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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.

King Kadyrov

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For Chechen hetman Ramzan Kadyrov, last weekend’s Duma elections was just another opportunity to show his loyalty to Moscow and further entrench his own power. 99.36 percent of the Chechen vote–574,101 votes out of an electorate of 580,918–went to United Russia. A staggering turnout of 99.5 percent. A number which appeared to Central Electoral Commission head Vladimir Churov as “absolutely pure, transparent and logical.”

Kadyrov himself explained the United Russia’s excessive landslide as simply the reflection of the people’s trust. “There’s nothing unexpected here” he said. “The federal list was headed by head of state Vladimir Putin and in Chechnya the president of the republic was first on the list. The vote showed how much trust the leaders of the country enjoy.”

Yes, trust. And Kadyrov made sure to capitalize on this “trust”. For alongside electing four members to the State Duma, all of which are part of Kadyrov’s khvost–Akhmar Zavgayev, Adam Delimkhanov (Chechen deputy Prime Minister), Magomed Vakhayev (head of the Chechen Constitutional Court) and Said Yakhihajiev–was a referendum that changed the Chechen Constitution so Kadyrov could be president in perpetuity. The referendum received 85 percent approval. Considering that United Russia got 99 percent of the vote, perhaps Kadyrov’s 85 percent should be considered a somewhat of a defeat. What? His people couldn’t muscle that extra 15 percent?

For Kadyrov’s allies, the referendum’s passage was all part of Plan Kadyrov. Chechen Parliament speaker Dukvakh Abdurakhmanov said, “Two terms of four years – that’s just a western stereotype. Who came up with the idea, why do we have to follow it? I think that to end all the transformations and reforms we have begun a leader needs between 22 and 27 years.” 22 to 27 years!? When do the coronation invitations go out?