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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.

Российская Федерация Whacks the Blogs

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The political culture of blogging is almost as interesting as the blogs themselves. All one has to do to get a glimpse of this is to glance at a blog’s comments section. There the reader will be exposed to a rhetorical world of augmentative maneuvers that range from the thoughtful to the mundane; from the engaging to the slanderous. There is something about internet discourse that is far less restricted than face to face discussions. The internet provides a measure of anonymity that seems to grease the tongue. Denunciations and insults are common. Charges of ignorance and idiocy abound. Most people wouldn’t say half the things they do online if a real person was standing in front of them. For some this makes the internet a bastion of free speech; for others a cesspool of incivility that undercuts any notion of democratic political discourse.

The world of English language Russoblogosphere is no different. With political lines so firmly etched in the sand, Russia bloggers and their adherents have no problem launching into verbal diatribes against each other. It’s a fractured community where a verbal slip could be returned with a rhetorical slice to the jugular. Positions are often so polarized that one can often simply change a few words and the opposite opinion will be illuminated. Retrieving kernels of truth, knowledge, and insight often takes the steady hand of a sculptor of marble.

But, and rather unfortunately, as Heribert Schindler, who blogs at Российская Федерация, argues in his post “Whack the Blogs,” blogs can be more than mere rhetorics. There is a whole panoply of strategies, phrases, and techniques that go into public relations, lobbying, and the manipulation of public opinion. He contends that blogs on Russia are also no strangers to these methods. In fact, this is exactly what inspired Schindler to explore this issue:

My entry “Whack the Blogs” is admittedly inspired by a most rabid and fascinating phenomenon of blogosphere, by a persuasively US based group of spin doctors who vehemently try to convince me of them being one single hateful female and not some public relation agency or NGO.

“Whack the Blogs” intends to address the fascinating world of public relations, of lobbying and the manipulation of public opinion by discussing techniques and methods, not real life individuals or groups of people.

Of course, all characters and blogs appearing in this work are purely fictitious and I am certainly not intending to make a pun in the general direction of a living individual or any successful blog. Therefore any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is (of course) purely coincidental.

I recommend reading the whole thing. As I told him in his comments’ section, I encourage him to keep whacking away.