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.

Barak Turns to Putin’s Playbook

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With Labor set to go down in flames in next month’s parliamentary elections in Israel, what is a beleaguered Ehud Brarak to do to pump up his tough image among crucial Russian voters?  Why, “Putinize” himself, of course. As Lily Galili reports in Haaretz:

In a bid to gain the vote of the Russian immigrants in the elections, Labor leader and Defense Minister Ehud Barak will quote Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s statement about killing Chechen terrorists “on the toilet.”

“As you people say, they should be whacked when they’re on the toilet,” Barak will say in a radio election broadcast intended for Russian speakers. Labor, which is launching its campaign among the Russian speakers this afternoon, will ask them to support him, as they did when he last ran for prime minister 10 years ago.

Galili goes on to explain that Barak’s Putin plagiarism is his way of “fashioning his image after that of an aggressive leader whom many Russian immigrants see favorably.”

Until a few weeks ago, Barak didn’t have a chance among Israel’s Russian population.  But what a difference a brutal invasion of Gaza makes, and as Defense Minister Barak hopes to reap the political benefits. As one Israeli political commentator told Galili:    “Unlike the failed Lebanon war, the war in Gaza was brutal enough and successful enough to score points for Barak.” “Barak is lucky,” he added. “Most Russians see this war as a failure, but Barak is identified with the military victory, not with its political failure.”

Galili explains further:

Under the halo of a military victory, Barak’s messages in his address to the Russian public will be much more radical and aggressive than those in his Hebrew campaign. Russians are assumed to love power and to be looking for a strong leader and Barak will present himself as an answer to both these needs.

Nice. Apparently, if several hundred to over a thousand Palestinian deaths (depending on who you listen to) are needed to give those so-called power loving Russians a strong leader, then so be it.