About hardships of getting a Russian referencies

While we specialize in Russian IP matters (like Russian patent prior art search, Russian patent search and delivery, registration of trademarks in Russia, filing patents in Russia and such), every so often we receive inquiries for delivery of Russian non-patent literature – usually articles from old and not so old Russian Russian journals.

While success rate is quite high, sometimes we come across a tough case. Such a case I’d like to describe briefly in the post to give you an idea of how much it could differ from computerized oh so easy access to references in the West.

Our patron wrote:

Here is a Russian deposited document, can you help?

Condensation of indole 2-aldehydes with nitroalkanes in liquid ammonia.
Balabushevich, A. G.; Yares’ko, N. S.; Suvorov, N. N.
VINITI 216-76

The inquiry came on Jan.22. Prior to turning to our assistance the patron tried to obtain this document himself but failed.

The same day I email my inquiry to VINITI (it took some time to find an email contact…). No response whatsoever.

On Jan. 25th (Friday) I repeated the inquiry to another email address, and called Moscow. Gradually, matter of search began to clear up – the reference in question should be a manuscript deposited with VINITI back in 1976. Such an old manuscripts are not stored in Moscow, they are kept in a storage somewhere in Moscow region.

My inquiry was accepted for processing on Friday and they told me to call back next Tuesday by evening time – on Tuesdays a regular delivery from the storage is scheduled. In case the document will be found by that time they promised to tell me in what condition it is at the moment – cause manuscript might be in any kind of condition, and the condition would define whether it’d be possible to scan the manuscript or not (“We’ve began offering a scanning service recently” – how’s that for year 2008?!), otherwise it’d be xeroxed and hard copy mailed by regular post.

If on Tuesday there will be no document available, I was instructed to call on Thursday after lunch – there will be another scheduled delivery which occurs twice a week.

If everything right, I’d have to pay for the service by bank transfer (that means another 3 day – at best! – delay). Upon receiving the funds they’d send either electronic copy or hard copy by regular post.

Stars were kind to me, and on Tuesday the manuscript was found.
My polite request to provide an electronic copy caused quite a stir – they told me they’d make an exception for me. All their resources were assigned to achieve the goal – to produce an electronic copy of the manuscript.
As it turned out, resulting files greatly overcome size limits allowed for email correspondence – few kilobytes.

Their access to email is uneasy thing, too – incoming emails are being checked once a day (at best!) or at longer periods, cause computer resources might be assigned to the scanning job.

So, telephone still (as of 2008) remains to be the main tool of communication with …National Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of Russian Academy of Sciences I’d been trying to retrieve manuscript from.

My gratitudes go to the staff of manuscripts department of VINITI who did their absolutely best to help me to obtain the reference I was after – I must admit what my sarcasm is NOT targeted on these kind, attentive and responsive people.

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