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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 Tulips Bloom Once Again

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I’ve been debating whether to write something about the events in Kirgizia, but have decided to defer to those who can untangle the complexities surrounding the protests calling for President Kurmanbek Bakiev’s resignation.

Wally Shedd at the Accidental Russophile has provided some initial news reports along with recommendations for further reading. More authoritative resources for news, analysis, and voices from the ground are Registan,, and New Eurasia.

One article I found that examines the geopolitical context around Tulip Revolution Part Two is M. K. Bhadrakumar’s “Kyrgyzstan Caught in US-Russia Squeeze” in the Asia Times. Bhadrakumar writes:

What can be regarded as common between Nicaraguan presidential candidate Daniel Ortega and Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev? Hardly anything, apparently – except that Nicaragua and Kyrgyzstan are two tiny mountainous countries of 5 million people each. Yet when the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement last Thursday on the Nicaraguan elections, the Kremlin could as well have had Kyrgyzstan in mind. (Sixteen years ago, US-financed Contras battled Ortega’s leftist government.)

The Russian statement expressed “surprise and concern” over the “undisguised interference” of the United States in the run-up to Nicaragua’s election on Sunday. It criticized the interference by US diplomats and US-funded non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Nicaraguan politics, and said Russia was convinced that open, universal elections were the key element of any democratic process and that no obstacles should be placed in the way of the Nicaraguan people’s freely declaring their will.

This was an extraordinary statement for post-Soviet Russia to make. Gone are the days of proletarian internationalism. Conceivably, Moscow was making a deliberate point about the hollowness of the United States’ worldwide democracy agenda. Curiously, even as the Russian Foreign Ministry spoke out, an opposition agitation was unfolding in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, where, too, in the name of democratic reform, a US-backed coalition of political activists and NGOs was making yet another effort – the third this year alone – to bring down the elected leadership of Bakiyev and Prime Minister Feliks Kulov.

An interesting analysis for sure, but I honestly don’t know enough to comment on the United States’ involvement.