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.

The Steel Pipe Hobbles the Pen

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on reddit

news_2161_1

“I’m typing with one hand.  The second doesn’t work.  Moreover, I’m very bruised in two places on the thigh of my left leg , in my left kidney,  and on the middle of my back, and my face still stings.  But I am lucky.  I’m very lucky.”  These are the words of Maksim Zolotarev, who goes by the ZhZh handle zeelot, in a blog post retelling how he was attacked by three men as he left home last Thursday.  Zolotarev is the editor of Molva Iuzhnoe Podmoskove and one of the hundreds of journalists violently attacked in recent years.

Yesterday, 12 March 2009 I, Maksim Sergeevich Zolotarev, left home at 12:30. I made my way to my car so I could go to work.  The car was 20 meters from my home.  As I approached my car I saw another car-a Mitsubishi.  I noticed that the number of the car was covered in dirt.  The car turned around to face the front windshield of my car.

Only when I began to approach my car, did three men exit the Mitsubishi in identical short black ski jackets with hoods over their heads. I had a bad feeling.

One of the tall strangers (30-35 years old, under 2 meters, Slavic features) quickly came up to me and asked, “Where is building No. 18.”  As I turned toward him, a shot from an air gun went into my face, after that they laid a blow to my legs, and I fell.

The second person (40-45 years old, medium height) pulled out a short steel rod encased in rubber and laid 10-15 blows on my entire body.  Especially on my arms and spine.  I could not open my eyes and could not breath and therefore didn’t see anyone.  People nearby started running toward me.  I remember that the incident occurred in the middle of day, around one o’clock.  After the beating, the attackers got in the automobile and left in an unknown direction.

Zolotarev is another statistic in the number of journalists beaten in Russia this year.  The assailants are almost never found or prosecuted. His beating is just another indication that being a journalist in Russia is a life or death profession.

There have been eight recorded incidents of attacks on journalists so far this year according to the Glasnost Defense Fund.  But that number only includes January and February.  We are almost at the end of March, and including Zolotarev, we can add the attack on Vzglyad reporter Vadim Rogozhin in Saratov on 5 March.

Rogozhin received more than ten blows to the head.  He now lies in a coma. Rogozhin is said to been working on an investigation of illegal business activities.  His bosses at Vzglyad are offering 1 million rubles for any information on the assailants.

If Rogozhin dies, he will become the third Russian journalist killed this year following the murder of Anastasia Baburova and Shafig Amrakhov.  The former is well known.  The latter was the editor of RIA-51 in Murmansk.  He died from severe head wounds from an air gun an unknown assailant shot him with on December 30. The specific reason why he was attacked is unknown.  But I bet it has something to do with his work.

It’s almost getting rote to chronicle these stories.  And unlike most reports, I don’t think that any of this has to do with the Kremlin or even a particular aspect of Putinist Russia.  The truth of the matter is that for the vast majority of Russian journalists beaten and killed, the assailants are more likely to be local, and probably connected to business interests–legal or otherwise.  These attacks are a reminder that Russian capitalism is one where localized violence plays in fundamental role.