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Russian Debt Collectors’ Reign of Terror

I wrote an article for OpenDemocracy on microloans and debt collector violence. I’ve been mulling the article since January when I read a gruesome story about a debt collector throwing a Molotov cocktail through the debtor’s window severely burning his two year old grandson. A Google news search revealed that...

The Russian Authorities Not Named Putin in the Panama Papers

As the media world is fixated on Putin’s allegedly stashed $2 billion, the not-named-Putin Russians in the leaked documents comprise of siloviki, chinovniki, parliamentarians, governors and their families. They include: Dmitri Peskov, Putin’s Press Secretary Suleiman Geremeev, Senator from Chechnya and uncle of Ruslan Geremeev, the main suspect in...

19 Million Russians

Over 19 million Russians live in poverty, according to a recent article in Dengi. But how is poverty determined in the Russian context? For Rosstat to categorize you as in poverty, you need to have an income lower than the subsistence minimum. For the majority of Dengi readers, this...

US and Stalinist Prison Populations Revisited

Back in 2013, I wrote a post examining at the numbers of people in the Stalinist gulag compared to the US prison industrial complex. The post was in response to the Adam Gopnik’s and Fareed Zakaria’s claim that the over 6 million people in the US are under “correctional supervision” was higher...

The Life of a Black Agronomist in Soviet Russia

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...

Is There Life on Mars? An Interview with Elena Demidova on Men’s Choice

In January, Novaya gazeta held their annual online documentary film festival. Each film was available for online viewing for 24 hours. A Facebook friend posted a link to Elena Demidova’s Men’s Choice (Muzhskoi vybor). He had written the English subtitles for it. It looked interesting so I checked it...

Scabic Soldiers on the March

It’s hard not to notice the plethora of articles once again warning about Russia invading the Baltics. The prospect has come up on a number of occasions over the last two years, and I have to say, I can’t help but have increasing sympathy for RT’s skepticism that the...

Kirill Medvedev: Let’s not view each other as wretched sovoks and obnoxious kreakls

The poet, musician and activist Kirill Medvedev is few contemporary Russian leftist voices that has had some play in English. Several of his writings have been translated: his collection of poems and essays, It’s No Good, articles and poems in N+1, an article in the Guardian on disavowing his...

Pseudo-Doctorates in the Duma

Several years ago when I was living in Moscow I would often see people in the metro holding signs selling doctoral degrees. I even had a friend of a friend who earned money writing them on order. Fake diplomas, theses on order, and plagiarism. Already in 2006, Mikhail Kirpichnikov,...

Where Foreign “Experts” and “Political Scientists” on Russian Television Come From

One of the outcomes of the Maidan Revolution, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the ensuing war in the Donbas has been a marked explosion in Russian propaganda. So much so that dissecting it has become a genre in and of itself. Indeed, over the last two years an entire...