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.

Shamil Basayev Killed in Ingushetia

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Russian forces have killed Shamil Basayev, the Chechen terrorist responsible for the Beslan attack, in counterinsurgent operations in Ingushetia on Monday. Ingush Deputy Prime Minister Bashir Aushev confirmed his death. “Fragments of the bodies of two militants were found on the scene of the explosion. Basayev’s body has been identified through some of the fragments, including his head,” Aushev told Interfax. Putin said that Basayev “?deserved retribution” for Belsan and for taking hostages in Budyonnovsk in 1995. Chechen President Alu Alkhanov called the killing a moment where Chechnya could finally turn “one of the blackest pages in [its] history” and that his death means the end of antiterrorist operations in the region. The Chechen rebel site, Kavkaz Center, reports that the rebel Chechen leadership has yet to release any confirmations or comments on the matter.

As one can imagine, the news keeps coming out faster than it can be consumed. For a list of articles on the matter, go here. Most of the reports are short on details. Be sure that over the next day or so analysts and commentators will deal with the obvious question: Does Basayev??s death signal the end to the Chechen resistance and the Chechen War?

More later . . .

Update: According to the Kavkaz Center, Basayev did not die as a result of Russian counterinsugency operations as the FSB claims, but from an accident. A cargo truck carrying explosives blew up next to a vehicle carrying Basayev. Not the glorious death one would hope from a terrorist. I guess the Russians can’t really complain too much. Dead is dead . . .

It’s been a great week for Putin. He’s scored points with the global public with his BBC/Yandex.ru sponsored webcast, the Russian state has $76.8 billion in its , and that is expected to grow to $110 billion by the end of the year, Russia is hosting the G-8 this weekend, and will probably reap mucongratulationsons and respect for fighting terrorism.

However, some think that declaring the Chechen nationalist movement dead is premature. The violence did not stop after the deaths of Dzhokhar Dudayev or Aslan Maskhadov. The conflict has alreaspreadard to neighboring regions under Basayev’s inspiration, but not necessarily under his direction. So the aftermath and impact of Basayev’s death remains to be seen. Nevertheless, I think Rolling Stone, of all places, put it best, “Putin got his Osama.”