This weeks center story, by Dmitry Mustafin, details the woes one charitable action had in getting goods to needy people in Russia. This piece illustrates two things that often pose problems for foreigners who try to do something helpful for the residents of this country: a lack of understanding of the real circumstances here and dealing with a largely apathetic bureaucracy.
Many Westerners who hear about the plight of, for instance, Russias orphan children, and want to do something to help, turn instinctively to the idea of donating goods. This is only natural, as many people in the West have stacks of extra things just lying around and would be more than happy to donate some of it to a good cause. However, most of these goods can actually be acquired here - the problem in Russia is not a lack of availability to items, but lack of money to purchase them.
There is no need to waste much verbiage detailing the already notorious clumsiness and arbitrariness of the Russian bureaucracy: Thus it has been, thus it is and thus it always shall be, one is often tempted to cry with resignation. The bureaucracy has had a life of its own for hundreds of years, and it is unlikely to just pack its bags and go away now. However, this story illustrates the extent to which the bureaucracy is not only unwieldy and insulated from society at large; it is also often self-interested to the point of sheer maliciousness.
One would hope, after all, that, all other things being equal, even a bureaucratic organization would find the time - not to do anything extralegal or out of the ordinary, mind you - but simply fulfil its duties in a case like the one Mustafin discusses. Especially when the goal is such a worthy one. Unfortunately, all too often, it seems the kind of thought processes that go on within the labyrinthine halls of officialdom are alien from what would be called for by simple human kindness.