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.

Voices Rise in Georgian Opposition

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The Georgia opposition and Saakashvili supporters “are calling for investigations into what they call failures in diplomacy and warfare, and some are predicting Saakashvili will be forced from office by a war they say he hoped would earn him a place in history,” reports the Washington Post. David Usupashvili, the leader of the Republican Party, and David Gamkrelidze of the New Rights Party, both tell the Post that Saakashvili needs to explain what he was thinking by invading South Ossetia.  One unnamed Georgian official suggests that the reason might have Saak’s own ego and myopia.  “He has no communication with anybody except this small circle, which is a serious reason why he decided to go to South Ossetia,” the official said.  “[Saakashvili] “wants to be a hero, not a normal president who increases the taxes, et cetera.”

The Georgian oppositon is afriad their criticism will get them labeled as “traitors and Russian agents.”  They have good reason to be worried.  On 29 August, Saakashvili said that he planned to propose “a patriot act” to the Georgian Parliament. This call for a “patriot act” was reiterated by Nika Gvaramia of the ruling National Movement Party. “I will definitely propose that the Parliamentary Committee for Legal Affairs develop a legislature similar to the one which is in the United States, I mean the Patriot Act… which will be directed against treacherous statements against the motherland,” she said.

Statements like these speak volumes when you put them alongside the new report from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights on Georgia’s 21 May Parliamentary elections.  The report chronicles a number of electoral violations, ballot box stuffing, and opposition intimidation.  Yet, in the eyes of the US government Georgia remains a “courageous young democracy.”  After all, the democracy fetishists will tell us, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

The US Department of Defense is apparently committed to Georgia for the long haul.  The DoD is sending an assessment team to the “courageous young democracy” this week to “review how the United States will be able to support the reconstruction of Georgia’s economy, infrastructure, and armed forces,” says Eric Edelman, under secretary of DoD defense policy.  “These steps will be sequenced and will continue to show U.S. support for Georgia’s security, independence, and territorial integrity.” The DoD still denies arming the Georgians to fight the Russians. “The Georgian armed forces were never trained and or equipped by the U.S. to fight the Russians,” Edelman stressed.  No?  If not the Russians, then who?

The Russians say, why “us” obviously.  Anatolii Nogoitsyn, Deputy of the Russian Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that the transportation of Georgian troops on American military planes amounts to American participation in the war.

The Russia v. Georgia battle continues by other means.  The Georgian government has updated its casualty figures.  A total of 295 citizens were killed, 186 were military and 109 civilians, 14 soldiers.   Readers can access the full report, Russian Invasion of Georgia, which details on injuries, ethnic cleansing, refugees and displaced persons, Russian military presence, location of Russian checkpoints, infrastructure and environmental damage, impact on education, and attacks on the Baku-Supsa pipeline.

The Hague is holding hearings on claims that each side committed war crimes. Kommersant already has a rundown of the six hour proceedings.  Georgia’s 33-page lawsuit accuses Russia of “discriminating against the population of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in the form of murders, assaults on civilians, tortures, rapes, kidnapping and seizing hostages”. “Russia unleashed the aggression against Georgia to deprive Georgian refugees of the right to return and deprive the people of Georgia the right to self-identification.”   There is speculation that Russia will soon retaliate with its own suit.