Anyone who's spent a significant amount of time in Ukraine is at some point struck by the mind-boggling quantity of rules governing one's behavior in public places and in all official dealings.
When you get on the bus you see a long list of rules in Ukrainian legalese taped to one of the windows with the title "Excerpt from the Terms and Conditions of Use of Means of Public Transportation" or something like it. The document continues: "Article 1. General Provisions." When you get on the subway you see another long list of rules on the window outlining passengers' duties and responsibilities. If you look for them, you'll see these lists of rules that nobody ever reads in virtually any public or commercial facility.
Also on the bus, you'll often see prominent signs saying, "Driver is obligated to give passengers a ticket stub after payment" or "Passengers, please demand a ticket stub from the driver following payment!" And yet very few drivers pass out ticket stubs, and in all my years riding buses I have never seen a passenger demand a ticket stub from a bus driver.
On occasion I actually read the rules, only to find that I have already inadvertently broken half of them! To illustrate, the other day I visited a geology museum. When I came back later and happened to see the list of rules next to the door, I saw that during my previous visit I had broken four of them. I had 1) failed to leave my outer clothing at the cloakroom downstairs, 2) failed to sign in at the register which is mandatory for all visitors, 3) carried in a backpack that was too large by museum standards, and 4) touched a couple of the exhibits, which is against the rules.
If the rules were important, I thought, why had no one made an effort to bring them to visitors' attention? Particularly the rule about not touching exhibits. All it takes is posting a sign above the open exhibits that says, "Please do not touch." Of course, given that this is Ukraine, the sign would probably say, "Touching exhibits is categorically forbidden!" But even this is lacking. That means it is up to the museum staff to personally monitor visitors. Then these staff are constantly in a bad mood because people keep breaking the rules, and the staff has to spend their time monitoring them instead of doing something more productive and interesting. And yet all it would take is to put a bit of thought into the rules, put up some more visible signs and get rid of the unnecessary rules, and everything would be okay.
The same is true in the Kiev subway (metro). I have 1) dared to sit down on the steps, 2) brought objects longer or larger than are permitted on trains, and 3) ran down the steps of the moving escalator. As it turns out, all these things are against the rules, but you see people do it all the time. And those elderly and poor people who take carts on the metro? That's also "strictly forbidden."
Have you noticed how many people work in the subway system? You have the woman behind the class box watching people pass through the turnstyles, who frequently comes out and shouts at people who aren't using them correctly or has to let people through whose social security or student status allows them to use the metro for free or at a discount. Then you have the young policeman standing nearby who makes sure everyone is on good behavior and occasionally nabs the most obviously drunk passengers. If the metro station has a long escalator, there's another worker in a booth at the bottom watching passengers on the escalator to make sure nothing goes wrong. It's actually nice to have such a human presence in the subway as opposed to, say, the completely mechanized Paris subway where half the passengers just jump over the turnstyles to avoid paying. What I find funny is that the Kiev subway workers let so many rules slide. They let through old people with carts, people carrying skis, teenagers with bikes, and turn a blind eye to people running down the escalator steps and disobedient youths who sit down on the steps. It's as if subway workers have an internal set of rules to enforce that differs quite radically from the official list.
To answer the question contained in the title of this post, I think we must answer two more specific questions: 1) Why do Ukrainians make so many rules? and 2) Why do they make rules that nobody follows?
Before I give my answers to these questions in a full-length article, I'm interested in hearing readers' opinions.