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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.

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.

Gulagland!

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Move over Disneyland and make room for Gulagland! That’s right Gulagland. Igor Shpektor the mayor of the town of Vorkuta, which is located 100 miles above the Artic Circle and 1,200 miles northeast of Moscow, wants to turn a former prison camp into a “reality” holiday camp for tourists looking to spice up their vacation with the experience of Soviet camp life. According to an article in the London Independent, visitors can pay $150 to $200 a day to experience snarling dogs, camp conditions, and forced labor.

Shpekor’s idea was first reported in the newspaper Novye Izvestiia. He told the newspaper visitors to the town, where over 1,000 zeks perished, have been declining with every year. “The town needs money and we have the possibility to turn Vorkuta into a tourist region.” He got the idea last year when a “whole trainload of tourists from the US, Australia, and Poland arrived wanting to see the camp.” He hopes that “Gulagland” will keep wealthy tourists coming.

When asked what he thought of the idea, human rights activist Sergei Kovalev has this to say:

I myself was in a camp in Perm. Now there is a museum Perm-36 organized there. It’s been open for 10 years and it allows residents in the region to not forget their history. Concerning the scheme of Vorkuta authorities, I am convinced that to recreate the conditions of the GULAG would hardly be successful. An authentic reproduction of life there, will most likely, fail. Although I think that it wouldn’t be a bad idea that every future prosecutors and lawmakers are held for a while in the camp. Then he would understand when they doom people.


Such is our postmodern times.

Photo: Vladimir Mashatin