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.

United Russia pays PR firm to target Navalny

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Given that Russian anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny coined “The Party of Liars and Thieves” as a euphemism for United Russia, it was only a matter of time before the Party of Power unleashed it’s “administrative resources” to discredit the blogger and his anti-corruption organization RosPil. According to Novaya gazeta, such a effort is already in the works as United Russia has given a Moscow PR firm 10 million rubles ($325,000) to unleash an black PR campaign against the blogger.  The plot plans to include the following tactics:

During a “brainstorming session” [at the PR firm] the idea was born to find a person who looks like Navalny and to hire a make-up artist to make him absolutely look like him, and shoot videos with him participating in various “compromising situations.” The idea was approved and the firm set to work on it. It was also agreed to launch a series of “exposés” using “documents” made with Photoshop.

They decided against the use of bots to spread the information. A headquarters was established with real users of social media and the recruiting of bloggers already began last week.  The desired “qualifications”: the existence of a blog registered no later than January 2010 and having no less that 200 “friends.” On the next day, according to Novaya gazeta‘s source, almost 500 bloggers were already paid $100 per post on the Russian language section of Facebook, LiveJournal, and those that reside outside of Russia (the majority in Ukraine.)

I, of course, assume that some of these bloggers for hire are affiliated with Nashi. After all, Nashi All-Father Vasilii Yakemenko denounced Navalny as an “enemy of the people” seeking to destroy the Russia. And dragging Navalny’s good name along the asphalt of the information superhighway was one of the ways they were going defeat his evil plot. So if you see a sudden uptick of anti-Navalny screeds on Nashi affiliated blogs, you’ll know why.

Navalny, however, was hardly surprised.  In response he told Novaya gazeta:

“I read some kind of article from Alexei Chapaev, one of United Russia ideologes, that “Navalny feeds a great number of political technologists close to the Kremlin” for which they’ve allocated an enormous budget. I have no doubt that this struggle is not against me but against the movement that is associated with me, and it will grow as our work becomes more effective. I think that these people must go to prison. And we will apply all our strength so that they will sooner or later.  You understand that the liars don’t want to go to jail and will defend themselves by any means.”

In the meantime, Navalny has begun a contest for the best song about the “Party of liars and thieves.” You can see the entries here, here, here, here, and here. The winner gets 150,000 rubles (about $5000).

Here’s one entry to titillate the eardrum.


h/t @agoodtreaty