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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.

Nevsky is the Name of Russia

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Aleksandr Nevsky, 1220?-1263

The Name of Russia votes are in.  The project, which started on June 12, allowed voters to decide who are the most important political, cultural, and historical figures. According to the Name of Russia website, 44,569,665 people voted.  Here are the top ten Heroes of Russia:

1. Aleksandr Nevsky 2,011,766 votes.

The great Novgorodian prince who successfully repelled German and Swedish invaders in the 13th century.  Could there be a better indicator of the Russian political unconscious? Once again Russia feels embattled by Western invaders and its people look for a defender of nationality (even before nationalism and Russia as a unified political entity existed) by going old school.

2. Aleksandr Pushkin 1,781,863 votes.
3. Fedor Dostoevskii 1,678,083 votes.
4. Peter I 1,511,367 votes
5. Vladimir Lenin 1,356,281 votes
6. Aleksandr Suvorov 1,271,345 votes
7. Catherine II 1,365,784 votes
8. Ivan IV 1,216,812 votes
9. Petr Stolypin 1,165,377 votes
10. Aleksandr II 1,066,896 votes
11. Dmitrii Mendeleev 1,044,897 votes
12. Iosif Stalin 1,039,488

Update: Well, the Name of Russia was not without controversy. Especially when it came to Comrade Stalin’s place on the list.  Organizers, human rights activists and intellectuals freaked when Stalin quickly shot to the top spot when voting began. The dictator fell from his perch only after a campaign to boost Nicholas II, reports the Wall Street Journal.  But Stalin, tenacious in memory as he was in life, still hung around in second place. That is until the Name of Russia organizers practiced some Stalinism of their own:

Stalin kept his high position, dismaying human-rights activists and delighting Russia’s enfeebled Communist party.

That changed Wednesday when organizers announced the 12 finalists, from an original list of 500. They said Stalin had fallen from second to twelfth place after they had “adjusted” his tally because of what they called “an information war” by malicious hackers. In mid-August, the contest’s site gave Stalin just over two million votes; Wednesday he had just over one million.

One of the organizers, Alexander Lyubimov, told reporters that hackers chose Stalin as a mascot to stir up trouble.

“It caused a reaction in the press, the intelligentsia sighed, and the international media said that the Russian people had chosen Stalin,” as their favorite figure, he said. “Obviously hackers liked this.”

With those “just over two million” votes would have put Stalin second or maybe first.  In the end, Stalin still made the cut of the Twelve Heroes of Russia by coming in twelfth place.

As Comrade Stalin was famous for saying, “The people who cast the votes don’t decide an election, the people who count the votes do.” Indeed.