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.

The Life of a Black Agronomist in Soviet Russia

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Readers and listeners of this blog’s podcast might recall an interview I did last summer with Joy Gleason Carew about African Americans who traveled, worked and even immigrated to the Soviet Union. It’s a fascinating story that is thankfully getting more popular and scholarly attention.  There’s Vladimir Alexandrov’s The Black Russian which chronicles the life of Frederick Bruce Thomas in the waning years of Tsarist Russia and the now defunct blog, Afro-Europe, which has several posts dedicated to the black experience in Russia. There’s also Red Africa, a recent exhibit in London organized by the Calvert Foundation which explores the relationship between communist states and Africans. The Calvert Journal has done a special report on the exhibit and the issues it covers.

In addition to several books, there have been a few documentaries like Kara Lynch’s Black Russians (2001) and Yelena Demikovsky’s upcoming Black Russians: The Red Experience. Here’s a trailer for both films:

There’s another new short documentary on the experience of African Americans in Russia. Kremlin to Kremlin: The Joseph J. Roane Story follows the life of  Joseph Roane, a Tuskegee Institute trained agronomist, who went to the Soviet Union, specifically Uzbekistan, as one of sixteen black agricultural specialists in the 1930s. As part of his work, he developed a strain of cotton that could be harvested in 25 percent less time. He, his wife Sadie, and son Josif Stalin Roane returned to the United States in 1935 out of fear of getting swept up by Stalin’s terror.

You can watch the film: