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 — 13 years ago
The first article listed in JRL #84 (4/9/06) has been eating at me for days. When I first read it, I said to myself, “I must comment on this.” But other things got in the way. A few days passed. Yet it continues to eat at me for its utter ridiculousness and ideological vomit. The article in question is “A New Land of Opportunity” by Peter Gumbel of Time Europe Magazine. In a nutshell, Gumbel joins in taking swipes against the French students who protested the Contrat Premier Embauche or first-job contract law. The French law would have allowed youths under 26 years of age to be summarily fired, for no reason by virtue of their age. The law was discriminatory because it essentially gave French youths no job security. French youths were correct to stand against it. That said, the issue in France is a complex one and I don’t profess to understand all its nuances. For a good analysis of it and why the students won see Doug Ireland’s comment.
What I couldn’t understand about all of this is the vehemence of many news reports and commentators on this issue. As Ireland points out, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting did a study outlining much of the poison spit onto the pages and screens by American journalists.
The only reason why I mention the French case here is because Gumbel uses Russia as a means to heap more scorn on French youths. His tactic is an old one. Charge the French youth with privilege, laziness, and shame because if you look at their Russian counterparts things are much worse and you don’t see them complaining. No, what you have is good old Puritan work ethic and the American Dream russified. Gumbel writes:
There is zero job security in Yekaterinburg. France has a plethora of long-term, short-term, temporary and limited work contracts that are at the heart of the current dispute. Russia in theory has a civil code that lays down workers’ rights, but in practice you get hired the same way you get fired, at the snap of a finger. Pr?carit?, the word that brings millions of young French people out into the streets, is the norm there. Forget about a pension big enough to retire on—you have 40 years to figure that out. Health care is more problematic, since getting sick puts you on the fast track to poverty. If you’re unlucky, your employer runs out of money to pay you. If you’re really unlucky, you get caught in the middle of an extortion racket. But if it all works out—as it increasingly does—you get to shape your own future in a way French kids would envy.
First of all, there’s plenty of work. Youth unemployment is about 23% in France, and almost 1 in 10 school leavers does not have a permanent job five years after taking the baccalaureate. In Yekaterinburg, being out of work is a luxury few can afford. The demand for energetic young people is so high that ads for the best jobs scroll along the bottom of prime-time programs on local TV. A free newspaper with job openings, the Urals Work Weekly, would be as thick as the yellow pages if such a phone book existed. Russia hasn’t yet discovered equal opportunity laws, so most jobs stipulate that only those under 30 or 35 need apply. Then there’s the range of opportunity. Want to become a sushi chef, a marketing consultant or a bank manager? No problem. No previous experience required. Nobody else in the country knows how to do those jobs either. Or why not set up your own business? There’s no shortage of people willing to lend you money. (But watch out for those extortionists.)
To quote South Park’s Mrs. Broflovski, “Wha-Wha-What?!” You mean French youths should work for shit just so they can have employment? Aren’t the work conditions that you find in Yekaterinburg what the French are trying to prevent? I personally don’t see any glory, let alone nobility, in exploitation. But let’s forget that and focus on the idyllic picture Gumbel is painting about labor in Russia. He seems to think that “opportunity”, an ideological construct for sure, somehow translates into material well being. He also forgets that the good jobs in Russia are also dependent upon having connections. So if you want to be an investment banker without any experience, you better have good connections to get that job. But according to Gumbel, a job’s a job and people shouldn’t complain because after all they could be unemployed. As he writes in relation to one Tatiana Bildyug, a former accountant at a uranium factory cum “development director” at a shopping mall. “The pay’s not much better, but the job is a lot more dynamic and fun, she says.”
In all, French youths need to remember: “You don’t go hungry if you’re unemployed” like the Russians. And do you know why Peter? It’s not by the good graces of the capitalists. It’s because the French flood the streets to protect their existing rights.
Of course you can have a good piece of right wing, pro-capitalist trash without conjuring the C-word. “It could all go wrong [for Russian youths], of course. Even if it does, Yekaterinburg’s youngsters are unlikely to copy the French and stage rallies demanding that the government provide long-term job security. Russians have already been there and done that. It was called communism, and after 74 years of failing to make it work, they dumped it.” Since many Gumbel’s subjects were five years old in 1991, I don’t see how they can “dump” what they didn’t know. I never met many five year old revolutionaries. Gumbel’s point however is more threatening. In his formulation any attempt by working people to fight for their financial well being, something that the business leaders he so admires does everyday through legal and extra-legal means, amounts to “communism.”
Thankfully, the Moscow News has given us an idea of what the labor situation in Russia is like.
There are about 3000 recruiting agency and job sites on the RuNet (Russian Internet). Even a cursory check shows that employers prefer to hire people under age 35, ethnic Russians, and ready to work for low wages. In other words, contrary to the Constitution, there is severe segregation or discrimination by age and ethnicity on the labor market. Also, there is more and more discrimination on the grounds of ideology – corporate ideology, that is: e.g., no employment for specialists who have worked for competing companies. Meanwhile, people over 35 (incidentally, no longer active reservists of the Armed Forces) have to live not according to the laws or the Labor Code, but survive according to criminal or semi-criminal laws that prevail on the labor market. Furthermore, since law enforcement agencies invariably turn a blind eye to the situation, this segregation can be seen as a form of state policy on the labor market. It is essential to note that such practices are nonexistent in developed countries. Should someone in New York or London or Montreal or Berlin post an ad saying, e.g., “Wanted: an engineer, age 22 to 30,” the prosecutor will, first of all, take a very close look at the site or the newspaper where the ad has been published (a big fine will be imposed) and will then go for the employer (who will face a long prison sentence).
Like Alabama or Georgia in the past, Russia today has “slave labor.” Not so long ago, two reports on human trafficking and modern-day slavery in Russia were published. One was commissioned by the UN and prepared by a team of Russian experts, while the other came from the State Duma Interagency Working Group. According to these reports, Russia and countries of the former USSR place second, after Southeast Asian nations, in the scale of the slave trade: Up to 1.5 million migrants are working in Russia in conditions “close to slavery.” These are, as a general rule, non-Slavs (also under 35). “Slave labor” is used not only by unlicensed shadow operators in the construction sector or impoverished housing maintenance services, but also by businessmen on the Forbes billionaires list. As a rule, these people work without pay, enough for a cup of soup a day.
There is simply no way that Russia can do without decisive measures on its labor market, e.g., the introduction of the minimum hourly wage, like in the G7 countries, mandatory for all employers, state or private companies, including joint ventures. Seven-and-a-half dollars an hour as in the United States or 4.5 pounds an hour as in the UK may be unrealistic right now, but $1 per hour would be quite realistic to begin with. Incidentally, this measure was recommended by the World Bank. At the same time, failure to pay wages that are due should carry tough penalties for company directors – up to 15 or 20 year terms of imprisonment. As for discrimination on the Russian labor market, there is no need to pass any new laws: The authorities only need to enforce the existing laws. As soon as the authors of “wanted: men only” or “wanted: under 35” or “wanted: company loyalists” ads begin to be prosecuted, everything will immediately fall into place.
Finally, in order to fight unemployment effectively, Russia must end its addiction to oil and use a part of the Stabilization Fund to achieve a breakthrough in the real sector of the economy, which will create new jobs. This is not going to be easy of course as many high ranking officials owe the oil pipeline their fortunes, but it would not hurt to think about the country’s future. As for the demographic situation, the only way out is to legalize migration and simplify procedure for acquisition of citizenship by ethnic Russians – all those who will want to acquire it. But most important, provide living conditions and living standards in which no one would want to leave Russia.
Is this the supposed “land of opportunity” that French youths should be envious of? Of course! Anti-labor commentators like Gumbel relish in such labor conditions, but not because they provide workers with better living and working conditions, pay, dignity, and security. Labor conditions in Russia are optimal because it grantees all these for employers! Low wages, the ability to dispose of labors at will, no enforcement of existing labor laws, weak unions, not to mention slave labor only increase the profit margin. Such is the story of capital and labor and despite the platitudes of Fukuyama’s “End of History” thesis and Thatcher’s TINA.
French youths shouldn’t be taking a page from their Yekaterinburg counterparts. On the contrary, Yekaterinburg youths should take a page from their French counterparts and fight for the rights that the Russian Constitution and laws give them.
By Sean — 12 years ago
I’ve just met one friend of mine who works in FSB. He told me about your problems with FSB, when you were in
. I’m sorry that you could remember my country by this accident. Ryazan
The “problems” my friend refers to was when I was visited by three men in the reading room of the Ryazan Party Archive. It’s a long story, but here is a short retelling from an email I sent to some friends at the time:
So I’m sitting in the archive today and around noon three guys walk into the reading room. They ask for me by name. Two show me identification from, I think, OVIR, the third doesn’t identify himself. They ask to see my passport, visa, and registration for Riazan. I don’t have the latter. I told them that I was registered in
and they informed me that I had to be registered in every city I stay in. They then filled out a form and fine me 1500 rubles, which I have to pay at a Sperbank. The two leave and the third (unidentified guy) begins asking me all sorts of questions: When did I arrive in Russia, where did I live in Moscow, who gave me my invitation, what I was doing in Russia and in Riazan, how long was I going to be here, etc etc. He said that according to the law I had to register and if I didn’t they would deport me and prevent reentry for 5 years. Moscow
What they didn’t say was the nightmare it is to register. I knew it was a pain in the ass in
. Here seems similar. My host family, god bless them, have just spent the last two hours calling everyone they know who is in the know about how to register. Moscow
It seems one of the old bitches who work in the archive ratted on me.
Oh, what I forgot to tell you both was that four days before I left
, two MVD officers came to my apartment to check my registration. They didn’t have my name and simply asked if there was an American living there. Everything was okay. Moscow
At the time I figured that they do random checks on registration. Now I’m starting to believe that a neighbor ratted me out. This place can make you paranoid.
With the help of my host family, the Uskovs, I got registered the next day. After that there were no problems.
turned out to be a wonderful town. But, oh the memories! To think I’m going back there in three weeks. . . Ryazan
By Sean — 12 years ago
In the meantime, the politics of Politkovskaya’s death rumbles on. As Wally Shedd reports on his blog, Accidental Russophile, Exile editor Mark Ames has weighed in on the Western media’s sudden infatuation with Politkovskaya. Always looking for a chance to twist his pen into the sides of the American media, Ames reviews American press coverage of the murder. He also rightly asks, “Where is America’s Politkovskaya?”
If you ask me, what is most significant for us in the West about Anna Politkovskaya’s death, and her courageous life (btw, a big “fuck you” to our nationalist readers who don’t agree with this), is not so much what it says about Russia — it doesn’t say much new at all, to be honest, but instead is another chapter in an increasingly depressing story that started under Yeltsin.
Rather, what is significant about her death is this: Why doesn’t America have an Anna Politkovskaya? Why don’t we have someone as courageous as she was to tell the story of how we razed Fallujah to the ground Grozny-style? How we bombed to smithereens and ethnically cleansed a city of 300,000 people in retaliation for the deaths of four American contractors? Where is the American Anna Politkovskaya who will tell us about how we directly killed roughly 200,000 Iraqis, and indirectly are responsible for about half a million Iraq deaths since our invasion? Why isn’t there a single American willing to risk almost certain death, the way Politkovskaya did, in the pursuit of truth and humanity?
On the other side of the political divide, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave a rare interview to Novaya gazeta during her recent trip to Moscow. It is interesting to note that Il’ia Politkovskii, Anna Politkovskaya son was one of the interviewers. Rice was of course asked about the journalists murder:
Novaya gazeta: Miss State Secretary, this work, of course is possible to continue. But for the last six years there were three horrible loses to out newspaper. In 2000, Igor’ Dominkov was died: contract killers murdered him, and now they sit in court. He was killed for his professional activities. And a corrupt official—the vice governor of one of Russia’s regions gave the order for the murder.
[Then there was] the mysterious death three years ago of deputy editor of Novaya gazeta, Duma deputy, and head of the Commission for the Struggle Against Corruption, Iurii Shchekochikhin. This case has not been investigated. Now the murder of Ania. Is there a higher price to pay for the right to practice your professional duties?
Secretary Rice: What you talk about is a shared sorrow. I know about these tragedies. We raised the issue to the Russian government that the murders, which occurred over the last few years—about what you speak of, and even the murders of other journalists, that it is necessary to investigate them and that the people who committed these crimes must know that they will not go unanswered.
It is difficult to answer your question abstractly because I know that all of this is a personal tragedy for you, a personal loss. But if we look at history, we arrive at the conclusion that in various states people sacrifice for their principles. For very important causes.
These losses can never be in vain because in the end freedom will prevail.
What concerns journalists, especially those so-called “muckrakers”, who pursue investigations, that this is an extremely dangerous profession. Because by their very nature they inform people of the truth about what happened in reality.
And in the process they make enemies for their activities.
You see it is often said that people who can lose much if the truth come out and it will spread.
But without independent journalists who conduct such investigations, democracy cannot function.
I don’t think that this will bring you personal comfort. But I want to say to you that all of these murders have resonance all over the world, people all over the world profoundly feel and urge that an investigation will be carried out and the guilty punished.
I want to repeat. You are not alone in your struggle.
You know if Rice said such things in the American media, I might actually begin liking her. Take a look in the mirror, sister.
Correction: Il’ia Politkovskii is Anna Politkovskaya’s son not her husband. The correction has been made above. Thanks to Veronica at Neeka’s Backlog for the alerting me of the error.