Story «Russia, Ivanovo»

Masha lives in the regional center, in the old three-room apartment, "Khrushcevka[1]". She shares her flat with her daughter Sveta who has two children: Vladimir and Angelica, her son-in-law Gena, and her son Petr. Sometimes Valera, Masha’s cohabitant, comes and stays with her for some time.

Vova is a preschool child, but he does not have a place in kindergarten yet. Angelica, who is 9 years old, is a schoolgirl. Sveta and Masha really want Vova to be allocated by the Education Department in a good kindergarten. At the same time, they do not know how to influence this process. They are thinking if it is necessary to bring a gift to the people who are responsible for the kindergarten allocation. They are afraid that such behaviour may cause negative reaction, since supervisory bodies with a view to corruption regularly monitor the Education Department, like any administrative structure.

Angelica goes to school, and the only thing that bothers her grandmother (Masha) and her mother (Sveta) is her academic performance (in a few years she will need a private tutor, so she can pass the Unified State Exams) and periodic informal charges for various needs of the school and class.

Masha has a secondary education; she works as a packer in a sewing shop floor. She could have got higher education, but because of her early first pregnancy, she had to forget her dream to study at the university. She has no social security: no sick leave, no paid leave, but her salary is paid black, which means she gets more money than with legal employment. In the morning, Masha gets up the first in the familt to get ready for work, and to prepare breakfast for everyone.

Sveta, her daughter, also wakes up early. She is getting ready for her work in a nail salon. Sveta is a manicurist in the salon, but she also works at home, she fully pays all expenses of the owner of the salon. Her salary depends on the number of clients. Today Sveta also has several clients who have agreed that she will receive them in the salon.

Getting ready for work, Sveta notices that Vova is sick. She must call the doctor and stay at home. Sveta calls the clinic where she is told that the doctor will come during the day. The doctor on duty has many ill children to visit, so it’s hard to say when she will be able to come to Vova.

Sveta calls the owner of the salon and asks her to reschedule the clients to the next day. Recently due to tax changes and economic difficulties caused by foreign policy, the owner was forced to change the legal status of the salon. Now she is a sole proprietor. She passes the cost of equipment to her manicurists, offering them a working place in her salon instead of the employment contract, as it used to be before. The owner understands Sveta's problem, but at the same time due to the declining number of clients, she is afraid to lose her profit. She agrees to give Sveta a day off.

Immediately after this call, Sveta receives another one from the Education Department. She is told that there is a place in a specialized kindergarten for Vova. However, she has to come to the Department in the afternoon, otherwise tomorrow someone else can take this opportunity.

Masha is ready to help her daughter and babysit Vova in the morning. She calls in the sewing shop floor. They sew bed linen. The owner, Gurgen, in order to save money violates the law, as he employs the workers at the minimum wage, and their real salary is given in cash. The owner bribes the supervisory authorities so that they close their eyes to the violation of the Labour Code. Gurgen is about to have problems with the tax service, and he is quite annoyed to hear Masha’s request to give her half a day off. He threatens her that she will be fired, if such situations are frequent, but he permits to skip the first half of the day. In fact, he will be able to deduct from her earnings the amount for the number of missed hours. He is happy that there is no issue of the sick leave (as Masha is an informal worker), and besides, he has someone to substitute her. Gurgen plans to call his family in Armenia in the evening to talk and to tell them about the money transfer. Because of these transfers he evades paying taxes and works "in the shadow".

Masha stays at home for the first half of the day, when Sveta and Angelica leave. After this, Petr, her youngest son, wakes up.

Petr is a student of the commercial form of education in one of the universities of the city. In order he could get higher education Masha and her mother (Petr's grandmother) Raya took loans. Some time ago, Petr was registered as a care worker for his grandmother. Grandmother Raya is a pensioner; she lives separately, not far from the city, in a private house and keeps a small farm. Despite her age, she is very active, also because she needs to pay a loan taken to save the fate of her beloved grandson. Grandma Raya worries as she heard the talks about changes in legislation: the legalization of self-employment, taxes on all domestic animals. She is worried about whether she will have to pay more taxes, and wants to find out how to avoid them and the prospects of this evasion.

Petr wakes up after a night shift in the network hypermarket (Auchan), where he works as a loader. He doesn't feel like going to the first class. He wants to sleep. At the beginning of his university course, he hoped that he could study well and get a state-funded admission. However, the number of  such places at the university has decreased due to the lack of money in the state budget, as explained by the Government. Peter is wondering what would happen if a part of the income of his employer, Auchan’s owner, was not sent abroad where he lives, but was used to finance a state-funded place for him at the university. Having spent some time in bed, Peter gets up and starts to get ready for the second class. The Dean's office has already warned him that he could be expelled for academic failure.  Petr understands that there is no need to be afraid of this, because the university counts each student. At the same time there is a threat that he will be transferred to the distance form of education, where the course duration is six months longer.  In addition, it this case he will have to skip half year of studies and restart in September, which means the tuition fee will comprise an extra annual payment.

Svetlana's husband, Gena, works as a self-employed truck driver. Recently, due to the introduction of the Platon system[2], his income has decreased. To maintain it on the previous level, he needs to take more orders and work more. He is rarely at home, as he does goods and passenger transport mostly at long distances.  Not so long ago, he took a loan for a car that he needs for work, and now interest payments to the bank bother him. He has orders so far, but he does not like the idea that with the help of the "Platon" system the tax service can find out the real amount of his income. His self-employment status is not officially registered.

Today, Gena returns home when everyone has left, and only Masha and Vova are at home. He is very worried and unhappy, as he had a small accident. Traffic police officers have compiled a protocol, but the situation can be considered differently. If he is found guilty, it will affect his insurance history. In any case, Gena wants to ensure  that the road police officers will testify for him. Masha advises him to approach her partner, Valera.

Masha met Valera in the Auchan store, where he works as a security guard. Valera in the recent past worked in detaining authorities. The recent recertification and the increase in salaries in the security forces have led to a reduction in the number of employees. Since Valera was already approaching superannuation pension, for him the inconsistency to one of the performance indicators turned out to be decisive - he was fired from detaining authorities.  Valera still has old connections, including those in the traffic police. He promised to help Gena, but warned that it will be necessary to “thank” the policemen, but carefully, in order they do not  suffer from the current anti-corruption checks.

Svetlana comes in the afternoon and replaces Masha. Svetlana managed to arrive in time to the administration and get a place in kindergarten. Now it is necessary to go there and after getting its supervisor's approval complete the enrollment procedure. Svetlana calls one of her regular clients, who is aware of some information, to ask about this kindergarten. One of the sharp questions she wants to ask is how much money they take from parents for a kindergarten needs during the year. She perfectly remembers that in addition to the official fee, kindergartens ask parents to pay for sanitary materials, stationaries and renovation.

The doctor comes in the evening, but she says that there is no necessary medicine for a free prescription. The doctor prescribes an expensive, but effective medicine. Unfortunately, recently the price of this medicine has increased due to changes in pharmaceutical legislation. In addition there was formed an artificial shortage of medicines of this group, since their supplies from abroad were limited. In the evening all family gather at home.

 At dinner, cooked by Sveta and Masha, they are watching TV where the main state channels talk about cunning  neighbouring countries, about the advances of the military-industrial complex, about the growth of pensions and salaries of state employees, ask to raise  money for a little boy for medical treatment abroad (he resembles Vova so much). Gena is surprised to find out that the owner of the “Platon” system  now lives in the Maldives, where, obviously, his company accounts are. They get a glimpse of very brief information on the growth of VAT from 18 to 20%, followed immediately by a story of high officials visiting one of the small provincial towns. The news story shows how people cheerfully greet the official. “Hang on!”- He says when leaving them.

Sveta does not watch the news, she helps Angelica with homework, thinking about the teacher’s words to make sure that Angelica understands the topic well. “We need to have the second maternity leave when our children go to school!” – one of her clients said it as a joke. Masha and Sveta go to bed later than the others do, because they need to wash and mend some clothes (with the reduction of real incomes they have to do it more often, because it is necessary to save money on buying new clothes).  Women do all housework in this family.


[1] five-story uniform buildings built in the 1950-1960s during Khrushchev's leadership.


[2] an electronic toll collection system established in Russia in November 2015

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