(Along the edge of the disappearing land)
A KIND OF A PREFACE
… It happened in 1968 when I was 33. By the word “this” I mean my deliverance and liberation, though, comparative of course. To make it plain I would like to start from afar.
In autumn 1967 I gave up teaching at the university and left Vladivostok. My goal was Moscow. However, nobody waited me there. That is why I decided to visit Kazan first, as it was the town of my childhood, adolescence and early youth. Fortunately, my closest relatives and friends kept on living there.
After the few days spent in Kazan I faced with the problem of propiska.
I have to make a little digression for a profane or a foreign reader. You see, the thing was that at that time I lived in the state called the Soviet Union the state that does not exist anymore. Though, at that time nobody could even imagine that in a little more than twelve years it would disappear. Well, there was the regulation in this state, which is called today without fear the police - serf-holding empire, demanding from any person to be registered in a certain place of residence which he couldn’t leave for a long time without notification of the authorities. In general, not every person had the freedom of movement around the country, but only those who had passport. The city dwellers usually had it, but the rural population hadn’t as a rule. Though, not even every town-dweller could go anywhere he wanted. This right had only those who were employed under the authorities’ invitation. In other words, there weren’t free hands freely wandering around the country. Everything was brought to order by the centre. Those who didn’t want to be regulated were ranked among the spongers and vagabonds at once. There was always place prepared in advance for them in prison or labor camps. One hadn’t to make much effort in order to be ranked among this class: one just had to quit one’s job and didn’t go for a new one within two months. Though, one could avoid the criminal responsibility if s/he was studying. However, one should be enrolled to some educational institution first, but it was even more difficult than to find job.
Thus, any citizen of our country after he grew up acquired automatically the limitation of movement and was bind to his place of residence. That is why when it happened, as I mentioned at the beginning, I obtained the comparative freedom of movement. By the word “this” I mean my legalization in Kazan University. Though, I’d like to go on my narration ending this lyrical digression.
Well, after I came to Kazan I had to come and register in Militia office, in other words obtain propiska. However, in the police- bureaucratic country I couldn’t get away with my voluntarism consisted in my “groundless” discharge. The head of the passport bureau examined my papers, in which I asked to give me propiska in my brother’s flat which was large enough not to cause anybody any problems and not to violate the established by the law limit of living space, and responded:
- I refuse you in our request.
- Why? Am I lack any necessary documents?
- Right you are. On what ground did you come here? Did anybody invite you to work here?
- I do not have the official invitation, but I will find a job as soon as I will obtain propiska.
- I will not give you propiska because the town is secure. If everybody would obtain propiska here…
- But I grew up and finished school here. All my relatives live here.
- So, what? Return where you came from. Nobody invited you here.
- But Vladivostok from where I checked out is the secure city as well. So I can’t return there. I even will not be able to buy a ticket there at a railway book office.
- I don’t know anything.
- How it could be? What should I do now? Are you sane?
- I’m sane, but what did you think about when you were leaving Vladivostok? I personally have no right to give you propiska in Kazan. The talk is over. Good by.
What a bastard – thought I leaving militia office. However, on the other hand, he is just an obedient lackey and a servant who observed the letter of the law. After all, this is not the official who should be blamed, but the state system he duly serves to.
However, if the law like an unconquerable column couldn’t be destroyed, one should get round it. There is no point to be accused in vagrancy and to be taken to the camp, though the empire requires the strong slave hands. However, they wouldn’t make a slave of me – they run into another man.
Though I opposed this regime and refused to take the established orders, however "he must needs go whom the devil drives". On the other hand, I didn’t fall from the moon as well: this regime that I rejected and I didn’t want to submit to, nevertheless, was my font from my very childhood. I grew up under it and that is why I knew not only the prohibitive laws, but the ways and means of ignoring and avoiding it.
After giving some thought I came to the conclusion that the way chose at a certain moment by the character of the novel “Dear Friend” by Maupassant would be quite right for me. You see, he found himself almost in the same situation as me. However, nobody threatened him with the prison. In other respects everything was the same. So, it was decided: chercher la femme!
I won’t describe in this story the fascinating and piquant details of the charming of three powerful women who played the key role in my employment and obtaining of propiska – it’s not that kind of genre (you see, it’s not a love fiction, but a scientific prose). However, to be honest I should mention: even in that cruel state I lived in, there kept on existing the sweetheart laws of nature that no inhuman regime could abolish, and due to which a young man of pleasing manners could do, decently saying, a lot. By the last I mean not only evading the dragon laws, but the successful solving of all one’s social problems. To be more precise, I pushed aside all the claimants standing in the long line and was enrolled to the post-graduate study of Kazan State University and in addition was provided with propiska at the dormitory for post-graduate students.
All this stuff took me three months. However, they passed in a moment, because during this period I managed to pass the entrance exams, reached the patronage of three women who protected me for the whole entrance examination period, escaped from two marriages and remained in good relationships with all my high patronesses.
This was how I obtained the legality and freedom.