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.

CNN has an Eye on Russia

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You know Russia has hit the mainstream when CNN decides to devote a entire week of programming to it. All week CNN is running a daily half hour series called “Eye on Russia: The New Dawn.” Presumably the series is connected to Putin’s upcoming trip to the US. The topics include Russia’s “resurgence,” Russian youth, business, “the future,” and arts and culture. The first topic ran yesterday and you can view segments of it online here.

I must say that I think that former Gorbachev scribe Alexei Pushkov did an excellent job addressing CNN’s Jim Clancy’s loaded, and rather simpleton, questions. You could hear the disappointment in Clancy’s voice when Pushkov had to inform him that Russia isn’t going to be just like the West. “It’s not,” Clancy muttered with disappointment. What a boob.

What I really wonder is who Pushkov and Clancy meant by the “opposition.” I believe that they were talking about two different oppositions, or really a real one and a fake one. Pushkov perhaps about former Yeltsinites or even the Communists and Clancy, well, was referring, of course, to Kasparov. Too bad Pushkov didn’t ask for a clarification.

Looking at the list of guests, besides St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko and perhaps Mikhail Kasyanov, there doesn’t seem to be any real players on the Russian scene slotted to appear.

Still I will tune in as much as I can stomach CNN’s mealy mouthed squeamish approach to journalism. I especially look forward to today’s panel on youth, though CNN picked Maria Gaidar from Da! as the representative of youth organizations. I would have liked to see her or Ilya Yashin square off with Yakemenko from Nashi and Belov from the DPNI. But that would require CNN to acknowledge that their liberal darlings don’t represent the alpha and omega of Russian youth politics.

I am also looking forward to the interview with Alexei Balabonov. His new film “Gruz 200” is already causing controversy.

At any rate most Americans don’t get to hear or see much about Russia on the idiot box. At least CNN is providing the opportunity. And who knows? For once it might defy my already low expectations.

Update: Well it appears that Americans won’t see Eye on Russia after all. Or at least very few will. I just found out that CNN International, not CNN in the States, is broadcasting the series. I guess we homebody Americans will be treated to the CNN’s same old cutting edge journalistic potpourri of forest fires, tornadoes, child abductions, and celebrity scandals, and anti-immigrant rantings a la Lou Dobbs. It kinda feels like one of those times when Newsweek or Time Magazine runs real news as the cover story of their international edition but the same infotainment slop on their American editions. Bastards.