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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.

“Who’s on first, what’s on second, and I don’t know’s on third”

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The New York Times has published the transcripts of Georgia’s “evidence” that Russia started the war.  You can even get your own .pdf version to share with your friends!  As for the whether this transcript amounts to any evidence at all, I leave that to you.

What these recordings say to me is that this so-called “Russian invasion” was a sorry example for one that was supposedly planned for months. Having a South Ossetian officer say “Who do you want me to shoot? It’s impossible to go outside. I’m standing in the toilet on one leg” during fighting only to get ” Well then fart them out of there. O.K., talk to you later.” in response should go down in the annals of wartime’s greatest outtakes. Clearly, the Ossetians had no clue who was where, what they were doing, and when they were supposed to do it.  Much of it is pure comedy.  Almost like Abbott and Costello’s famous “Who’s on First?” bit.

I have two favorite moments.  The first is between the Military Observer and Peacekeeper from Aug. 8, 2008, 03:02.10.

PEACEKEEPER: Hello
MILITARY OBSERVER: How are you?
PK: (Aside) Hook up your radios or else we’re all going to be [expletive deleted].
MO: What did you turn on?
PK: No, I’m not talking to you. (Aside): Yes, otherwise we’ll be [expletive deleted]…
MO: Hey, listen, I’m asking, how are you?
PK: Well, [expletive deleted], [expletive deleted]. But we’ll come up with something.

I don’t know why the NY Times doesn’t think we’re old enough to read expletives.  I guess we can play Mad Libs.

I also like this one I alluded to above between an Ossetian Border Guard and a South Ossetian Official from Aug. 8, 2008, 03:12.32:

OSSETIAN BORDER GUARD: Hello
SOUTH OSSETIAN OFFICIAL: Who is this?
OBG: Who am I?
SOO: Ahh, Edik.
OBG: Yeah?
SOO: Well, what’s going on? Has anyone finally gotten down there?
OBG: Gotten down where?
SOO: Has anyone gotten down there to our side with equipment?
OBG: Yes, yes, don’t speak about this over the phone?
SOO: Is anything moving? Is the armor there?
OBG: Yes, yes, yes, everything is there?
SOO: How long is it going to take them? What? Are they going to arrive when the city is
already [expletive deleted] destroyed?
OBG: Don’t be afraid. Keep firing.
SOO: Who do you want me to shoot? It’s impossible to go outside. I’m standing in the
toilet on one leg.
OBG: (Laughing) Well then fart them out of there. (Phone rings) O.K., talk to you later.
SOO: You call us for God’s sake.
OBG: They’ve left already.
SOO: And?
OBG: They are heading there.
SOO: Many of them?
OBG: Yes.

I’m assuming that the crux of Georgia’s evidence is this conversation between a border guard at headquarters in Tskhinvali, and the duty officer at the Roki Tunnel, intercepted Aug. 7, 2008, 03:52.13:

DUTY OFFICER: I’m listening?
BORDER GUARD: Hello.
DO: What?
BG: Did you just call?
DO: Yes.
BG: What is your surname?
DO: Gassiev
BG: Gassiev.
DO: Yes?
BG: Listen, has the armor arrived or what?
DO: The armor and people.
BG: They’ve gone through?
DO: Yes, 20 minutes ago; when I called you, they had already arrived.
BG: Was there a lot of armor?
DO: Yes. Tanks, BMPs and BDR(m)s. Everything.
BG: And that guy who came up to you, who was that?
DO: When? [INAUDIBLE] The surname is Kazachenko. He’s a colonel.
BG: What?
DO: Kazachenko is his surname. He’s a colonel.
BG: Good, good. O.K. Call the 103rd; he’s saying something different. I mean the 102nd.
You are saying one thing, and he is telling us something else. Call the 102nd and tell him.
DO: He just called me, and I told him everything.
BG: Well, call him anyway, and after that have him call me.
DO: O.K., understood.
BG: Bye.

Is this all the Georgians have?  This is their smoking gun?  This evidence is hardly an endorsement for the Columbia Law program.