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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.

Presidential Piggy Bank

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A few weeks ago, Dmitry Medvedev announced that Russia’s top officials would reveal their incomes as part of an anti-corruption campaign.  When I heard this I wondered whether that disclosure would include any of the money they’ve most likely picked up over the last eight years.  After all, Medvedev was the chair of Gazprom’s board of directors, and one would suspect he was compensated heavily for his service. However, when he stated his finances for the presidential election, Dima was pretty much broke by American power player standards. Since 2007, Putin has been rumored to have a hefty $40 billion squirreled away in some unknown bank account.

The tandem released their incomes today, and one can only assume that while Medvedev and Putin might have earned $124,000 and $137,000 respectively, I seriously doubt this is the full number and certainly not full disclosure of their wealth.

Both men earn over 18 times Russia’s average wage of 230,000 rubles per year.

Medvedev has the larger apartment, a 368-square-meter Moscow residence that dwarves Putin’s 77-square-meter flat in Saint Petersburg, the declarations showed. But both men spend most of their time in their palatial state residences.

. . .

Putin also owns a garage, two classic cars, a trailer and a 1,500 square meter plot of land, his declaration said. He also has share holdings with a nominal value of 230,000 rubles.

Medvedev and his wife have bank deposits worth just under 3 million rubles and 4,700 square meters of land. His wife has two car parking spaces and a Volkswagen Golf.

It’s interesting that Putin, as Prime Minister, earns more than the President. But not by much.

Perhaps, what is more interesting is how Medvedev’s salary compares to that of other world leaders. Barack Obama tops the list with a paycheck of $400,000 a year. But this is chump change compared to the $4.2 million Obama earned from book sales in 2007.  And now with his own full fledged cult of personality, Brand Obama is a potential bottomless well of profit.

Obama’s high is followed by Ireland’s Brian Cowen who rakes in roughly $380,000, France’s Nicholas Sarkozy’s $355,000, Angela Merkel’s $337,000; and Britain’s Gordon Brown who gets $294,000.

Poor (that is for reported income) Dima is in last place with an annual Presidential salary of $99,000.

As we all well known public office isn’t what pays.  What really pays are the connections, greasy handshakes, and back room dealings.  I suspect this is how the Clintons earned $109 million (which I also doubt is full disclosure) from 2000 to 2007.  And once that government-corporate revolving door begins to spin after leaving office, look out.  Pay-dirt. When they finally leave office, I’m sure Putin, Medvedev, Obama, Merkel, Sarkozy, Brown, and Cowen will be amply compensated for their time.