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.

Sly Uncivility

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Stephen Kotkin has always been a bit of an iconoclast in Soviet Studies.  He was one of the first to apply a Foucaultian analysis to Stalinism in Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization.  The work was so influential it gave birth to the one of the most deployed concepts in Soviet historiography: “speaking Bolshevik.”  Kotkin has since moved into investigating the fall of Communism. Armageddon Averted, his first foray into the late/post-Soviet era, addressed the collapse of the USSR in social-institutional terms.  This implosion didn’t end in 1991 but continued well into that decade.  His new book, Uncivil Society: 1989 and the Implosion of the Communist Establishment, is the second volume in assessing the collapse of Communism.  In it, Kotkin puts forward a bold thesis: forget about “civil society” destroying Communism in Eastern Europe, he says. It’s a myth.  The Communist establishments in Eastern Europe were quite politically stable and were hardly challenged by widespread opposition (except in Poland).  Instead, Kotkin attributes the collapse of Communism to “uncivil society”, that is the elites who became disillusioned with their own system and by 1989 simply let it melt away.

New Books in History‘s Marshal Poe recently interviewed Kotkin about Uncivil Society.  I highly recommend listening to this thought provoking and lively discussion.  Can we expect “uncivil society” to become another Kotkinian watchword? Time will tell.