Quod erat demonstrandum: INION Is to Move To the VINITI Building

The situation around my Institute became relatively clear on yesterday afternoon.  At two o’clock our acting director Ilia Zaitsev and our ex-director Yuri Pivovarov were called to the FANO where they were told the INION was to move to the building of the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information (VINITI) in Usievicha Street near the Sokol metro station.  The FANO has already tried to force us to do so last year, but we refused.  First, at the same time it was talked a lot about the perspectives of our merger with the VINITI that is completely unacceptable for us as our institutes are quite different and, taking into account the today’s conditions in Russia, such a merger will the most probably cause nothing except further shortage of funding.  Second, the VINITI is placed in the opposite part of Moscow, and we still use our old building in Profsoiuznaia Street and have one more small office in Dmitriia Ul’ianova Street, so it won’t be suitable for us at all if some of our departments are placed so far away.  Third, Zaitsev visited the VINITI building last year and says the rooms that are proposed to us are in a poor condition.  In winter time, for instance, we’ll have to work like in a fridge because windows need a repair.

It seems that this time people at the FANO have taken into account their last year’s unsuccessful experience and decided first to use Aleksei Pavlov and his enterprise in order to frighten us so that later they could play a role of our ‘saviours’.  At the same time, however, they say they have no money for our move, nor for a repair in the VINITI building.  Our Institute has no money for that either.  No more information is available now, I’ll write again when I find out anything else.

News from INION

…are more and more like war communiques.  The ‘repair’ is going on; the colleagues who are in the building say they have called the police.  The workers are meanwhile tearing out the parquet in the conference hall where our tomorrow staff meeting is to take place and are taking the chairs out.  The company that is managing the building is acting like bandits.

The expulsion of the INION, latest news

The message that our academic secretary sent to the internal mailing list on Saturday evening is worth to be quoted word for word:

Dear colleagues!

For those who was not [in our building] in Krzhizhanovskogo Street, I can report that they are setting us at naught meanly. It is not a matter of harmless rhythmic knocking that is bringing headache. The workers are tearing off the parquet in respirators. The air is full of dust. And our employees have no respirators.

Some part of the first floor is covered with sand now. The same thing will soon happen with fourth and fifth floors as well.

The administration of the Institute asks everyone who will physically be able to come to the staff meeting on Tuesday at twelve not to fail to come.

When this ‘repair’ was just beginning on Thursday, we thought it was an attempt to put a scare into us. But probably things are much more serious, and they are trying to produce unbearable conditions for us in order to paralyze our work and thus to force us physically out of the building. I wonder what will happen next week

Is INION to Move Again?

I wanted to write finally something positive about my Institute, but the only really positive news is still that we still continue working, despite all the difficulties, and our work is surprisingly successful. However, even this is in question since yesterday.

First, when we came to work in the morning, we saw strange workers in our building ‘repairing’ the floor. The results of their work look like this:

This was only the beginning. At about one o’clock, our acting director Ilia Zaitsev received an official paper with a claim that we are to ‘vacate’ the building in seven business days. No other housing was proposed instead. This requires some additional explanation.

Our main building in Nakhimovskii Prospect was destroyed by a heavy fire in January 2015. The construction of a new building is only to begin next year. Several weeks after the fire, we were given four floors in another building in Krzhizhanovskogo Street as a temporary housing and were proposed we would be given the other two floors as well later. Formally, our Institute is a part of the Russian Academy of Sciences, but during its infamous ‘reform’ in 2013, all its institutes were subordinated to the newly established Federal Agency of Scientific Organizations (FANO). The building in Krzhizhanovskogo Street belongs to the Academy of Sciences, but is managed by a state enterprise that is also subordinated to the FANO. D’you think it is to provide us the best working conditions?Not at all. Its director Aleksei Pavlov has tried to force us out of the building since the very first month after we settled in here, and the FANO has been pretending not to be able to do anything with it all this time. By the moment, he only managed to force us off the ground floor that is now rented to a dental clinic, a shop of paints and lacquers, and a hookah lounge. It’s by him that the yesterday’s paper is sighed.

He argues the building is in a critical condition. But as far as we know, none of the commercial organizations on the ground floor is required to move away, in spite of that ‘critical condition’ of the building. Moreover, Pavlov signed an agreement with our Institute only a short time ago that allows us to use the building at least until 31 December. He didn’t probably know anything about the ‘critical condition’ of the building while signing that agreement. And three days ago, the acting President of the Academy of Sciences Valerii Kozlov proposed to unite our Institute with the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information (VINITI). It’s an old idea, first proposed a year ago. And it’s completely unacceptable for us because our Institute and the VINITI do quite a different work, and an attempt to make our Institute a part of the VINITI will most probably mean the liquidation of our Institute. So it seems that the yesterday’s events were not an initiative of Pavlov, but something much more serious.

Our nearest plan is to organize a staff meeting on Tuesday. We also hope to receive an official explanations from the FANO by that time. They were pretending not to know anything almost all the day yesterday, but in the evening they had to give some comments to the journalists after we published the news about our expulsion in mass media. Now they are lying through the teeth that they have brought to our notice that this building is only a temporary housing and that they have already proposed us several variants of new housing. Our own administration doesn’t know anything about those ‘proposals’. I’ll write more as soon as I get any more information.

Presentation of the Projects of a New Building for INION

Last Friday, a presentation of architectural projects of a new building for my Institute took place at the Shchusev Museum of Architecture in Moscow.  The event was a bit funny, but to the same extent senseless, as the Federal Agency of Scientific Organisations (FANO) still tries to make all the decisions about our future building without our participation.  For instance, we only found out in mid-July that a public contract for designing of the building had been already signed (‘we’ means the whole Institute, including the administration).  The tendering process took place in late June.  It was the Giprokon company that ‘won’ the competition; the same company did this in spring when the previous tendering process was declared void due to infringements of the procedure.  The preliminary specifications were also written at the FANO, and the result was quite predictable.  They suggest to make the book storage almost three times as small as it was before the fire—it’s an old idea of the FANO that books are no more necessary in the computer age.  Of course it’s completely unacceptable for us as there were already not enough space in the book storage before the fire; if a new storage will be smaller than the problem will soon arise again.  We tried to explain all of this to representatives of FANO in May, they promised to take our criticism into account, and now we can see that they really did it, but in an unusual way: they organised a new tendering process in secrecy and simply ignored all our proposals in a new edition of the preliminary specifications that were included into the final text of the public contract.  The current competition for the best architectural design was organised by Giprokon according to that contract.

On Friday we could see the results of such an approach.  Fourteen projects were presented altogether, including seven ones developed at Giprokon; they said that according to the law they had to make as many projects as the independent architects did.  One could see, however, that five of their projects were made quite formally; only two projects seem to be a real working design.  One can also suppose which project they will most probably try to defend, as in their presentation they used an image which we first saw as early as in January.  It means, by the way, that Giprokon was already working at a project of a new building for us in winter, although no tendering process had been announced and no preliminary specifications had been published yet.

The quality of all the seven Giprokon’s projects is the same poor.  One can see that they correspond to the specifications from FANO and that the authors can hardly imagine how an academic institution works, especially an institution for social sciences and humanities.  As a result, all that they could produce was a purely speculative decision that didn’t correspond to our needs at all and looked more like an entertainment centre or a shopping plaza, but not like an academic library.  This can be said about all their seven projects.

Three of the other seven projects looked like diploma works; unfortunately, they were no better than those developed at Giprokon.  There were also three more or less interesting projects.  The author of one of them proposed to reconstruct our building exactly as it looked like before the fire (it was an interesting piece of the Soviet architecture of 1960s and 1970s), but using modern technology.  He didn’t change the size of book storage and suggested to construct an additional section of book storage on an underground level and several more underground levels under the yard, also mostly for book storage.  The project as a whole is interesting although requires some improvement; the problem is that it’s a project of conservation of what had existed previously, not designed for the future development of the Institute.

The authors of one more project proposed to make the new building twice as big as the old one; the project therefore doesn’t correspond to the official specification, as well as the previous one.  The authors also suggested to increase the size of the book storage and, that was the most interesting, proposed to assign their copyright for the project to our Institute.  The project, however, looks to be incomplete, it raises doubts from the aesthetic point of view, and it’s rather difficult to understand how we will use such a big building (and whom else FANO will ‘settle’ there together with us).

One more project is interesting aesthetically and includes two stages of construction, that can be seen as a base for the future development.  But the plan of indoor premises is not developed in detail, as I can understand, so this variant can be acceptable only if it’s possible to make the book storage large enough without compromising the other rooms.

The results of competition are to be announced on 16 August.  An exhibition of the entries will be organised at the same Museum of Architecture; they also promise to post them on the official website of the competition, http://www.konkurs-inion.com/.

A Party for the Friends of INION

The fire at our Institute began on 30 January 2015, that is already a year ago; time runs fast.  We decided it was a good reason to organize a kind of a ‘party for our friends’ and to meet once more with our volunteers, with our sponsors, with people who granted computers to us so that we were able to continue our work soon after the catastrophe, and with our librarians as well—we work at separate buildings now, so they not so often have an opportunity to see people from the research departments.  There were not too many of us, but the party seems to have been rather good:

These are some of those books which survived at the very centre of the fire on the second floor.  We thought everything was completely lost there, but we were wrong: when the workers began to throw down the wreckage and ashes, books began to fall as well.  In the evenings, when the workers went away, our volunteers were digging those heaps of ashes and extracting what had survived.  Wish I could have taken part in it more than twice.  It was the last stage of our collaboration with volunteers, the Federal Agency of Scientific Organizations forbade us to invite them just after that.  Now the rescued books are kept at several cold storage facilities, but our librarians are taking away those which are not too wet and dry them in the survived part of our old building.  To dry all the other ones, special equipment is required, we were promised it would be bought this year 🙂

Miracles do happen, here you can see a photograph of one of them; this sheet of paper became a symbol of the whole our meeting.  A brick of burnt paper picked up by one of our librarians, opened at the only survived page.  The text is probably in the Church Slavonic, you can see the line В пламени незгорѣвшихъ—‘Those having not burnt in the fire’…

Народ начинает собираться…

People begin to come…

Continue reading ‘A Party for the Friends of INION’ »

Dry Books Have Been Taken Out from the INION Building

I had to spend the beginning of this week for writing some more abstracts for our abstract journal, so I’m posting with a delay again.  The dry books have finally been taken out of the building of my institute (INION).  I took part in packing the last newspapers on Saturday, and the rest of them was packed on Sunday without me and taken away on Monday.  Thanks to our volunteers—we wouldn’t be able to do all this work in three weeks by ourselves.  One more thanks to our sponsor whose name I don’t know and who bought for us boxes, bags, sticky tape, clothes and water for volunteers etc.  It wouldn’t be easy to get such money from the Federal Agency of Scientific Organizations.

At present, almost all the dry books are stored in Lyubertsy near Moscow, we’ve been given a building there in an industrial zone of the publishing centre of the All-Russian Institute of Scientific and Technical Information (VINITI), and it was told we would be given one more building there later.  Tomorrow we are going there to unpack the newspapers that are a bit wet and shouldn’t be stored in polyethylene bags.  The readers’ catalogue is being transported to Lyubertsy, too; it has almost not suffered from the fire or water.  The service catalogue is to be dried, but it’s still inaccessible because of breaking-downs inside the building.  Wet books are being transported to a cold storage facility in Kotelniki near Lyubertsy.  Books are rather heavy in such a condition, so only professional porters strong enough are involved in this work.  Unfortunately that’s why, at least till now, wet books have been taken off the building much more slowly than the dry books have, although it would be better if it were just the opposite.  In February the non-heated building worked itself as a kind of improvised cold storage, but it’s getting warm now; for wet books, that is really dangerous…

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…

The Fire at the Institute of Scientific Information for Social Sciences: Two Weeks Later

This week, good news have finally appeared.  The first and most important one is they have begun to take the books out of the building.  As the investigators are still working in the building, almost no one is allowed to come inside, so only a limited number of employees take part in the transportation of the books.  We hope later we’ll be able to increase the work pace.  The Institute has made contracts with several cold storage facilities to freeze the books, and the Federal Agency for Scientific Organisations has approved the purchase of a freeze drier to dry them.  Those books which are not too wet, will be dried in a separate rooms with special temperature and air humidity.  One of nine sections of the book depository, the current journals, hasn’t suffered at all.

In some rooms, there’s already electricity and heating.  The typography is at work again, and the publishing department will probably continue its work soon, too.  The government has decided not to destroy the building, but there are no details yet.  The remains of the roof are being taken out from around the building; we are looking forward to see them taken out from the second floor as well.  They are going to isolate the western half of the building from the destroyed part of the eastern half, so that we’ll be able to use the western half while the eastern one is under reconstruction.

The trees from the second floor which we took off the building on previous Wednesday are at a greenhouse now.  All of them are alive, although in a different condition, unfortunately.  We hope all of them will recover.

The causes of the fire are still unclear.  The main versions being discussed are the same as previously: an incident with electricity, an arson, a stray petard.  Until they take the remains of the roof out from the second floor, there hardly will be any more information.

Now the sad news.  According to the calculations that have just been published, almost half of the books that were stored in the building are lost.  Before the fire, the library of our Institute had some 14,700,000 books, but this number includes 3,700,000 books which are stored at the branches of our Institute at the other institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a great number of books that had been prepared for transportation to the Institute of World Literature many years ago, but that institute hasn’t take them.  Many of them were stored in boxes on the second floor and have been of course completely annihilated by the fire. 800 thousand more are in a hangar in the courtyard of our Institute up to now.  So there were some 10,200,000 books in the building.  5,400,000 of them have burned, that is, the collections of the reading rooms on the second floor, the books for the Institute of World Literature, and some part of the main book depository.  Among them 1,100,000 books were published in Russia since 1945, they are available at other libraries.  800 thousand books are available at the branches of our Institute at the other institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences.  1,200,000 books were the out-of-date ones and second copies which were to be discarded anyway in order to get some free space for new books: our depository is designed for 7 million books, not for 10 million.  So the really irretrievable losses are 2,300,000 books.  Only a death of a beloved person may be more painful.

4,800,000 books have survived.  Almost 3 million have to be freezed; nobody can imagine how long it will take to restore them.  About a million books are in a satisfactory state, among them are the most valuable—the scarce books collection and the Gottish Library that was brought to the Soviet Union after the Second World War.  Fortunately, they were stored on the ground floor.  890 thousand books are the out-of-date ones and second copies which are to be discarded anyway.

It was one of the best libraries in the USSR and it continued to be one of the best libraries in Russia even in the recent years.  When libraries begin to burn, it’s a bad sigh for any country…