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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.

“Rocket” to Russia

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It just goes to show that there are two things that will bring Russia to the world’s attention: a Vladimir Putin PR stunt and a meteorite smashing into the country. The latter happened today outside of Chelyabinsk causing a lot of fear and a lot of minor injuries. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology and the Russian propensity to mount dash cams, there are some amazing videos of the fireball from space.

But what is perhaps better than the apocalyptic magic of Hollywood (almost) coming to life are the wild conspiracy theories that leap to the mind. After all, there is no way that the meteorite could actually be a meteorite, right? The obvious is merely for dupes of the Americans and Putin. For the former we have the always cogent words of Vladimir Zhirinovsky: “Those were not meteorites, it was Americans testing their new weapons.” But such musings are EXACTLY what we expect from our favorite Russian clown.

Zhirik, however, isn’t the only circus performer who is gayly dancing around the meteor crater thinking they’ve exposed a naked emperor. We also have the equally foolish Yulia Latynina, columnist for Novaya gazeta and the Moscow Times and harsh critic of all things Putin. Those familiar with Latynina’s usual screeds won’t be surprised by her latest conspiracy-mongering. But those who embrace her commentaries as insightful depictions of modern Russia might pause and consider who they’re putting their faith in.

What did Latynina make of the meteorite? Well, that it wasn’t a meteorite at all, but a secret rocket fired by the Ministry of Defense.  Here’s a screen shot of five questions Latynina put forward to suggest her Kremlin rocket theory:

Here’s a translation of Latynina’s “Was there a Tail Number on that Meteorite?:

I’m not a rocket scientist. I’m a philologist. Therefore as a philologist I have several questions about rockets (and the Ministry of Defense) in regard to the meteorite near Chebarkul.

Question #1: Why did the meteorite fly directly from the Elansk area to the Chebarkul area?

Question #2: Why did it fly parallel to the ground, that is, along a trajectory which looks more like a rocket than a meteorite?

Question #3: Why did the meteorite leave a tail that looks like one from rocket fuel?

Question #4: Why did the meteorite’s explosion look like the emergency self-destruction of a rocket at launch?

Question #5: Why did such an incredible number of servicemen participate in the search for the meteorite? Eight planes, 20 thousand cops and soldiers, thousands of units of technology? (Tanks, for example, located the crater.) Where they afraid that someone would find the tail number on a piece of the meteorite?

Now you won’t find this article any longer on Novaya gazeta’s webiste. Nor will her English readers find a translation in tomorrow’s Moscow Times. It’s been removed because according to the url where it first appeared: “The author asked to remove their article from the site in light of new information.”

You bet she or the Novaya gazeta editors did. Becasuse Latynina’s “five questions” are those of an utter fool.

It never ceases to amaze me that anyone continues to publish her.