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.

The Putin Proposal?

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Last week, the New York Times wrote:

Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, proposed a new way to help resolve the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program during an extraordinary meeting with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the country’s chief nuclear negotiator on Wednesday.

The negotiator, Ali Larijani, told reporters that Mr. Putin, who was granted an audience with Ayatollah Khamenei on Tuesday evening, “offered a special proposal.” Neither the Iranians nor the Russians would disclose any details, but Mr. Larijani said the Iranian side was studying it.

“One of the issues he brought up was his view on the nuclear issue,” Mr. Larijani said, according to the ISNA news agency. “We are reviewing it now.”

Like the above says, neither said gave details as to what Putin proposed. And Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied that Putin made any such proposal despite its announcement by Larijani and its reporting on IRNA, Iran’s official state news agency. But today, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani up and resigned. Larijani’s resignation, says the LA Times, “will likely be viewed in Western capitals as a major setback for Iranian moderates attempting to forge a compromise over Iran’s nuclear program.” This couldn’t have been what Mr. Putin had in mind. But if there was something on Putin’s mind, I assume we’ll find out soon.

Update:  On the Informed Comment Global Affairs blog, Farideh Farhi discusses the background and significance of Ali Larijani’s resignation and the appointment of the less experienced but closer to Ahmadinejad, Saeed Jalili, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for European affairs.  Larijani’s resignation  seems to have a connection to Putin.  She writes, “The straw that broke the camel’s back was probably Larijani’s assertion that Putin had a special message about Iran’s nuclear file and Ahmadinejad’s public rejection of that assertion.”