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.

Moskalenko’s Mercury Mirage

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When I blogged on the “poisoning” of Karinna Moskalenko last week, I asked, “Was this a murder attempt, a warning, or just paranoia?”  Well now we definitively know: It was paranoia.  The French newspaper La Figaro reports that an investigation into the mercury that made Moskalenko ill was not planted there by a nefarious Putinite agent to sully another potential “fierce critic.”  Strasbourg authorities now say that the mercury came from a broken barometer left by the previous owner.  Moskalenko bought the car in August 2008 and just didn’t clean it.

One hopes that Moskalenko will now retract her statement “People do not put mercury in your car to improve your health.”  No people don’t, but it doesn’t help that when they do, they don’t clean it up.

I’m afraid that no matter what corrective Moskalenko provides, the damage as been done.  The articles echoing another Alexander Litivinenko scandal have already circulated through the culture industry circuitry.  Just a few days ago, Time called Moskalenko “a very high profile target.”  Yeah, apparently a high profile target of her own negligence.  Yesterday, the Washington Post used the poison paranoia to lambaste Russia (again).  Here is what WaPo had to say,

“Perhaps this was an unfortunate accident; the police in Strasbourg say they are still investigating. But history suggests otherwise.”

So what is the lesson to be learned?  Well, there is obvious lesson that Westerners should be more cautious in making Russia’s “fierce critics'” every word sacrosanct.  We might recognize that some of these people are victims of their own paranoia and self-deluded sense of importance.  They are not martyrs, saints, or saviors. No matter how much they want us to think they are.

Shout out to frequent SRB commentator Chrisius [Insert Title Here] for bringing attention to it and Eugene Ivanov, who discovered the story.