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.

Gazprom’s Imperial Foray

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I can’t help taking a minute to return to Lionel Beehner’s “Why Russia Matters Less Than We Think.”  In regard to how Russia’s as energy colossus shouldn’t worry Americans, he writes:

Russia is an energy powerhouse. Maybe, but little of its natural gas goes toward American consumers (indeed, Stolichnaya ads notwithstanding, we do remarkably little trade with Russia). Even Moscow’s energy imports to Western Europe are dwindling, as its share in natural gas imports shrunk from 50 percent to 42 percent between 2000 and 2005. Better to pay closer attention to the politics of Nigeria or Venezuela.

It seems that Beehner might have spoke too soon when suggesting that we should look at Nigeria at the expense of Russia.  According to the Financial Times, America’s watchful eye over its imperial domains need also glance at Russia when peering at the politics of Nigeria.  FT’s Matthew Green writes, “Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy group, is seeking to win access to vast energy reserves in Nigeria in a move that will heighten concerns among western governments over its increasingly powerful grip on gas supplies to Europe.”  An unnamed senior Nigerian oil official says that Gazprom has offered to invest in Nigeria’s oil infrastructure in exchange for having a large stake in developing the West African country’s natural gas reserves.  Says the unnamed Nigerian oil official:

“What Gazprom is proposing is mind-boggling.  They’re talking tough and saying the west has taken advantage of us in the last 50 years and they’re offering us a better deal … They are ready to beat the Chinese, the Indians and the Americans.”

Gazprom’s entrance into Nigeria would put it up against Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, and ExxonMobil, three Western companies that have long dominated Nigeria’s vast oil reserves.  Given that Nigeria is a top supplier of liquefied natural gas to the United States, if the Gazprom-Nigeria deal goes through, the notion that “Russia doesn’t matter” will sound far more nonsensical that it does now.

If Gazprom does enter Nigeria, I wonder how long it will take before they are paying Nigerian troops to crush  anti-corporate activism in the Niger Delta as Chevron has been accused of doing.  I would imagine not long at all.