As I mentioned in my previous post, during this trip to Russia I am staying in the apartment of a friend. Unlike all previous occasions where I have either spent the first night in a hotel or have been here working, this time around I have to register myself. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the idiocy with which Russia is run, there is a requirement that all visitors register themselves with the local authorities within 4 working days of arrival. As a public service to all those who might find themselves in a similar situation in Russia in the future, here’s how the registration is done.
1. Host (the person in whose apartment you are registering) makes a call to his mate in the local passport office to find out what the latest rules are and what the best way of registering is. Rules in Russia change often, with nobody really having a clue what they are at any given time.
2. Receive advice from mate in passport office to register at the post office and avoid the local OVIR office like the plague.
3. Go to post office, join lengthy queue at special counter for registrations, Western Union, and other foreigner-related services.
4. Wait 15 minutes.
5. Approach counter, request forms for registration and enquire about other requirements.
6. Receive information that this post office is too small to deal with non-CIS registrations and you must go to the central post office on Lenin Square.
7. Receive helpful advice that you will need to go to a bank and pay 200 Roubles ($6) in taxes before you can register at the central post office.
8. Go to bank, notice they are on a break until 12pm.
9. Hang about on the street with host looking gormless until 12pm. Don’t worry, you’ll fit right in.
10. Go into bank, join queue.
11. Wait 20 minutes.
12. Pay 200 Roubles, obtain receipt.
13. Go to central post office, notice they are on a break until 1pm.
14. Go to local cafe, order overpriced food and beverage, kill time until central post office opens.
15. Enter central post office, join lengthy queue at special counter for registrations, Western Union, and other foreigner-related services.
16. Wait 10 minutes.
17. Approach counter, request forms for registration and enquire about other requirements.
18. Receive double-sided A4 form which requires no end of pointless duplicate information and instructions to fill out two such forms.
19. Hang about waiting for host to fill out form, sitting beside herd of Azeris wearing tracksuits and drinking beer.
20. Notice that the central post office sells canned food, noodles, hair dye, and bathroom cleaning products.
21. Wait 20 minutes for forms to be completed by host.
22. Join queue at special counter for registrations, Western Union, and other foreigner-related services.
23. Wait 10 minutes.
24. Hand in forms, be informed that copies of passports (host and visitor), forms, and immigration card are required. Copying services are not available in the post office. Cans of pilchards and hair-curlers are.
25. Leave central post office, walk short distance to shop providing photocopying services.
26. Join lengthy queue at kiosk providing photocopying services. Note the three or four kiosks not providing photocopying services manned by staff sitting idle.
27. Wait 15 minutes.
28. Hand over documents to be photocopied.
29. Wait 5 minutes.
30. Receive photocopies, pay 30 roubles.
31. Return to central post office, join queue at special counter for registrations, Western Union, and other foreigner-related services.
32. Wait for herd of Azeri men in tracksuits to finish registration and their beers.
33. Hand over documents and photocopies for clerk to process.
34. Wait 10 minutes, and slowly understand why long-life foods are available for purchase in a Russian post office.
35. Receive blank envelope and two somewhat strange and identical blank itemised bills from clerk.
36. Wait while host writes address on envelope and completes itemised bills, applying signatures where required.
37. Hand envelope and itemised bills back to clerk.
38. Wait while clerk applies stamp to twenty three separate pieces of paper, stapling bundles of them together and adding them to a huge pile sitting beside her left elbow.
39. Receive stack of papers all stamped and stapled indicating registration is complete, and bask in the knowledge that the Russian Federation is that little bit more secure.
Total time = 4 hours. Still, at least it required fewer steps than buying lightbulbs.
I mentioned this to a local friend of mine, who laughed and guessed that in the UK this probably takes no more than 15 minutes. He seemed surprised when I told him that there is no such requirement in the UK and that of the 36 countries I have visited in the last 10 years, the only one which requires visitors to register with the local authorities is Russia.