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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.

Kill’em All

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Here are some interesting findings from a recent VTsIOM survey on corruption:

Thirty percent of Russians approve of the idea of public executions to fight corruption, the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion has found. Fifty-nine percent of those opposed to that innovation are not opposed to public execution itself, they simply doubt its effectiveness against corruption (Emphasis mine–Sean). The idea found the most support (40-41%) among respondents older than 35.

and,

Thirty-one percent of Russians would inform law enforcement agencies about corruption if it became known to them. Thirty percent would tell no one. Two years ago, only 24 percent of respondents would be willing to inform the police of corruption, and 29 percent would tell no one. Others would tell other local authorities (8%), the media (7%), human rights or other public organizations (6%) or the president personally (3%). Fifteen percent were unable to provide an answer to the question.

About 90 percent of respondents are for executing corrupt officials (though 59 percent felt it would be ineffective) and about a third would denounce them if given the opportunity. This is an interesting concept of justice, indeed.  Comrade Stalin would have been quite proud.

While reading about corrput officials and Russians’ frustrations with them, I was reminded of the opening scene of Wendy Goldman’s Terror and Democracy in the Age of Stalin.  She writes:

Emboldened by the new rhetoric [of unmasking enemies], a miner named Shadabudinov shyly stepped up to the rostrum.  “Comrades,” he began nervously, “i cannot speak as well as the comrades who have spoken, but I would ask you to hear me out.”  Shadabudinov explained that he wanted to say “several words about my pit which todays gives the country so much copper.”  He “fell into this plenum by accident,” and had never met the head of his union until this day.  Union officials rarely visited his settlement and, when they did, they never went down into the pits.  The local union tried to help the workers, but “things do not always go right, especially when wreckers interfere.”  And, in 1936, “we had a lot of wrecking.”  Sixteen miners had died, four in the past four months alone.  Many more had been wounded, blinded, and crippled in accidents. “So frankly, this is a horror,” Shadabudinov said quietly.  Even worse, officals seemed not to care.  Under the guise of political education, the party organizer did nothing but read the newspaper aloud.  “He tells us fairytales,” Shadabudinov said in disgust; “And for this he gets 400 rubles a month.”  The mine director was unresponsive, and the secretary of the party committee was in the director’s back pocket.  The director had recently given him 4,000 rubles and a fine fur coat, which he sported around the frozen pits.  Shadabudinov had written repeatedly to various officials about the situation, but none had responded.  Finally he had gathered copies of all his lettrers, glued together a makeshift envelope from old newspaper, and sent the package off to Nikolai I. Ezhov, the head of the Commissariat of Internal Affairs.  “I did not recieve an answer, but all the same, I feel something was done,” Shadabudinov noted with satisfaction.  “Five days ago, the Party Control Comission demanded to see the director and the secretary of the party committee.”  Shadabudinov’s denunciation opened an investigation of the director and party committee secretary.  Denounced for “wrecking,” in all likelihood they suffered fates resembling those of countless other victims of terror.  Yet in Shadabudinov’s view, who, if not these “wreckers” in fur coats, should answer for the dead and maimed miners? (11-12)