Thursday, 31 March 2011
Wednesday, 30 March 2011
Tuesday, 29 March 2011
She's Moscow's only female chimneysweep. A chemistry graduate from the ecological faculty of the Moscow Chemical Technical Institute in 1981, Galina Yuryevna now runs 'Art of the Chimney sweep', a chimney cleaning business in Moscow.
She says she started out in her dream job as a fashion designer. Gradually though she made more contacts amongst people who worked with fireplaces, and when she learnt there was no company dedicated to maintaining Moscow's fireplaces, she saw a gap in the market and hasn't looked back.
Whilst showing me round her company's workshop Galina tells me about some of the more interesting chimneys they've cleaned in their time. Some years ago she was phoned by the Russian army. They had seen an article in a Russian tabloid which had made fun of her 'cleaning Putin's chimney', (they have, in fact, cleaned the Kremlin's chimneys). But when the officers saw the article they invited her to clean the flues of the old Red Army's wartime headquarters, and the one in Stalin's bedroom!
When she heard I was from England she related to me a story about her invite to a wedding. As folklore has it William the Conqueror was saved from being trampled by a wild horse when a chimney sweep stopped it. As a reward the sweep was invited to his daughter's wedding. Ever since it was deemed good luck to have a chimney sweep at one's wedding, and even in far away Russia Galina and her crew were invted to a colonel's wedding, 'in the English tradition'.
In another odd call out a man explained to Galina down the phone that they needed her and her team's expertise to extract a bag from the inside of a chimney flue. When they arrived they saw that their clients had already tried to get the bag, and as they worked with long poles and a remote camera they realeased the bag was full of money! They never retrieved the bag, she adds with a rye smile.
What is it like being the only woman in the chimney sweep business and boss of a team of men? Galina takes it in her stride. 'They can be difficult', she muses, 'but they're easier to control than a team of women!'
When we asked Yevgeny, one of her workers, what she was like as a boss he said he has the deepest respect for her. 'Clients are sometimes scpetical when they hear she's in charge,' he adds, 'but they soon change their mind after five minutes on the phone.'
We finished our tour on top of an old roof in central Moscow. She and her team spend much time up here, in a space above most people's heads which is seldom tread. She says the job really is quite romantic, with every roof in Moscow, even on buildings designed exactly the same, turning out to be unique. She says she never gets bored of the varying challenges.
Which is good because it must take some kind of motivation to stay up here in the snow and wind!
Tuesday, 1 March 2011
For a specific example lets look go back to October 2009.
Two Russian traffic policemen are dead, police Lieutenant Ayap Pavlov has shot himself and Viktor Lesnik has lost his job. What happened?
Polive Lieutenant Ayap Pavlov failed to show up for training on Saturday. Two hours later, he was pulled over by two traffic police whilst driving. They found their colleague, a policeman, was driving drunk. They made Pavlov get into their car to take him to hospital where they could record the state he was in. The causes of what happened next are unknown, like the causes of Pavlov’s absence from training or his drink driving. He shot one of his fellow policemen in the back of the head and wounded the police inspector driving. He then shot himself.
Tragic, certainly. And for the moment baffling. Dmitry Medvedev sacked the regional interior affairs minister, Viktor Lesnik and the Russian Interior Affairs minister, Rashid Nurgaliev will report will report back to Medvedev on the findings.
However this is not an isolated incident.
On the 22nd of October 2009 a drunken policeman went on a shooting rampage in a Moscow supermarket. He shot one man at point blank range in the head in front of the man’s girlfriend then frog marched her round the supermarket shooting at other shoppers. When police arrived they refused to arrest him saying they understood he was drunk and had family problems. Police General Vladimir Poronin later apologised for the comments and was reportedly sacked.
On the 21st of that month two senior policemen had criminal charges filed against them for going on a shooting spree in the Eastern city of Samara wounding three people.
On the 20th the Eastern Republic of Buryatia’s Interior Minister (in charge of Police) Viktor Sosyura was suspended pending investigations. He has since been charged with 44 episodes of contraband. He is suspected of taking bribes to allow a gang to import large quantities of the precious stone nephrite into Russia whilst ensuring his own department didn’t discover the crime. Nephrite generates huge income in Russia and the money made from the crime could amount to 50 million roubles.
These were, even back then, the tip of a truly horrifying iceberg. As of October 22nd 2009 Russian authorities were, according to the prosecutor general’s office, investigating 16,000 cases of corruption within the establishment. 12,000 cases have been opened this year. The cases include:
842 ‘persons of special status’
500 people’s deputies and local government officials
15 deputies of regional legislatures
Over 100 police and drugs investigators
On 6th November 2009 Alexey Dymovsky, a senior detective from Novorossisk send a youtube appeal to Prime Minister Putin asking him to intervene to stop widespread fraud in his force. He said crimes were frequently invented in order to fulfill quotas for their solving. He was fired from the police and arrested the next January, on suspicion of fraud. In 2010 it was no better. Even by the police’s own records its officers broke the law or violated their code of conducted 125,000 times last year.
For business owners in Russia it’s common practice to pay some policemen a fee to provide a ‘roof’, or protection in case of a dispute with competitors. They can then be called in to arrest the other owner, beat them up or even kill them. Many Russians are more afraid of the police than they are of criminals or thugs on the streets.
This law sees the right sentiments written down but critics say such a corrupt system is incapable of reforming itself. The ones doing the interviews for the new police jobs are current top policemen. To imagine they don’t have cliques and favourites they know will maintain their rackets is naïve.
Hopes are, as so often in Russia, high. But lets not forget, the reason Lenin changed their name to the militia the first time round was because the Tsarist police were so hated.