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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.

Boiling Point

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The diplomatic confrontation between Russian and Britain is hitting a boiling point. In response to the expulsions, Russia said they were “russophobic,” ‘immoral,” and part of “a carefully choreographed action” that could result in a political backlash. Nevertheless, Mikhail Kamynin, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, reiterated Russia’s willingness to cooperate with Britain in the Litvinenko case.

That doesn’t mean that Russia is going to sit idle. Alexander Grushko was quoted in the Guardian saying that Russia will give their response soon adding that whatever it will berespo1 Russian-British business ties will be kept in mind. Russia’s Resources Minister, Yuri Trutnev, told reporters that “I don’t think it makes sense to impose restrictions that would affect the investment climate, because that would be very expensive, including for Britain.” He’s right and the Guardian concurs. There is no way Russian or British elites are going to pump this crisis up far enough so it starts hitting their wallets. For what? Justice? Lugovoi? Pride? There are limits to pride and they usually begin and end with one’s pocket book. As Marsellus Wallace said in Pulp Fiction, “Fuck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps.”

Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that the crisis will be free of all sorts of historical imagery and comparisons. The Guardian declared that “Cold War Diplomacy is Back as UK Expels Spies” but failed to explain the connection. The Daily Telegraph stated that Britain’s actions hark back to the “depths of the Cold War” when Russian and Britain engaged in tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions in 1985. The article then proceeds to recount the 1985 crisis to suggest continuity.

Russia also pulled out some historical arrows from its rhetorical quiver. One Kremlin adviser, Sergei Markov said that Britain was behaving in an “imperial” manner. Vladimir Zhirinovsky dug deep into the history books saying that Britain’s machinations can be spotted not only in the Crimean War, which Russia lost against Britain, but also in Alexander II’s assassination, and the Russo-Japanese War. Zhiri is always good for a laugh. I’m surprised he didn’t bring up the 1927 war scare over Britain’s proposal to give Germany Danzig and the Polish Corridor in the Western powers efforts to redraw the Eastern European map. Just for fun, if historical allusions must be made, I think that revisiting the “Great Game” of the 19th century is the most promising and often neglected because of the Cold War’s continued hegemony of historical memory.

Andrei Lugovoi has also responded to Norberto Andrade’s claims that he was distracted the night of Litvinenko’s poisoning. Lugovoi called Andrade’s statements “laughable” and either “a lie or stupidity.”

Lie maybe, stupidity, well, that certainly can’t be applied to Mr. Andrade alone. It’s clear that both Britain and Russia are skipping hand in hand down Stupid Lane quite gaily.