Recent Posts

Russian Socialists in the Struggle for Democracy

For the past few weeks, protests for fair elections in upcoming municipal polls have become weekly in Moscow and St. Petersburg as thousands have defied authorities to attend unsanctioned rallies. The police crackdown has been particularly harsh in Moscow. Protests on July 27 and August 3 resulted in over 2000 detentions. Images of police in riot gear wrestling citizens to the ground and beating peaceful protesters were reminiscent of the mass protests against election fraud in 2011-2012.

Members of the Russian Socialist Movement, a small Marxist, anti-Stalinist organization active in the Russian left, have been participants in local electoral campaigns and in the protests. Two RSM activists, Valeria Kovelishina and Ilya Budraitskis talk about the Russian Socialist Movement, their electoral work, the protests for democracy in Russia and what they might mean for the future.

Witnessing the Collapse of Communism

Roundtable discussion marking the 30th anniversary of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. Participants include Timothy Garton Ash, Bridget Kendall, and Jens Reich.

The Evictors

Around Moscow, there’s a whole industry of so-called “black creditors” — microfinance institutions (or MFOs) that swindle and seize debtors’ homes. Ivan Golunov’s investigation for Meduza has discovered that almost 500 apartments have been seized from their owners over the past five years without so much as a court order. In fact, this scheme involves more than simply “squeezing” people from their homes. It is possibly part of a wider, international money-laundering system. Here’s Meduza special correspondent Ivan Golunov on the ins and outs of this industry.

1917 Revolution Still Viewed as Positive

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Though den’ Revoliutsii (November 7) is no longer an official holiday (it was replaced by People’s Unity Day which is on November 4), Russian pollsters continue take an account of how Russians view the Revolution of 1917. Mosnews has provided some interesting percentages of opinion. According to a poll taken by the All-Russian Public Opinion Center (VTsIOM) 70 percent of elderly and 54 percent of younger Russians view the Revolution positively. Only 8 percent of Russians sympathize with Nicholas II, while 21 percent support the Bolsheviks. 32 percent said that both had equal mistakes and truths. The majority of respondents felt that poverty was the main cause of the Revolution.

These polls on how Russians view their past are interesting for a number of reasons. They chart the ebbs and flows of memory; memories that seem to differ by generation, social class, and political position. Communists, who are mostly elderly, are uncompromising in their support for the Bolsheviks and the Soviet project. However, the opinions of the younger generations are perhaps more interesting. The fact that 54 percent of younger Russians, though exactly what age group this means isn’t stated, shows that the Revolution continues to hold a vital place in how Russians view their history. It also suggests that to many Russians the Revolution signifies how it made Russia a modern industrial nation and superpower. Because of this, I doubt that any question about the Revolution is simply viewed in terms of the Bolshevik seizure on November 7, 1917, but how it symbolizes and influenced Russia’s historical development in the 20th century.

As a side note, Georgy Bovt of the Moscow Times gives his views on the People’s Unity Day and Revolution Day controversy.

I also recommend Alexei Pankin’s and Yelena Rykovtseva’s comments on the issue of historical memory, politics, and the holiday on Russia Profile.