This week's guest editors

The new Russian power bloc

A quarter century after Mikhail Gorbachev supervised the collapse of Europe’s cold-war division, a world of new dividing lines is emerging—with Vladimir Putin playing an active part in inscribing them.

Governing on autopilot

Like a crippled Dreamliner, the Russian economy is slowing to a standstill; the bureaucrats are ignoring instructions; even the scientists are in revolt. Andrei Kolesnikov asks, if Putin is governing on autopilot, will the passengers take over?

Licence to kill on Lake Baikal

The unique Baikal seal has a beautiful coat, which is its undoing. Poachers make good money by killing the babies and selling the furs in China. Despite a government ban, the seal’s numbers are declining dramatically. Gayane Petrosyan asks,“what is to be done?”

Dimon Don't Cry

The Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, doesn't like his online nickname “Dimon,” but whatever we think of Dimon’s playground problems how does one stand up to online bullies? And why are so many of them Russian?

The System: shifting the tectonic plates

Russia’s Byzantine system of government has long been a rich subject for study. Could it change? Might it suddenly have to? Possibly, but there are so many vested interests and the upheaval would be considerable. Sergei Guriev reviews the most recent of Alena Ledeneva’s books on the subject

Investigator Bastrykin and the search for enemies

Alexandr Bastrykin, head of Russia’s influential Investigative Committee, is one of the most powerful individuals in the Putinite power system, but his biography is relatively unknown. Richard Sakwa has, however, been tracking the rise of this shadowy figure.

The Cyprus-Russia connection: political culture and public attitudes

Cyprus' unique political culture, as well as its relationship with Russia, played an important yet underappreciated role in the island's recent economic crisis.

Justice for Magnitsky, at least on stage?

THE CEELBAS DEBATE// In 2009 Sergei Magnitsky died in police custody, causing a commotion inside Russia and abroad. A year later, theatre company Teatr.doc staged ‘One Hour Eighteen’, a theatrical trial of those involved in Magnitsky's last days.  Molly Flynn considers the significance of this striking new form of political activism

Kremlin games: when programming meets politics

THE CEELBAS DEBATE// Russia has a booming and influential video-game market. The authorities want to capitalise on the industry, but do they really understand how it works? 

The tale of Boris and Vlad

The death of Boris Berezovsky created a storm of speculation and reminiscences in the world press.  But for most Russians Berezovsky was a forgotten figure, so why the explosion of interest there too? Because it’s a classic Russian fable, thinks Zygmunt Dzieciolowski 

 

Does Putin need his parliament?

Russia's ruling party, ‘United Russia’, is significantly weaker than previously. Does Putin still need ‘his’ party or is it now more of a millstone round his neck? 

Russia: a teenage suicide epidemic?

Russia has the highest underage suicide rate in Europe. Yelena Vorobyova reports from the Bryansk region, where 10 children have taken their own lives in as many months.

Orenburg shawls: a classic of Russian folk art

Gossamer or spider web shawls have been knitted in Orenburg for generations. The tradition nearly disappeared, but folk crafts are in the ascendant again — there is money to be made from them, after all, says Elena Strelnikova

Suffer the little children…

A new Russian law banning US adoptions has been roundly criticised at home and abroad; a toddler’s unexplained death has been held up as justification. For Daniil Kotsyubinsky, it is all a case of history repeating: Russia’s past is full of tragic cases where children have become innocent victims.

Ulyanovsk: no homes for heroes, but plenty of money for an art prize

Many aging Russian WWII veterans live in appalling conditions, and some die before they can cash a government rehousing grant. By law, families should inherit the money, but some regions deny them it. In Sergei Gogin’s native Ulyanovsk, authorities seem to prefer spending the money on vanity projects abroad.

Marina Goldovskaya: documenting modern Russia

London’s Pushkin House is hosting a retrospective of Russian director Marina Goldovskaya’s documentaries under the heading ‘Russia since Perestroika'. Masha Karp reflects on Goldovskaya’s distinctive art and the issues raised in her films.

Russian NGOs: the funding realities

Continuing oDRussia's debate on the future for Russian NGO funding, now a view from the coal face. Pavel Chikov is chair of one of the country's most respected NGOs: he argues that foundation grants remain the simplest way to let human rights activists get on with their work. 

Funding Russian NGOs: opportunity in a crisis?

Russian NGOs have traditionally looked abroad for their funding, and are dismayed at recent legislation setting up new barriers to this practice. Almut Rochowanski argues, however, that this should be seen as a challenge to increase the involvement of the Russian public in the development of civil society.

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. 

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.

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.   

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.

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.  

An investment wonderland? Reality checks

Since the collapse of the USSR investors have flocked to Russia, tempted by the high rates of return and the Alice in Wonderland atmosphere in Moscow, where everything seems possible. But the Russian business community has rather less faith in the future promised them by their government, says Pavel Usanov

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