? ??????? ???? ???????.”)
All jokes aside, the raids are chilling, especially the formal inquiry the Russian police made to grade schools for lists of non-Russian students. The police wanted to “check” if the students’ parents are legal immigrants. Forget the fact that many non-Russians are Russian citizens (once again the problem of russkii/rossiisskii), or that Russian law guarantees children’s education despite the immigration status of the parents (read: “a son doesn’t answer for his father”), or that it is downright disgusting to get at parents through their children. But the Russian police denied any connection to the Georgian Affair or that Georgians were being specifically targeted.
This is where Novaya gazeta doesn’t miss a beat. In this week’s edition (the same with the memorial to Anna Politkovskaya), the editors have published police documents to the contrary. Here are translations:
No. 1. Official inquiry with OVD (Otdel vnutrennyi del) stamp, Taganskii district, Moscow.
For the purpose of securing law and order and abidance of the law, the prevention of terrorist acts and aggressive feelings between children—residents of Moscow and children of Georgian nationality please present to OVD Taganskii district of Moscow the following information:
F.I.O (family name, name, middle name), date and place of birth and residence children of Georgian nationality, and in which class they study.
F.I.O, date and place of birth and residence of parents, place of work, position, and family composition.
Relations of children of Georgian nationality with other pupils, cases of hostile relations between children, and such [hostile] relations toward them [i. e. Georgian children], facts about disobedience of Georgian children to teachers, facts of antisocial activities, and unlawful acts.
Please send the given information to our address by 9.10.2006 (Moscow, Vedernikov alley, d. 9.)
Commander of the Taganskii district of Moscow
Colonel police Zakharov.
No. 2 Official inquiry with the stamp of OVD “Vernadskii Boulevard” UVD ZAO of Moscow
To Director Goi SoshInquiry
I ask you to send present lists of people of Georgian nationality—students at your school with the following information. The student’s F.I.O, date of birth, address, home phone number, parents’ F.I.O. I ask you to send this information by 3 o’clock 4.10.2006. I ask you to send the answer to this inquiry by fax: 431-30-11. Telephone PDN: 431-30-13.
I.O. Commander OVD “Venadskii Boulevard” UVD ZAO Moscow.
Lieutenant Colonel of the Police, Komarov, A. V.
No. 3. The remarkable answer of the School Director to document No. 2.
Department of Education of the City of Moscow.
General education middle school No. 169
Moscow Institute of Open Education
119415, Moscow, ul. Udal’tsova, 21.
Tel: (095) 138-39-68
4 October 2006
OVD “Vernadskii Boulevard”
In answer to your inquiry from 3 October on the presentation of lists of schoolchildren of Georgian nationality we inform you that a record of students by this national mark does not made in the school.
In order to produce a similar collection of information (carrying a confidential nature) and give them to another organization, we must receive consenting order from a higher authority—the Moscow Department of Education.
Director of School No. 169 MIOO
A.S. Engel’sPost Views: 448