This week's editor

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Adam Ramsay is co-editor of OurKingdom.

Best of Russia: going the right way?

The annual Best of Russia photography exhibition has opened in Moscow’s Winzavod Centre for Contemporary Art. Reviewing the past five years of images, Jeremy Noble was struck by how explicitly the photographic eye reflects a country in the throes of radical change. 

The future of Russia's i-curtain

Hot on the heels of a new law establishing a register of forbidden sites, Russian authorities are now promoting a system of 'virtual' borders and international supervision. Their proposal has so far failed to find significant support, but Russia will keep trying, says Irina Borogan

What do Russians think of their ‘foreign agents’?

In Putin’s Russia, NGOs funded from abroad are now officially considered ‘foreign agents’. However a recent poll suggests that the Russian public’s attitude to them is rather less one-sided. Vladimir Zvonovsky reports from Samara. 

Would democratic change in Russia transform its foreign policy?

The incompatibility of an anachronistic and arbitrary regime with the modern world is leading many to consider that democratic change is possible — likely even — in Russia. But those expecting that a new ‘democratic’ government would somehow take a softer line on foreign policy should think again, says Ivan Krastev. 

In memoriam Valery Abramkin, Russia's prison reformer

Celebrated Russian activist Valery Abramkin has died aged 66. Here we republish extracts from a lecture delivered in 2006, which contains many fascinating insights into the rules of behaviour, hierarchies and relationships within Soviet and Russian prisons. (With a foreword by Mary
McAuley.) 

Is Putin afraid of the Caucasus?

Russian lawmakers have given preliminary approval to a law to allow governors to be appointed in the country’s 83 regions, reversing last year’s move to restore direct elections. As Daniil Kotsyubinsky reports, this issue is unimportant in itself, but it exposes the regime’s soft underbelly, unrest in the Caucasus.

God is your refuge

A monastery near Moscow has opened its doors to the city’s homeless — in exchange for food and shelter, the men help out on the farm. Marina Akhmedova spent some time among the labourers, discovering how they ended up on the streets, and finding out what they think of the meaning of life. 

Why Russia is not losing Siberia

The Yellow Peril was a feature of life in Soviet times and the demographics on either side of the Russia-China border do little to convince the fearful that Siberia will not be colonised by the Chinese. This is unlikely, says Ben Judah, who has travelled in the region

Decision time for Central Asia: Russia or China?

Vladimir Putin’s attempts to draw the countries of central Asia into his fledgling Eurasian Union creates a dilemma for some of them: if they take up his offer, they might lose their valuable trading links with China. Li Lifan and Raffaello Pantucci discuss their options.

Will Russia pivot East or West?

Russia-watchers have long been interested in her place on the international arena. Now, with China at the centre of the growing power game, the question is how Russia will seek to position herself in the Pacific Century. Jonas Parello-Plesner considers some of the options. 

Russia and China: aligned after all?

Are China and Russia destined to form an alliance against the West? Unlikely, thinks Thomas Koenig: any future relationship will be based on economics, rather than politics.

The fable of the eagle, the dragon and the bear

How will Russia react to China’s rapid ascent as a global power? Will it develop its eastern links to spite the West, or join a USA led attempt to freeze Beijing out? Pavel Salin argues that this is a simplistic view of things and that Moscow may choose a third way.   

BRICS, a new cooperation model?

One of the criticisms made of the emerging economies is that they are using cooperation to gain markets, political influence and access to natural resources. But that is what the countries of the North are also seeking.

Life on the Chinese border: Russia's Far East

Primorsky Territory is seven time zones away from the capital and has the largest economy in the Russian Far East.  There is justifiable irritation at Moscow’s insistence on a one-size-fits-all model of government oriented towards Europe and levels of frustration are forcing people to leave, says Olesya Gerasimenko.

The rise and fall of China-watching in Russia

Russia’s relations with China have long been governed by need and fear, even when they were supposedly linked by common ideology. Now China’s financial might means it can offer seductive loans to its cash-light neighbour. But Russia has so few specialist China-watchers to offer proper advice, says Alexander Gabuyev.

Russia-China relations: fantasies and reality

Is Russia in control of its relationship with the world's emerging superpower? Ben Judah introduces a new series on openDemocracy Russia. 

To live so as not to feel ashamed: remembering lawyer Yury Schmidt

Tributes are flooding in to the renowned Russian human rights lawyer Yury Schmidt, who has died aged 75. Schmidt devoted much of his career to defending critics of the Russian government and others accused of political crimes, from environmental whistleblowers to oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Kristina Gorelik celebrates his life.  

Note to British MPs: think before criticising the European Court

A growing appetite to limit the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights has emerged among British MPs. Their criticism is mistaken, and undermines the very important work the Court does in areas like Chechnya, says Philip Leach.

Winter in Russia: cold indoors as well as out

Most radiators in urban Russian homes are fed by hot water transported from heating plants miles away. Ageing pipes frequently burst, causing hardship and even fatalities. Could a return to an older form of heating be the answer? Mikhail Loginov reports from one small town in the provinces. 

Russia’s pension impasse – is there a way out?

One way Vladimir Putin has retained his popularity among Russians has been by increasing retirement pensions and other social benefits, and as a result the state pension fund is deep in the red. But as Andrey Zaostrovtsev finds, Putin is more interested in keeping voters sweet than balancing the books (photo: RIA Novosti Agency).

Russian consumerism: market boom chaos

The collapse of the USSR replaced the perennial shortages of goods and services with the problem of low incomes and rising prices. Today management is grossly inefficient, but rampant corruption blocks any moves to improve the situation. People complain, but they still vote as they’re told at elections, says Vladimir Gryaznyevich

Russia: an Oprichnik economy

Owning a business in Russia today is a hazardous affair: each year thousands of companies close after their owners are accused of ‘economic crimes’ and face either prison or protection payments to government officials. Andrey Zaostrovtsev describes a system reminiscent of an equally lawless period in Russia’s past (photo: RIA Novosti Agency).

Russian economy: in a worse state than it seems?

Dmitry Travin introduces a new week-long series on openDemocracy Russia

 

Whatever happened to Russia’s economic miracle?

The first eight years of the last decade were incredibly successful for Russia’s economy, but the crisis of 2008 hit hard and growth remains decidedly sluggish. Dmitry Travin wonders whether the country’s economy will ever be able to regain the Midas touch.

2012: the year the Kremlin lost control of the script

Throughout the Putin heyday, Russian political discourse was invented, manipulated and owned by a handful of Kremlin spin doctors. Over the last year, that changed. Though they failed to make real policy headway, the opposition did something potentially just as significant: they began to win the war of imagination.

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