Posts Tagged ‘GARF’

I’ve been fairly intensively consumed by archival work recently. Normally I don’t like to write too much about what I find or see in the archives, but I’ve come across some interesting stuff lately, and I had a quintessential experience with the head archivist at Socio-Political Historical Archive (RGASPI) this past week.

Photo of a cool sunset by Red Square to distract from a ramble about the archives.

Photo of a cool sunset by Red Square to distract from a ramble about the archives.

In the military archive (RGVA), I’m collecting more supporting evidence but I haven’t found anything particularly new or shocking. The folders entitled “Sentenced War Criminals” in the Stalingrad Oblast were not quite what I had hoped they would be from the title. After 1950, the Soviets insisted that they held no more German POWs; rather, they only had sentenced war criminals. While undoubtedly many of those held had indeed been properly sentenced for actual war crimes, others were likely falsely imprisoned through show trials under a pretext that was internationally acceptable during the burgeoning Cold War. I was hoping to find information about these trials that evaluated POWs and designated them as war criminals. Instead, it was about 600 pages of guys being sentenced to various periods of jail within the camps for refusing to work or obey orders. There was a funny one about a guy who was sentenced to a week in camp jail for wandering around shirtless and in his underwear and cutting in the line to get mail.

In State Archive (GARF), I’ve begun working in some different collections. One has to do with bread rations during the Soviet famine of 1946-1947. As typical Soviet documents, they don’t actually admit that there is a famine. However, it is quite clear from what’s inside the documents that there was a major famine. They talk about how the camps did not have enough bread to feed the POWs. There were also many documents, especially from the republics of Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia, punishing the POW camp staff for missing food. During the famine, the camp staff clearly stole bread and potatoes. At least in these republics, they were caught and sentenced to a variety of different punishments for this.

As I’m dealing with Russian archives, I also had two “fun” incidents recently. The first involves the electronic catalog for GARF. There is an online catalogue on their website, but it doesn’t work properly. I thought there was way less on my topic in GARF because of this. For example, typing POW in the online catalogue comes up with zero results, but if I search the catalogue on the computers in the reading room at the archive, I get hundreds of results. So now I’ve got a bunch more to read through there.

I also had my first personal experience with the true Misha treatment at RGASPI. He refused to give me volume 2 of opis 2 of the Molotov fond. When I registered he only gave me the third volume, and I found some great stuff with POW repatriation or UN commissions/Cold War related stuff in those files (lots of correspondences between the Western allies and the USSR about German POWs in Soviet hands). However, someone else working in the archive had specifically told me to get a folder from volume 2 as she had ordered it and seen things about the POWs in it. I asked Misha for volume 2 but was told that “foreign affairs are only in volume 3. There is nothing for you in volume 2. There’s nothing else here for you. Go to GARF.” After some arguing back and forth and me showing him a citation for a particular folder a few times, he relented and pulled out volume 2 to look up said folder. Trying to prove a point, he flipped directly to that folder instead of letting me look at the volume myself. When he got to it, he read aloud the description, which included the German POWs. “Well, you never said the word repatriation,” he grumbled as he handed me the whole volume and walked off.

While doing my laundry last week, I was perusing the bookshelves in the lobby of the dorm. I found a copy of an Ian Fleming collection in Russian, which includes “Diamonds are Forever,” “From Russia with Love,” and “Doctor No.” I’m pretty excited to read them in Russian. I was confused by the book at first, though, when I pulled it off of the shelf because it claims to be a collection of detective novels. If you know me, you know my love of James Bond films, video games, and books is pretty extensive, except for the travesties known as the Daniel Craig films. Those suck. End of discussion. Some of the coolest days in the archives for me are when I come across SMERSH documents. SMERSH was a Soviet counter-intelligence agency that stood for “Death to Spies.” SMERSH features prominently in Fleming’s novels and a couple of the James Bond films. Those are the days in which I don’t hate my otherwise fairly dreary existence of reading dusty documents.

Ian Fleming - Detective Novels.

Ian Fleming – Detective Novels.

How do I cope with the boredom or insanity of the archives? I’m glad you asked. Sometimes I have a variety of food adventures around the city or in the dorm. For example, we have become regulars at the Uzbek restaurant Café Anor. We go there often enough that the staff recognizes us and the server knows to bring us two portions of adjika, the hot sauce.

Some nights I just put copious quantities of hot sauce on my eggs. Eggs are somewhat interesting in Russia in that they don’t come in a dozen, but rather in a pack of ten. I feel like there’s some Soviet joke to be made about only decadent capitalist imperialists having eggs coming in a dozen. img_3331

Maybe I spent a little too long reading files from the propaganda department. They love throwing phrases like capitalist imperialist around. I also improved my eggs with Sriracha, which was one of the prized possessions in my suitcase full of odds and ends. If I have to be responsible and trek to an archive in sub-zero temperatures, then I get the liberty to draw on my food with hot sauce. There is also a reason that I study history and not art, which is evidenced by the photo. In some ways I bring nothing but shame to my maternal grandparents, who were talented artists and long-time art teachers in the New York City public school system. Don’t worry, none of this is cold induced brain damage. That all happened years ago when I frequently fell down the stairs in my youth. Gravity and I are still on neutral terms at best.img_3332

Or, I have the wonderful luck of being friends with Anne-Marie, who had gone to cooking school and worked professional in the restaurant industry. On Monday night this past week we made a delightful macaroni and cheese with a béchamel base to which we added three cheeses, one of which was brie. It was superb.

There is no such thing as too much cheese.

There is no such thing as too much cheese.

Then, on Wednesday, we decided to make dinner with the leftover macaroni that was inspired by an internet food post about grilled cheese sandwiches with mac and cheese in them. I decided to step things up a notch by buying bacon at the store, which also happened to be on sale that day.

Om-nom-nom.

Om-nom-nom.

The other news in the dormitory is the turnover of the students. Over the course of the last week I said goodbye to the two remaining students who wouldn’t be back for a second semester. And, after a few quiet days of there only being three people on the floor, the new neighbors have begun to arrive in droves.

Napoleon has managed to somewhat achieve his goals 200+ years later. The three new French Canadian students are living on my floor. All of my Italian neighbors, with the exception of one, have gone back to Italy. Supposedly there are supposed to be eight new Italian students this semester, but if they’re here, they aren’t on my floor. Instead, we have quite a few French students from France on this floor, and there is also another group on the sixth floor. Thus, I am now completely surrounded by the French in the middle of Moscow. I feel like I’ve been transported into the world of “War and Peace.” I’m in some pre-1812 aristocratic Russian settlement as the corridors are filled with French speech and the only Russian uttered is broken. My only solace is that I don’t think there will be any balls held in the dormitory. Perhaps I should mention that I disliked the peace parts of “War and Peace.” There were too many balls, and Natasha’s inability to choose between her love interests was insufferable.

Outside of the comfort of food, I rely on going to Taekwondo to physically beat out my aggression.

Dojang sweet dojang.

Dojang sweet dojang.

This past week, I cut my arm pretty badly while fighting and there was a moderate amount of blood. When walking home from practice I thought about stopping at the pharmacy to buy some sort of antiseptic for the cut on my arm, but then I remembered that there is always vodka in a the freezer in the dorm.

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I’ve been back in Moscow for over a week and a half, and things have been fairly busy after the first few days of recovering from jet lag. Before I cover my recent escapades, I have to jump back in time to December. I had an action packed couple of days before leaving and forgot to write about them during the jet lag haze from returning home.

The highlights of those days were the two days before flying out, Saturday and Sunday. I got up early in the morning on the Saturday, so I could ride down to the end of the green line, to Tsaritsino, to watch a local Taekwondo tournament and cheer on my club mates.

Watching Nikita winning his fight.

Watching Nikita winning his fight.

From the meet, I took the metro to Sokolniki Park to meet Tobi and Micah, my dorm neighbors, to go cross country skiing there. We couldn’t have had a better day for it. The weather was sunny and it in the 20s. The ski rental was relatively easy to find from the park map. It cost 150 rubles to rent skis, boots, and poles for two hours. The annoying thing was that it cost 200 rubles to leave my boots in the hut. For $2.50 for two hours, the skis weren’t too bad. They were probably Finnish made and had rat trap style bindings. The boots themselves had a small hole in them, but they were more or less OK.

No extra charge for the hole.

No extra charge for the hole.

The park is itself great. It was the former hunting grounds of Ivan the Terrible, and was the first national park in Russia. Within a few minutes of skiing away from the center of the park, we were essentially in deep woods of birch trees. At one point, off in the depths of the woods, we came across a babushka just out for a walk in her fur coat. One of the nice things about Russia is that the natives don’t let the cold stop them. The park was filled with lots of people just walking through the woods, as well as others skiing or sledding. The center of the park even had a fairly nifty circular ice rink going around a giant New Year’s tree.

Into the woods we go.

Into the woods we go.

The skiing itself was pretty good. Some of the trails had fairly soft snow, and some were groomed with the double track for cross country skiing. There were smaller, wooded trails as well as open trails that were built as race circuits. It was Tobi and Micah’s first time cross country skiing. They picked it up pretty quickly, though Tobi was fairly bold and fell a few times. In the process of falling, he broke one of his skis, which he didn’t notice until just before we went to turn them in. In theory, we should have only paid 75 rubles for the skiing as students, but we didn’t fight for it. We also had to pay a 1,000 ruble deposit to ski, which Tobi didn’t get back for breaking the ski.

Ooops.

Ooops.

After skiing, I headed to Alla’s for pelmeni night. Alla had cooked three kinds of pelmeni: seafood, potato, and meat. Each had its own kind of sauce. The seafood pelmeni were accompanied by red caviar in sour cream, the potato by an almost Caesar dressing, and the meat ones with a garlic sauce. There was also a salad and some mushrooms as sides.

So. Much. Food.

So. Much. Food.

Some of the other highlights included a Christmas/goodbye party with some of the dorm neighbors.

Only two of us are staying this whole year. There are only three of us on the floor at the moment. One goes home in a few days.

Only two of us are staying this whole year. There are only three of us on the floor at the moment. One goes home in a few days.

Jumping back to the more recent past, I’ve been fairly busy with archival work as usual. I had ordered my documents ahead of time at the military archive via the internet, and they were indeed ready as promised. My bribes at the military archive have also paid off. Before leaving for Christmas, I gave the reading room staff some chocolates, which they gladly accepted. Upon returning, I also gave them a small box of chocolates from America. This had paid off. Recently, I ordered a few different documents. I didn’t know, but one was on microfilm while the others were on paper. In some archives, this is a huge no-no. God help you if you want to order different media on one slip of paper. One employee told me she caught it and filled out a different form for me so that I would be sure to get the microfilm one. She claims that there is some sort of indication in the finding aide as to whether or not the files are paper or on microfilm, but I think that’s just a myth.

The military archive was the easy one. I had to re-register at the State Archive (GARF) and the Economic Archive (RGAE). The process was almost like I had never been there before. I had to get a temporary pass by showing a letter of introduction and my passport. Then, upstairs, I had to hand in my letters of introduction, one for each of the archives even though they share a reading room and ID card. At GARF, the archivist vaguely remembered me and told me that I could still log into the system with my ID number in order to fill out the registration form again. Thankfully, it didn’t take too long to re-register and order documents at these archives. The archivist at GARF was even nice when I asked which reading room my documents would be in, which turns out to be both of them. Despite being on the same physical campus, they have different hours of operation. Because why not.

After registering at GARF and RGAE, I hopped back on the metro to go to the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (RGASPI) to register there for the first time. Getting there wasn’t bad because the Frunzenskaya Metro station, the one by GARF, has re-opened after renovations. Now I don’t have to switch from the metro to an overcrowded bus to get to and from GARF, which is a huge plus. I’ve never worked at RGASPI, but I was slightly afraid because friends told horror stories of Misha, the infamous archivist there. Surprisingly, he was very friendly and helpful, and registration was quick and easy. It felt like a trap.

The outside of the building is great. There are giant reliefs of Marx, Engels, and Lenin on the façade.

It's easy to find RGASPI. Just turn left at the trio of Soviet faces.

It’s easy to find RGASPI. Just turn left at the trio of Soviet faces.

The building had a great location to boot. It’s a few blocks from Red Square. The archive is across the street from Louis Vuitton and Nobu. It’s also a few doors down from Krasnodar Bistro, the place that sells the delicious nutria burgers. I might have to escape to there for a lunch break sometime.

Probably why the faces of Marx, Engels, and Lenin look so angry. They have to stare at their enemy. I bet no one could have imagined this would be downtown Moscow 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Probably why the faces of Marx, Engels, and Lenin look so angry. They have to stare at their enemy. I bet no one could have imagined this would be downtown Moscow 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Outside of research, I recently went to two cool museums. The first was the Metro Museum, which is free. I met with Anne-Marie to get there. We got off at the stop where it supposedly is, Sportivnaya, on the Red Line. We got out, couldn’t find it at one exit, walked around to the other exit street side to find that it also wasn’t there. We walked back to the first side and asked the woman selling Metro tickets where the museum was. She told us that it had moved to a completely different station on one of the newer lines. In total, about 45 minutes had elapsed since we met up to get to the museum. Anne-Marie mentioned how she is only this patient in Russia, and it’s true. At home, I would probably be very angry that things had changed without much indication on the internet. In Russia, though, this is just par for the course and I go with the flow.

Eventually, we wound up at the correct stop. The museum is built above the Vystavochnaya Metro station. It had some cool documents and maps from the planning of the metro back to tsarist times. Then there were artifacts from all stages of the construction of the metro from the 1930s to present, largely broken into eras that showed the growth of the system and the evolution of its technology.

Older Metro control station.

Older Metro control station. This one is from Park Kultury.

One really cool part of the exhibit was a simulator of the metro engineer. There were a few screens plus a full driver’s console. You had to press the button for the announcement about the doors closing, then close the doors, then accelerate, maintain speed, and then brake for the station. An announcement also had to be made for arriving at the station, and then the doors had to be opened. It was fun, but my years of playing GTA made me want to do everything wrong for fun such as driving above speed with the doors open. I miraculously resisted the urge to be a hooligan, though.

New job?

New job?

The other really cool museum I went to is the Central Armed Forces Museum, formerly the museum of the Soviet Army. I went with Anton, who I met at the Buzzcocks concert in December. He took me with two of his friends. First, we got off at an earlier metro stop to see some houses that had been constructed by German POWs.

Central Armed Forces Museum.

Central Armed Forces Museum.

Then, we wandered around the impressive army museum for hours. Most of the museum is about WWII, but it had some good stuff on WWI and the Russian Civil War. There were some really cool White Army uniforms and artifacts, such as banners and medals that belong to General Kornilov’s group, the Kornilovtsy, as well as a really cool painting that depicted the end of White Russia. The painting was of White Army officers and their family members as well as priests leaving Russia on a boat. Although my family members were peasants, they likely were on a similar boat to the one depicted in the painting.

The end of White Russia.

The end of White Russia.

The best part was walking through the outdoor pavilion filled with tanks, jets, and missile launchers. It felt fantastically Russian to wander around those implements in the falling snow.

Like Victory Day but better because of the snow.

Like Victory Day but better because of the snow.

The final moment of interest from the last few weeks was watching a man watch Trump’s inauguration on his phone while grabbing dinner at a restaurant with some friends. It was being broadcast on Russian media sites and had subtitles.img_3256

The last few days have been pretty excellent. On Friday I looked at files from Ulyanovsk Camp 215 in the military archive. Then, Friday evening, I met ASEEES crew for a great meal at a Cuban restaurant called Aruba Bar. The food was fairly authentic. There were also pretty decent $5 mojitos, so I was quite happy with that. The place got pretty packed later in the evening, seemingly with lots of Cuban or Latin ex-pats. It seemed the owner of the café was also Cuban. There was even live music. img_1803

Saturday was an awesome day. I woke up at went to the giant souvenir/flea market at the Partizanskaya metro stop, out by the hotels built for the 1980 Olympics, with some Canadian neighbors and a Russian friend. It was a fun moment for me, as our Russian friend had never been there, so I was showing something new to a born and bred Muscovite. The market was its usual collection of funny and cool stuff. There were the obligatory souvenirs like matryoshki (nesting dolls), ushanki (fur hats), and Putin themed coffee mugs. The back half of the market is more of a real flea market filled with tons of Soviet things like banners, military uniforms, and samovars (the traditional Russian tea making vessel). I saw quite a few paintings of Lenin for sale, as well as a couple of Stalins and Brezhnevs. Sadly, there didn’t seem to be any portraits of Khrushchev, Andropov, Chernenko, or Gorbachev for sale. So much for any attempt to collect paintings of all of the Soviet leaders.

If only I had the money and space for these kinds of things.

If only I had the money and space for these kinds of things.

The market also had some cool stuff like entire bear and wolf skins, complete with the heads.

Who doesn't want a whole bear skin?

Who doesn’t want a whole bear skin?

The market has two strange trends involving military paraphernalia. The first is that it seems it was possible to buy actual guns such as Kalashnikovs (AK-47s), MP-40s (the famous Wehrmacht gun from WWII), and Moisin Nagants (the Russian rifle that saw service in both World Wars and the Civil War). I’m not sure if they were deactivated show pieces or if they were firing weapons. The other somewhat troubling thing for sale was Second World War items such as helmets, bullets, ammo lines, and mess kits. Many of the items were damaged and badly rusted, which implies that they were dug from former battle sites. This is an increasingly popular activity in the battle fields of the Eastern Front. There are some legitimate groups that do this in order to find, attempt to identify, and properly bury German and Soviet soldiers. However, there are also a series of scavengers, known as black diggers, who plunder what are essentially grave sites and sell the memorabilia.

Looted military goods and guns. What could go wrong?

Looted military goods and guns. What could go wrong?

While heading out of the market and towards the metro, I got excited because I saw a Chaika limousine off in the distance. The Chaika was an ultra-elite Soviet limo that was made from 1959 to 1981. In order to catch a photo of it, I sprinted a bit of a distance. To my surprise, there wasn’t just one Chaika but three Chaiki! I got a few good photos, and a video of one driving off into the distance. This particular limo was so well known and exclusive, that the elite lanes of travel on some major Moscow roads were called Chaika lanes. These lanes existed on some of the major thoroughfares, and only official vehicles with occupants of high status were allowed to travel in them. This basically set the precedent for the modern Russian practice of official cars with blue lights on them, megalki, driving however they please through the cities of Russia. By the time I was done taking the photos, the others had caught up and were laughing at me running after the cars and my glee at photographing them. It’s occasions such as these when I’m really crushed that I’m not doing Soviet automobiles for my dissertation.

Chaika limos were made from 1959 to 1981.

Chaika limos were made from 1959 to 1981.

After wandering around the market for a few hours, we headed off to a great and cheap Uzbek restaurant for a filling and much needed lunch before we headed back to the dormitory. Saturday was a special day for us, or rather me. Technically my birthday was on Sunday, but Sunday is not a good night to party. Thus, my wonderful dorm neighbors decided to help me celebrate starting around 9:00 PM on Saturday and into Sunday. I had to make a brief escape during the festivities for about an hour to have plov with Ali, the security guard from Uzbekistan. He promised to make some in honor of my birthday, and indeed he did. It was probably the best plov I have ever had. We had a nice conversation and had a few toasts in the hallway of the guard’s corridor.

Yummy Uzbek plov goodness.

Yummy Uzbek plov goodness.

I was pleasantly surprised on Monday when I was able to get my passport back a few days early. I now have a multi-entry visa that’s good until the end of July. Armed with my passport, I went to the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF) yesterday and got my ID without any problems. I went up to the reading room and spoke with Nina Ivanovna, the archivist who can be very intimidating at times. I said that I had ordered documents over a month ago, but that they had probably been returned while I was waiting to get my passport back from the migration service. She said that was probably the case but checked quickly for me. She said that they had indeed been returned, but that I could order them again. I went to the computer and ordered a series of files electronically and then headed back to the reading room window to sign that request and ask for a paper form for the few folders that don’t appear in the electronic catalog. Upon returning with the paper form, Nina Ivanovna told me wait. She said she would check to see if she had some of the folders on microfilm or microfiche in her backroom. A few minutes later, she came out with one folder on microfiche. I thanked her profusely before heading off to find a microfiche reader along the back wall of the reading room. Then, right after I sat down and began to get settled with my computer, Nina Ivanovna appeared with two more folders on microfiche for me. I don’t know what miracle has transpired, but somehow Nina Ivanovna no longer hates me and I managed to get three folders instantly in a Russian archive. I feel a gift of chocolate will be soon due for Nina Ivanovna.

GARF was also good because it has a nice cafeteria in it with good food, cheap prices, and the nicest lady ever working behind the counter. I managed to get a large bowl of shchi (Russian cabbage soup), a pork chop in an apple and cream sauce, a side of potatoes, and a cup of tea all for under $4.00. Armed with caffeine and lunch, I was able to head back to my folders and microfiche reader without feeling the wish to die. Now that I can work in three archives (the State Archive of the Russian Federation and the Russian State Economic Archive share a reading room and ID), I’ll be spending pretty much every week day at the archives for the near future.

The rest of this past week has been filled with more bureaucratic nightmares. On Wednesday morning I returned to the international office at 11:00 AM to get my student ID and create the letters of invitation for the various archives. Unfortunately, the student ID was not ready as it hadn’t either been stamped or signed (or both?). Irina, the woman who works in the international office, then proceeded to draw up my archive letters from a list that I gave her. She made sure to double check the names of all of the archives, as they sometimes change, and sternly told me that it is now called the Russian State Library, and has been called such for a number of years, despite the fact that everyone colloquially still refers to it as the Lenin Library, or Leninka for short. Irina printed off my letters and led me down the hall to some office at the opposite end of the building, where someone would sign and stamp the letters. Not surprisingly, that person was not in her office and it was unknown when she would return for the day. Thus, Irina told me to come back the following morning to get my finalized letters and student ID.

Thankfully both my student ID and letters were indeed ready Thursday morning at 11:00, so I immediately set off for the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), which also is the same reading room for the Russian State Archive of Economics (RGAE). Registering for these was once again an ordeal. First, I had to go to the pass office to get a temporary pass to get past security and into the reading room. To do this, I had to show my passport and letter of affiliation. Next, I took my temporary pass and passport to the police officer near the stairwell and was allowed up to the second floor to register. I went to the GARF window and saw that the same two people I dealt with two years ago are still there. There is an older woman of about 50 who scares me and a man of about 35, who is always very helpful. Thankfully I mostly spoke with the man. Registration for GARF is now completely on the computer. I filled out a standard form with information such as my university affiliation, research topic, and location of registration and residence in Moscow. This took an annoyingly long time as I had to type everything in Russian, and I don’t actually know the real Cyrillic keyboard. I stupidly learned the phonetic one, which causes massive issues in times like these where I’m forced to hunt and peck for the letters that I need.

After filling out the electronic registration, I went back to the GARF desk to get a pin number for the computer system. GARF has now transitioned to requesting documents electronically. I had to have the guy from the desk show me how to use this new system. However, not everything has been input into the system. I wanted to order some folders that I had seen two years ago, but only about half of them showed up. We then had a very interesting exchange in which he asked where I had found those numbers, to which I responded that I had read the folders there two years ago. He then shrugged, said they were probably partially secret, and then told me that I would have to order them on the old paper form. I also had to initial the print out of the electronically requested documents.

I then took my temporary pass from the GARF window to the RGAE window to register there. Once again, I basically filled out the same form on the computer. I was then given another pin code. Both GARF an RGAE will create long term passes that I can use to enter the archives. The woman at RGAE reminded me that I need to specify also at GARF that I will use my laptop in the archives, and there will be something like that written on my passes, which should be ready to get from the pass office on Monday. Unfortunately, the passes for GARF and RGAE are only good for calendar years, meaning that I will have to completely re-register with new letters of support from the university in January. Joy.

Just a sample of everything that I have to carry with me: passport, student ID, dorm pass, dorm registration, RGVA registration, and metro card.

Just a sample of everything that I have to carry with me: passport, student ID, dorm pass, dorm registration, RGVA registration, and metro card.

As I finished registering at GARF and RGAE early enough, I headed off to another part of the city to register at the Russian State Military Archive (RGVA). The travel itself is slightly complicated by the fact that the Frunzenskaya Metro stop, the one for GARF, is closed for renovations. Thus, to get to that archive, I take the circle line from my stop, Novoslobodskaya, to Park Kultury, where I would normally switch to the red line. Now I exit at Park Kultury and take a free bus to the Frunzenskaya stop. Thankfully these replacement buses seem to run almost as frequently as the metro itself. So leaving GARF, I took the bus back to Park Kultury and switched to the green line to go to the penultimate northern stop, Vodnii Stadion, for RGVA.

Registering at RGVA was its own series of ups and downs. For example, the pass office immediately generated a card for me that is good for an entire year, or until September 2017. The last time that I worked in the archive, I had to meet with the director and get his permission to research there. This time, that step was avoided and I was able to go directly to the reading room to register. Unlike GARF, the registration at RGVA is still done on paper. Additionally, I handed a blank sheet of printer paper as was told to copy a  form letter to the director to ask for permission to use my laptop in the reading room. After spending some time with the finding aide, I was given a series of opis guides in order to determine which folders to request. Annoyingly, at RGVA, I can only request five folders at a time. They also told me that my folders wouldn’t be ready until Wednesday, unlike GARF which said Monday. I foresee this as being a bit of a problem as the majority of the documents I need to research are in RGVA, so the limits and long waiting period might cause some issues and frustrations.

While leaving the archive, I had to return a mysterious call from a number that had called me twice while I was registering in GARF. I called the number and asked who called me, because I didn’t recognize the number, but the person on the other ended wanted to know who I was. I said I was Susan and it turned out to be Irina calling about the payment for the multi-entry visa. She told me that I should give the receipt to the visa office. I responded that I tried to give it to them on Monday, but that they told me to wait until I return from Ulyanovsk. Irina said that she heard otherwise, and that I was to hand in the receipt. I said that I would do it the next morning, when I went to pick up my Moscow registration from the passport office. Irina said that that was acceptable, and I headed back to the university to relax in the dormitory. While walking near the university campus, I was surprised on the street by Irina, who once again told me to hand in the visa receipt. I told her that it was 5:10, and that I was unlikely to find anyone in that office by that time of the evening, and that I would first have to get the receipt from my room. I told her again that I would hand it in Friday morning. She apologized and said she forgot and that that would be okay.

Friday morning I headed to the visa office at 11AM to get my registration. There was a man in the office who I hadn’t met before. He searched through the registrations and said that mine wasn’t ready yet, and to return at 2:00. We then had a quick discussion about the payment receipt for the multi-entry visa. I told him that I was originally told to hand it in when I return from Ulyanovsk, but that I was called the day before and asked to hand it in. He said that I shouldn’t have been called and to keep the receipt in a safe place because I should hand in the receipt with my photos, application for the multi-entry visa, and passport when I return. With that I left and returned again at 2:00 to finally acquire my Moscow registration.

Not everything here is a bureaucratic nightmare, though. I’ve managed to have some fun around my waiting. Without the ability to go to the archives as planned on Wednesday, I decided to do something for myself and headed off to Moscow’s celebrated Novodevichy Cemetery, where the likes of Yetlsin, Prokofiev, Gogol, and Mayakovsky are buried, among others. In Soviet times, this was the most important place to be buried after the Kremlin Wall Necropolis. While I made sure to see some of these important graves (some for the second time as I had been here in the winter of 2009/2010 on a Lafayette interim trip), the real purpose for my excursion was to visit my great-great-uncle’s grave. He, Ilya Selvinsky, was an important Soviet poet. I did not realize until a few days ago that he was buried in Novodevichy Cemetery. When I get back from Ulyanovsk, I will call his daughter Tatiana again, my grandmother’s cousin, and see if she is willing to meet with me.

The grave of Ilya Selvinsky in Moscow's Novodevichy Cemetry.

The grave of Ilya Selvinsky in Moscow’s Novodevichy Cemetry.

I’ve also begun to have some fun with the other foreigners in the dormitory. On Tuesday night I got back to the dormitory after strolling around the banks of the Moskva River with a friend named Masha. Earlier in the day I was in a bad mood because I had purchased two packages of salami, which were stolen from the communal fridge. I somewhat ranted about it on Facebook, and due to the goodness of social media, my downstairs Canadian neighbor informed me that she found a package of salami in her kitchen that did not belong to her or her neighbors. Thus, I was reunited with half of my food. Then, Friday night, I had a fun moment of cultural connections with the two Canadians on the eight floor. They said that it looked like there were bullet holes in the wall. Being an American, I should be able to tell them if they were indeed bullet holes.

I mean, it does look like someone fired at shotgun at this wall.

I mean, it does look like someone fired at shotgun at this wall.

I also noticed the frightening lack of fire safety on their floor. The end of my floor has some terrible chute/fire escape device. Their floor has a diagram for using some sort of block and pulley to repel off of the building in case of a fire. However, there was no sign of the block or pulley anywhere on the floor, though the anchor points are visible on the outside of the building.

The diagram shows what to do, but there is no explanation or indication anywhere on the floor if the tools to do this exist.

The diagram shows what to do, but there is no explanation or indication anywhere on the floor if the tools to do this exist.

 

The past week and a half has been filled with a nice balance of work and having fun. Due to how long it takes to process document requests, I spend about three days a week in the archives. In my free time, I’ve been exploring Moscow, making new friends, and catching up with old ones. Last Tuesday I grabbed a drink with a former member of my Fulbright cohort on Red Square. He’s also a graduate student of Soviet history. We traded stories about our programs and the perils of GARF.

I found an UAZ 469 at Red Square. Ulyanovsk for the win!

I found an UAZ 469 at Red Square. Ulyanovsk for the win!

Saturday was a pretty busy day for me. My neighbor and I met up with my friend Emily from Alaska. Emily and I did a German language immersion program together in Bonn in 2010. We bonded over our mutual love of Russia and watched a ton of Germany World Cup games. She’s been spending her summer in Vladimir on a Russian language program. We decided to meet up and explore a few places in Moscow together. We got our obligatory tourist photos on Red Square. To Emily’s dismay, Lenin’s Mausoleum was closed, despite the sign saying that it should have been open when we were there. I was rather happy that it was closed. Due to a traumatizing childhood experience with bog mummies in a Danish Viking museum, I have a huge dislike of viewing any sort of dead bodies/remains (ask my friends about how I get really unnerved around the Egyptian exhibit at the Met).

Doing the tourist thing at Red Square.

Doing the tourist thing at Red Square.

From Red Square, we headed off to the World War II museum at Victory Park. The museum was filled with all sorts of great exhibits, dioramas, and art relating to WWII.

The inside of the Great Patriotic War Museum at Victory Park.

The inside of the Great Patriotic War Museum at Victory Park.

It also contained a slightly uncomfortable amount of Stalin souvenirs. Being the Soviet history buff, I excitedly poured over all of the exhibits and gave mini lectures about various battles, weapons, and vehicles. Matanja and Emily said they truly appreciated some of the info that I gave them. I told them they should email my adviser and tell her that I have some actual knowledge of Soviet history.

You too could own a Stalin action figure for only 6,500 rubles.

You too could own a Stalin action figure for only 6,500 rubles.

After the war museum we headed to one of my favorite places in Moscow, the Izmailovo tourist market. The market is still as packed and exciting as I remembered. My friends found souvenirs that they needed for their family members. While they left in good moods, I left with my spirit crushed. I had excitedly been talking about the shawarma stand near the entrance of the market only to find that it had recently been demolished. After the market, Emily had to head back to the train station and my neighbor and I returned to our humble dormitory.

The look of pure sadness upon discovering the demolished remains of my favorite shawarma place.

The look of pure sadness upon discovering the demolished remains of my favorite shawarma place.

This week itself has been relatively uneventful. On Monday, I registered at the military archive (RGVA) without much hassle. The people there are all very nice. I ordered my documents and was told that they would be ready on Thursday. I also learned that the military archive is closed for a summer holiday from July 1-14. This will present a slight issue as I have discovered through further research here that the information I’m looking for is probably contained within the military archive. Oh well, there’s always future research trips. The military archive has an interesting calendar at the front of the reading room. For the month of June there’s a quote that says “A future without terrorism, terrorism without a future.” I wish I could take a photo, but it’s forbidden in the archive.

I wound up inside a very old metro car. Dear Metro-North, the Russians keeps their old train cars in running order, why can't you?

I wound up inside a very old metro car. Dear Metro-North, the Russians keeps their old train cars in running order, why can’t you?

Outside of the archives I’ve spent the week watching a lot of World Cup games with my neighbor either on my computer or at a café. On Monday night we met up with my Jordanian friend Anas who goes to RUDN (Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia).

RUDN.

RUDN.

One of the cafés at RUDN has great falafel and hummus, so we grabbed dinner there. After eating, Anas gave us a campus tour, which I enjoyed due to the Cold War history of the university. It was formerly known as the Patrice Lamumba University and gave free education, or highly subsidized education, to people coming from the Third World in an attempt to cultivate Soviet values around the world. Today it’s one of Russia’s best universities, though the makeup of the student body has changed. After our tour we watched the Netherlands beat Chile at the outdoor café.

The Netherlands beating Chile.

The Netherlands beating Chile.

Things have been pretty slow lately as Thursday was Russia Day. The archives closed early on Wednesday and they didn’t reopen until 12PM on Monday. Mostly I’ve been adjusting to the time change and exploring Moscow. On Friday morning I joined one of my friends from Ulyanovsk and her friend for a boat tour of Moscow. We got our tickets and waited to board the boat, but it left early and had to wait about half an hour in line for the next one to show up. The guy behind us in line talked to us a little and then joined us at our table on the boat. We got cold so we headed inside the boat and the guy joined us. He insisted on giving me a map of Moscow that he wrote a note, as well as his name, phone number, email, and address on. He was from another, smaller city in Russia and invited us to visit him, especially in 2018 when Russia hosts the World Cup.

The guy who joined us as he was writing all of his contact info onto a map for me.

The guy who joined us as he was writing all of his contact info onto a map for me.

When the boat tour was over, he invited us to a café with him. My friends said that they had a full schedule and needed to go to the planetarium. He said he had never been there, had a free schedule, and would join us. Thankfully we dissuaded him from following us when my friends said they were just going to buy tickets for something else before heading back to the hotel to change. My plan was to go back to my dorm anyway to prepare a little before Saturday’s excursion to the Memorial Museum of German Anti-Fascists.

The Memorial Museum of German Anti-Fascists is a former POW camp located in a suburb of Moscow called Krasnogorsk. I found out about the museum through a book that they had published. The museum actually covers a wide variety of topics ranging from Soviet anti-fascist movements, German concentration camps, and Soviet treatment of German prisoners of war. The exhibits were interesting, but my real interest in the museum is that it houses its own archive. I was the only person in the museum on Saturday and the woman who worked there was very nice and spoke with me for about 20 or 30 minutes after I looked at all of the exhibits. We discussed which books I had read on the topic and she showed me a few more that I had not previously discovered. She then also gave me the name of the director of the archives to call on Monday to see if I can set up seeing what’s in their collections. I have the feeling that I’ll try to stick working in the archives in Moscow, though, as the museum takes almost 90 minutes to get to. I have to go to almost the last stop on one of the metro lines and then take a bus for about 40 minutes. The bus ride was pretty interesting in that I now know Moscow has an indoor ski area, apparently the largest in Europe.

Memorial Museum of German Anti-Fascists

Memorial Museum of German Anti-Fascists

Not too much else happened over the weekend. I did notice that the kiosk across the street from the dormitory sells Dr. Pepper, which I previously could not find in Russia, except in a specialty store for about $20 for a six pack of airplane sized cans. The other fun thing was listening to the accordionist in the underground crossing playing Linkin Park’s Numb. Lastly, while in the checkout line at the grocery store, the cashier asked where my neighbor and I were from. She then told me that she collects foreign currency, especially coins, and said that she would buy money from us.

The glorious kiosk that sells multiple flavors of Dr. Pepper in standard 12 oz cans.

The glorious kiosk that sells multiple flavors of Dr. Pepper in standard 12 oz cans.

I finally made it to GARF (The State Archive of the Russian Federation) today, thought I took a slight detour on the way in to the the Museum of Retro Automobiles.

It's me. I can't see a sign like that an ignore it.

It’s me. I can’t see a sign like that an ignore it.

This is a satellite location that houses a private collection of cars. The much larger collection is housed somewhere else in the city. The private collection featured only foreign cars. I got really excited walked up to the museum when I noticed a few 1930s Mercedes through the window. The collection of Benzes was actually quite spectacular. The only place that compares is the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart, but this one was a tiny bit better because I could walk right up to a Gullwing. The Gullwing in Stuttgart is behind a barrier. My only issue with this particular Gullwing was that it was missing the special luggage set. Oh well, not everything is perfect.

A Gullwing in all of its glory.

A Gullwing in all of its glory.

The collection also included a fabulous 190SL, though for the life of me I can’t figure out why anyone would put it next to something so pedestrian as a Corvette.

A Corvette does not belong in the same exhibition as a 190SL or some old Porsches.

A Corvette does not belong in the same exhibition as a 190SL or some old Porsches.

There were also two nice old Porsches on the upper level. The lower level housed yet another of my favorite Mercedes, the 540K. I think I really need to reevaluate my career choice given my automotive preferences.

The ever impressive 540K.

The ever impressive 540K.

After the automotive museum, I finally managed to get into the archive where I had fun dealing with paperwork. The archive where I’ll be doing most of my work actually contains the reading rooms for both the State Archive (GARF) and the Economics Archive (RGAE), so I had to register for each portion separately. The woman at the GARF desk was unfriendly, but the one for RGAE was a sweet lady who was patient and nice. Having registered I attempted to get documents that had been ordered for me in advance of my arrival, but that didn’t work out and I was sent off to the fifth floor of a far away building to read through an archive guide to select some documents. I spent about two hours reading through a guide and taking notes on the folders that I need to order. Unfortunately this will be a very slow process as I can order a maximum of five folders at a time, and it takes three days to receive the folders. I may or may not have had the Archives theme from GoldenEye stuck in my head all day.

The archive was also interesting today in that I recognized someone from my Fulbright cohort who is also currently a graduate student of Russian history. Sadly he’s leaving in a few days, but we managed to grab a quick drink and catch up at Red Square tonight. I also recognized another graduate student from a program that I was accepted into. He left before I could speak with him, but hopefully we’ll hang out in the future and commiserate over the fun that is the archives.