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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.

“The leading fighting brigade of our political system.”

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Nashi picketIt looks like Nashi might have crossed a line in their campaign against Alexander Podrabinek.  According to Vremya, the Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights Council under the President of the Russian Federation made an official appeal calling for an investigation of Nashi’s “illegal and amoral” campaign to hunt down the journalist. The appeal reads:

The campaign to hunt the [Podrabinek] clearly violates existing legislation and demonstrates obvious signs of extremism: fomentation of discord and the violation of a citizen’s human rights and freedoms. There presently are signs of the violation of articles 23 and 25 of the Russian Constitution (the inviolability of private life and residence.) The violation of article 24 which prohibits the use and distribution of information about the private life of an individual without his sanction: it is unlikely that A. Podrabinek gave his address to anyone for the organization to picket his home.  Finally, and this is the most important, is article 29 which guarantees everyone the freedom of thought and speech and prohibits the use of force against  the expression of those thoughts, opinions, or in their rejection.

Ouch!  The Council wasn’t the first to note Nashi’s violation of the law.  On 2 October, Vedomosti denounced Nashi’s campaign, noting that lawyers agreed that the organization violated the law.  But the business daily merely cited that their protests outside Podrabinek’s apartment violated the civil code because Nashi didn’t get permission from the city to hold daily pickets. I wonder if after hearing these charges Nashi will add the Council and Vedomosti to its lawsuit against Ekho Moskvy.  The youth organization is demanding 500,000 rubles in damages from the radio station for its accusations that Nashi is hunting Podrabinek. But they are. Aren’t they? How else to you interpret Nikita Borovikov threat that if Prodrabinek doesn’t apologize then Nashi will “force” him to leave the country?

And all of this after Nashi received adulation from its godfather in the Kremlin, Vladislav Surkov!  Didn’t the Council not get the memo?  Nashi is responsible for the political freedoms that every Russian now enjoys.  Surkov told a group of Nashists in late September, “I am free and therefore I am for Putin and Medvedev.  I am free and therefore I am “Ours” (Nash) and not an alien (chuzhoi)–this is my choice.”  He then continued: “You are the leading fighting brigade of our political system. I as before believe that your prevalence on the street is also our essential advantage.  We have it thanks you and all those who brilliantly know how to conduct mass rallies.”

With an endorsement like that, I’m sure the Council’s appeal will fall on deaf ears.  Investigate Nashi.  Yeah right.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any sillier.

Photo: Kommersant