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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.

The G8 was Boring

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It was Dmitri Medvedev’s coming out party to the other leaders of the G-8.  It seems that he didn’t fail to impress.  Bush called him a “smart guy,” which should apply to pretty much everyone when next to the outgoing American President.  Medvedev stood his ground with Britain’s Gordon Brown when the latter raised the TNK-BP dispute, the closing of British Council offices, and, of course, that old dead horse Litvinenko.  Though it appears that the handlers of the British PM and the Russian President want to put on a good public face.  One source told reporters that “neither Brown nor Medvedev wanted to wrap up the talks.” They just wouldn’t shut up after the two got acquainted and shared their global visions.  Or perhaps the tabs of Deep Purple or Led Zeppelin were more the topic of discussion than the issues that keep Russia and Britain at a cool distance. I can’t imagine that things like Zimbabwe, Middle East peace, and Iran holding either party’s attention for too long. I mean, talk about boring.

Apparently boring is exactly the word to describe this year’s G8. At least this is what Kommersant‘s correspondent Anderi Kolesnikov thinks.  The Japanese hosts certainly impressed with their solar cars, bowing politeness, and automatic handshakes.  The only real faux pas was the little press room allotted to journalists. Kolesnikov writes,

In the little press center, where the journalists who come 35 km. from the big one at the Hotel Windsor wait for hours in underground corridors near the kitchens, which smell of fried fish in the mornings and chocolate at night, there is not a single television screen. The summit, which is broadcast live to monitors in the big press center and the hotel, is shrunk to the size of a handkerchief at the small press center and you feel the time slipping away. So the hell with it.

That said, Kolesnikov biggest complaint was with the G8 leaders themselves. “It was boring with them. They were bored with one another. That much was clear from the big smiles they put on every time they got in front of television cameras. It was clear from their final documents; it was clear from their press conferences.”  I can only imagine how all those plastic smiles would get old after a few hours.

Nothing showed the utter ennui of the whole conference than one of Japanese PM Fukuda’s press conferences.

The apotheosis was one of Fukuda’s press conferences, which didn’t last more than a quarter hour. At some point, the translator even stopped translating. Either he fell asleep or he simply understood that it was pointless because no one was listening.

Medvedev’s real show of muscle was when he was asked about the US-Czech missle agreement. “It doesn’t suit us,” Medvedev responded. “We will not raise hysterics, but we will think up responsive measures and seek an adequate response.”  The Financial Times quoted the Russian Foreign Ministry’s official response, which promised to react “not through diplomatic but through military-technical methods.” I sure “military-technical methods” are exactly what the Cold Warriors in both Russia and the US are hoping and praying for.

Perhaps the most revealing moment was a question from a Japanese reporter to Medvedev.  Well, it actually wasn’t a question but more an introduction to one.  The reporter began with telling the Russian Prez “Welcome to Japan.”  Medvedev was set to fly back to Moscow right after his press conference.

A welcome just as you’re leaving.  I guess that really sums things up.