Recent Posts

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.

Writing

Donetsk Republic Executes Its Own

While the battle between Kyiv and separatists intensifies, the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) is helping stack the bodies via revolutionary justice. The DNR may be adopting Russian laws, but one practice it’s exercising not found in the Russia codex is the death penalty. Several Russian news outlets reported that an...

Ukraine’s Presidential Election Won’t Mend Fences

Ukrainians have elected Petro Poroshenko as their next president with 56% of the vote according to exit polls. The West quickly recognized his victory, but Moscow remains cautious. Today Russian Duma members were hesitant to recognize the vote opting to wait for the official results. Nevertheless, Russian Foreign Minister...

Ukraine Slipping into Paramilitary Arms Race

New Russia! Magazine column, “Ukraine Slipping into Paramilitary Arms Race.” Here’s the opening paragraph: Max Weber defined a state by its power to uphold its “claim on the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force.” The fledgling Ukrainian state’s ability to maintain its monopoly on violence is quickly...

Russia’s Traumatic Politics

My article in The New Republic, “Is Russia Suffering From Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?” In Collapse of an Empire, Yegor Gaidar, the Russian economist and 1990s shock therapist, wrote that “the identification of state grandeur with being an empire makes the adaptation to the loss of status of superpower a difficult...

Graffiti for Crimea

There’s a new campaign in Moscow: “Two Thousand Russian Buildings.” The campaign seeks to paint two thousand buildings in the two capitals with patriotic graffiti. One such facade has already gone up in the Tagansk district of Moscow. Last week, the entire side of the Solzhenitsyn building was covered...

Ukraine’s Embattled Far Right

By William Risch Last week in Kyiv, I saw that the Maidan had changed. The heart of Ukraine’s protest movement that overthrew President Viktor Yanukovych, it looked like a war zone. The Trade Unions Building was a burned-out shell. Entire sections of pavement were gone, the stones used as...

Approval of Putin Hits Eighty Percent

Brian Whitmore often says on the Power Vertical podcast that approval ratings in 60 percent range just aren’t good enough for a politician like Vladimir Putin. Given the lack of political alternatives and the dominance of the state’s narrative on television, Putin needs approval ratings in 70 or 80...

Putin’s Autocratic Moment

The latest round of US sanctions imposed on Putin’s associates assumes that if you squeeze the oligarchs orbiting Putin, then they will in turn compel him to change his policy toward Ukraine. The idea an oligarchy rules Russia, where the tsar acts as an arbiter over elite conflicts is...

Ukraine: Two Heroes, Two Revolutions

By William Risch I have made three trips to Ukraine since protests began there in late November 2013.  On January 18, I found myself taking Ukraine’s revolution into a new direction. In the city metro stations, I helped activists spread leaflets denouncing the dictatorship laws issued by the authoritarian...

The Gendarme of Eurasia

My new article for Warscapes, “The Gendarme of Eurasia.” Here’s the opening excerpt: In 1830, in response to the crowning of Louis-Philippe as king of France after revolution deposed Charles X, Russia’s Nicholas I wrote, “However, our allies, without agreeing beforehand with us on a step so important, so...