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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.

Blackening the White Paper

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My new eXile article, Nemtsov’s White Paper: Bombshell or Dud?, is now online. Here is an excerpt:

Lilia Shevtsova, a fellow at Moscow’s Carnegie Center, called it a “bomb, which anywhere but in Russia would cause the country to collapse.” Writing in the New York Review of Books, Amy Knight called it “a devastating picture of Putin’s eight years in the Kremlin.” In the Daily Mail, Jonathan Dimbleby declared that if such information was released about Britain, it “would certainly have provoked mass outrage, urgent official inquiries and a major police investigation – if not the downfall of the government.”

What, pray tell, is this devastating toppler of governments? Why, it’s Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov’s Putin -The Results: An Independent Expert Report (2008).

Russia watchers might have already heard about the liberal dynamic duo’s breakdown of Russia after eight years of Putin. If you’ve never heard of them, Boris Nemtsov is the one-time “young reformer” deputy prime minister who used to make Western journalists and IMF officials swoon, while Milov is a former deputy oil and gas minister during Putin’s first term; both Nemtsov and Milov served Putin early on, and both eventually fell out of favor.

Their book’s back story involved political infighting, intrigue, and apparently produced a “hysterical reaction” in the Kremlin. Nemtsov and Milov’s account was said to be such a political bomb that Nemtsov was compelled to suspend his membership in the liberal Union of Right Forces party. “I didn’t want people who are in our party to suffer in any way from what is written in it,” Nemtsov recently told Ivanovo Novosti. The authors even claim that we are lucky that Putin – The Results ever saw the light. “Strong pressure from the Kremlin” made finding a distributor difficult and dashed their hopes to shower the masses with 100,000 copies. When all was said and done, only 5,000 were printed and the only place willing to sell it was the publisher, Novaya Gazeta, at its kiosk in Moscow. (Thanks to the internet a copy can be downloaded at and a rather rushed and poorly edited English translation is available on the anti-Putin windbag blog La Russophobe.)

With all the radiant praise, political intrigue, and apparent efforts to squash its publication, I was really expecting this book to blow me away. I was prepared for a complete conversion to Nemtsovism. After all, here are two Russian political insiders who probably have enough dirt to really tar and feather Putin for good. Indeed, Putin – the Results tries to be that kind of brutal screed, but sadly, it falls way short. Though Nemtsov and Milov promise that the information they divulge is shocking, what you get instead is just a well-worn flip-flop of the official Putin line. All of the information they provide is an inversion of the Russian state’s propaganda.

Read on . . .

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