A Fire in the Building of the Institute of Scientific Information for Social Sciences in Moscow

…began yesterday at about 10 p.m. Moscow time.  AFAIK the firemen are still going on liquidating the last small seats of fire.  No one has suffered, at the moment when the fire began, there was nobody in the building except the guards.  There’s even a hope that the book depository has survived, but I’ve got no idea at all about in what condition it is now.  Here the good news are over.  At least a half of the second floor is burned, the roof has fallen down.  The first floor was burning too, I’m not sure about the ground floor.  The inflammation began at the second floor, the causes are still unclear.  It was said on wireless that the fire began in one of the rooms which had been leased—it’s incorrect; there were no tenants in that part of the building.

No more details yet.  I’ll write again when I get any new information.  What will be the consequences for all of us—is still unclear too.  The building is now completely unsuitable for work and, I’m afraid, cannot be restored.  Further developments will depend on in which direction the brains of the Federal Agency of Scientific Organizations and of the rest of the ‘vertical of power’ will work.  The thoughts coming in my own mind are quite unhappy, unfortunately.

A good set of photographs is available here: http://www.kommersant.ru/gallery/2658662#id=1113827.

The salary arrived to my bank account right at midnight, when the fire was on its peak…

Update.  According to the latest information from my colleagues who were at the place today, in the early afternoon the firemen were still going on flooding the building with water, and it was still impossible to get inside because of smoke.  The fate of the book depository (14 million books) remains therefore unknown.  Half of the second floor is ruined, but there is still a hope the German Historical Institute has survived at least partly.  There was a meeting at the Federal Agency of Scientific Organizations, we are waiting for the results.

Time to go to bed.  There won’t be any definite information until tomorrow evening.  The building is still in smoke, this evening there probably still remained several seats of fire.  We are still afraid the fire could have got into the main book depository.  But there’s a hope the publishing department and typography have survived.  Organizational issues are being resolved, but it’s too early to say anything with certainty.  I’ll try to write again tomorrow or on Monday.  Hope something will be clear by that time.

1 February. Some more information.  Yesterday the Ministry of Emergency Situations reported the fire was extinguished, but in fact, the firemen are still going on working.  Smoke is still coming out of the building, but no fire can be seen.  What has probably survived are the German Historical Institute, the Franco-Russian Centre, administrative departments in the western half of the building, the publishing department, the typography, the readers’ catalogue.  The main book depository is said to have survived too, but there are still two columns of smoke over the building, one of them in a very bad place.  What has certainly burned are the specialized reading rooms with their own book collections, research departments.  The servers are probably lost, too.  An emergency committee has been formed at the Institute, headed by the director Yurii Pivovarov, questions are being discussed about further organization of the work, liquidation of the consequences of the catastrophe etc.  There’s still no talk about liquidation of the Institute.  A group of help has been created on Facebook, a kind of a public help council will probably also be formed.  No concrete plans on rescuing the survived property, we have to wait until the fire is finally extinguished and there’s no more smoke inside.

Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines

During the New Year holidays, I went, among others, to the museum of Soviet game-playing machines near Baumanskaya metro station.  Manufacturing of such machines was a full-blown industry in the USSR.  I mean, of course, not the ‘one arm bandits’ for gambling, which are, in fact, a kind of an electric roulette and came to Russia only in post-Soviet time, but the devices intended for the process of game itself, although one had to pay fifteen kopecks for it.  Their successors were the so called home computers like the Soviet Mikrosha or Western ZX Spectrum, gaming consoles, portable devices like tetris or PSP, games for cell phones and so on.  There are some forty arcade machines at the museum, many of them are still at work.  Some of them were brought from forsaken Pioneer camps in the province ;-)

The museum is open every day, its website has an English version.  The ticket costs 350 roubles, the price includes fifteen old Soviet fifteen-kopeck coins.  Along with the gaming machines, there are also some other exhibits: an old coin-operated luggage locker, and old cash register, several old drinks machines (at work, old one- and three-kopeck coins can be bought for additional payment), two old coin telephones (also at work, located in the opposite corners of the museum and connected to each other so that visitors can talk on them free of charge).  There is even an old instant photo booth that makes photos on a real photographic paper (the process of printing lasts about four minutes).

If you ever come to Moscow, or to Saint-Petersburg, you can include this museum to your plans!  I’m sure you’ll enjoy it :-)