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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.

Porno Hacker Saga Continues

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The story of Russia’s world famous porn hacker keeps popping up in the news.  It’s not, unfortunately, because of any new examples of his brilliance.  Rather the story keeps getting headlines because of the Russian keystones’ bungling. Anyone surprised?

You’ll remember how back in January a hacker caused a traffic jam on Moscow’s Garden Ring road when he placed a 2-minute porn clip on an electronic billboard.  A month later Russian officials at the MVD’s Department “K” announced that they caught the filth bandit, a 41-year old unemployed man from Novorossiisk named Igor Blinnikov.  The MVD miraculously became impeccable sleuths.  How the partisans of good taste rejoiced.  How the rest of us cried. Our new hero had fallen.

Now it seems that poor Blinnikov has been sentenced to five years in the slammer, according to the Moscow Times.  Not, however, for the porno stunt but for selling 20 grams of pot.  The paper goes on to say that Blinnikov still faces two years for the porno clip.

But wait, says the Novorossiisk prosecutor.  It appears that Blinnikov is not the porno hacker after all!  “Another person has now been arrested for this incident,” says Irina Saushkina, Novorossiisk’s deputy prosecutor. “Blinnikov has no connection to the distribution of the video clip.”  Blinnikov’s role in all this, Saushkina says, is solely about hocking grass.  The prosecutor remains tight lipped about who the new suspect is.

Not so fast. It seems that both the Novorossiisk prosecutor and the MVD officials in Moscow have experienced a bit of communication break down.  When asked to confirm Blinnikov’s exoneration in the porno scandal, the MVD expressed bewilderment and reiterated that Blinnikov remained the only suspect.  “I’m surprised that [officials] in Novorossiisk said this.  The case is in Moscow.  Our operatives came especially from the capital to Novorossiisk  to arrest [Blinnikov],” says Irina Zubareva, the press secretary for Department “K”.  When reporters went back to Saushkina for clarification, she retorted, “I won’t say anything.”  Either clearly perturbed by all the media inquires or simply playing the usual chinovnik shuck and jive, she added, “I can’t work.  I’ve been taking calls from the press for two days.  I will not give any comment whatsoever.”  Yeah right, can’t work.  That’s a good one.

Crossed bureaucratic wires, plain evasion or . . . ?  Or perhaps the MVD and prosecutor are covering up the fact that they don’t have the real hacker at all!

Let us pray, dear friends.  Let us pray.