March 25, 2018
Boy, is it difficult to get a visa to travel to Russia, especially if you want a business visa rather than a tourist visa. We are using a company that specializes in getting visas to help us and it is still ridiculously hard. The three of us got together with Todd, who got the grant, as well as a couple of people who are familiar with the process. It turns out the visa grantors want to know everything you have ever done plus everywhere you have ever gone. The online forms are extremely picky and unforgiving. I made a mistake close to the end and had to start over. After we sent the applications, there were several hold-ups involving signatures, timing, etc. We are still waiting for the final word. Meanwhile, the Russian Embassy in Houston has our passports.
Another problem we (well, mostly Todd. He has totally gone above and beyond on this) is that the US currently has sanctions on Russia due to the situation in the Ukraine. This has seriously affected our planned activities because nothing we do can benefit the Russian government. This means we can’t talk to students at school because schools are state supported. We can talk to students, but they have to meet us somewhere else.
Additionally, the sanctions have made it difficult for Nenets people to get permission to visit us in Anacortes. Most of the Nenets people are reindeer herders who can’t leave their herds. Some who aren’t herders work in museums, tourism, dance troops and so on, but these are subsidized by the Russian government, so the United States won’t give them visas.
We finally got our visas, but now we are on pins and needles because of the expulsions and embassy closures. Russia is closing the embassy at St. Petersburg, which is the embassy closest to Narayan-Mar. I’m afraid they won’t let us get on the plane.