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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 Russian Academia

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Lyndon at Scraps of Moscow adds to the MGU controversy with a comment on the matter from an alumnus. He also rightly puts the matter into the larger context of the Russian government’s battle with the Russian Academy of Sciences and their future direction.

The collapse of the Russian academy is one of the worst outcomes of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Many of the brightest, especially in the hard sciences, have left for better opportunity and pay resulting in a severe brain drain. The result has been a loss of an estimated $30 billion to the Russian economy.

The soft sciences have suffered worse. The lack of funding in the form of pay and research, has left many to either make deals with Western publishers (i. e. Yale University Press’ deal with the Russian State Archive for Social-Political History to produce their Annals of Communism series), to put up their own money and time to publish, or simply sit on their laurels and collect bribes from students. To succeed as a Russian academic nowadays requires a certain level of entrepreneurship.

The second strata of scholars are the least common and most impressive. I’ve met several of these folks in archives. One guy drove all the way from Tula to work in Riazan. Another young student came from Tambov to Moscow to do his research. It’s not the travel that is impressive. It’s the fact that the travel, expense, and time bears so little fruit and yet they still slave away for the love of it. Unlike in American universities where publication comes with prestige, pay raises, and other perks, publication in Russia comes with prestige but most often only in local academic cliques.

Many of the best books I’ve found in Moscow’s small bookstores (the best by far being Нина) are self published with runs of 300-500 copies. Such small runs make it difficult to even get your book into libraries. This is all unfortunate because there are some amazing studies coming out in Russia but their limited press run and lack of institutional support assures that they will be virtually ignored by their American colleagues.