Ah, Russia, or Ah, The Caucasus. For the Russians, this is a great national holiday weekend. This is the weekend celebration of the 1880’s integration of Kabardino into the Glorious Russian Empire. This is the biggest and best holiday of the year, complete with fireworks and days off, at least for the Russians. They don’t seem to even notice that this may not be the proudest day of the year for the Kabardinian segment of the population – who still speak Kabardinian and have fought to have the language brought back into the schools. Of course, Russians still can’t imagine why the Estonians, who fought on Germany’s side in WWII and were subsequently conquered by Stalin, do not revere the WWII memorial to the Russian troops that Russia left behind.
A small lesson in Russian government.
Upon arrival in Kabardino-Balkariya, I have three days to register my presence with the police. Not knowing that Monday was also a holiday, we hired a car to take us to the regional center to register.
When we got there, the door for registration was closed. We were told that it was closed because of the holiday, but that the person who did registration might come in a 9 or 10 for a meeting and he might register me. The door was in the back of an Albertson’s sized building and all of the other offices seemed to be alive and working, so this seemed possible.
We returned every 20 minutes until 9:45 – when the door was open. A young lady said that she would do the paperwork and the boss, who was at a meeting, would come back in about an hour to sign in. Unfortunately, she became visibly upset when she saw my entrance stamp. I entered Russia more than three days ago. My wife explained that we spent two days in Moscow and on the train and had only been in Kabardino for three days. The girl was still visibly upset until Larisa produced our train tickets which she had accidentally kept in her purse.
An hour later we returned and were told that the paperwork was going well, but the girl needed copies of my passport, my mother in law’s passport, my entrance stamp and my visa – and they didn’t have a copy machine so we would have to go across the street and get copies made.
When we got that done, we were told that the boss would be out of his meeting soon and would sign the documents. As we were not allowed to stay in the office, we sat on some benches in front of the main entrance to the building watching the boss in his meeting. For an hour he stood in the parking lot with his work buddies, smoked, talked, laughed, and occasionally sent a guilty look in our direction. By noon the “meeting” was over and he signed my documents before going to lunch.
Ah, the Russian work ethic.