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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.

Medvedev Anointed

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And the winna is? Dmitry Medvedev. Putin named the young economic liberal as his presidential favorite in a meeting with United Russia leaders today. What is interesting is not so much what Putin chose, but what he didn’t choose. Putin didn’t choose the siloviki. He didn’t choose the economic nationalists. He didn’t choose the hawks. In Medvedev, Putin has endorsed someone’s who’s young (he’s 42), more liberal economic minded (he considers himself a liberal patriot), clanless (he’s said to have little or no ties to other Kremlin power brokers), and loyal (his rise is solely reliant on Putin). By most accounts, Medvedev looks at the West as a shining guiding light, but shades his eyes enough so it doesn’t blind him from Russia’s national sovereignty.

But does Putin’s endorsement officially end “Operation Successor”? Hardly. According to the Guardian, conspiracy theories of Putin’s return are hard to shake. After all, what is a poor Russia watcher to do without Putin? Clearly, his endorsement of Medvedev is hardly enough to satisfy critics’ deep desire, yet ultimate fear that Putin might just be leaving.

For critics see a weak leader in Medvedev. One that as President will give Putin the Prime Minister a blank check to do whatever he wants. Well, that’s true. But by all accounts, Putin may be leaving the Presidency, but there has never be any indication that he will leave Russian politics.

In fact, as some see it, Medvedev’s nomination is merely part of Putin’s larger plan to return.”Putin’s plan may well be to return after a year or two once Medvedev has messed up. But I don’t think he will succeed in this,” Mikhail Delyagin, the director of Moscow’s Institute on Globalization Problems told the Guardian’s Luke Harding. On Ekho Moskvy, Duma oppositionist Vladimir Ryzhkov said that this is all part of the Putin strategy. “The strategy is as follows: Medvedev is a compromise choice because he will allow Putin to keep a free hand.” he said. “If Putin wants to gradually leave power, Medvedev guarantees him comfort and security and will continue to listen him.” He then added: “If Putin wants to return in two, three years… Medvedev will be the person who will without a doubt give up the path for him.”

This is still an unfolding story and more will be discussed in the coming days. However, even at these early stages, one thing is clear. No matter what Putin does to show that he’s leaving the Presidency, his very own critics just won’t let him go. As Michael Corleone declared in Godfather III: “Just when I think I’m out, they keep pulling me back in.”