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.

Terror Returns to Moscow

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As you can guess the big news, actually, the only news today in Russia is the two subway bombings in the center of Moscow.  The first occurred Monday morning at 7:50 am at the Lubyanka station, the second 40 minutes later at Park kulturty station.  As of now there are 41 deaths but this will certainly continue to rise.  Around 61 people are injured with over half in critical condition reports RIA Novosti.  Those interested can keep on top of things through Russia RIA Novosti English site.

I’m okay and as far as I know everyone I know in Moscow is okay.

This is what is known at the moment . . . I repeat at the moment.  The bombings are said to have been carried out by two female bombers with two kilograms of plastic explosives with nails and bolts in each.  The suspects behind the blast are the usual ones: Muslims from the Caucasus (which is mostly likely).  Though I’m sure in the coming days there will be all sorts of accusations, theories, and finger pointing.  I just wonder how long it will take for people–i.e. Russian liberals and Western commentators–to blame Putin himself.  Apparently, that is already starting . . .

Either way, I’m sure the Russian government will take some heat, and perhaps deservedly so since the North Caucasus continues to be an increasing mess.  Thus, six years of a terror free Moscow has officially ended.

And lo and behold, as I write this, Chechens have claimed responsibility via their website, reports CNN.  Experts believe that the bombs are in response to the recent killings of Chechen militant leader Anzor Astemirov, the so-called “Emir of Grozny” Salambek Akhmadov, Abu Khaled and Said Buryatskii.  Former FSB director Nikolai Kovalev says that the female suicide bombers could have been relatives of Buryastskii.

A source inside the Metro administration is suggesting that the terrorists’ plan was to say “hello” to the Russian security forces.  FSB headquarters is located at Lubyanka and the MVD is at Oktryabrskaya station.  If this was the case, it is unknown why the second bomb didn’t make it to its intended location.

President Medvedev has promised to help the families of victims, declared Tuesday a day or mourning, demanding increased security on public transportation, and, of course, called for vigilance, curiously adding “to not violate the rights of citizens.”

Maybe this will be Dimitry Medvedev’s big chance shed his Rodney Dangerfield persona and show he’s the tough guy Russia needs and wants.  So far his initial statements are calm and collected demonstrating he’s not shaken by the incident.

Putin, as you could imagine, was more unequivocal. “I believe that the security service will do everything to find and wipe out the criminals.  The terrorists will be eliminated.”

But right now the real story can be summed up in two words: panic and trauma.  Both are sweeping through the city as one might expect.  Certainly many people are afraid to take the underground.  Without a system that moves somewhere around 5-6 million people a day, the city is clogged beyond capacity.  The center is paralyzed.

I’ll provide more as I can in the coming hours and days.