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.

Battlefield Volgograd

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My article for Next City, “Why the Terrorists Chose Volgograd,”

Volgograd has a long history of violence. Originally Tsaritsyn, it was a key southern outpost founded in the 16th century to serve as the guardian of the Volga River and a gateway to the Caucasus. It location at the empire’s underbelly also meant it was repeatedly subject to attack. The peasant rebel Stenka Razin held it for a month in 1670, and it was repeatedly sacked by Cossack chieftains in the 18th century. But it is perhaps best known for the Battle of Stalingrad (the city was renamed for the Russian dictator in 1925), one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history, resulting in 850,000 casualties and building-to-building fighting that reduced the city to rubble. The Red Army’s victory in February 1943 here turned the tide of World War II. This blood-soaked battle is so central to the city’s identity, in fact, that last year local officials ruled that every February, Volgograd would be renamed Stalingrad for six days to commemorate the victory.

Today, Volgograd has become a battleground yet again, but this time the military front lacks definition and the targets could be anyone. The enemy moves silently and the attacks are sudden and intermittent. They serve no strategic purpose nor seek to capture territory. Rather, their impact is affective: to spread terror to disrupt the workings of the modern city.

Read on . . .