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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.

The Big Payback

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Is this the beginning of the big payback for Vasilii Yakemenko’s loyal service to Putin? News sources say that Yakemenko will be named a member of the newly created Committee on Youth. And from the Kremlin’s point of view, its a position well deserved. Yakemenko is responsible for turning the moribund pro-Putin group Walking Together, which he founded in 2000, into the flamboyant Nashi. Sure Nashi’s influence over Russian politics may be slight, but in two years, thanks to Kremlin and corporate monetary and political capital, the movement has turned into another Kremlin populist mechanism to curry favor among politically active and ambitious youth. Now as a member of a quasi-cabinet position, Yakemenko will surely have even more resources at his disposal. Yakemenko’s appointment, says Iulia Taratuta of Kommersant, “marks the start of his rise up the ladder of officialdom.” One can only speculate how high his political ambitions are.

Officially, however, the choice for who will staff the Committee on Youth will be decided Sunday. But Kremlin sources have told Kommersant and Vedomosti that in addition to Yakemenko, Kremlin youth political coordinator Nikita Ivanov, and Molodaia gvardiia leader Andrei Turchak will also be tapped. The exact functions of the Committee have yet to be disclosed, but according to Kommersant, it will “define state policy on youth, cooperate with social organizations and youth movements, and even promote a healty form of live and patriotic education to youth.” Such tasks sound all too familiar. So familiar that Putin’s denials that Nashi isn’t a “restoration of the Komsomol” aren’t fooling anyone.

The question for the near future, however, is what does all this mean for Nashi’s role in the upcoming elections if Yakemenko is coordinating youth policy from the Kremlin. One Kremlin source told Kommersant that mobilizing youth participation in the elections will be moved to United Russia, specifically under the command of Molodaia gvardiia’s Turchak. As for Yakemenko, he will be given a purse especially earmarked for “youth” of around 160 million rubles from the state budget and a regional budget said to number in the millions of dollars to dole out to political allies. That’s a good chunk of change to build a personal political fiefdom.

Thanks to Dmitri Minaev for drawing my attention to the articles.