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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.

Paper Pauper Politicians

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One of the strange rituals of political campaigns is the wealth disclosure.  Not because I think that politicians shouldn’t declare their wealth when they run for office.  They should.  In full.  Even the offshores.  And their families too.  If there is a third cousin with a bank account, I, as a voter, wanna know.   Better to know how many different cookie jars his little puffy fingers are in before you stick him in charge of a state.  What makes it strange is that we know that politicians have access to all sorts of wealth and property yet we continue the charade.

Russia’s Central Electoral Commission released information on the income of Vladimir Zhirinovksy and Gennady Zyuganov. In the last four years, Zyuganov earned 3,445,291.61 rubles ($140,538.10).  According to Kommersant this includes his Duma rep salary, pension, and interest on deposits.  He has three bank accounts with a whopping 152,500 rubles ($6,220.68)  He didn’t marry well either.  His wife, Nadezhda, earned 145,376.87  ($5,930.12) over the last four years. Her four accounts total 247,969 rubles ($10,114.99).  To top it all off, they “have no land, houses, transport vehicles or garages in official ownership.”  They have a nice size pad though–167.4 sq meters.

But man, it doesn’t pay to be a Communist.  Either this guy is a true believer or there is a lot tucked away in “unofficial ownership.”

Poor Vladimir Zhirinovsky is doing only marginally better.  Over the last four years he earned 3,640,860 rubles ($148,515.60).  His four accounts total 245,233.90 rubles ($10,003.42).  His wife Galina Lebedeva, however, is holding the money bags.  The biologist earned 14,990,339 rubles ($661,476.20) in four years.  Who knew that the Academy of Sciences paid so well.  Their flat is modest, 53.8 sq meters.  But in Lebedev’s name there is also a 1056 sq meter dacha, eight apartments, six cars, and two open lots in Moscow.  Cha-Ching!

This is what is documented.  However, I’m sure we can also assume that the Presidential hopefuls make a difference between “owning” and “having access.”  Are we really supposed to believe that Gennady takes the metro to work every morning since he doesn’t own a car?   Of course not.  What else is the Party for?

I remember reading a few months back that the LDPR is basically a family operation.

I’m sure Zyuganov is taken care of too.  In August, it was reported that the KPRF was rollin’ in it.  They were worth 96 million rubles ($3,915,969.80).  Who knows how much property the Party owns.

I wonder how other Russian politicians (not Putin) measure up.