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.

Jailing Russia’s Mayors

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This week’s Russia! Magazine column, “The Summer of Mayors“:

It’s the summer of mayors in Russia. That’s right: mayors. Those unalluring, often block shaped, overwhelmingly male, cheap suited, bottom feeders in Putin’s power vertical. Their goings-on usually fly under the radar of Russia watchers, especially in the West. Journalists and pundits, myself included, tend to aim high when it comes to ‘figuring out’ Russia. Putin, his inner circle, oligarchs, and other power elites concentrated in Moscow—this is the real stuff of politics. Mayors and their local bailiwicks, well, just don’t figure into the equation.

Focusing too intently on the commanding heights, however, can easily lead to mistaking the grand oaks for the forest. A lot has been going on in Russia’s political hinterlands. The Kremlin and its Investigative Committee have been wielding mighty axes in the regions, felling mayors like trees as part of Putin’s anti-corruption campaign. There’s a house cleaning of city managers. Many of these criminal indictments of mayors are totally legitimate. Many are examples of selective justice: corrupt but also politically advantageous. Others might be fabricated. Mayors are easy targets. Corruption is rife in the regions. Often stuck between a rock and hard place mayors often turn to corruption simply to get things done. Unlike federal officials, mayors are subject to their constituencies, making local elections one of the few places where real politics matter in Russia, and thus the soft underbelly of Putin’s rule.

Read on . . .