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.

Moscow’s Brown Eyes

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I’m lovin’ the direction Moscow Through Brown Eyes is taking. Especially with Buster PhD’s meditations on race, immigration, and nationalism in Russia. I love how figures like W. E. B. Du Bois are drawn into the discussion to help us think about how race and racism are now calculated in post-Soviet spaces. On that note, I highly recommend the post “Brown Reconstruction in Moscow?” There, Buster tries to get past the “sensationalism without sense” that inhabits most reporting on race and racial violence in the Russian and Western medias. To get beyond this reductionism, Buster revisits the analytical power of Du Bois’s presentation of the “problem of blackness” in Black Reconstruction.

Buster writes:

How might Du Bois’s vision help us think about present-day Moscow and dislodge the current construction of the problem of the guest-worker? How might we recognize “that dark and vast sea of human labor” that has helped build up this outrageously expensive financial and commercial center? How can we imagine a Moscow that recognizes the two million undocumented workers in the city as “ordinary human beings?”

A story that answers these questions requires more than fly-by-night, sensationalist coverage. Rather, it demands the excavation of Russia’s imperial pasts, a detailed examination of the labor question in the former Soviet Union and the contributions of migrant workers, a serious investigation of the nationalist rhetoric of Russia’s leaders with the failure of these leaders to effectively prosecute racist crimes, and an analysis of the appeal of racist extremism among everyday Russians. Like Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction, such an undertaking, done properly, would be a behemoth of theoretical and investigative work. (As such, it’s not a story particularly well-suited for blogging, a medium usually consisting of short posts and largely reliant on links to mainstream media or other privileged, computer-savvy individual bloggers.) But it may well be one of the most important stories of contemporary Moscow (and Russia) that I can imagine.

I couldn’t agree more. (I also fully endorse picking up Siouxsie Mantaray.)