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.

New Film: Letter to Anna

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The Moscow Times has a review of Letter to Anna, a new documentary by Swiss director Eric Bergkraut on the life, work, and death of Anna Politkovskaya. Bergkraut met Politkovskaya while making his award winning film Coca: The Dove From Chechnya, which chronicled the efforts of Zainap Gashaeva and other Chechen women to document human rights abuses in the North Caucuses. Letter to Anna premiered at the Hot Docs International Film Festival in Toronto last month. The director doubts that it will make it to Russia. The film features a cast of anti-Kremlin characters, including Berezovsky, Kasparov, not to mention Politkovskaya herself. Another reason Bergkraut believes that his film won’t reach Russian audiences is the fact that in one segment Politkovskaya argues that the Chechen War is “genocidal.” The Chechen War is a lot of things, many of them tragic, horrendous, and brutal, but to call it genocidal I think trivializes the real acts of genocide the world has witnessed.

At any rate, who knows if the film will make it to Russia. I can foresee a number of difficulties, many of which have nothing to do with politics. The economics of film plays no small role. Distribution, costs, audience, not to mention finding a place that will screen it make it difficult for all small films, especially documentaries, to reach potential viewers. If it does make it to Russia I’m sure the screenings will occur in one of Moscow’s many smoke filled bohemian cafes. Hell, given how hard it is for small films to find a screen, I’ll be surprised if Letter to Anna makes it to Los Angeles. Maybe I’ll get lucky.

Below is a three minute trailer for the film.