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.

US Government Funds for Georgia Hidden in HR 2638

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Josh Kucera was kind enough to email me about my post yesterday about the aid bill to Georgia.  According to Josh, the bill that passed was not HR 6911 or the STAND for Georgia Act.  What passed was HR 2638, the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009. HR 2638 is an interesting piece of legislation indeed.  A quick glance at the bill’s Table of Contents you will find appropriations for the FDA, FBI, the Department of Labor, US embassies, Department of Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs.  But tucked away under the heading Bilateral Economic Assistance, there is this paragraph:

For an additional amount for ‘Economic Support Fund’, $465,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2010, of which up to $5,000,000 may be made available for administrative expenses of the United States Agency for International Development, in addition to amounts otherwise made available for such purposes: Provided, That of the funds appropriated under this heading, $365,000,000 shall be made available for assistance for Georgia and the region for humanitarian and economic relief, reconstruction, energy-related programs and democracy activities, and may be transferred to, and merged with, funds appropriated under the headings ‘Assistance for the Independent States of the Former Soviet Union’ and ‘International Disaster Assistance’, of which up to $8,000,000 may be transferred to, and merged with, funds made available for ‘International Broadcasting Operations’ for broadcasting activities to Georgia, Russia and the region.

As Kucera originally reported, the bill passed the House (268 to 150), the Senate (89 to 4), and signed by President Bush.  Now the majority of congressmen can pat themselves on the back for paying off Saakashvili, er protecting democracy, for his little war.

So I was wrong on another point.  The US Congress is perverse enough to give the Georgians $365 million as the American economy tanks.  Nice.  Real nice.

My sincerest apologies to Josh for the misunderstanding.  I thank him for clearing it up.