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.

Pussy Riot’s Passion

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wordscementMy review, “Demystifying the media caricatures of Pussy Riot” of Masha Gessen’s Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot has been published in The World Today. Here’s an excerpt:

Pussy Riot are now global celebrities. Their cause has been featured in articles, profiles, books and films. Since the amnesty of Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina (the third member, Kat Samusevich, was given a suspended sentence on appeal) in late December, they’ve been appearing at news conferences, posing for fashion shoots and travelled to an award ceremony in Singapore. Their lives have been repackaged into simple cinematic narratives of heroic defiance to Putin’s authoritarianism.

Words will Break Cement, by the Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen, looks behind the women’s balaclavas to tell a human story. By delving into the fears, aspirations and doubts of Pussy Riot, Gessen demystifies their media caricatures.

Often it seems that Gessen was inside their heads. She almost was. She interviewed their families, friends and lawyers. They gave her letters and legal documents. Gessen sat through most of the trial sessions, and combed through the transcripts of those she didn’t. This is Gessen at her best. Shorn of the conspiracy theory of her inferior study of Putin, The Man Without a Face, Words will Break Cement is a refreshing, passionate and intimate portrayal of Pussy Riot.

You can read the entire review here.