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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.

The Podcast Theme Song

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Petr Leshchenko, 1898-1954

Many people have asked me about the theme song to the SRB Podcast. So instead of answering the question over and over by individual request, I’ve finally decided to post it on the blog for all to enjoy.

The song is Moya Marusechka (Моя Марусечка) by Petr Leshchenko, 1898-1954 (his Russian Wikipedia page has a more extensive biography). Leshchenko is considered the “King of Russian Tango.” He was born in the Odessa region but ended up in Romania after he was wounded in WWI. He only returned to Odessa during the war, where he performed as the Romanians occupied the city in 1941. After the war, he was arrested by the Romanian secret services in 1951, interrogated and imprisoned, until his death in 1954 in a prison hospital.

His music wasn’t officially available in the Soviet Union because tango and the foxtrot were considered counterrevolutionary and generally corrupting of good Soviet youth. It also didn’t help that the Soviet’s considered him a White. I have no doubt the fact he played a few concerts in occupied Odessa didn’t help either.

Leshchenko’s musical style was a blend of popular jazz and cabaret of the interwar years with a large helping of Roma influence.

Moya Marusechka was written and composed by Gerd Wilnow and released by Bellaccord-Electro Records in Latvia in 1937. Recordings of Leshchenko performing the song weren’t officially available in Russia (though I’m sure it was available nonetheless as was a lot of banned music) until Melodiia released a recording in 1988. Leshchenko’s music experienced a resurgence in those late Soviet days. Though the song was featured in the 1969 Soviet war film “The Path to Berlin” and Leshchenko’s music was played on Soviet radio and television. It just wasn’t available as a purchasable recording.

The song itself is a typical pop tune of boy walks into a party, sees girl dancing her heart out, boy falls in love. The lyrics are hardly a masterpiece but they’re saved by the music and Leshchenko’s singing. Here’s the last verse:

And so I want to live with you,
I can’t take it, I beg you-
Marry me!
My Marusechka,
You’re my babydoll,
My Marusechka,
You’re my darling.
My Marusechka,
And so I want to live with you,
I can’t take it, I beg you-
Marry me!

Hardly a work of literary genius. But hey, most good pop songs aren’t.

As part of a general fascination with Russian and Soviet emigres, let alone a general rehabilitation of the “Whites” under Putin, an eight part miniseries about Leshchenko’s life was broadcast on Russian television in 2009. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a copy with English subtitles for all you non-Russian speakers. Here’s the first episode (the rest can be watched on YouTube).

There’s no rhyme or reason why I picked Moya Marusechka as the podcast’s theme song. I have a CD collection of old Russian tunes from the interwar period and I just thought the song sounded cool. Apparently many podcast listeners do too.