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.

Biryulyovo Riot Against the Multiethnic State

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My article on the Biryulyovo riot, “How Russian Nationalism Fuels Race Riots,” is up on the Nation website:

On the surface, the riot in Biryulyovo, a working class district in southern Moscow populated by a heavy mix of Russians and migrants, reveals the extent of Russian racism toward migrants, especially Muslims, and particularly North Caucasians. But writing off this latest ethnic explosion as mere racism brushes over the complexities of Russianess in a country that has been ruled by a multiethnic state since its inception. To understand Russian nationalism, even racism, you need to realize that despite their political, cultural and numerical dominance, many Russians see themselves a nation without a state.

The multiethnic character of the Russian state has always precluded Russians from becoming the first among other ethnicities. During the Soviet period in particular, Russians were the unmarked Soviet people, their national identity suppressed, and at times, Russians were legally discriminated against. Non-Russian people, in contrast, had their own ethnically demarcated territories, organizations, and celebrated traditions. This persists today. Chechens and Tatars, among others, have their own autonomous territories, while there is no definable Russia for Russians. Historically, the state has been paramount, and this central rule, according to the historian Geoffrey Hosking, came “at the cost of Russia’s own sense of nationhood.” This legacy underlines today’s Russian ethnic violence.

The Biryulyovo riots should be read first and foremost as a protest against the multiethnic state. Through the hatred for the migrant, the riots represent a political demand that Putin’s state represent them as Russians against non-Russians. Many Russians believe that the police stand idle while migrants kill, rob, and rape Russians, either because they’re paid off or incompetent. Every Russian ethnic riot over the last decade (Kondopoga in 2006Manezh in 2010Sagra in 2011, and Pugachev earlier this year) was ignited by similar sentiments.

Read on . . .