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.

Running from Russia to . . . Poland

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graphic2Citizens of the Russian Federation comprise of the third highest number of asylum seekers according to statistics complied by the UN Refugee Agency.

The top country of origin of asylum applicants in 2008 was Iraq (40,500, down 10 percent from 45,100 in 2007), followed by Somalia (21,800), the Russian Federation (20,500), Afghanistan (18,500) and China (17,400). Of the 10 main nationalities claiming asylum last year, some remained stable while others registered significant increases.

Countries of origin recording a significant rise in applications included Afghanistan (up 85 percent), Zimbabwe (up 82 percent), Somalia (up 77 percent), Nigeria (up 71 percent) and Sri Lanka (up 24 percent). All of these countries experienced unrest or conflicts in 2008.

And where are Russian citizens going?  Poland, of all places.  According to the report, “As in 2007, Poland remained the prime destination for asylum-seekers from the Russian Federation in 2008, with a total of 6,600 new claims.” Poland was followed by France and Austria as the main places citizens from Russia seek asylum.

However, ethnic Russians aren’t the ones bolting from their homeland.  The majority of asylum applicants are Chechens and Ingush.  The reason why they look to Poland for asylum is because of the country’s proximity to Russia.  Poland is the nearest country in the Schengen zone and asylum there potentially opens up migration to other EU countries.  Plus, many citizens from the North Caucuses go to Poland because they are more likely to have contacts there.  “Many Chechens went to Poland during the [Chechen] war,” says Lidiya Grafova from the Emigrant Organization Forum.  “But the reason they go there now glaringly marks the regime of Ramzan Kadyrov.  Residents of Dagestan and Ingushetia seek asylum because they are constantly under fire.  Moreover, I think that growing xenophobia has forced out persons of Caucausian nationality, living in various regions in the RF, out of Russia.”

Graphic: UNHCR