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.

Nashi Pisses on Nemtsov

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A suspected murderer, an ex-KGB turned oligarch, and a “dissident” liberal are all part of what will prove to be a mayoral election of the year.  The three aren’t the only candidates.  Of course, every official Russian political party has thrown their hat into the race.  The aforementioned Lugovoi will run on the LDPR ticket, Anatoly Pakhomov represents United Russia, Yuri Dzaganiya for the KPRF, and recently announced Just Russia candidate Viktor Kurpitko.  Other possible candidates include a possible run by former Bolshoi ballerina Anastasia Volochkova and the head of Sochi’s arm wrestling federation Stanislav Koretsky (whether the latter will take in repeated viewings of Sly Stallone’s Over the Top for inspiration is unknown). The prize is Sochi the Black Sea coastal resort town that will host the 2014 Winter Games. Or rather the real prize is the $12.5 billion in allocated government funds to make Sochi an Olympic Winter Wonderland.

Oppositionists and outsiders are hopeful given last week’s election of a political outsider to head Murmansk.  Sergei Subbotin’s win shocked the Kremlin and United Russia (so much so that the region’s governor was sacked, er resigned, this weekend allegedly for supporting Subbotin.).  But before oppositionists get all uppity, they might want to take notice that upon election Subbotin immediately announced his support for Putin though refused to join United Russia.  So I bet Murmansk is a loss, the Kremlin will eventually live with it.  I seriously doubt that it will take any political gambles with Sochi.

The election will certainly prove to be, in the words of the New York Times, “the season’s most sensational political sideshow.” In fact the fun has already begun, even before the ballerina and arm wrestler have declared their candidacy. Today, “Kremlin critic” Nemtsov was reportedly doused with ammonia outside his campaign headquarters. According to his spokeswoman the attack was carried out by two assailants.  “A person with long hair, women’s clothes and a deep voice approached [Nemtsov] with a bouquet of flowers while an assailant splashed him with ammonia,” she told the AP. Nemtsov, however, wasn’t injured despite some of the ammoniacal fluid got into his eyes.  He even went on about his scheduled news conference.  The police were called, but in pure fashion they showed up more than an hour later.

The fact that Nemtsov wasn’t injured  makes me wonder whether the substance was the pungent liquid at all.  There is only one other substance I can think of that smells of ammonia but doesn’t carry any dangers: piss.  I’m not the only one wondering if he was subject to a golden shower.

And if Nemtsov was doused with piss, then who were the pissers?  In an interview on Ekho Moskvy, Nemtsov claimed the attack was the work of Nashi. “The regime, obviously finding itself in a hysterical position, decided to use criminals, in particular Nashists, judging by the tactics.”

It certainly smells of Nashi.  After all, the youth group has been quite active doling out provocations of late.  In addition to, the stunt they played on Ilya Yashin, a member of the pro-Kremlin group has recently admitted to carrying out the cyber attacks on Estonia, including exacting revenge on Kommersant with a denial of service attack on the paper’s website after it published an article on the incident, picketing Novaya gazeta for publishing an unflattering article about the new patriarch Aleksei II, protesting outside the latest Khodorkovsky trial and demanding Sberbank’s top managers to give back their bonuses.  Interestingly, the police detained thirty-five Nashists in the Khodorkovsky action and twelve in the Sberbank.

I guess you can now add pissing on Nemtsov to the list.