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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.

Movement Against Illegal Immigration Banned

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Shake the Disease

The Russian government indicated its increasing intolerance toward nationalist organizations today with the Moscow City Court ruling that the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) is an extremist organization.  The verdict fulfilled of a request by Moscow city prosecutors and Prosecutors General Office to investigate the organization for inciting racial violence. “In the course of the investigation” a statement from the General Prosecutor’s office reads, “it was proved that the purpose and the activities of the organization is directed to carrying out extremist activities which incite the violation of people’s and citizens’ rights and freedoms, causes injury to individuals, the health of citizens, society, and the state.”  The Moscow prosecutor’s office didn’t mince words in saying that the DPNI “mirrored the ideology of Nazi skinheads.” Yup, that sounds about right.  This should have been said a long time ago, but better late than never.

Recent activities of DPNI members gave the court the ammunition to do so.  In January, a group of DPNI members were tried for beating and killing immigrants in the Moscow suburb of Protivno. Ilya Boidakov, the leader of Protivno DPNI, pleaded guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence of five years in the slammer.  The remaning members await sentencing.  In December 2010, Ivan Mikheev, DPNI’s local leader in Kirov, was convicted along with two others to probation under Article 282: “inciting hatred, emnity, and humiliation of human dignity, and the public support for terrorism.” And lastly, Nina Zenkova, a DPNI activist in Tula, was convicted of distributing extremist literature and inciting hatred.  And who could forget that DPNI’s leader Alexander Belov was jailed for six months in 2009 under Article 282.

What really brought DPNI under the state’s microscope, however, was the Manezh riots four months ago.  After the riots President Medvedev sent a clear signal that the state’s tolerance of nationalist groups was waning with “Acts aimed at inciting racial, national or religious hatred…threaten the stability of the state.”  To which Putin added, “It is necessary to crack down on any extremist acts.”  A steady crackdown has commenced culminating in with DPNI, the largest nationalist organization thus far to feel the state’s wrath.

The ruling was hailed by government agencies and human rights groups alike.  However, the hate group monitor SOVA, while welcoming the ban, argued that it won’t change much in the end. “DPNI activists who attack immigrants with continue without leading organ,”  says Alexander Verkhovskii.

DPNI plans to appeal the ruling, but it will come to nothing. With the General Prosecutor’s weight behind this, you can be sure DPNI doesn’t have a chance.

But as SOVA attests, legal prohibition might be more symbolic than anything.  Indeed, DPNI’s leadership vows to find “a new format” for its activities.  According to DPNI’s leader Vladimir Ermolaev, DPNI has already set up a number of autonomous initiatives and clubs–“Russian People,” “National Interest,” and even a human rights group called “Russian power.” The task of these groups, in his words, “are to create something new, progressive, and interesting.  We want to continue working and benefit society.”

You gotta love it when racists adopt human rights speak.

Image: RIA Novosti