Day of the Construction Workers/День строителя: Russia’s Building Blokes

By August 8, 2010June 3rd, 2017Lifestyle, Russia, The Stunt

The second Sunday in August is Construction Workers Day!

Russian construction

Photo Credit: Jennifer Eremeeva

Since 1956, this holiday has been celebrated with a view to encouraging the sector to, as the government decree established, “further industrialization, raise the level of quality, and reduce the cost of construction.”

Hmm…Things haven’t quite worked out that way, but I suppose you have to have something to work towards.

I can’t think there will be much dancing in the streets today:  the construction industry is not dear to Russian hearts.   Construction companies, particularly state construction companies, are widely understood to be swindlers, thieves, bandits, money launderers and purveyors of shoddy products, delivered way over schedule and budget.  So that’s a bad start.  Then, there are the construction workers themselves, who tend to be imported from what Russia calls “the near abroad,” and therefore are considered twenty or thirty-second class citizens.   “They are dirty,” said one Russian woman, about the men who were working on her apartment, wrinkling her nose, and I thought “Duh…of course they are dirty:  they live at the construction sites…they have no real bathroom facilities or hot water: what do you expect?”

Then, there are the construction workers themselves, who tend to be imported from what Russia calls “the near abroad,” and therefore are considered twenty or thirty-second class citizens.   “They are dirty,” said one Russian woman, about the men who were working on her apartment, wrinkling her nose, and I thought “Duh…of course they are dirty:  they live at the construction sites…they have no real bathroom facilities or hot water: what do you expect?”

Construction companies, particularly state construction companies, are widely understood to be swindlers, thieves, bandits, money launderers and purveyors of shoddy products, delivered way over schedule and budget.  So that’s a bad start.

The fact that construction workers take up residence at the site where they work is a source of endless fascination to my foreign friends.  HRH, Velvet and I spent about two years visiting the site of our new apartment, which was usually rigged up as a refugee camp:  the (male) Ukrainian plasterers set up a temporary dormitory of folding cots in what would eventually be the library, whereas the (female) Moldavian painters had their accommodations in Velvet’s room to ensure discretion and privacy for all.   Whatever the time of day we came, there was always a big pot of soup on the little electric stove, and I always felt as if we were intruding.   We passed a number of deadlines for completion, which is charmingly referred to in Russian as the construction workers “giving” us the project.  Ha ha ha ha.  Finally, I told HRH we were going to just move in with the workers because that would be just about the only thing that would shift them.  You could see their point:  there they were, in a 6 room apartment in Central Moscow with four toilets and a beautiful rooftop terrace…would you have wanted to move?  They were astonished to see us pull up with the truck from the “Delicate Move” moving company.   We cohabited for about two

Finally, I told HRH we were going to just move in with the workers because that would be just about the only thing that would shift them.  You could see their point:  there they were, in a 6 room apartment in Central Moscow with four toilets and a beautiful rooftop terrace…would you have wanted to move?  They were astonished to see us pull up with the truck from the “Delicate Move” moving company.   We cohabited for about two weeks until they finally took their soup pot off to a different site.

Renovation is worse than a fire

~ popular Russian saying

Construction is everywhere you look in Moscow – great gaping holes in the city, snarling up the traffic and necessitating long detours on food through rickety scaffolding cover.  Belorusskaya Square, which is around the corner from our house (which doesn’t smell like construction worker soup anymore), is home to a large train station, and the gateway out of the city from the Kremlin to the north.  It has been under construction for the past five or six years, and, as far as I can see, it will be so for the next five or six.

 

 

6 Comments

  • I love your story, it’s the stuff you usually only get to experience by actually living in a country. Interesting the people didn’t move out when you moved in, but yes, it was probably very comfy. I haven’t lived in Russia, but did spend 6 years in the former Soviet republic of Armenia, and heard interesting tales.
    (Un)fortunately I do not have construction bloke stories, but as many other expats, I do have repairman stories. Here’s a favorite of mine if you’re interested, set in Ghana, W. Africa:
    http://www.lifeintheexpatlane.com/2009/08/expat-confusion-the-problem-does-not-exist.html
    Here’s the tiny url: http://tinyurl.com/28xllxm

  • ted says:

    At least they wear the proper attire as evidenced in the second to last photo … Overalls!

  • Indeed, Ted, they are. But they don’t have the same appreciation for the good things in life such as a hot cup of coffee in the morning, accompanied by good conversation and excellent design ideas. It’s just not there…what can I say?

  • Theresa says:

    Oh, yes, we know all about construction. Our ‘townhouse’ in a posyolok in Khimki was paid-for in full 8 years ago, but we’re just now installing tile and re-doing the already cracked walls. The former ‘developer’ is sitting in jail for fraud. Our homeowners association, which managed a take-over of the project a few years back, did an admirable job of getting our investment back on track. Yet, one of the chairmen is also charged with embezzlement. It’s quite a saga!
    And, now, with the home we’ve rented in Kiev, we have the joy of experiencing the infamous Ukrainian landlord. He built the house himself, and uses his silicone glue gun in innovative ways! Although, it doesn’t appear that he owns either a measuring tape or a level. Who knew that you’d have to count electrical outlets (one per room in this case) and check-out the level of the toilet (it’s about 15cm higher than usual) before signing a rental agreement?
    Oy!

  • Minna says:

    My remount guys also moved in! I chose them in part because they said they were local and would not be living in my apartment. Instead they moved in anyway (one slept in my bed! Something I learned because it smelled like her very strong perfume). Other adventures including not grounding the dishwasher so that It shocked me whenever I thouchednit while wet and accusingnme of being excessiveky picky because I insisted that the knobs on my cabinet be even ( one cabinet was hung too low over the fridge so that it wouldn’t open ). In the end I had to hire a second remount team to fix the thingsbdid wrong from the first one.

  • Minna says:

    Oh, and when I called to complain about the shocking dishwasher ( and adjacent sink) they told me ” do not worry, it is only shocking you because we did not ground the dishwasher. It is not a big shock though, not fatal!”

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