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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.

GUM Stuck on Nashi

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How does a 20 year old girl from Kostroma with no training in fashion design, start her own line of clothing and open a store in Moscow’s swanky GUM? You get Nashi to back you. As Marina Kamenev’s profile of Nashi designer Antonia Shapovalova explains, hooking up with Nashi can take you far. Farther than you ever imagined. Kamenev writes,

Shapovalova started her design career with Nashi three years ago, when the group came to her hometown of Kostroma. Shapovalova knew straight away that she wanted to take part. “They were offering a variety of roles like marketing, economics and education,” she said. “It seemed natural to do design, but I never anticipated this level of success.”

“Lots of journalists ask me if I completely support Nashi,” Shapovalova said. “I think it’s a stupid question. Nashi ideas are basic human principles. They support orphanages, education; they are patriotic, they are anti-fascist. What kind of normal person says they are pro-fascist?”

One shouldn’t be surprised that Shapovalova is a die hard Nashistka. Her Nashi connections, which of course mean government connections, has landed her a rent free space among stores like Dior, Calvin Klein, Zara, Levi’s and other international designers. “I wouldn’t say [Mikhail Kusnirovich, the director of Bosco di Ciliegi, which owns the controlling stake in GUM] is paying for me. It’s a collaboration with GUM and Nashi,” she told Kamenev. It doesn’t hurt to also have mannequins draped with your line throughout GUM, pop stars posing for photo ops, and State Committee of Youth Affairs and Nashi founder Vasili Yakemenko showing up for the store’s opening either.

“I am sure that in three years’ time every tenth young person in Russia will have something from Shapovalova’s collection in their wardrobe,” says Yakemenko. If only the Komsomol had this kind of vision.