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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.

FSB Flashback from Ryazan

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I got this email from a friend in Ryazan the other day:

Dear Sean!

I’ve just met one friend of mine who works in FSB. He told me about your problems with FSB, when you were in Ryazan. I’m sorry that you could remember my country by this accident.

The “problems” my friend refers to was when I was visited by three men in the reading room of the Ryazan Party Archive. It’s a long story, but here is a short retelling from an email I sent to some friends at the time:

So I’m sitting in the archive today and around noon three guys walk into the reading room. They ask for me by name. Two show me identification from, I think, OVIR, the third doesn’t identify himself. They ask to see my passport, visa, and registration for Riazan. I don’t have the latter. I told them that I was registered in Moscow and they informed me that I had to be registered in every city I stay in. They then filled out a form and fine me 1500 rubles, which I have to pay at a Sperbank. The two leave and the third (unidentified guy) begins asking me all sorts of questions: When did I arrive in Russia, where did I live in Moscow, who gave me my invitation, what I was doing in Russia and in Riazan, how long was I going to be here, etc etc. He said that according to the law I had to register and if I didn’t they would deport me and prevent reentry for 5 years.

What they didn’t say was the nightmare it is to register. I knew it was a pain in the ass in Moscow. Here seems similar. My host family, god bless them, have just spent the last two hours calling everyone they know who is in the know about how to register.

It seems one of the old bitches who work in the archive ratted on me.

Oh, what I forgot to tell you both was that four days before I left Moscow, two MVD officers came to my apartment to check my registration. They didn’t have my name and simply asked if there was an American living there. Everything was okay.

At the time I figured that they do random checks on registration. Now I’m starting to believe that a neighbor ratted me out. This place can make you paranoid.

With the help of my host family, the Uskovs, I got registered the next day. After that there were no problems. Ryazan turned out to be a wonderful town. But, oh the memories! To think I’m going back there in three weeks. . .