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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.

Kadyrov’s Kids

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“Who has the youth, has the future!”  Though attributed to Martin Luther, this declaration has mostly been the providence of the modern states as they attempt to cultivate youth to ensure their future reproduction.  Post-Soviet states are particularly keen to the importance of capturing youth.  This is witnessed in the revival of Diet-Komsomol and Young Pioneer-lite groups like Nashi and Mishki in Russia or the Republican Youth League of Belarus.  Now you can add one more group to the list: the Young Kadyrovtsy.   “In the face of my comrades, I solemnly swear: I will devote all my strength, knowledge and intellect to [the] cause of serving the Motherland! I will always fulfill the laws of the kadyrovtsy!” a group of schoolchildren were shown declaring to a Chechen flag in a television report on the new movement.  According to the North Caucasus Weekly, Chechnya strongman president, Ramzan Kadyrov is fertilizing his cult of personality among next generation with his own version of the Young Pioneers.

The website quoted an unnamed official in Chechnya’s Ministry of Education and Science as saying that the creation of a children’s organization similar to the Soviet Union’s Young Pioneers will help strengthen discipline in the republic’s schools, and raise the students’ level of responsibility and desire to excel. The official did not say whether the initiative to create the group had come from his ministry or at the local level. “The presence of some kind of student organizations in the schools is a good thing,” the official said. “It is enough to remember our childhood, when Pioneer and Komsomol organizations were operating in the country, when there was the Timurovsky movement [another Soviet-era youth movement-NCW].” He added: “Beginning with early childhood, such qualities as honesty, straightforwardness and mutual readiness to help are built in a person. It’s not important what this movement or organization is called. The main thing is that a feeling of patriotism and love for their Fatherland is instilled in children.”

Kadyrov claims that the organization is not in his honor, but in his father’s.  When asked about the Young Kadyrovtsy in an interview with Komsomolskaya pravda, the president explained,

The Young Kadyrovtsy are in honor of my father, Akhmat Kadyrov, the first President of the Chechen Republic.  The Young Kadyrovtsy must be the purest, most honest, proper and faithful. I am certain that these lads who understand the idea of the first President will never make any mistake.  They will serve the state, they will serve the people (narod) and never betray Russia, and never do bad by it.

The Young Kadyrovtsy are part of a wider trend to promote youth into the Chechen government.  And Kadyrov knows the power of youth by personal experience.  It shouldn’t be forgotten that he’s only 32 years old.  He then went on to explain how young people are vital to the Chechen state:

Irinia [the interviewer], if you observe the present situation in our Republic you will notice that we make an emphasis on youth.  We appoint and elect mainly young people to key positions–the Minister of Education, the chancellor of the state university, the Chief of Staff to the President and Government, and the Mayor of Grozny.  And we have many youth also in Parliament. Everywhere!

From this aspect, the future is in their hands.

Or, following Luther, in his.

Thanks to Lyndon for alerting me to the story.
Photo: Komsomolskaya pravda.