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.

EU and Russia Cut a Deal

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Talks between French President Nicholas Sarkozy and Dmitri Medvedev went in Russia’s favor.  The Russian’s received a security guarantee that Georgia wouldn’t attack South Ossetia and Abkhazia in exchange for withdrawing its forces from Georgian territory and allowing the deployment 200 international monitors beginning Oct 1.  Russia will keep nearly 8000 troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia just in case.

This is not to say that the talks went smooth.  At one point Sarkozy almost walked out.  Sounds like Georgia was left in the dust.  Saakashvili tried to save face by calling the agreement “a step forward.” The scorecard: Russia: win; the EU: win, South Ossetia and Abkhazia: win; Georgia: lose; and the American Cold Warrior blowhards: lose.

According to the NY Times, the hardliners in the Bush Administration have lost another internal battle.  Bush, to his credit, has decided follow the EU’s lead and not to take any unilateral action against Russia.  As US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, “If we act too precipitously, we could be the ones who are isolated.” I hope that plate of realism served to Dick Cheney tasted real bitter.

Speaking of Cheney, here’s a good article from Kommersant on how the Azeris snubbed him. The Guardian‘s Lionel Beehner sums up the real motives behind Cheney’s Caucasian swing: antagonizing Russia, oil, and helping the Republicans.