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.

Billboard Entertains Moscow Motorists with Porno

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Moscow motorists got quite a surprise on Thursday evening when a giant electronic billboard began showing a two minute clip of hardcore porno.  You can see a video of the video here (adult content warning for the prudish).  The video looped for about 20 minutes, causing a traffic jam on the busy Garden Ring road near Serpukhov square.  Motorists reported that they couldn’t  “believe their eyes” when the saw a video which featured “a dark skinned woman having sex with a white man.”  Alyona Porkulatova, who drove by the billboard, told AP that she was “so shocked that I couldn’t even shoot video or take a picture of it.” Luckily someone had the constitution to whip out their mobile and start filming.

According to Viktor Laptev, the advertising director of 3StarsMedia, the company that owns the billboard,  hackers were to blame for the skin flick. “There was a hacker attack as a result of which a commercial was replaced with an obscene video in the control computer,” Laptev said. “It is unclear whether it was an act of hooliganism or competitors’ intrigues.”

Moscow authorities are looking into the incident and vow to track down the dirty hacker, but I wouldn’t expect them to exert to much effort.  When asked about the incident the Prosecutor’s Office told Moskovskii komsomolets: “Pornography? That is administrative issue, a police affair.  Call the GUVD (regional internal affairs).  What is discussed on the Internet isn’t our concern.  According to the law, we have a duty to react only if a citizen submits a complaint.”

But some are questioning whether the prank was really the work of hooligan hackers or just a media virus planted by an advertiser.  In an interview on Vesti FM, Irina Matysyak of the Moscow Advertising Guild said that “It is entirely possible that this was some kind of provocation. . . It could have been a virus.  Maybe it was marketing.  Such things are used in marketing to draw attention to the advertiser.”

Whether it was a hacker prank or a media virus, having a porno loop on a billboard is pretty damn funny.  Far better than the usual crap they bombard us with.  Plus, I could image a few drivers needing  a good scene of the ol’in-out-in-out to ease Moscow’s nightmarish traffic.