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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.

Media’s Samokritika Over Ossetian War

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The Ossetian War is now three months past, but the battle over the war’s narrative continues.  There has been a turn around in the Western media over the last few weeks.  Whereas Russia was lambasted during the war as the evil villain and poor little Georgia the innocent victim, mostly thanks the Georgia’s use of Beligian PR firms, now Georgia is now blamed for a reckless attack, and even war crimes.  To suggest anything of the sort three months ago would have been considered madness and laughed off as Putinist apologia.

The reevaluation of the war culminated today with the publication of a 76 page report by Amnesty International.  The report, which declares a pox on both Russia and Georgia, details how Georgia carried out “indiscriminate attacks” on civilians and with Russia committed “serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.”

As a whole the Amnesty reports doesn’t reveal any new information but rather corroborates what was already known with more testimony.  The one part I was hoping to see more information on was the role of South Ossetian militias in the conflict.  The report only devotes 3 of its 76 pages to this topic.  From this it is still hard to evaluate the extent of Ossetian revenge violence against their Georgian neighbors.

Sadly, all of these journalistic correctives are now hopelessly academic.  The war is over.  The propaganda served its purpose at the moment when it was most needed.  Journalists may be asking questions like: Why did the West ignore the truth about the war in Georgia? and running to pump out corrective articles by “talking to civilians” and getting the “facts” from the ground to salvage their credibility, but the real truth was that those “civilian accounts” and “facts” were always there.  Not to toot my own horn, but I was able to see them.  I didn’t even have to go to South Ossetia or Georgia to do so.  All I did, like so many others who now feel vindicated, simply read the Russian press, (though I did fall victim to Russia’s claims of 2,000 civilian deaths.  The revised number is a 159.) or the independent media.  Granted, there is something to the “fog of war” and how that might obscure truth.  Nevertheless, much of the Western media were either incompetent, or, because they are always willing to play their role in the war machine, simply just chose to ignore them.