17 June 2008

Moscow Research and MTBE: The Year in Review

Well folks, it’s been a long time since my first little post explaining the title and rationale for this blog, written on the eve of my departure for Moscow. Now, once again, my bags are packed and I’ll be putting this laptop away in just a few hours. When next you hear from me, I’ll be back in the States trying to process my research materials and think about what the hell happened to me over the past twelve months.

But as a compulsive over-analyzer, I would be remiss not to leave you with an overview of the past year of research and writing. As my ninth-grade composition teacher always stressed: a story needs an ending, even if it is only provisional.


Archives Successfully Visited
RGASPI: Despite the somewhat crazed man on the fifth floor who initially made me think I might not get anything done here, my work at RGASPI was incredibly productive, digging out tons of material from the Comintern archive on migrant radicals’ participation in Communist activism and cultural projects in the interwar years. The staff was exceedingly helpful, though they still can’t pronounce my name and just call me “young man.”

RGALI: Despite the somewhat crazed man who works the main desk, I managed to locate a few interesting and useful manuscripts, translation notes and unpublished reviews, among other things.

GARF: Lacking the oddball character of RGASPI and RGALI, the staff here is professional and courteous. I didn’t find as much as I hoped to, but a few juicy tidbits were excavated that will surely make nice decorative pieces in the dissertation.

TsAGM: I knew that my scavenging through the records of Moscow State University on a wild goose chase probably wasn’t the best use of my time, but I still spent several days here on the off chance of a surprising nugget. No luck, though I do have more insight into the inner workings of the Ethnography Department in the 1920s than I will ever need. Staff was almost bizarrely friendly and knowledgeable.

Archive Denials
FSB Archive: No surprise really, the FSB (successor to the KGB) claims that they have no records relevant to my work. It was worth a shot and I was blessed with the chance to witness a sloppy seventeen-year-old walk in off the street and try to join the FSB. This was a revelatory experience.

St. Petersburg Archive of Orientalists: They really don’t make exceptions when you forget your letter of introduction. But no great loss. This was a superfluous errand motivated more by curiosity than by research demands.

Best Used Book Sources
One old dude at the market at Izmailovo Park, up on the second level; Staraya Kniga on Nevskii Prospekt, d. 3; Olympic Stadium Book Market; aging Africanists and Orientalists cleaning out their personal libraries.

Weight of books acquired and photocopies made: 30 kg
Excess weight fees to be paid at airport: TBD


Number of posts written since 25 June 2007, including this one: 117

Number of hits in this time: 12,400

Average number of reads per post: ~106

(Projected number of readers of my dissertation: ~10)

Number of subscribers over the past year:

World map of last 100 readers:

Number of abusive comments from Russian nationalists: ~12

Number of veiled and unveiled threats from white supremacists: 2

Number of comments that addressed me as "Negroid": 3

Average reading comprehension of Russian nationalists and white supremacists: ??


I'll leave out any qualitative analysis for now. Overall, I’m pretty happy that a project I mainly intended to keep friends and family abreast of my life and thoughts has grown into a site with this modest little readership. And if all goes well, I think I will keep up the blogging over the next year while I write up all the material I've collected into a coherent narrative.

But that will come once I reach the other side. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who read, commented, emailed, or linked. It's made the past year far more entertaining and edifying than it might have been otherwise.



dre said...


I will sure miss it. I read every single post all year. Have a good trip back and let's catch up when you hit the US.

Sean Guillory said...

"Despite the somewhat crazed man on the fifth floor"

You must mean Misha. Glad to hear research went well. Now begins the hard part.

BusterPh.D.Candidate said...

Dre, Your endurance is remarkable! I will definitely give you a call in the next couple of weeks. First I will have to get a phone again.

Sean, I'm not naming names, but if the ridiculously horrible haircut fits...

Also, is "now begins the hard part" supposed to be reassuring? I was sort of looking forward to a few weeks off.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the hit map it appears you have a reader in the Comoros. Zowie.

Will you take some time off when you get back to the US? And will that include a trip to the West Coast? Think homemade apricot ice cream...

sarahdorothy said...

Wait! You are coming home? Maybe I'll get to see you sometime this summer? I've loved reading this blog...glad its gonna continue!

Freegman said...

"I was blessed with the chance to witness a sloppy seventeen-year-old walk in off the street and try to join the FSB."

Interestingly enough, that's how Putin became a KGB member, albeit at an even younger age. They told him to get an education, study language then come back.