Stephen Shenfield: Getting a new apartment in the Russian North – a case study in extortion

posted 6 Feb 2012, 01:55 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 6 Feb 2012, 02:27 ]
The procurator appears to be willing only to impose disciplinary penalties on the guilty officials – that is, reprimands or fines. He does not want to initiate criminal proceedings. “Both the executive and the judiciary in Russia are very corrupt,” comments Elena. “Each covers for the other. Russia is still very far from the rule of law.” 

In 2007, the old apartment block at 12 Workers’ Street in the village of Vylgort in the Syktyvdinsky District of the Komi Republic in the northwest of Russia was condemned as unfit for human habitation.

And about time. Elena Odnovarchenko, who rented an apartment in the block, described the conditions under which she lived with her husband and two daughters. The walls were warped with damp, covered with fungus, and separated from the floor by about a meter. The only heating came from the stove, which was unable to keep the apartment warm in the winter. A stench rose from the shit that had accumulated in the basement. The building was leaning over so far that its collapse was a real danger.

Fearing for their lives as well as their health, Elena’s family moved to temporary accommodation in another part of the country, leaving most of their belongings behind. This was the first in a series of temporary places of residence. [Read more].

Stephen Shenfield is a British-born specialist on politics and society in Russia and the post-Soviet region. He is the author of The Nuclear Predicament: Explorations in Soviet Ideology(Routledge and the Royal Institute for International Affairs, 1987) and Russian Fascism: Traditions, Tendencies, Movements (M.E. Sharpe, 2001).