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.

The Many Days and Many Lives of the Gulag

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Steve Barnes, Assistant Professor at George Mason University, has set up a invaluable site called Gulag: Many Days, Many Lives.  Barnes is an expert in the history of the Gulag.  I had the pleasure of hearing paper of his at the “The Relaunch of the Soviet Project, 1945-1964” conference at the University College London in 2006. I especially look forward to his upcoming book on the subject.

Gulag: Many Days, Many Lives provides a comprehensive, nuanced, and sensitive picture of life in what was officially known as the Soviet Union’s Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps and Colonies.  The main exhibit, Days and Lives, gives a documentary run down of the experience of arrest, labor, suffering, dealing with criminal gangs, and how million died and survived imprisonment.  It’s truly an amazing and much needed achievement in history and memory.

In addition to the exhibits on Gulag life, Barnes has also organized a series called Episodes in Gulag History.  Episodes features conversations with scholars, writers, and others on different aspects of the Gulag system.  So far there is only one conversation with University of Toronto History Professor Lynne Viola on her new book The Unknown Gulag: The Lost World of Stalin’s Special Settlements. I’m sure many more will soon follow. Subscribe to their podcast feed to stay updated.

This site will be a great addition for my upcoming History of Russia class.

Thanks to James at Robert Amsterdam for drawing my attention to it.