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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.

Faith Healer Grabovoi Needs Someone to Save

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Momma, beware of this man!

Russian faith healer, self-proclaimed messiah, and all around conman, Grigory Grabovoi was released from the slammer last Friday.  Apparently, Grabovoi, who’s antics have included promising Beslan mothers to resurrect their dead children, posing as the Second Coming, and declaring that if he became Russia’s president, he would outlaw death, kept his mouth shut in prison.  He should consider himself fortunate to only serve four years of his eight year sentence for swindling people “under the guise of resurrecting the victims’ dead relatives or curing them of serious illnesses.”  Actually, he’s lucky that one of his victims didn’t put a bullet in him.

Prison seemed to have no reformatory effect on Grabovoi because it didn’t take long for him to get back to his old ways.  Alas, the Messiah’s work is never done.

Always ready to take advantage of a community’s sorrow, Grabovoi has offered his “services” to the families of Raspadskaya coalmine.  Using his supposed wondrous extra-earthly powers, he’s prepared to “make a reading of those places in the mine, where those alive can be found.”

Um, no you’re not.  Mezhdurechensk mayor Sergei Shcherbakov says that if “healer” attempts any of his old tricks, he’ll “drag him by the collar” back to prison.  “We’ve had enough of this weirdo.  He’s a conman!  He’s not going to save anyone.  And now he wants to come to the Kuzbass, to put it mildly, to get his face bashed in?!”  This is exactly what the miners intend to do if Grabovoi shows up preaching his crap.  “No, of course we won’t kill him, but we’ll give him a good thrashing,” says miner Dmitri.  “My neighbor’s husband died in the mine.  And now some “healer” wants to comfort her for money? We won’t let him!”

Needless to say, authorities have advised Grabovoi to refrain from engaging in any public activities. And by the way so has his wife, Elena.  According to her, Grigory’s messiah days are officially over.  “He is going to get a legal education, bring up his children, do family work and wait for his grandchildren,” she told journalists.

Perhaps Grabovoi just needs a change of location.  After all, there’s an oil spill to clean up off the Gulf Coast and a lot of potential victims.  If my family is any indication, belief in the supernatural is common trait among Louisianians.