10 March 2009

"That’s how the Russian mafia helped us get our wages": Gastarbeiter Notes

Sean's Russia Blog brought my attention to the published excerpts of an Uzbek worker's diary on OpenDemocracy. Sean highlighted some passages that typify the dangers faced by migrant laborers. The nuts and bolts of the informal economy in Russia are just as fascinating:

21 September 2004. Moscow. Kurkino.

We did finally get paid for our work. But only because we turned to Viktor Petrovich for help - our former employer from the Leningrad Oblast. He was very happy when I rang him, and was quite amused to hear that we had been tricked like little boys. I thought I was wasting my time ringing him.Viktor Petrovich had invited me to work for him a couple of times in the past, but I couldn’t go to him, as my father died and I didn’t go to Russia for two years. I wanted to hang up, but his voice suddenly became serious, and he asked me to tell him in more detail about the director Semyonov who hadn’t paid us for the work we did in Kurkino. Viktor Petrovich immediately rang his friend in Moscow and gave us his address. We went to the Taganka and met a person called Alexei. He listened to us and promised to solve the problem. I said we would give him half the sum he got out of Semyonov as a reward. We shook hands, and to our surprise Alexei appeared with the money three days later. That’s how the Russian mafia helped us get our wages.


25 February 2009. Moscow. Northern district.“Aeroport” region.

A week ago I tried to open a kiosk opposite the transport technical college, so that the students could buy cigarettes and beer from me, and not in the building next door. It didn’t work out, although the head of the municipal services office supported me. You have to pay the police, the sanitary and epidemiological department, the fire brigade, the environmental people, as well as taxes, licenses etc., plus “protection” money to the mafia. When we added all this up, we worked out that I would have to pay almost $2,000 each month on bribes, kick-backs, presents and various bills. I would barely have anything left. I went to the head of the technical school and suggested that I should open a retail outlet on the territory of the school, and that he could be my “protection”, but he got scared. I’ll have to look at other options.
The entrepreneurial ambition of that last sentence, in the face of everything else recorded throughout the diary, is pretty amazing.

For further reading:
Stealth of Nations. A wonderful little blog on informal economies across the globe.


p.s. Seriously, folks. Take this poll!


Drew said...

This casts some light on the "temporary repressions" explanation for why all the kiosks near our metro station disappeared...

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Buster said...

Racist comments get deleted.

Anonymous said...

Wh wh what?....................................................................................................

Ppl, you're getting crazy in your America.