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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.

Russia’s Racial Marketing

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duet_obama_web duetobama_

obama-tan

"A good tan is a direct path to the Presidency."

Are these ads racist?  Some think so.  The use of Barack Obama visage has become a marketing hit in Russia, generating cries of racism.  The charges relate to three ads featuring Obama. The Times of India reports:

Obama ice cream, anyone? Chocolate-vanilla ice cream is one of several Russian products being marketed using America’s first black president, even as critics call the ads racist.

Other ads featuring US President Barack Obama have promoted tanning salons and tooth-whitening services.

But the creator of one Obama-themed ad — for ice cream bars which have a chocolate-flavoured centre embedded in a layer of vanilla — insisted Friday that it was not racist and should be seen as a joke.

The ad for Duet ice cream bars features a smiling, cartoonish black man flashing a V-for-Victory sign in front of the white edifice of Washington’s Capitol building, along with the Russian slogan: “Everyone’s talking about it: dark inside white!”

Some blasted the ad as insensitive after it surfaced on English-language websites this week. “This is just racist,” said one visitor to the Ads of the World website, while another asked: “Is the ice cream as tasteless as the ad?”

Andrei Gubaidullin, who created the ad, said it was not racist and that Russia simply had a different attitude to race than Western countries.

“For Russia, this is not racist. It is fun and that’s it,” said Gubaidullin, creative director at Voskhod advertising agency, based in the Urals Mountains city of Yekaterinburg.

“We don’t consider teasing ethnic groups racist. It is just seen as a joke,” he said by telephone, adding that he personally liked Obama.