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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.

eXile Looks to Make Virtual Comeback

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I haven’t done an eXile update in a week or so.  I figure it is about time since the keen eyed poemless noted that the rag was saved by donations and plans to make a virtual return in the near future.

The press finally caught up with the eXile‘s demise with the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Fox News, the International Heral Tribune, the London Telegraph, UPI, among others, all reporting the story.  All of them  basically say the same information repeated ad nauseum, i.e. the irreverent paper folded after Russian inspectors scared off its investors. Even the Committee to Protect Journalists released a News Alert.    My favorite headline comes from Danwei from Hong Kong. “Death of the Rude Russian Exile,” its report reads.  As Jeremy Goldkorn, the piece’s author, points out,

As far as your correspondent knows, no foreigner has ever tried to publish anything like The Exile in China. The closest thing I have seen is the rather inward-looking and music obsessed Eight Inches of Arsehole, a photocopied zine that was distributed in bars in Beijing and amongst the expatriate hipster musician types and people with strong thoughts about Beijing expatriate magazines.

But it was photocopied, anonymous, and had no advertising or pretense of being commercial media. And they never touched politics.

Makes you wonder why Russia, and not China, is more the scourge of all freedom lovers.

It also makes me wonder why almost all of the reports listed above never mentioned the “e” word. Not even the lefty Mother Jones made the fact that the eXile was being audited for extremism an issue, despite hailing it as the “World’s Best Alt-Weekly” (the word only appears in a quote one of Ames’ Radar Online posts.) In fact, according to one of my handy dandy LexisNexis searches, extremism only appears into two articles on the subject.  One written by Ames himself and the BBC Monitoring Service‘s translation of Limonov’s article.  How strange.  Especially since if anyone wants to make a bigger political issue out of the eXile‘s demise, Russia’s elastic extremism law is surely the issue.

As for Ames’ whereabouts, we might want to dust off an old Where’s Waldo? games.  According to Ames’ latest dispatch, he could be in London (or even here in LA) or undergoing a water boarding session in a back room at Sheremetyevo.

Before Ames shipped out of Russia, he got the unique pleasure to debate Nashist and Duma rep Robert Schlegel on Moscow’s Govorit Moskva, 92.0 FM.  About a month and a half ago Schlegel tried to make his legislative mark by introducing a bill to further harden Russia libel law. President Medvedev shot him down.  Schlegel, as Ames describes him, “isn’t entirely human the way you and I are, but is rather some kind of genetically engineered Boys From Brazil product, created so that he might one day serve a cruel and scary tyrant.” Indeed.  If you take a look at Radar‘s accompanying photo, you will see that no Russian has looked this Aryan since Ivan Drago.

The debate went as expected.  You can read a transcipt (in Russian) here.

Perhaps the most interesting mainstream article on the “eXile Affair” (If there can be a Litvinenko Affair why not an eXile one?), was an article in the Moscow Times (reprinted in the St. Petersburg Times) by Owen Mathews.  He argues that the eXile’s demise has much more symbolic meaning.  He writes,

The story of The eXile is the story of an earlier, pre-boom Moscow, before gourmet supermarkets and sushi restaurants sprouted on every corner. The eXile was born in a place that was dark, vibrant and absolutely compelling. The money, the sin and the beautiful people — it was doomed, apocalyptic and transiently beautiful. The incandescent energy of the pretty, deluded party kids whom the paper wrote about could have lit up this blighted country for a century if channeled into anything other than self-destruction and oblivion.

Perhaps the end of the eXile is symbolic of Russia crossing the Rubicon into a full fledged Putinian utopia.