Recent Posts

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.

“Nor-r-r-r-r-r-m!”

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Of all the obits I’ve read on Yeltsin in the last few days, Mark Taibbi’s “Yeltsin: An Obit of a Drunken, Bloblike Train Wreck of a Revolutionary Leader” captures the man’s life and career best. I think he rightly sums up the Yeltsin period in this passage:

Yeltsin, in other words, single-handedly created a super-gangster class to defend his presidency against an electoral challenge. He had also restored a system of despotic government-by-tribute that had reigned in Russia for centuries, even throughout the worst years of Soviet rule. In Russia there survives a style of leadership dating back to the local Khans of the East in which the leader is a pathologically greedy strongman who takes everything for himself, and then rules by handing out “gifts” to an oligarchy of ruthless underlings devoted to his political survival. Stalin himself, an ethnic Georgian, used to physically re-enact this political style by walking around the room during feasts and breaking off pieces of chicken or hunks of mutton for his more important guests.

Without me, you don’t eat; with me, you eat good. Americans will recognize this form of rule because they see it every Sunday night in The Sopranos. You send the envelope upstairs every week, rain or shine (had a fire? Fuck you, pay me!), and once in a while the boss buys you a Hummer. That was Russia after 1996. Loans-for-shares formalized Russia’s transformation from a flailing Weimar democracy into an organized mafia state; Boris Yeltsin was the Don.

No, and I mean, no punches are pulled in this hilarious article.