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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.

Infantilizing Putin

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My new column for Russia Magazein, “Infantilizing Putin.” Here’s an excerpt:

Last week, The New York Times lamented the dearth of Russian specialists to comment on the crisis in Crimea. “As a result, Russia experts say, there has been less internal resistance to American presidents seeking to superimpose their notions on a large and complex nation of 140 million people led by a former K.G.B. operative with a zero-sum view of the world,” writes Jason Horowitz. Presidents aren’t the only ones making superimposition upon superimposition. The persistent caricature of Russia, and in particular, its president Vladimir Putin is alive and well. Since Russia’s occupation of Crimea, entering Putin’s mind, let alone understanding his logic, has become a booming industry. Everyone, it seems, has some sort of inner insight into Putin’s psychology. Even pop-psychologist Keith Ablow diagnosed Putin’s being as “inseparable from the manifest destiny of the country he leads.” For Ablow, Putin’s psychology is “one part nationalism, one part narcissism.”

Some of this armchair psychoanalysis comes from the fact that Putin seems unclear as to what his endgame is. The over the top propaganda coming out of Russia coupled with Putin’s own contradictory and confused press conference has people asking: Is he insane? Simply out of touch? Suffers from a Napoleon complex? Or is Putin increasingly isolated from the world around him, a kind of cloistered and lonely Tsar surrounded by a diminishing circle of confidants? An excellent article in the Times suggested just that. Putin’s Crimea move was made with the council of only a few officials and born of frustration and anger rather than a well thought out plan.

One main thread in these psychoanalytical portraits of Putin is to infantilize him and his behavior.

Read on . . .