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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.

Nashi’s Yakemenko Out but Back In?

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Nashi is having trouble in naming a new leader, reports Kommersant. In a press conference yesterday Nashi leader Vasilii Yakemenko announced that Nikita Borovikov will head Nashi after he steps down after the 2008 elections. Many believe that Yakemenko is slated to head a new government department on youth policy.

But the announcement wasn’t free of controversy. It was known that Yakemenko favored Voronezh Commissar Marina Zademid’kova to lead Nashi. Apparently, according to a anonymous source Yakemenko’s favorite was squashed by Vladislav Surkov himself. “Surkov told [Yakemenko] that he was crazy and that [choosing] Zademid’kova had to reversed, therefore she lost,” the source said. If the source is correct, the intervention of Surkov suggests that the Kremlin isn’t going to let Nashi’s fate be decided without their approval.

Kommersant also states that the interference of the Kremlin’s chief ideologue has threatened to undermine Nashi’s charter. Yakemenko denied that Borovikov was a shoe in for the post. Borovikov himself suggested that there would be a primary “like in real elections” for the next leader of Nashi. Could Nashi be headed for a crisis in leadership?

Kommersant suggests that one problem is that it appears that the Kremlin is unsure of what Nashi’s future direction will be; a future that is certainly tied to Yakemenko’s. Putin seems undecided whether a centralized youth policy is even feasible. “Establishing a single center for youth management–I think that’s in the past,” Putin said in a meeting with pro-Kremlin youth groups on 24 July. “Instead, the state should create conditions that enable young people to achieve their potential – in careers, private life, culture, and politics.” In addition to Nashi, several youth groups back the Kremlin–Mestnye, Molodaia gvardiia, Molodaia Rossiia, Novye Liudi, and Nasha strana. The Kremlin might just decide that getting youth to achieve their potential might best be accomplished through diversity (but not too diverse!).

And this lack of concrete policy has Yakemenko in stasis. He looks to leave Nashi, but current conditions require him to stay and possibly require him to prove himself useful for the future. As Yabloko youth leader, Ilya Yashin told Kommersant, “They gave him the understanding that first it is necessary for him to curry favor, and they gave him the motivation–to lead more actively in the election period. If he can prove himself necessary, then he could get something in return.”