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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.

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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.

Limonov’s Phone, Books, Chairs, and Heater Seized

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While everyone is focused on Medvedev’s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, life goes on as usual in Russia .  Perhaps, all too usual.  Yesterday, court agents seized National Bolshevik leader Eduard Limonov’s property and forbade him from leaving the country. The move was to figure out how much the writer owns so he can pay the 500,000 ruble “compensation” for “damaging the honor, accomplishments, and business reputation” of Moscow mayor/oligarch Yurii Luzhkov. Last November Moscow’s Babushkinskii Court ordered Limonov to pay the mayor for disparaging remarks he made in an interview on Radio Svoboda.  It was there that he made the audacious statement that Luzhkov controls the Moscow courts.  Limonov clearly hit to close to home because he found himself in court shortly thereafter.

This is the second  property seizure (at least that I’m aware of) of a National Bolshevik in the last month.  The first occurred on 7 August, when authorities raided the apartment of Natsbol activist Maxim Gasovich. The authorities raided the apartment looking for another oppositionist named Darya Isayeva, who was suspected of “extremism” for a stunt she and several members pulled at a Moscow Yolki-Palki.  According to the Moscow Times, the group of Natsbols skipped out of a 1,500 bill, and instead left leaflets saying “Eat for free!” on the table.  The activists say that the stunt was a protest against rising food prices.  I have to say that I find something endearing in the stunt.

Isayeva and another activist were detained but released later that evening.  However, in an effort to find Isayeva again (if the cops wanted her, why did the let her go in the first place?) they raided Gasovich’s apartment a week later. The cops didn’t find her (surprise) and confiscated Gasovich’s computer and books by Eduard Limonov.  In response to the incident the author said about the confiscation of his books,  “These are published books. Only uneducated cops would think they could be used as evidence against us.”

Well, now Limonov’s books are getting seized.

What does he have in his apartment?  Here is Kommersant‘s description:

Mr. Limonov lives in a apartment on Nizhni Syromiatnicheskii street (according to the author he doesn’t have another apartment). . . [He and his lawyer Aleksei Orlov] waited for the court officers in a small room which has a bed, a pair of chairs with leather upholstery, a desk with an old typewriter and shelves with books.

Not much by way of value.  But the agents did their best.  They took Limonov’s mobile and stationary phone, heater, the chairs, and several books (even the Soviet ones).  The total worth amounted to a whopping 14,850 rubles.

The only question is how will they turn these items into cash? Even Marina Iliushchenko, the court’s press secretary, can’t answer that one.  “I don’t even know what to do with these items,” she told Kommersant.  “Who would want them is almost incomprehensible.”