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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.

“Other Russia” Marches, OMON clubs

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By now most Russia watchers know about how the cops bust up the protest in St. Petersburg. If not, a Google search reveals a whopping 232 articles on it in the English media. Most of them are culled from AP and Reuters reports, but it appears that most of America’s dailies will care the story in some form and fashion in their Sunday editions.

Numbers at the protest vary from a low of 2000 to a high of 6000. The latter figure is given by the protest’s organizers. Most news reports are placing it around 3000-5000. The protest was only given a permit to hold a rally. Part of the crowd defied the permit and proceeded to march down Nevsky Prospekt, apparently led by Gary Kasparov. They got two kilometers until OMON moved in and began cracking heads. About 100 were arrested, including National Bolshevik leader Eduard Limonov.

Associated Press described the protest:

More than 3,000 activists, according to AP estimates, chanted “Shame!” as they marched down the city’s main avenue to protest over what they said was Russia’s rolling back from democracy. Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion who helped organize the event, said on Ekho Moskvy radio that the participants numbered up to 6,000.

City authorities had banned the march, granting permission only to hold a rally in a location far from the city center. But the activists defied the ban and marched toward and then down the Nevsky Prospekt, the city’s main street, blocking traffic there.

Riot police detained and clubbed dozens of protesters in an attempt to stop the march and disperse the activists, but the demonstrators broke through the cordons, marched toward the center and rallied for about 40 minutes until police moved in again, detaining scores of others. Eduard Limonov, head of the radical National Bolshevik Party, and independent city legislator Sergei Gulyayev were among the organizers detained.

Police beat protesters with truncheons and dragged them into detention buses. Several activists also attacked a law enforcement officer. The ITAR-Tass news agency reported, citing police officials, that between 20 and 30 activists were detained. Some of the detainees were later taken to a local court and were expected to face trial.

The activists held banners “Russia Without Putin,” in a reference to President Vladimir Putin, “We Are for Justice,” “Get Elections Back.” They called for the ouster of mayor Valentina Matviyenko, a close ally of the president, accusing her of corruption and incompetence.

For a detailed account (in Russian) check out Fontanka’s coverage. For what some Russian bloggers are saying, see Global Voices Online’s breakdown.