The last gig I wrote about was the project in Bank Saint-Petersburg, which earned me money for our trip to Poland.
Later in 1995, my employment situation continued to be the same as I described in the above post. I was a full-time researcher at the university, working in the Operations Research Laboratory, and Boris was my boss, which was wrong on all possible accounts. The university jobs were still paying very little for both of us, but the way we thought about it back then, it was unimaginable to leave a university position. It was academia; we were researches, and even if we aren’t paid anything, we could not drop these badges of honor.
And still, we needed money. Maybe, some people can be happy being poor together with their loved ones, but it was never our case. We were on a hunting trail all the time.
The next gig came one more time from Dr. Conrad, and that was my last encounter with him. The gig was huge – working with the city government. Dr. Conrad, as usual, wanted to sell something to somebody. That time, this “something” was a document flow system that would allow all the city government departments to process the letters from the public more efficiently. My job would be to interview the city government employees from all departments, analyze their needs, the existing processes bottleneck, and produce a report explaining why the proposed system was the best possible solution. Then I had to make a presentation to the whole bunch of officials.
As usual, this all happened at the most inconvenient time, when I was in the University boarding house with the kids. Once again, I had to figure out how to go to the interview without a babysitter, and once again, there were helping hands, and I went, and once again, Dr. Conrad said: I know you can write. And then the project started.
If my grandchildren are reading this story twenty years from now, the word “Smolny” won’t mean anything to them. But for us, it was not just “the city government,” it was Smolny!
The wiki entry is short and lacks details. In reality, after the October Revolution, Smolny became a place where the Party Committee of the city of Leningrad was located. Formally speaking it was neither the legislative nor the executive power, but in reality, it was the power.
After the last Russian Revolution of August 1991, the Communist Party was dissolved, or we thought so. Smolny became a place where the government of Saint Petersburg, the Mayor, and the city departments were located, presumably all new and independent. And it was because of that contract, that I learned about the reality.
I remember that I had no idea about the dress code back then, and Boris was trying to instruct me to dress appropriately when I go to Smolny, I was clueless, and was keeping telling him that I will dress the way I feel comfortable. I do not remember how he convinced me that it was inappropriate, but I searched in the piles of my humanitarian aid and produced some slacks and two white blouses with lacy collars. That became my Smolny uniform.
In Smolny, I was introduced to the head of the city department of information technology and his second-in-command. I know that I often forget the names of the people I worked with. In this case, I remember the names, but I choose not to mention them. Since then, I haven’t heard their names in the media, which makes me think that they didn’t do much harm in the subsequent years.
They were friendly and supportive. The temporary pass was issued for me, and because of that, I was able to use some of the employee’s privileges. And here is what I learned.
Nothing changed since the Communist Party presumably left Smolny. Virtually nobody left. That was executive power, so people were not elected, and there was no legal way to prevent people from slowly returning to their positions. Remember what I told about “the deficit” in the Soviet Union? Also, some people, including communists of even modest rank, had access to the exclusive distribution of consumer goods? Well, the same thing was happening in Russia, in 1995, even before Putin. Not before, since that was when I happened to be in very close proximity to him.
To name just a few privileges, the food in the cafeteria was of the restaurant quality and cost a fraction of the price (and that was one of the privileges I could use as well). There were also plenty of pastries, prepackaged meals, etc. which one could bring home, also of the restaurant quality and for a fraction of a price.
When I was going to Smolny, I had to take a subway, and then a trolleybus, and then walk. Depending on the rank, Smolny employees were either driven to and from work in cars (not the taxies, the cars belonged to Smolny and were used exclusively for the employees’ transportation), or in minivans, either directly home or being dropped by a subway station.
Not only people worked precisely in the same positions as “before the revolution,” but even the departments were located in the same rooms as the former departments and bureaus of the Communist Party Committee.
I am going to pause now because this post is becoming way too long. More to follow.
My historical posts are being published in random order. Please refer to the page Hettie’s timeline to find where exactly each post belongs, and what was before and after.