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.

Volgograd Obama

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on reddit

CrimaThey’re calling him the “Volgograd Obama.”  Joachim Crima, 37, native of Guinea-Bissau, former watermelon seller, and graduate of Volgograd Pedagogical University has thrown his hat into the region’s municipal election.  If elected, which is a long shot, Crima would become Russia’s first black elected official. “I was born in Africa, but I have lived in the district for 12 years and feel practically Russian. I have a son here and this is why I cannot be indifferent to the fate of the region,” he told the press. Crima, who has adopted the name Vasilii Ivanovich, promises “to toil like a negro” for his constituents. “I want to make the lives of people who I consider my compatriots better. I am ready to work from morning until evening to resolve their problems.”  In fact, “Will toil like a negro” has become his election slogan.

Political commentators aren’t taking the African seriously and see his campaign as nothing more than “a product of pre-election tactic with the purpose of taking votes from the United Russia candidate.”  “I think that this is a case of pure political exoticism” Alexander Strizoe told V1.ru.  “I don’t rule out that several forces hope to take some of the votes away from United Russia by promoting a black candidate.  However, I don’t think that there is a chance of victory.  Our population is traditional. It only votes for its own kind.  In order to win the support of our voters, it’s necessary to be a leader of public opinion.  I don’t think it’s possible for a native of Guinea-Bissau to be the spokesman for the people’s aspirations.”

As for the racist overtones of the slogan “toil like a negro,” Gennady Shaikhullin, the chairman of the provincial electoral commission, sees “nothing that could treated as inflaming racial, religious, or any kind of hatred.”  Shaikhullin thinks the slogan is of poor taste but the “context of this expression supposes that a person who promises to “toil like a negro” takes up the responsibility to work more and with greater intensity.”

I’m not sure how Crima will pull votes away from United Russia since naturally I can’t imagine Russians voting for an African enough to matter if his candidacy is indeed genuine.  And if it is, I hope his presence at least rocks the political boat.  Even if it’s just a little bit.

Nevertheless, some of the responses to the V1.ru article are noteworthy.  They are a mixture of support, fascination, and flat out racism.  Ilya Lezin says, “Our corrupt officials won’t allow a Afro-Russian into the government!”  Another named Dok writes “Vasilli Ivanovich as he calls himself (I’ve known him for five years) is a good negro but as the head of the district???” Irinka says “A black with a high intellect.  I’ve read that its even higher than a penguin.”  Others, of course, are simply skeptical and even a bit disappointed by Crima’s “selling his soul.”  On RUpor.info, one commentator writes, “Every summer this black sells watermelons not far from the city Volzhskii on the way to Srenaya Akhtuba.  He’s legendary.  All of Volgograd knows and loves him. And just imagine, you sold your soul to be a slave to political consultants.  Vasia, Vasia . . .”

Some are impressed by his vow to “toil like a negro” if elected. Entrepreneur writes, “He used to work for me at the Voroshilov market as a loader!  In general, he has a good education with the right world view. In regard to “toil like a negro” . . . he is really very hard working, especially after the birth of a child!!  I happily  support his ambition and wish him success!” Another, RVS writes, “In the Far East the Chinese are very hard-working, and so are our Negroes, so there’s nothing left for us but to guzzle tainted vodka, since we can’t work.  Strange kind of love we have to all things foreign, comrades.”  MaksimVI sums his views up quite simple, “Tolerance is evil.  We say NO to blacks.”

I happen to share Sergei’s response to the racism on the forum. He writes in response to Irinka above, “I would express it differently: A black person of average intelligence is much higher that the typical visitor of Russian Internet forums.” And how.

I hope to one day sport my own “Volgograd Obama” T-shirt. Go Vasilii Ivanovich!

Thanks to Evgeny for the article.

In the Far East the Chinese are very hard-working, and so are our Negroes, so there's nothing left for us but to guzzle tainted vodka, since we can't work.  Strange kind of love we have to all things foreign