From Liz Sukhovskaya:

A recent article in the St. Petersburg Times gave an interesting look into the issue of corruption.

I found this quote especially interesting:

“Russian bureaucracy is such a giant beast that what is sometimes termed as corruption is just a misconception that actually has more to do with the heavy bureaucratic structure where there is an unwillingness to accept responsibility. It’s easier to say no than it is to say yes because saying no doesn’t carry any risk.” (emphasis mine)

There is no doubt about the existence of corruption in the Russian government, yet in day-to-day life I try to think the best of people and see them as humans rather as The Machine. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been a victim of corruption, and I’m not sure I would catch on if I were being encouraged to pay a bribe.

Who is corrupt?

I came across my residency permit honestly, although it took a lot of sweat, blood, and tears. As I look around at the other people in the Immigration Office, I see their sweat and tears (literally) as well, and it’s hard to believe any of them are offering bribes. Who is, then? I remember a couple of times when there were line-jumpers. Someone barges in with a baby or some other sort of diversion, and the next thing you know he’s in with the Inspector and doesn’t come out for an hour, while everyone else is still waiting out in the hallway. Did money change hands for him to get into The Room, or was it just a case of being pushy? Did the The Inspector act illegally? Hard to say.

Short-cuts: Corruption, or not?

Is hiring a lawyer to get your documents in order legal, or not? I’ve seen representatives of different companies waiting in line just like everybody else, to hand in their client’s documents. But I don’t know if all lawyers do that. People say the working hours are few because during “non-working” hours the officers are serving clients through the back door, so to speak. Or…they could be just doing desk work.

Whose problem?

Back to the issue of responsibility. As you know, I have had some issues with my case being unprecedented and the authorities “not knowing” what to do with me. In general, this is because of a lack of knowledge/ communication between different government outfits, as well as between the standards of different countries, especially when changes have taken place recently. Exhibit A: My FBI check. Exhibit B: My name-change documentation. All’s well that ends well…

I can tell you, it’s frustrating when they make up requirements just because they don’t know what to do with you. You so want to hear the words “Okay, we’ll let it slide” or “We’ll take your word for it.” Yeah right! Okay, I understand that they want to see things looking official. But why, if they work with people from dozens of different countries, do they expect everyone to have the same information? Do they really all think that all nationalities in the world use patronymics? Why do these things come as a “surprise”?

Wild Goose Chases

The result of made-up requirements is that when you go to wherever you’re sent, nobody there can help you, obviously, since this service does not exist. I was directed to go to Moscow for a document that doesn’t exist (a phone call saved a wasted trip), and I was sent all around St. Petersburg searching for something that even the people requiring it could not describe.

This was all because they were afraid to just say “Okay, your country does things differently. We’ll think of something.”  They were afraid to take responsibility and get in trouble for not being rigid enough, I suppose. What confirms this suspicion? The fact that the Boss didn’t seem to see a problem at all. Sure, he wanted some stamps, a nice format. But in general he was willing to listen to a logical explanation and make a fair conclusion. Something his subordinates either couldn’t or didn’t want to do.

Interestingly, I started writing this post before elections came into view. Now there is corruption for you. I’ll address that in another post!