Reportage, comment and analysis from Russia's backstage

Rough justice in Chechnya

Three recent court cases in Chechnya suggest that torture is routinely used to persuade people to confess to trumped up charges.

The rehousing scam in Omsk

Six years ago the Omsk regional authorities embarked on a programme aimed at rehousing people living in unsafe and dilapidated accommodation. But the results are far from satisfactory. (на русском языке)

Sorting out the opposition in Samara

People protesting against the Russian annexation of Crimea in the Russian city of Samara have been subjected to harassment and death threats from ultra-nationalist thugs – a sign of things to come? (на русском языке)

The last camping ground

Russia’s oil goliaths have been devastating vast areas of natural landscape, and indigenous people’s lives, in their rush to extract the black gold that lies beneath. But a family of reindeer herders has taken them on. (на русском языке)

Civil war, secession and the body politic

Working with young people is important in any society. The recent story of an unusual Chechen initiative demonstrates why functional governance has so spectacularly failed to take root during the last 23 years.

The veterans out in the cold

In Russia, 23 February is celebrated as Defender of the Fatherland Day. But despite a law entitling them to decent housing, many World War Two veterans in Siberia have little to celebrate.

Death of a boxer

The murder of a young boxer in Omsk two months ago opened a real can of political worms, with the local Roma community in particular becoming the butt of neo-Nazi threats

Rich cities and dying company towns

Russia’s unemployment figures look low, but they are rising, and there is a great gulf between the prosperous centre and failing regions.

The Siberian archipelago

There’s a popular misconception about Russian politics that ‘everything happens in Moscow.’ But sometimes it’s the capital that has to catch up with the regions (or with Siberia at least).

Now I'm a union man

In both Soviet and more recent times, Russia’s trade unions have tended to be an arm of the regime, but Grigory Tumanov argues that a growing independent movement is becoming a significant force in the country.

‘Yaroslavl – graveyard of the Russian spring’

When Yevgeny Urlashov became the democratically elected mayor of Yaroslavl, the tourist city on the Volga, he described it as the ‘birthplace of the Russian spring.’ A year later, Urlashov is in jail…

The one that didn’t get away

President Putin’s amnesty which has seen Pussy Riot’s Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova released, as well, perhaps, as the Greenpeace 30, is by no means extended to everyone. Young activist Taisiya Osipova also has a young child, but she remains locked up with no apparent chance of release, says Marc Bennetts

The lower depths in Russia today

Over a century after Maksim Gorky’s famous play about homeless people – ‘The Lower Depths' – Ekaterina Loushnikova has been looking around her home city of Kirov to see if anything has changed.

Chemfest in Russia’s ‘chemical capital’

Russia’s industrial cities are more than a blot on the landscape. They are the source of appalling chemical pollution, a problem that neither the authorities nor the oligarch owners seem to have any interest in addressing. But people still have to live there.

Has Siberia had enough of Russia?

With Siberia’s enormous natural resources being mercilessly exploited by Russia, and now China as well, Aleksei Tarasov wonders if the region might some day amount to more than someone else’s colony.

Ring out new bells!

While lightning and neglect are taking their toll on Russia's wooden churches, a growing volunteer movement is making its mark in saving this precious cultural heritage. Architectural restoration expert Alexander Mozhayev reports.

The Zone

The northern territory of the Perm region is known as 'the Zone' –  a remote region of prison camps and correctional facilities. Ola Cichowlas came to know it quite well….

The Wizard of Omsk

Omsk, in south-western Siberia, is known throughout Russia for its theatre, but has never developed a film industry. As Valeria Kalashnikova reports, things are changing, thanks mostly to the efforts of a director whose stock in trade is schlock sci-fi beloved of viewers of Japanese cable channels.

Taken from Chita, Made in China

Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake on the planet, is part of Russia’s DNA, and many romantic ballads sing of its size and beauty. Beyond the lake is a different story. Do Trans-Baikal Territory and its capital Chita have a future or is this a godforsaken backwater? Mikhail Loginov investigates

Brokeback in Belarus

Valery Sidorenko and Sergei Ostapchuk, both tractor drivers, live together happily in a remote village in the Grodinsky region of Belarus. Alyona Soiko travelled there to meet them and hear their story.

Prison or presidency for 'Russia’s Kennedy'?

Charismatic opposition leader Aleksey Navalny is on trial in the provincial capital of Kirov, 900km from Moscow. He is controversially accused of stealing timber worth 16 million roubles in 2009; if found guilty, he will spend his next few years behind bars. Local journalist Ekaterina Loushnikova met some of his supporters and opponents.

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.

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.

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. 

Orenburg 2013: ring out the old, ring in the new!

Regional journalist Elena Strelnikova takes a wry look at some of the events of the departing year. 

 

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