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.

Losing and Finding Russia

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I made reference to Susan Richards’ book Lost and Found in Russia: Encounters in a Deep Heartland in my last post.  I have not read the book, nor can I buy it unless I want to pay extra shipping from England.  Lost and Found has yet to be published in the US.  Too bad.  As this Guardian review suggests, it sounds like a worthwhile read:

In the great tradition of Chekhov or Dostoevsky, her subjects live in the anonymous provinces, in the appropriately named town of Marx (what a great choice – at one point she was categorically informed by a telephone operator that “Marx does not exist, but Engels does”). The opening chapters are ones of pure despair. Richards describes struggling to capture the weird reality that just when we all thought the Russians should be celebrating the advent of democracy and freedom, their lives were collapsing around them. Provincial Russia knows a thing or two about hopelessness.

The subsequent 16 years of change have tested her characters to the limits – throwing some off into Siberia, a couple to the Crimea. Richards kept on going back, doggedly and affectionately following the lives they offer up.

Or you can get a taste yourself.  OpenDemocracy has published a few excepts from the text:

Lost and Found in Russia: a visit to Marx
Between Heaven and Hell
My Dream House

And if that isn’t enough, Richards recently spoke at OpenDemocracy’s Russia evening in London.  Anatol Lieven provided commentary.

[podcast]http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/audio/Russia-evening-July-09.mp3[/podcast]