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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.

Dedovshchina Revisited

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Last year I was in a Moscow taxi riding from Sheremetevo to my apartment at Profsoiuznaia after spending Christmas in Germany. Of course I began talking to the driver, asking questions about himself, and his family. He happily told me that he had four sons. As a joke I told him that he was raising an army. To this day I don’t know if it was my bad Russian or that my mention of the word “army” brought him such immediate and undeniable disgust. “I wouldn’t send one of my sons to the damn army. I won’t let them take not a one.” I then explained to him what I meant by the comment. He replied, “Not an army, a football team!”

The near death beating of Private Sychyov by an officer at the Chelyabinsk Armor Academy is just another example of why Russian parents like my taxi driver will do anything to get their sons out of the draft. Articles on the incident call Sychyov’s beating, which resulted in the amputation of his legs and genitals because they developed a gangrenous infection, as “hazing” or dedovshchina. I’ve dealt with dedovshchina elsewhere. But the English word “hazing” doesn’t fully capture the violence and brutality of this incident. This was not some fraternity prank. This was not some simple initiation ritual. “Hazing” just doesn’t do it. This is just pure violence.

Here is how former Russian Army Colonel Viktor Litovkin describes the incident on Russia Profile:

Military prosecutors are still investigating the details, but what we do already know is that that a number of drunken “older” enlisted men and NCOs, led by Corporal Alexander Sivyakov, spent several hours tormenting Sychyov, who had only joined the Logistics Battalion at the Chelyabinsk Tank Military College two days earlier. He was forced to crouch for with his arms stretched out in front of him for an extended period, and was then tied tightly to a stool. There have been reports – unsubstantiated as of yet – that the 19 year old soldier was also raped.

The result was severe swelling of Sychyov’s legs, the death of some of the muscle and, ultimately, gangrene. He turned to military doctors for help only four days after the attack, and then only because he was unable to get out of bed. The doctors not only failed to diagnose his condition properly, they failed to treat him at all. Sychyov ultimately had to call the emergency service of a municipal hospital where, in order to save his life, doctors were forced to amputate both of his legs, his genitalia and one finger. He remains in a critical condition, with no guarantees from the doctors that he will survive.

I wanted to write something more substantive on this incident. Time just doesn’t permit me. I urge readers to continue reading Litovkin’s commentary.