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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.

Borat Banned?

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It seems so. The film’s distributors decided not to release the film in Russian theaters based on objections from Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography, or Goskino. The film was to released in 300 theaters beginning on November 30. Iurii Vasiuchkov , the head of state film registration said, “We consider that the film contains material that is derogatory to several nationalities and religions.” Most likely he means Jews and Kazakhs. The Kazakh government had been lobbying the Russian government to not release the film out of respect for the neighboring country. Twentieth Century Fox’s Gemini Marketing plans to take the case to Russian court to obtain a release license.

So much for a sense of humor.

No worry. The ban is sure to increase interest in the film. And I’m sure many Muscovites are already scooping up illegal DVD copies on sale at Gorbushka.

Update: Back in the US, it seems that Borat is running into some legal trouble. The three drunken frat boys featured in the film are now suing 20th Century Fox because the it ”made [the] plaintiffs the object of ridicule, humiliation, mental anguish and emotional and physical distress, loss of reputation, goodwill and standing in the community.” But, um, they are frat boys. This would’ve happened to them anyway.

And now, enter the real Borat, Mahir Cagri, a Turkish man who developed his own cult of personality on the internet in 1999. Cagri, 44, claims that he was the inspiration for “Borat.” If you (see) this, what you think about me?” he said. “Mahir is a very bad comedian, Mahir is a homosexual, Mahir may be say the bad things about Jewish people? This is very bad.” He now plans to make his own film to show the world the “real Mahir.”

Oh, boy. Who said there was a difference between comedy and drama?

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