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.

“A fearful expenditure of effort, paper, ink, and time”

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Just after taking the throne in the spring of 1855, Alexander II convened a meeting of his ministers to assess the state of Russia, and in particular, its participation in the Crimean War.  Unlike under previous Tsars, several of the “enlightened bureaucrats” didn’t hold their tongues and provided the newly minted Emperor an honest appraisal of the Empire.  Among them was this unnamed Finance Ministry official, who gave the following assessment of the Imperial system:

“Nowhere is there so much and at the same time so little centralization as there is in Russia.  On the one hand the ministries have arrogated to themselves the virtually exclusive right to decide all matters, but at the same time there is not the slightest link between the separate ministries.  Everyone’s perpetual concern to safeguard himself against having to take legal responsibility necessitates a fearful expenditure of effort, paper, ink, and time, slows down the transaction of business, removes from the provincial and district agencies all the feelings of independence, and teaches them to act surreptitiously if at all. It goes without saying that all this stops short at the people, who have been abandoned to the authorities’ exploitation.”1

I couldn’t help but note the resonance this passage has for Russia today.

1 David Saunders, Russia in the Age of Reaction of Reform, 1801-1881, Longman, 1992, 209.