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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.

Punk’s not Dead. It’s Just Under Police Surveillance.

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Russian authorities just keep stretching and stretching the meaning of extremism. Now the list of extremists will include a variety of youth subcultures extending from skinheads to fans of the iconic Soviet rock band Kino. This is according to a report released by the St. Petersburg Prosecutor’s Office which places music fans under police surveillance.  Reports the St. Petersburg Times:

According to the report, the district’s criminal police have identified and included on a register “88 people who attribute themselves to informal entities such as ‘Skinheads,’ ‘Aggressive Football Fans,’ ‘Punks,’ ‘Emos,’ ‘Black Metallers,’ ‘Fans of [the band] Kino,’ ‘Alternative Rock Fans,’ ‘Anarchists’ and others.”

Kino was a local 1980s pop-rock band influenced by The Cure and Duran Duran, and is still popular with young people in Russia, though it split up when its frontman and sole songwriter Viktor Tsoi died in a car crash in 1991. Plans to erect an official monument to Tsoi are underway in the city.

The report said that apart from the criminal police, “this work” is also conducted by neighborhood police inspectors and juvenile police departments.

Once exposed and registered, the music fans and members of the other “informal entities” are the subject of “preventive work” conducted by the district’s police officers, the district’s administration officials and educational institution staff to “prevent crimes, including those of an extremist nature.”

Wonderful.  But far from anything new.  A list of “ideologically harmful” music was concocted by the Komsomol in the 1980s.  It didn’t work then and it sure as hell isn’t going to work now.  One would think the St. Petersburg police have better things to do with their time.

And they say punk is dead. Nah, it’s just under police surveillance.