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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.

Kvas, the Coke of Communism

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The Guardian and the Moscow Times are reporting that Coke is in negotiations with Russian bottlers to make kvas, the murky drink that has been a muzhik favorite for hundreds of years. According to Kommersant, which initially broke the story:

Several market participants informed Kommersant of Coca-Cola’s plans to set up kvas production. The company is in talks with beer and kvas producers to bottle kvas at their plants as Coca-Cola’s Russian plants do not have the necessary equipment, sources of Kommersant say. The American company is reputed to negotiate the deal with Efes, Sun Interbrew, Borodino and Polyustrovo. If the venture is a success, Coca-Cola may set up its own kvas production.

Efes did not confirm the news Thursday, saying they had been discussing the kvas production with Coca-Cola late last year. The talks have not brought any results, Efes Russia’s PR manager Kirill Ustinov told Kommersant. Coca-Cola would not comment on the reports.

Although some experts say that Russians will only laugh at the name of “Coca-Cola’s kvas”, the market of the traditional bread drink is more than promising – 46-percent growth last year, the largest in the soft drink market. The kvas market reached $215 million in money terms in 2006, and analysts predict this upward trend to continue.

All I can say is . . . yuck!