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.

Title VIII and Ambassador McFaul

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Carl Schreck, who is so far the only journalist to cover the defunding of Title VIII, has done a service by writing another article on the issue. (The coverage might increase in the coming week. I did an interview with a Moscow Times reporter yesterday and his article should come out late next week.) In this latest piece, Schreck points out that such prominent officials such as Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, and Michael McFaul, the current US Ambassador to Russia, all received Title VIII funding at some point in their career. According to his most recent curriculum vita, McFaul got:

Research grant from the National Council for East European and Eurasian Research (NCEEER), 2008
Research grant from the National Council for East European and Eurasian Research (NCEEER), 1999-2000
Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship, Title VIII grant from the Department of State, Hoover Institution, 1991-1992
International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX) Fellowship, Moscow, USSR, 1990-1991

Ambassador McFaul has also severed as a board and selection committee member for IREX and ACTR. Therefore, McFaul’s current service to the United States government was made possible by money from Title VIII.

So if anyone is wondering about the real world relevance of Title VIII support, one need not look very far.

Unfortunately, McFaul hasn’t commented on the stripping away of Title VIII funds for this academic year. I’m sure his position prevents him from making public statements. Nevertheless, I assume he’s not happy about all this. Russian studies is McFaul’s specialty and he owes a lot to the US government’s past financial commitment. I’m sure he’s dedicated to the State Department allocating funds to Title VIII in the future. I only wish that given McFaul comes from academia, he could have exercised some patronage over the program. After all, before being tapped to become ambassador in 2012, McFaul served on Obama’s National Security Council as the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director on Russia and Eurasia Affairs. If that didn’t give him some pull behind the scenes, then what does?

Maybe the Ambassador can do his Russian and Eurasian studies colleagues and students as solid and start exercising some blat among his connections in the Obama Administration. And if he does do anything, I urge him keep in mind, this funding isn’t just vital to established scholars, it’s also critical for graduate students. Many rely on Title VIII funds for language training and dissertation research. Without this money, graduate students will face increased competition over already limited funds and, for many, their careers will be put on hold in an already economically precarious environment.