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.

“Putin’s Plan is Victory for Russia!”

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“Today we are successful in politics, economics, the arts, sciences, sports. We have reasons for pride. We enjoy respect and difference. We are citizens of a great country and we have great victories ahead. Putin’s plan is a victory for Russia.”

“Why are we certain in the stable development of Russia? Because Russia today has a growing economy and new technologies. Russia’s high global standing and order at home, priority national projects and an up to date military-industrial complex, are because today our leader is bringing us new victories. We are working for one common cause. United Russia. We believe in Russia, we believe in ourselves!”

Such is the text of the two United Russia campaign commercials above. They are slick, exciting, and most importantly positive and optimistic. No political opponent is mentioned. There are no campaign smears. Nor is there any indication of what United Russia specifically stands for, except for Russia itself.

United Russia’s message to voters is a simple one. The future is bright and tomorrow will be brighter. Russia has one task–progress, and United Russia, under Putin’s plan, is the only political force to ensure it.

It’s all quite genius, really. Where the Communists and liberals preach a language of decay, corruption, and negativity, United Russia’s commercials’ tap into the emotional centers of pride; the music makes you want to leap up in celebration; and by their end, the viewer, if not already totally ensconced in cynicism, can’t help mobilize the self for what tomorrow will bring. Those looking for objectivity need apply elsewhere. For, United Russia’s proactive imagery seeks to be more than an ad, more than mere propaganda. It seeks to be a dose of Ecstacy for the dejected and depressed voter.

The commercials’ message is a throwback to the progressive rhetorics of the Soviet times. “Life has become more joyous comrades,” Stalin was famous for saying. And why not? Life actually has, discovers the Washington Post. The Post’s subject, one Vadim Ignatiyev from Nizhny Novgorod, is an archetype of the United Russia supporter–middle-aged provincial Russian family man, a full fledged member of Russia petite-bourgeoisie. Decent wages (they’ve doubled in the past two years), a new car, new TV, CD player, and furniture. A package vacation to Turkey. His family’s first abroad. All attributed to Putin. “I believe the president has given people the possibility to work and to make money,” Ignatiyev told the Post. “If five years ago I might have had some doubts about him, now I have none. I don’t see any alternative.”

At that is exactly what United Russia’s campaign commercials hope to say to Ignatiyev: the reason he sees no alternative is because there is none.