Russia: Social Benefits and Bureaucracy

The previous GV translation from Russia dealt with how a few committed St. Petersburg bloggers have partially succeeded in relieving the bureaucratic torture that the local elderly people with disabilities were subjected to by the state authorities. By way of a follow-up, here is a story of another bureaucratic ordeal (RUS), shared by LJ user smitrich (Moscow-based journalist Dmitry Sokolov-Mitrich):

My grandmother from [Elektrostal, a city near Moscow] has asked me to help her get a [state] subsidy. So that she could pay less for her apartment.

I told her: “Why do you need to put yourself through all this trouble? Let me transfer this money to your [savings account] myself – what difference does it make to you where this money is coming from?”

No, she doesn't want it. She desires a subsidy. It must feel nice when the state is taking care of you. Labor veterans, home front workers, [category II disability pensioners] – they are known for such a weakness.

We killed the whole day on this. Rode everywhere by car. Didn't manage to get everything done: I'll have to go to Elektrostal once more.

Conclusion: if an elderly person in Russia doesn't have a young relative with a car – or just a young relative – [he or she] will never succeed in getting [all the paperwork required for a subsidy done] by [himself/herself].

The person who invented this whole scheme was probably hanging cats as a child and enjoying it.

Some of the comments to this post further show how ubiquitous this bureaucratic system is and how it affects all groups of citizens, not just the elderly:


Yes, it takes a couple of weeks and more to gather all the certificates and stand in lines in order to get any kind of benefits payment here… It is especially horrible to watch single mothers who are forced to move through all these circles of hell to get money for their newborns. Old women, they are taking it one step at a time, they are at least not tied to breastfeeding and the child's schedule, and they don't have to run up the stairs with baby carriages… […]



While you […] are talking about getting some benefits out of the bureaucratic apparatus, what amazes me is how much energy one has to spend on getting what seems like the simplest paperwork done. To change [propiska, “the record of place of residence”], for example. Even the young ones need to store up some energy for that.



Recall [the Stanford prison experiment]. Most normal people who find themselves in an environment where humiliating others is considered a norm, eventually give in to the influence of those who surround them and begin to behave like sadists, too. Alas.



I don't agree with the original phrase, “Why do you need to put yourself through all this trouble, let me send the money to you.” No, if your country owes to you – let it pay! Because otherwise one will fail [to collect], and then another, and the third… – and then someone will built himself yet another yacht on the money saved on the pensioners.

1 comment

  • One would like to remind eli_prophet that what’s really amazing is not the amount of effort required to get a propiska but rather that (a) Russia is supposed to be democracy, not the USSR, and propiska is not supposed to be required and (b) the craven, cowardly people of Russia stand idly by and allow this requirement to be imposed upon them.

    In fact, as to the effort required to get a propiska, that’s not the least bit surprising. The government is sending a clear message to the people of the country that they stand in servitude to the regime and have no rights of any kind. By creating these obstacles the regime cowers and intimidates the population, and by denying them social benefits it weakens them. Weak, intimidated people are of course much easier to control, with fewer resources, than people of a different kind.

    And it’s highly noteworthy that nowhere in this translation do we see any comments from Russians placing blame on Putin or Medvedev, much less do we see any plans for direction action. Instead, the author simply proposes to do the government’s work for it, allowing it to save money to be used on a new cold war with the outside world.

    Here we have the horrifying mess that is Russia in perfect microcosm.

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency

No thanks, show me the site