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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.

Three Years–No Killer, No Justice

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Three years ago, Anna Politkovskaya was murdered in the vestibule of her apartment building as she returned from grocery shopping.  She was murdered for her long standing and acclaimed reporting on Chechnya. Three years and no killer has been found.  Nor has anyone tied to the crime been convicted. There is not much to say about this case that hasn’t already been said.  Human rights groups in and outside Russia have repeatedly called for the Russian government to step up and do something.  Commentators, even some as unlikely as Princeton philosopher K. Anthony Appiah, have held the murder up as a testament to the lack of democracy in Russia.  Either we are all fooling ourselves in thinking that the Kremlin could actually do something; or all the pleas are falling on deaf ears.  Time is probably better spent barking at the moon than trying to penetrate the seemingly sound proof Kremlin walls.

What is clear from some of the reports marking Politkovskaya’s murder is that hope that the killer(s) will be found is quickly fading.  And you can’t blame anyone, especially the Politkovskaya family, for the despair.  “Our family is starting to lose hope that all those involved in this crime will be found and brought to justice,” Vera Politkovskaya, daughter of Anna Politkovskaya told Russia Today. “Time is passing by and, with it, our chances of finding those responsible.”

Not a single murderer has been brought to justice in the long list of slain Russian journalists.  In regard to the Politkovskaya case, the only new information (and I use “new” very liberally since nothing really new has come to light in a long time) is a sick version of Where’s Waldo?  As Sergei Sokolov, the editor-in-chief at Novaya gazeta, told the Moscow Times the investigation has turned up “new people whose names haven’t been published” (the Politkovskaya family denies this) and Rustam Makhmudov, the suspected killer, is believed to be country hopping in the European Union.  He “could have been arrested in April, but he has managed to disappear again,” says Sokolov.  But as to which countries, the Novaya editor doesn’t know or is keeping the information close to the chest. When pressed, he said that he “certainly has some ideas regarding this issue, but wouldn’t disclose them.”  It would have been better for him to just say nothing.

In fact, giving vague comments has been a mantra when talking of this case.  Who knows that the authorities know. What we do know, we don’t really know.  And what we think we know only fuels more speculation about things we don’t, can’t and probably never will know.

There will always be time for barking at the moon.  But on this day, perhaps the appropriate action is to remain silent and remember another remarkable figure tragically snuffed out by the nefarious dark forces that operate with impunity in Russia.