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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.

The Short List

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Vladimir Putin threw a curve ball into the “who will be the next Russian President” guessing game. Kommersant reports that he told reports at the G8 Summit that his successor should be “a decent and honest person with a high level of professional qualities and work experience who has proven himself well and positively either in a region or at the federal level,” adding that that person might be “some governor.” Putin’s comments prompted the business daily to run an article titled “75 Successors to Many.”

I love how any illusion that the Russian Presidential election will be democratic is completely thrown out the window. Yes the election will resemble democracy in the sense that people will vote and that the majority of people might honestly vote for who Putin picks. Putin has the credibility and any formally named successor will immediately be the front runner. But no one is under the illusion that the next President will be handpicked.

But now, Kommersant wonders, who will that be? Thankfully in addition to Putin’s, they’ve provided a few criteria:

1. He will be Russian. Putin successor will have an -nin or an -ov at the end of his name. If he doesn’t at least sound and look Russian, he’s probably out.

2. Veteran governors are out. No one who came to power under Yeltsin. Experience doesn’t leave much room for cultivation and exercising influence. Plus their loyalties might lie elsewhere.

3. If a novik is the man, then he must be loyal to the president and his circle. And while all current governors show their loyalty to Putin regardless of political affiliation, its a good bet that the choice will most likely come from United Russia.

When all the above criteria are applied, Kommersant is left with 10 possible governors plus three recent governors who now have other jobs (Vladimir Yakovlev, former governor of St. Petersburg, now works in the Ministry of Regional Development; former governor of Perm, Yury Trutnev, who became minister of natural resources; and Sergey Sobyanin, former governor of Tyumen and now chief of the presidential executive staff.).

Here is Kommersant‘s short list (minus the above three):

Alexander Tkachev (Krasnodar Territory)
Valentine Matvienko (St. Petersburg)
Alexander Khloponin (Krasnoyarsk Territory)
Dmitry Zelenin (Tver Region)
Vyacheslav Shtyrov (Sakha Yakutia)
Sergey Morozov (Ulyanovsk Region)
Viktor Maslov (Smolensk Region)
Vladimir Kulakov (Voronezh Region)
Nikolay Denin (Bryansk Region)
Nikolay Shaklein (Kirov Region)

Putin is just screwing us. It’s probably going to be Sergei Ivanov anyway.