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.

Georgian War Goes “Live Action”

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

Updated: Trailer with subtitles.

For those who are still confused as to the correct narrative of the Georgian War last August, Pervyi kanal will be broadcasting a TV movie called “Olympus Inferno” on 29 March to set the record straight in high action packed, melodrama form.

The film revolves around Michael, a US entomologist (played by Israeli actor Henry David), and Zhenia, a female Russian journalist (starring Polina Filonenko) who stumble upon evidence that Georgia started the war while using nocturnal cameras to record the fluttering of rare night butterflies. Their discovery gives them a cause higher than rare lepidopterans.  Natural science is quickly abandoned as the two haul ass to the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali to present their damning evidence to the world.  But not so fast, like any good action-love drama the two must claw, scrape, and screw their way past evil Georgians, ducking a butt-load of explosions and rapid machine gun fire along the way.

The film is “something like the Bourne films” says a Pervyi kanal spokeswoman referring the Matt Damon spy flicks that portrays a young secret agent who exacts revenge on his former handlers, usually with girlfriend in tow. The film was apparently filmed in the Bourne style, or as director Igor Voloshin calls it “live action” (лайф экшен, laif аkshen).  Does this mean that we can expect Michael to possess some neck snapping, kung fu ass kicking? Are bugs merely his mild mannered cover for a CIA agent who realizes the evil in his Georgian allies and decides to turn toward the Russian light?  Hell, if you’re going to be inspired by Bourne there’s no reason to stop at shoulder cameras.

The film is already being called the next episode in the information war between Russia and Georgia.  Voloshin denies the film’s political overtones.  For him, it’s just a good action film.  “Debates begin … ‘bad Russian or bad Georgians’, but it’s just a film. You should look at it as a film, as a work of art, which is what I made,” Voloshin told Reuters.  “People love buying films like Apocalypse Now, masterpieces about war in Vietnam. Hollywood masterpieces and nobody remembers that the heroes of these films invaded Vietnam and burned it with napalm — for some reason that is forgotten.” Besides maybe Rambo II (which is debatable since the premise is about how the US government abandoned its POWs), I wonder what Vietnam movies he’s referring to.  Vietnam has hardly inspired patriotic outpourings on the part of American auteurs.   You’ll have to look at another Matt Damon film Saving Ryan’s Privates, er that’s the porno version, I mean, Saving Private Ryan for that.  Nevertheless, even though the film is part of the infowar, it’s not like Voloshin is going out on a limb. “If you look at the facts of the conflict, about who started it, it was Georgia.” Well, I’ll give him that.

Judging from the trailer, I doubt it’s really a “work of art” and certainly can’t be compared to Apocalypse Now but more a way to keep the Russian public’s political passions alive via shaky cameras, big explosions, and sappy melodrama. I won’t be tuning in of course, but I am curious about viewers reactions, if any.