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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.

Oppositionist Gets a Trip to the Mental Ward

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Some habits die hard. The practice of forcing Soviet dissidents into psychiatric hospitals seems to continue in Putin’s Russia. Marina Litvinovich of Garry Kasparov’s United Civil Front told the Associated Press that police have forced Larisa Arap in to psychiatric clinic.

Arap, 48, a member of Kasparov’s group in the northern port city of Murmansk, was bundled into an ambulance by police on July 5, her daughter Taisiya told The Associated Press. She had been visiting a doctor to secure documents attesting to her mental health, as Russian law requires in order to receive a new drivers license, the daughter said.

The activists say that move was “revenge for critical reporting.” Arap was later released when a doctor at the clinic realized that she was the author of an article critical of conditions at a local mental ward.

United Civil Front says that this is the first time police have subjected one of its members to forced hospitalization. But it isn’t the first time the practice has been used against political oppositionists. In May 2006, Kim Murphy of the LA Times did a story on the the continued use of “insanity” against political and social dissidents.