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This week's editor

NSS, editor

Niki Seth-Smith is a freelance journalist and contributing editor to 50.50.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Erdoğan and Putin: unalike likeness

The leaders of Turkey and Russia are often compared. But their differences are more instructive than their similarities.

(This article was first published on 22 November 2014)

Why the west cannot defeat ISIS

Maged Mandour

ISIS has emerged from the wounds of the Arab world—for which the west is to a large extent responsibleand current airstrikes are pouring salt into these wounds.

If ISIS uses chemical weapons, the west will be partly responsible

How can the international community respond effectively and promptly to this growing threat, not just to the Middle East region, but to the world?

Women, peace and security: the UN's rhetoric-reality gap

UN Security Council resolution 2242 passed with overwhelming support. but effective implementation was immediately called into question when the Russian Ambassador then spoke out against the resolution’s key provisions.

Smooth censorship in Russia

Everybody understands everything, everybody knows everything, and no one says anything aloud.

Memetic engineering: conspiracies, viruses and historical agency

Ideas, just like viruses or organisms, do not spontaneously generate, even if certain historical circumstances make the rise and spread of a given idea more likely.

Putin’s partition plans and the politics of cynicism

Russian military involvement appears to be increasingly focused on propping up the Assad regime, contributing to a partitioned Syria in which Russia establishes a firm foothold on the eastern Mediterranean.

Could ISIS bring Russia and the west together?

For a couple of years after 9/11, there was a solid US-Russia anti-terrorism cooperation that basically gave the Kremlin a freer hand in crushing the Chechens.

Cold war conspiracies and suspect polio prevention

Many American scientists distrusted the Russian field trials. Russian colleagues responded with a sentiment similar to Sting’s Cold War hit: the Russians love their children too.

Oleg Sentsov and Aleksandr Kolchenko: prisoners of conscience

Statement on the sentencing of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and co-defendant Aleksandr Kolchenko.

The ‘window of life’ in Kirov

In the Russian city of Kirov, local authorities recently closed down a scheme to rescue unwanted newborn babies after just four days. We speak to the women and priest involved. на русском языке

Film review: ‘Grozny Blues’ (dir. Nicola Bellucci)

Grozny Blues is a haunting, often dreamlike documentary about Chechen people caught between the contradictory pressures of manufactured realities and coerced silences.

Book review: Alisa Ganieva, 'The Mountain and the Wall'

The Mountain and the Wall is the first Dagestani novel to be published in English. Ganieva is very courageous to write about what is happening in her native country, thinly veiled in the traditional Russian literary use of fiction.


North Ossetia is rethinking its role as Russia's ‘outpost’ in the Caucasus

From ‘outpost’ to ‘outpostism’ and then to ‘outposter’, North Ossetians are feeling increasingly alienated from the Russian centre.

Book review: Mikhail Shishkin, 'Calligraphy Lesson'

‘Only art is capable of creating moments where our “unreal”, mortal time intersects with its “real” counterpart,’ says Shishkin.


Remembering Budyonnovsk

I was in Budyonnovsk on 14 June 1995, when Chechen separatists raided the town and took hostages, killing 129. Twenty years later, this town in southern Russia is still known as the 'town of black shawls'. 

A ’different’ commemoration of Russia’s Victory Day: reporting from Thessaloniki, Greece (9 May 2015)

Does the ostentatious celebration of Russia's victory in the Great Patriotic War, which took place in Thessaloniki last week, tell us anything about the state of Russophilia in Greece?

What Russian students learn about Russia’s enemies

Conspiracy theories have permeated Russia’s education space, where they are intended not only to shape knowledge but to secure the political loyalty of Russia’s youth.


Of Trojan horses and realpolitik: The Tsipras-Putin meeting and its broader implications

Today Alexis Tsipras will sit down in Moscow for talks with Vladimir Putin. This meeting has been dogged by controversy and has led many to wonder: what exactly do Russia and Greece hope to gain from this encounter?

Why Russia watchers should listen to Glenn Greenwald

Elites throughout the former Soviet Union are cracking down on dissent. But before Russia watchers start criticising the region’s repressive governments, they should first engage with the criticism, which has long been levelled at them.

Historical rights (and wrongs): who owns the past in Kaliningrad?

The Orthodox Church's acquisition of culturally significant buildings in Kaliningrad raises questions into ownership of the past in Russia's exclave on the Baltic coast.


Digital citizenship: from liberal privilege to democratic emancipation

On the anniversary of the Magna Carta, a call for a new debate on the conception of citizenship. Let’s seize the opportunity to transform our utopian dreams into everyday life.

The word is the crime

Forensic linguistics plays a significant role in Russia’s regulation of hate speech. The subjective nature of such expert advice increasingly muddies its central position within the Russian legal system.  

The failure of Germany's Russia policy

Germany's strategy towards Russia has gone so well that in the present crisis Vladimir Putin thinks he can be confident that Europe will not use force to defend Ukraine, and that the EU’s will to confront Russia through political means is also extremely fragile.

Will Middle East ground troops be rallied against IS ?

Try as we might, the question of Mr. Assad’s fate will not go away: all roads stubbornly lead back to Damascus.

The Collectivist, debt colonialism and the real Alexis Tsipras

As the new government’s statement on Mariupol reveals, Greece will leverage its position along a geopolitical fault-line to maximise its bargaining power. 

Subsidising climate change

We need to raise awareness about how the rich oil nations keep subsidising oil extraction whilst agreeing that the world needs to cut emissions. Taxpayers cannot passively let their governments do this.

Under siege: from Leningrad to Gaza

Two strangers with very different pasts united by a common experience of siege and blockade.

Russians resisting war and repression

There are segments of the Russian population that, even in a politically inclement environment, bravely voice their open opposition to Russia’s military involvement in Ukraine.

Hijacking Europe and denying Eurasia

It makes moral and political sense to integrate Ukraine into the west as soon as possible. But for clueless western leaders, the only way to do so is to reaffirm the non-European character of Russia.

The new cold war Russia (again) won't win

The last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, burst the 25th-anniversary balloon of the symbolic end of the cold war by warning of a new one, fed by NATO's eastward expansion. An economically weak USSR lost the last one; a still weaker Russia will lose this one too. 

25 years after the fall of Communism: a call

When much of the world pays no lip service to democratic values, it would be a great disaster if countries in the heart of Europe were to turn away.

Orchestrating democracy in Bulgaria

As Bulgaria heads for the polls for the fourth time in 18 months, is there any hope of political stability? What has caused this severe political crisis and can elections make a difference?

News credibility in an age of stakeholder media

Are reporters mere adjuncts of power and spies? That is how ISIS treated the martyred journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. To this day, the failure of the American news industry to expose the Bush administration’s WMD myths before the invasion of Iraq is thrown in our faces.

Some are more equal than others: responses to political violence

While it is true that the US has, for once, signed up to a UN Security Council statement which calls for an "immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire”, this might still be considered a tactical step to prevent more strongly worded resolutions against Israel being proposed in the Security Council.  

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