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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.

Entrepreneurial Blessings

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Last week, a student at International University told Maya and I that he liked Protestantism because it believes that “God says the rich should rule.”  I won’t debate the theological veracity of his statement.  His honesty was refreshing enough as was his desire to “earn money honestly” after he graduates with a degree in business management.  There seems to be a widespread belief here that most money is nechistyi, or dirty, that is earned through crime or corruption.

The belief that God says that the rich should rule appears to be a belief held by many of Russia’s entrepreneurs.  So much so that when the economic crisis wiped away much of their fictitious wealth, they turned to the Orthodox Church to find out why He had smitten them.

According to the Moscow Times, they will now get some extra help from the divine by turning to St. Iosef of Volotsk, the recently named patron saint of entrepreneurs.

The patriarch [Kirill] acted after Orthodox businessmen, hit hard by the financial crisis, appealed to the church to select a patron saint. The selection of St. Iosef of Volotsk, who lived in the 15th and 16th centuries and had no obvious link to business, sends a clear signal to businessmen that the church expects them to contribute generously to receive the saint’s favor, religious scholars said.

Iosef may have had no direct business ties, but he was, in the words of Izvestiia, “a fighter against heretical “Judaizers” and an active supporter of increasing monasteries’ material wealth,” which I guess makes him a good patron for Russia’s bourgeoisie.

For some, the move is merely a way to boost the Church’s coffers. “With his choice, the patriarch says only those businessmen who share with the church will be favored by St. Iosef,” said Alexander Soldatov, a scholar and editor of the religious web site, quotes MT.

Collecting indulgences from various social groups and institutions seems to be an entrepreneurial endeavor in and of itself.  Businessmen are not the only ones that have a patron saint. St. Varvara watches over the Strategic Missile Forces.  St. Serafim Sarovsky tends to the souls of nuclear researchers.  Prophet Elijah is the protector of paratroopers.  The Russian tax police pray to the Apostle Matfeya. The border guards have Ilya Muromets of Kievo-Pecherskii.  Alexander Nevskii (and the Name of Russia)  is the patron of the FSB.  Perhaps Nevskii’s FSB connection might explain his out of the blue victory.

As a advocate of increasing the Church’s wealth, I assume that St. Iosef will also beget good financial blessings for a price.  Think of him as a holy financial consultant.

Anointing patron saints to encourage tithing is not a bad move on the part of Patriarch Kirill.  But that is expected from a clergyman who is known as the “Tobacco Metropolitan” for his alleged profiteering off the church’s duty free cigarette imports in the 1990s.

Photo: Moscow Times.