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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.

Sochi’s Electoral Magic Show

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The results of the mayoral election in Sochi were as expected.  United Russia’s candidate Anatoly Pakhomov won.  No repeat of  the Murmansk mayoral contest allowed. The losers, Solidarity’s Boris Nemtsov and the Communist Party candidate Yuri Dzaganiya, have already charged massive fraud, dirty campaign tricks, and use of a variety “administrative resources” to hoist Pakhomov to victory.  Both candidates were systematically barred from local television, their billboards removed, and campaign literature confiscated.  Local Sochi tv even smeared poor Nemtsov with a 20 minute film claiming he was a South Korean spy. And what dastardly plot was he hatching for the east Asian nation? Conspiring to move the Olympics to Seoul.  As if.

Early voting served as the perfect opportunity for stuffing the box in favor of Pakhmonov. And if that wasn’t enough to tip the balance, then mobile poll buses were dispatched to the Abkhaz border.  Last week, Sochi’s electoral committee ruled that citizens of Abkhazia with Russian passports and Sochi residency could cast ballots.  As a result, this election is probably the one of first to make a serious effort to enfranchise the homeless.

There isn’t much more to say about a contest which began as a circus and closed with a magic show.  Votes were made to disappear and reappear at the behest of the electoral committee’s magicians.  Nothing says this more than the enormous gap between exit polls and the election results, via Ezhdnevnyi zhurnal:

The surveys of exist polls gave the following results: Pakhomov, the candidate from United Russia, 46 percent; Nemstov the candidate for Solidarity, 35 percent.  In other words, a run off. Yuri Rykov, the head of the city electoral committee, offered entirely different figures to the court of public opinion.  Pakhmonov – almost 78 percent, Nemtsov 13.5 percent.

One candidate had to score 50 percent to avoid a run off.  United Russia wasn’t going to take a chance even if that meant making electoral fraud even more blatant than usual.  After all, it ain’t called “managed democracy” for nothin’.

Photo: Debaterage.