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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.

More on Registration

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Questions about Russia’s new law “On the Migration Registration of Forgein Citizens and Persons without Citizenship in the Russian Federation” continue after almost a month after its introduction on January 15. The Moscow Times has an editorial and an article addressing some of the hopes, worries, and problems with the law. Unsurprisingly, the main complaint is that migration officials don’t have a clue what to enforce, when to enforce it, and how to enforce it. We can only hope that Vyacheslav Postavnin, Deputy Director of the Migration Service, will keep his word and that all this mess will be sorted out “shortly.” As the Times states, hopefully one day Russia will dump domestic registration altogether.

Only time will tell.

In the meantime, I point you to the articles in the Moscow Times:

Improvements are Still Failing to Register

Any law designed to simplify the country’s unwieldy registration process for foreigners should be welcome news. But something is wrong when no one — including law enforcement officials — seems to understand a law more than three weeks after it comes into force.

At issue are new rules to introduce a “one-window” process allowing foreigners to register their place of residence much more easily. The inviting party — the foreigner’s employer, landlord, hotel or other host — can simply take the necessary information to the local migration or post office and receive the necessary documentation. It sounds simple enough.

But the rules, outlined in a Jan. 15 law, are steeped in vagaries. Local and federal migration officials are contradicting one another in explaining the rules. Lawyers who specialize in labor issues are scratching their heads, and at least one hotel in St. Petersburg has stopped admitting foreigners altogether for fear of being slapped with a hefty fine.

More . . .

Foreigners Confront Tighter Travel Rules

Foreigners registered in Moscow must inform migration officials of their whereabouts if they take a trip to another Russian city that lasts more than 10 days, a senior Federal Migration Service official said Thursday.

The change comes under a new law that also requires foreigners to alert migration authorities every time they enter or leave the country. The rules are sowing confusion in the foreign community, and Vyacheslav Postavnin, deputy head of the Federal Migration Service, tried to clarify them to a bewildered group of businesspeople Thursday.

A foreigner must hand over his registration papers to migration officials if he travels to St. Petersburg, for example, and stays there for more than 10 days, Postavnin told a briefing organized by the American Chamber of Commerce.

The foreigner’s “inviting party” — an employer, landlord, hotel or other Russian host — must then register him with local migration officials and deregister him after he leaves for Moscow, he said.

“If he says in a hotel, then it will all be done automatically for him,” Postavnin said. “He won’t experience any problems.”

Back in Moscow, the foreigner must re-register within three days of his return, he said.

The Jan. 15 law — which requires foreigners to hand over their registration papers via their inviting party — has been touted by migration officials as a simplification of the registration process. The inviting party is merely required to submit information about the foreigner’s passport, visa and migration card to the local branch of the migration service or send it by registered mail.

More . . .