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.

Navalny and Neoliberalism

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My latest for Russia! Magazine, “Navalny’s Neoliberalism,”

It’s no surprise that Alexei Navalny has come under the political microscope since his mayoral bid took off. Little is known of Navalny’s actual politics, and what is, has driven a wedge into the Russian opposition. There is universal support for Navalny the anti-corruption crusader, the victim of political repression, and street and internet activist. But Navalny as an electoral candidate? That is something else entirely. Can he be trusted as a politician? What dangers do his growing cult of personality present? Is Navalny part of a larger movement or is the movement merely Navalny? What about his nationalism? This last question has generated the most reticence toward Navalny. Even some Western commentators are urging caution. Recently, Anatol Lieven warned that Navalny’s “Russian ethnic chauvinism,” “anti-immigrant sentiment” with its “distinctly anti-Muslim edge,” and his connections to extreme right-wing Russian groups make him “closer to Geert Wilders, the far-right Dutch populist, than to the hero of some western imaginings.”

Navalny is a right-wing populist. No doubt. But I would submit he’s more of an American variety than a European facsimile. His xenophobia comes with an anti-elitist élan tinged with a libertarian distrust of big government. If Navalny ran in a US election, he’d find common cause with the Tea Party. He’d make an excellent Fox News pundit if he added flamboyancy to his abrasiveness. And this greater affinity with American rather than European rightwing populism is visible in another, but much less discussed, aspect of Navalny’s politics: his neoliberalism. Navalny’s terse statements about social and economic policy speak to a faith in a world in which individuals with unfettered access to information set in a marketplace will allocate resources rationally and efficiently. Peppered throughout this base philosophy is a litany of neoliberal buzzwords: transparency, competition, openness, accountability, choice, and access. In sum, markets are the most efficient mechanism for governing social life.