Sunday, January 22, 2012

Winter is Here; Archives

Well, it had to happen eventually, and it finally has. Winter, real Russian winter, has arrived.

Today's high temperature appears to be cresting at a balmy -15 C/ 7 F. With wind and snow. I'm seeing some numbers in the forecast for later this week that begin with a "2": -25 C, yikes! I'll admit that the mild winters of North Carolina have made me soft, but this is ridiculous!

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To brighten the outlook, how about some fun stuff from the archives?

From the complaint files, one from the chief accountant of a state farm near Moscow. He wrote that, having recently arrived to work there, he found the books and affairs of the farm in terrible condition. When he turned to his co-workers and superiors for help, they engaged in a systematic campaign of disruption and offensive behavior. The letter then proceeds to detail many of these events; in fact, these episodes are given much greater attention and detail than the problems with the farm's operations.

A few gems from the letter:

A party member, comrade N. "in a drunken state used vulgar words to offend the accounting staff on account of their request that he make good an unpaid debt for the acquisition of 40 kg. of meat."

"In November of this year, the veterinarian of the Troitski Borki section, a member of the party organization's council, comrade R. entered the [accountancy] office and, expressing himself in the choicest oaths, struck the glass on a desk, breaking it, upon which he was thrown out of the accountancy."

"In October of this year, a tractor-driver, comrade S., appeared in the state farm's office in a drunken, undressed, completely naked state; with his appearance, the accountancy staff and workers in the office fled out of shame."

Is it me, or does this sound less like an office and more like a frat party?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Of Archival Notes and Dumptrucks

I've been looking at some of my notes from the archives. In so doing, I've realized that my notes to myself are often cryptic, or in a sort of argot that I can assume might only make partial sense to anyone other than me.

Just as an example: You'll find in the spreadsheets where I keep track of files read, files to be read, descriptions of individual files that are derived from the archives' own finding aids.

There are often files that appear to contain documents on a number of issues, often completely unrelated in any sense other than that they appear to have been on the plate of a particular bureaucracy at the same time. If I see one of these catch-all files in the finding aid, there is no point in copying out its entire title: Either it appears to be of no use, and I move on, or it has one issue among several that seems interesting. However, I like to be able to note that this is one issue among many, so I'm not expecting an entire file and getting, in fact, a few pages within one.

The result are notes that look like this: "f.5, op. 32, d. 75: Dumptruck on ag., incl. corn and regional ag. depts."

Which would make no one but me, and can only be explained as a misquoted homage to the late Ted Stevens.

These are the things I amuse myself with.

No, seriously, I'm not completely insane.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Hungary and One-Party Government

I'm cross-posting something I wrote on the other blog I decided to start. It's not about Russia, per-se, but it is Eastern Europe. And that's a problem.

Politics, Culture, and Other Infuriating Things

Holidays and News

It's been several days since I've posted because, frankly, there's not much to write about. The ten days to two weeks that begin before New Year's Eve and carry through until next Monday, following yesterday's Orthodox Christmas, are essentially vacation for everyone in business and government. And the news media, which slumbers as well.

This also includes the archives. As a result, I've had some time to do some reading, spend time with friends, including some old friends visiting Moscow. It's been a welcome bit of vacation, but I admit that I am excited, anticipating getting back to work.

There's not much to update on anything else I've written about recently. There is a sense that the next protest march is being planned for 4 February, which is about a month before the scheduled presidential election. For now, things are pretty quiet. However Stephen Cohen, in a video interview on DemocracyNow!, noted, in response to a question about the seriousness of Prokhorov's run for the presidency, that he spent New Year's Eve in a chalet in Switzerland. This is not something you do if you are anything more than a ploy by the Kremlin to eventually siphon off the protest vote.