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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.

Dissenters Crushed!

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Since I haven’t been able to comment on the police brutality against the Dissenters March last weekend, I think one of the best reports in the media is Kommersant’s article “Dissenters Crushed.” Here are some of my favorite excerpts:

The police vans were full of people considered by the police to be instigators of the Dissenters’ March. One of them broke a window in the van, and journalists hurled themselves at the narrow opening: “Mr. Kasparov, what do you think of the actions of the police?” asked someone. Garry Kasparov managed to get out only a few words in English [emphasis mine—Sean], among which it was possible to distinguish “Kremlin” and “hell,” before the OMON cut short the interview and drove the press back with truncheons.

“Let him go, he’s fine, he’s just goofing off. He’s not a democrat,” coaxed journalist Viktor Shenderovich upon seeing police detaining a drunk man in a ski cap. “Now he will be,” promised the OMON officer. “Well, that’s true, a few whacks of your truncheon and anyone would turn into a democrat,” sniffed Mr. Shenderovich.

Along the way they encountered People’s Democratic Movement leader Mikhail Kasyanov, two dozen journalists, and around 50 marchers. The demonstrators were immediately surrounded by camouflaged OMON troops. “What’s with the press conference here!?” yelled a burly OMON officer into a megaphone. “Arrest them all! “Fucking journalists or not!” A minute later, after several photographers, a pair of print journalists, and a TV camera operator had been packed into waiting buses, the police went for Mr. Kasyanov. After a short scuffle, however, the former prime minister’s bodyguards managed to fend them off.

“But we don’t need to go to the metro, we’re going the other way,” said former presidential advisor Andrei Illarionov to an OMON officer from Bashkiria in an attempt to reason with him. “You’re violating the constitution!” he charged, pulling a copy of the document from under his coat. In reply, the policeman raised his truncheon threateningly. “Arrest anyone suspicious!” shouted the OMON commander.
“Who’s suspicious?” asked one of his subordinates.
“They all are!”

“Pick these ones up,” ordered the commander, pointing at Oboron (“Defense”) movement coordinator Oleg Kozlovsky and a young woman with red hair.
“Will you also break their legs?” asked a Kommersant correspondent.
“We’ll break your fucking leg,” snarled the officer.
People leaned over their balcony railings in the apartment building next door. “You’re not people, you’re beasts!” cried a middle-aged woman in an apron from the second floor.