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.

Tensions Linger, Ghosts Reappear

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Theories a-go-go

Diplomatic wrangling between Russian and Britain continues as no resolution over the Andrei Lugovoi extradition seems in sight. Writing in the Russian weekly Ekspert, Andrei Gromov argues that the whole mess lies with the British, who has gone “beyond the framework of legal and diplomatic logic.” Gromov sees British demands as nothing less than a provocation. “Why has Britain decided to escalate tension? What kind of game is it playing?” he rhetorically asks. Not to leave us wondering to long, Gromov gives us four reigning theories.

  1. It’s not about politics as all. The issue is about solving a murder on British soil.
  2. Gordon Brown is making a name for himself. A spat with Russia is a way to assert his authority.
  3. The new British cabinet are a bunch of diplomatic amateurs. This is especially the case for Foreign Secretary David Miliband.
  4. Lastly, the incident is part of a deeper diplomatic game played by both the US and Britain against Russia.

So basically it all boils down to: they are sincere, they are dumb, they are out to get us. But such superficial explanations aren’t enough. For Gromov the real issue is economics. Especially Britain’s efforts to close its own domestic gap between consumption and production of hydrocarbons. Russia is one of the few places ripe for British investment and corporate expansion. In the end, according to Gromov, it all amounts to international capitalist warfare. The British want access to Russian oil and gas fields but without having to let Russian companies have a stake in Britain.

Another Charge and a Party

This doesn’t mean that the other issues don’t continue with a life of their own. Russian prosecutors have added another crime to Berezovsky’s laundry list. Now he’s accused of embezzling $13 million from the Russian bank SBS-Agro to buy property on the French Riviera. The charges allow Russia to increase its claims that Britain is “maintaining double standards in its failure to hand over Berezovsky while demanding that Russia extradite Andrei Lugovoi.”

Russia’s claims of “double standards,” however, holds less and less water when Andrei Lugovoi is shown on Russian television attending the graduation of Moscow Higher Military Command School as an honorary guest. It might be wise to keep this guy out of the public eye at least for appearance sake.

Bizarre Logic

According the St. Petersburg Times, Russia’s take on the Litvinenko murder has the eerie echo of the Kirov murder. Sergei Kirov was the head of the Leningrad Party organization and a member of Stalin’s inner circle. Historians recognize his murder in 1934 as the impetus for unleashing Stalin’s terror. Most believe that Stalin ordered Kirov’s murder, though there is no evidence whatsoever to support this. Sound familiar? Just like in 1934 when Stalin pointed to Trotskyists and other foreign agents, says Ira Straus, the Kremlin is using the tactic of saying that Litvinenko’s murder is a plot devised by Berezovsky-British agents. Oh I see, we are supposed to walk away with the idea that Putin=Stalin. And he accuses Russia of “bizarre logic”!?

Western Complexes

For his part as elder statesman, Gorbachev is peddling the idea that Russia’s tensions with the West are part of Washington’s “victory complex.” And while Putin’s methods were “even authoritarian to some extent,” he nevertheless had the same goals: “moving toward democracy and market economics.” When added to Putin’s view that Britain’s suggestion that Russia change its constitution as “a rudiment of colonial thinking” and that it “still has the last century thinking on its brain,” it sounds as if both Gorby and Putin think Britain and the US need a good psychiatrist.

Ghosts of Beslan

The US and Britain aren’t the only one’s having to deal with ghosts. The Mothers of Beslan have obtained a videotape that gives new evidence that the Russian security forces triggered the Beslan massacre. The Russian authorities have maintained that the raid was initiated by terrorists’ bomb blasts from inside the school. In the video one Russian security officer offers a contrary version.

One of the officers, identified as Bagatir Nabiyev, tells the official that the terrorists’ bombs could not have gone off inside the gymnasium because in this case the hostages’ bodies would have been riddled with shrapnel from the bombs. He also says a hole in the wall came from an explosion outside, and not inside the gymnasium.

“So there were no explosions on the premises?” the official asks, according to the transcript.

“On the premises, there were no explosions,” is Nabiyev’s answer.

New evidence? Didn’t we already know this?