News from INION: Taking out Books and Some Other Events

This week I had to make a short break with this website, but events at my institute (Institute of Scientific Information for Social Sciences, INION) and around it have meanwhile been moving swiftly all these days.  On the previous Thursday we finally took out the books and documents from the study of the head of our Department of History.  The study was on the first floor and hadn’t suffered from the fire.  The storage with the production of our typography is said to have burned, so it’s in this study that the only copies of many publications of our department have survived.

At the same time we got an opportunity to see the ground floor and partly the first floor at the damaged part of the building.  The view is oppressive.  Mud all around, no ceiling overhead, frozen flows of water and pieces of half-burned pages underfoot.  Some rooms are really life-threatening to come in—too many heavy things can fall down from above at any moment.  The damaged part of the main book depository can be seen through a hole in a wall at the ground floor—it seems that it was mostly the book depository that was burning at the ground floor and at the first floor.

On the same day we were told the Institute had finally got a new building for temporary housing not far from the old one and we would move there the next (which is already this) week.  They say it’s in a terrible condition, but it’s better than nothing anyway.

Meanwhile ‘professional patriots’ go on attacking our director Yuri Pivovarov in the mass media and at the State Duma (we are still trying to understand what it could mean), and the Federal Agency of Scientific Organizations (FANO) seems to have recovered from the initial fright (earlier than we hoped, unfortunately) and turned to a decisive counter-offensive using heavy artillery, tanks and aircraft.  The same Thursday Nezavisimaya gazeta quoted the head of FANO Mikhail Kotiukov that ‘overall responsibility for the liquidation of the consequences of the fire lies with the administration of INION’.  Does it mean they aren’t going to help us at all, although FANO is our only sponsor and our Institute is officially subordinated to it?  By the way, INION still receives no additional financing for that very liquidation of the consequences of the fire, we have no money to buy furniture and computers for our new building.  Do they suppose us to use our own salary for it?

A week earlier the minister of education and science Livanov had said almost literary that the fire at INION was the best evidence that the scientists could not manage their own property well and that the ‘reform’ of the Russian Academy of Sciences was really necessary (he calls it nothing less than ‘the main event in our science for the last twenty years’).  Of course those persons prefer not to mention their own ‘effectiveness’ although our Institute (and many other institutes as well) received almost a half of the financing for 2014 in the fall of the year.  Where that money had been the most part of the year and who received the dividends—nobody knows.

It wasn’t all.  After a session of our directorate on Sunday (!) it was said, firstly, that this week we would have to start not only moving to the new building, but at the same time taking the books off the old building (which we were not able to do up to now otherwise than in small shipments because the investigators continued their work in the building).  The motivation is the FANO insists us to leave the old building as soon as possible.  It seems they have finally decided to pull it down.  It’s a pity, but it was predictable, unfortunately.

Secondly, it was said our administration is now required to work without days-off and that the representatives of the FANO had already visited our new building and were very angry as they hadn’t seen our employees there.  I don’t want to comment on this, but I’m afraid I have to.  I don’t mind to sit on the floor in an empty room with a book and a laptop computer without Internet all the working day, but only if those persons from the FANO take the books out of our book depository on the week-end together with us.  But I’m afraid it’s too much for them to do that.

And even this was not all.  On Monday afternoon (23 February, that is still a holiday in Russia, since the Soviet time) we were suddenly said the beginning of taking out books from our damaged building (along with moving to a new building) was planned as early as for the Tuesday morning, the volunteers were needed badly.  The motivation is the FANO, instead of sending the necessary money at last, it threatening to punish the administration of the Institute if the work isn’t begun immediately.  We really began to take out the dry books on Tuesday and managed to transport first several hundreds of boxes to a storage of the All-Russian Institute of Scientific and Technical Information (VINITI) in Lyubertsy near Moscow.  Luckily, we’ve found enough volunteers, our work would be much more slow without them.  Since next week we are going to work from early morning till late evening, including on week-ends; our librarians hope we’ll be able to rescue the dry books in about two weeks.

The situation with wet books is much worse.  There are at least two times as many of them as of the dry books, and our librarians are still not ready to allow the volunteers to work with them—one should be too careful with books in such a condition.  Where and how to transport them for freezing, where to dry them then, and where to get money for all of this—is still not clear.  AFAIK they have found a contractor with necessary equipment, specialists and experience, but it costs over a million dollars that we haven’t got at all.  This week they took a small number of books to a cold storage facility in Kotelniki near Moscow that agreed to receive those books into custody without prepayment, but it’s a temporary decision of course.

At least four journalists have arrived among the volunteers on Tuesday and Wednesday to find something exclusive inside our building, but didn’t say they were journalists.  Two of them were working together with me.  They were working well enough, but we found out their real profession only the next day when we saw their accounts in the Internet.  One girl’s article in Sobesednik wasn’t too friendly, she has shamelessly misquoted my answers to her questions, but she doesn’t seem to try to attack the Institute intentionally, so her mistakes were probably due to her bad knowledge of the subject, especially since she wasn’t able to ask me to explain anything additionally because she had to disclose her incognito in such a case.  One more guy’s reportage on TV was rather sympathizing. There’s nothing to be done, professional ethics isn’t a frequent guest in Russian mass media now ;-(

The Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences still doesn’t interfere in the situation.  We don’t know what they think about all of this there.

The causes of the fire are still unclear, too.  The main versions are the same three ones as previously…