The Joseph Brodsky Law

Let’s call it the Joseph Brodsky Law, especially since it was drafted in that incubator of shamelessness and obscurantism known as the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, in Brodsky’s hometown.

I have an acquaintance who was laid off seven months ago from his job of many years in the marketing department at a reputable, Soviet-era instruments manufacturing company. He has been diligently looking for a comparable job (or any good job) since then, but has found nothing.

Part of the reason his company tanked was that the wise guys (pun intended?) who now own it, diversified into real estate development and construction during the “boom” times a few year ago, and lost tons of money building luxury high-rises somewhere in the middle of Leningrad Region which no one wanted to move into.

Igor will be thrilled to learn his country has plans to label him a “social parasite” and assign him to a life of slave labor because he, a hard-working, pleasant, smart, decent guy, had the bad fortune to be born in a country where, in reality, “labor” and hard work have always been vilified and criminalized, whether by the serf-owning noblemen of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the vanguard of the proletariat during the twentieth century or the new overlords, the Ozero dacha co-op and their minions from the worlds of organized crime and petty officialdom.

rus_lit_60_05Joseph Brodsky, convicted social parasite and Nobel Prize winner

By the way, this is yet another reason the abomination known as the Joseph Brodsky Memorial Apartment Museum, which seems closer than ever to becoming a reality, now that the Friends of Brodsky have finally made a deal with the nasty old neighbor lady from the Brodsky family’s communal flat in the Muruzi House who was holding out on the Friends of Brodsky and asking for too much for her portion of the flat, should never be opened, much less have been contemplated in the first place.

The nasty old neighbor lady has been the only (albeit inadvertent) heroine in this tedious, drawn-out saga, because she has been the only one of the players trying to prevent the building of a needless, unwieldy monument to a man who, whatever his other extreme personal and political quirks, would hardly have wanted to return—whether in the flesh, in the spirit, as a bronze suitcase with his severed head propped on top, as yet another salon of old knickknacks and furniture (aka the Russian writer’s museum), etc.—to a city which is not only run by a, so to speak, legitimately elected ex-KGB officer and where homophobia is not merely legalized but almost functions like a quasi-state ideology, but where the law that was used to put Brodsky away when he was just a punk poetry slammer is now being revived, if only, so far, on the “exploratory” and “thought experiment” level.

BrodskySimunKonstantin Simun, Memorial to Joseph Brodsky, Philological Faculty, Saint Petersburg State University

The Brodsky Museum should not be opened if for no other reason than that all these creeps from the Mariinsky Palace and the Smolny (you can fill in their names), so keen on grinding gays into the dirt and stigmatizing the jobless, among their other hobbies, will show up for the grand opening. And the Friends of Brodsky will have invited them there. God knows that is exactly how Brodsky would have wanted to be remembered—as a door mat for thieves and crooks to wipe their feet on while accumulating cultural capital. (They already have a lock on the real capital, the shiny stuff you can buy swanky digs in London with.)

Finally, note that the only person who talks any sense, in the article, quoted below, is the guy from the Communist Party. Go figure.


In a move reminiscent of the Soviet era, Russian lawmakers have proposed introducing a penalty for being unemployed, and called for amending the Constitution to make labor the duty of each citizen, Russian media reported Monday.

The bill, drafted in the municipal legislature of St. Petersburg and soon to be introduced before the State Duma, would make “employment dodging” an offense punishable by community service, Izvestia reported. The daily claimed to have obtained a copy of the draft bill.

The move would echo the practice of the Soviet Union, whose Constitution enshrined labor as the “right” and also the “duty” of each citizen. It would also echo a law that the former Soviet republic of Belarus adopted recently, making “social parasitism” — a Soviet-era term for unemployment — punishable by a fine, in a bid to crack down on tax evaders.

Joseph Brodsky, one of Russia’s most prominent poets and its last Nobel prize winner in literature, was convicted of social parasitism during a 1964 trial, over the course of which the judge famously wondered who had recognized him as a poet.

Izvestia reported that under the new bill, adult and able-bodied Russians who have been out of a job for more than six months “when there is appropriate work available,” could be sentenced to up to one year of community service.

St. Petersburg lawmaker Andrei Anokhin was quoted by Interfax as saying that jobless Russians should apply to state-run employment agencies, and the “state should provide everyone with work.”

“Then it would be much easier to track down those who avoid working,” Anokhin was quoted by Izvestia as saying.

A lawmaker on the State Duma’s labor and social policy committee, Valery Trapeznikov, said that his panel would review the proposal, adding that Russians who do not work are costing the state income tax losses, the report said.

Communist State Duma deputy Vadim Solovyev referred to the proposal as “unconstitutional” in comments carried by Interfax.

“The introduction of a criminal penalty for being unemployed would mean violating the Constitution and international agreements,” Solovyev said Monday, noting that Russia is bound by its ratification of the International Labor Organization’s convention prohibiting forced labor.

Mikhail Yemelyanov, a Duma deputy from the A Just Russia party, said that he is confident the proposal will not survive a parliamentary vote. “This initiative cannot be approved because it is meaningless,” Yemelyanov told Interfax on Monday.

Meanwhile, Federation Council member Alexander Ryazantsky offered an alternative to the proposed penalty in comments to Interfax, suggesting that the unemployed should lose their rights to certain social benefits, such as advanced medical coverage and pensions.

source: Moscow Times

P.S. Kommersant reports a bill has been introduced in the State Duma that, if passed, would ban the use of hunger strikes “by way of resolving collective and individual labor disputes.”

You cannot make this stuff up, but they can. Have a gander at yesterday’s post, about the work-to-rule strike in Moscow medical clinics, where recent and current hunger strikes by Ufa health workers are also mentioned.



Christmas has come and my pocket is empty.
My novel’s finished, but the publisher’s iffy.
The Koran has made the calendar itchy.
There’s no one to visit, no one to worry.
Not my pal, whose kiddies just bawl.
Not my folks nor the broad down the hall.
Everywhere money’s the end and be all.
I sit on a chair, trembling with fury.


Ah! the poet’s accursed craft.
The telephone is dumb, a diet’s at hand.
I could borrow at the local, but that’s
like borrowing from a dame.
Losing one’s independence is much worse
than losing one’s innocence. I suppose
it’s a vicarious pleasure to dream of a spouse,
to say to oneself, “It’s high time.”


Knowing my status, my betrothed
hasn’t changed hers five years in a row.
Where she is nowadays, I do not know:
The devil himself couldn’t make her spill.
She says, “It’s useless to grieve.
Feelings are what’s important! Agreed?”
And from where she sits, that’s keen.
But she, it seems, is more fond of the swill.


I’m altogether skeptical of kith and kin.
My extra stomach offends the kitchen.
To top it off, my personal opinion
of man’s role in life makes them bristle.
They consider me a bandit
and make a mockery of my diet.
With them I enjoy no credit.
“Cut him a piece of gristle!”


I see my unmarried self in the windowpane.
One simple fact I’ll never explain
is how I’ve survived until Christmas Day,
Nineteen Hundred Sixty-seven A.D.
Twenty-six years of jolts and bumps,
scrounging for money, the judge’s thumps,
learning to play the deaf-mute, to primp
for the Law like a lady.


Around me life flows like molasses.
(I have in mind, of course, the masses.)
Marx is vindicated. But, following Marx’s
theory, long ago I should’ve been slaughtered.
Whose balance this favors is anyone’s guess.
My existence is a philosopher’s mess.
I somersault from this age without a net.
Please forgive me my hauteur.


Meaning, there’s every reason to rest assured.
The cry “Mount your horses!” is no longer heard.
The nobles have been squashed to the last earl.
Pugachev and Stepan Razin are long gone, honey.
The palace is taken, if you believe the rumors.
Dzhugashvili lies, a pickled cucumber.
On the forecastle all the cannons slumber.
The only thing on my mind is money.


Money is hiding in safes and in banks,
in stockings, in ceilings, in toilet bowl tanks,
in fireproof tins, in money order blanks.
Nature is drowning in money’s mere!
Packs of the newest notes make a commotion
like the distant crowns of birches, acacias.
I’m overwhelmed by hallucinations.
Give me some air!


Night. The rustle of falling snow.
A shovel gently scrapes the pavement below.
In the window opposite, an icon lamp glows.
I loll on the sofa’s steel springs.
I see only the icon lamp. But the icon is
out of sight. I draw closer to the balcony.
The snow covers the roof with a blanket,
and the houses stand like someone else’s.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s