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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.

Putin in Iran

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I don’t have time to write extensively on Putin’s historic trip to Iran.  Plus there are many others who are more versed in Russian-Iranian relations and the geopolitical significance of Putin’s trip.  So with that in mind and a dissertation chapter deadline hanging over my head, I offer Juan Cole’s take on it.  His post is significant because it provides the entire text of Putin’s and Admadinejad’s joint statement.  I also recommend Farideh Farhi’s post on the Informed Comment Global Affairs Blog for what the Russian visit means for Tehran.

It’s clear that if there were any diplomatic victories achieved in the meeting, they were all Iran’s.  With Putin backing the Islamic nation’s assertions that its nuclear program is “peaceful” basically confirmed that if Washington is looking for partners to put the hard squeeze on Iran, Russia isn’t one of them.

For Russia, the trip is a reaffirmation that Russia will seek its own independent foreign policy.  And ironically Putin came out somewhat like a peacemaker with his stress in dialog with Iran rather than sanctions.  He stressed this last night during his annual question and answer session with the public.  “Direct dialog with the leaders of states around which certain problems accumulate is always more productive and is the shortest path to success, rather than a policy of threats, sanctions, and all the more so resolution by using force,” he said.

That wasn’t the only blow to US prospects waging war against Iran.  The attendees at the Caspian Sea Summit,  which included Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Turkmenistan’s President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, made a declaration that said “under any circumstances they would not allow other countries to use their territory for aggression and military attack against one of the parties.”

Welcome to the Great Game of the 21st Century.