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Narratives of Appeal and the Appeal of Narratives: Labor Discipline and Its Contestation in the Early Soviet Period1

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"The verdict of the court [of the Union of Soviet Employees of 8.6.21] that I left service as a cleaner at the Lomonosov Technical Institute without receiving the permission of the administration and that I should again work there for eight hours a day is unjust." So begins Anna Matveevna Malomakhova's brief appeal to the Moscow Provincial Council of Trade Unions. Malomakhova, a forty-three-year old "sick woman"-with a medical certificate testifying to her condition-complained that she and other cleaners had been ordered by Shkil2; the building superintendent, to work not eight but twelve hours, engaging in "back-breaking (neposil'nyi), unjust work, or more accurately, illegal exploitation ... evidently because his wife is employed as a cleaner receiving wages and benefits but has never worked even one hour." Her repeated appeals to the rector of the Institute produced no results except that the matter was turned over to Shkil'.2 Having blamed her boss, Malomakhova felt compelled to add that her request to leave service in February had been approved (by Shkil'?), but only on condition that she vacate her apartment and give up her food rations. Then, on 15 March, she stayed away from work "to do laundry at home," whereupon she was given notice of her dismissal as of 1 April. Twice thereafter, the trade union committee ordered her to vacate her apartment but "this I cannot do as it is not easy to find apartments." At this point, she returns to the denunciatory mode, asserting that "[T]his is all the result of Shkil' having it in for me because unlike others, I will not keep quiet about his wife receiving maintenance even though she does not work."

Affiliations: 1: (Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, U.S.A.


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