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A little low-level corruption might be nice

Russian anti-corruption efforts create a nightmare of bureaucratic headaches for citizens

Every office tends to work at no more than 50 percent capacity. If there are three windows available to submit or receive things, only one tends to be staffed. If there are two available waiting rooms, only one will have chairs.  There are never enough chairs.

Days, weeks or months may go by before the desired authorization or confirmation is issued.  Most frequently, to receive it requires standing again in lines prior to the available hours of disbursement of prepared documents to the public.

If all of that is not excruciating enough, the offices are usually not air conditioned and are filled with other confused, frustrated, often elderly people. The employees are rarely personable and may take breaks at any time convenient for them. 

So is there a silver lining? It used to be bureaucrats themselves. There is a reason why people bend rules, and it is not only that rules are bendable. As Zakharov pointed out in his article, “corruption is not only a legal problem, it’s a mental problem, a problem of everyday habits, a problem of the legitimate behavior of all the country’s citizens.” 

Many having to go through the above-described process, for example, would be overjoyed to hear that they could pay more and spend less time in line, or get things done faster. Bureaucracy in Russia used to have a human face. That face did not smile, but it did help you cut corners if you paid a few more rubles.

However, the steps that have been taken to curtail such rule-breaking at the lowest bureaucratic level have made it impossible to arrange faster, more efficient processing with local representatives.

Regular citizens are now condemned to a crippling, Orwellian world of over-crowded waiting rooms, eternal processing times and ever more complicated procedures. If all goes according to plan, my family should be in possession of the new ownership papers by mid-August. That is, if the notary does not go on vacation.

During her stay in Russia, Maya wrote a blog about life in St. Petersburg.