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.

Hocking Ukrainian Democracy

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Ukraine’s Orange Revolution might not have provided stability, but it sure has increased the entertainment factor of its presidential elections. They’re far more entertaining that Russia’s stuffy, no contest campaigns. Despite the high fun factor, Ukrainian voter disillusionment is high, while the candidates, hoping to jostle into a competitive pole position, are getting down and dirty.  What a bunch of party poopers.

Today, Yulia Timoshenko showed her “claws,” reports Reuters, in an attack on poll leader Viktor Yanokovich a coward for refusing to participate in an election eve debate.  She also pilloried him and the oligarchs backing him with claims they are planning to rig the election.

“If fraudulence is revealed, if we are unable to defend an honest result and prove that there was falsification, then we will resort to the courts,” Tymoshenko said on Sunday night.

“We will protect the country from a second coming of this oligarchic plague of locusts because they can eat up everything, but we must defend the country,” she told 5th TV.

Yulia is getting more and more desperate.  The latest poll shows the Tigress slipping. Former economic minister Sergei Tigipko got a bump to 14.4% compared to Timoshenko’s 13.9%.  Yanukovich has a solid lead with 30.5%.

A solid lead, however, doesn’t mean that Yanukovich’s camp is going to take Timoshenko’s taunts quietly.  Anna Herman, an ally of Yanukovich’s “locusts,” hit back.

“If there was a world championship for beautiful unfulfilled promises then Tymoshenko would be without a challenger,” Herman said. “Viktor Yanukovich does not wish to compete with her in a contest of beautiful lies.”

Having fun yet?

All the electoral backbiting appears to be backfiring.  Many voters have already decided the election is a farce whatever the outcome. Some have even started hocking their votes on the internet.  And why not?  If the elites are willing to sell their keys to power to the highest bidder, the little guy might as well get a piece of the action.  Better than standing mute watching some cynicism-laden opportunity pass you by.  One vote-market trader wrote on his blog: “I am a true patriot and citizen of Ukraine and I will sell my vote in the upcoming elections on the 17th with pleasure.  Asking price: 200 zelenyi [i.e. dollars].”  More and more Ukrainians are finding the chance to personally peddle their democracy a grand idea.  But without a money back guarantee.  The website Sell Your Vote now lists 4658 votes for sale, to a total of 4,224,043 hryvnia or $522,176.  The average asking price is $112.  Just to give a sense of how much its grown today, this morning Novye Izvestiia reported 1468 votes for a total of $224,000 with an average price of $155.  Sounds like a bit of vote deflation is taking place.  Ukrainian democracy is getting cheap.  Literally.