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.

The Ballads of Mikhail Gorbachev

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Mikhail Gorbachev has had many roles in his seventy-eight years.  He’s been a Party aktiv, a First Party Kraikom Secretary, Politburo member, General Secretary of the Communist Party, Louis Vuitton model, and global philanthropist.  Gorbachev, of course, is best known for concocting perestroika and glasnost, two reforms which aided the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now Gorby can add another role to his long CV: recording artist.

Yes, Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev has recorded an album (with Russian rock star Andrei Makarevich) of romantic songs titled Songs to Raisa in dedication to his wife.  The album, of which only one copy exists, has already sold out.  An unknown British philanthropist bought it for a whopping $169,940 at an auction to raise money for the Raisa Gorbachev FoundationReports Sean Michaels in the Guardian:

An “anonymous British philanthropist” bought what we suppose is Mikhail Gorbachev’s “debut album”, Songs for Raisa, in London this week, bidding $164,940 (about £100,000) at an auction to benefit the Raisa Gorbachev Foundation. Nearly 350 luminaries were present at the private event, including Gordon Bown’s wife, Sarah, London mayor Boris Johnson, Harry Potter author JK Rowling, actor Vanessa Redgrave and Russian ambassador Yuri Fedotov, according to the newspaper Pravda.

Gorbachev was there too, and he brought his singing voice. The former Soviet leader warbled a song called Old Letters. “The performance … was greeted with delight and a storm of applause,” said Pavel Palazhchenko, chairman of the Foundation’s press service. You can judge for yourself by listening to Old Letters.

Like the rest of the tracks on Songs for Raisa, “Old Letters” is an old Russian romantic ballad. Gorbachev’s wife, Raisa, died 10 years ago. The foundation established in her name is dedicated to fighting childhood cancer.

Two songs are available for download :
Old Letters
Dark Night

And they aren’t that bad!  Who knew?