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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.

The Candidates Talk Russia, Round Two

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Obama, "Russia sucks." McCain, "I agree."

Russia was a topic at the second Presidential debate after an absence at last week’s Veep debate. Both candidates pretty much repeated what they said two weeks ago with little variation.  McCain repeated is famous quip, ” I said I looked into [Putin] eyes and saw three letters, a K, a G and a B.” Both wagged their finger at Russia’s bad, aggressive behavior. Both pledged moral support for Ukraine, Georgia, Poland, Latvia, and Estonia.  Both denied a new Cold War was in the making at the same time both agreed that Russia was a challenge for the next US President.  Obama even dared to say that holding Russia back was about “keeping all of [us] safe.”

Then Tom Brokaw threw this one out: “This requires only a yes or a no. Ronald Reagan famously said that the Soviet Union was the evil empire. Do you think that Russia under Vladimir Putin is an evil empire?

Oh no.  Brokaw went old school.  Bringing out the big E-word. Of course neither Obama or McCain answered with a simple “yes” or “no,” though latter did give a terse “Maybe” before explaining himself. McCain even suggested that confronting Russia was part of the global resource wars. I appreciate his candor that the US interest is in energy and not some democracy gobbledygook.

Here’s what they said:

OBAMA: I think they’ve engaged in an evil behavior and I think that it is important that we understand they’re not the old Soviet Union but they still have nationalist impulses that I think are very dangerous.

BROKAW: Sen. McCain?

MCCAIN: Maybe.

BROKAW: Maybe.

MCCAIN: Depends on how we respond to Russia and it depends on a lot of things. If I say yes, then that means that we’re reigniting the old Cold War. If I say no, it ignores their behavior.

Obviously energy is going to be a big, big factor. And Georgia and Ukraine are both major gateways of energy into Europe. And that’s one of the reasons why it’s in our interest.

But the Russians, I think we can deal with them but they’ve got to understand that they’re facing a very firm and determined United States of America that will defend our interests and that of other countries in the world.

Evil behavior without being evil in essence. Sounds like Cold War rhetoric without the Cold War.  All the fun without the calories! Does this mean we are in some kind of Diet Cold War?