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.

Boris the Pant-less

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yeltsinI don’t have a lot of time for blogging these days.  The finishing touches on the dissertation (one . . . more . . week), job applications, and getting ready to spend the next year in Russia fill up all my time.  Inevitably commenting on missiles, Medvedev the modernizer, not to mention Moscow’s Holy Father of Fury, has been relegated to the eternal back burner.  Yet, there are some things in the world of Russia that just can’t be left to simmer on the boiler plate.  Especially when it involves a pant-less Boris Yeltsin.

According to Taylor Branch’s “The Clinton Tapes,”

Former President Clinton recalled getting a security alert in 1995 that the Secret Service had found Mr. Yeltsin, in his underwear, outside Blair House on Pennsylvania Avenue trying to hail a taxi. He was clearly inebriated, wanting a pizza. And he eluded security the second night, nearly causing an even more serious ruckus when he was initially mistaken for a drunken intruder, according to these accounts. What that says about the security near Blair House or those who protected Mr. Yeltsin is anyone’s guess.

Forget about the Blair House security, though the inability to nab a drunken Yeltsin does raise eyebrows. Is this tale not the perfect metaphor for the Yeltsin era?  A mere four years after boldly standing on a tank and mouthing whatever democratic platitudes he could ride into power, Yeltsin is in America, plastered, and looking for pizza in his skivvies.  Or worse almost getting 187ed by Blair House security.  One can imagine a similar scenario when he signed the Belovezh Accords abolishing the USSR or when robber barons freely pilfered the Russian state. Drunk, pant-less, looking for pizza.  If only a cab picked him up.  If only . . .

Two questions, though.  Did anyone ever explain why Boris was in his underwear?  And, more importantly, were they boxers or briefs?

One things for sure.  The dude knew how to par-tay.