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“Sunny

Sunny Hundal is openDemocracy’s social media editor.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Russia, land of slaves

Last month, a number of slave migrant workers were discovered in the cellar of a Moscow store. It was, alas, just one example of a much a wider practice exploiting vulnerable groups across the country. In a special oDRussia investigation, Grigory Tumanov reports on the worrying prevalence of modern-day enslavement within Russia.

Shoigu gets his epaulettes

Traditionally, Soviet and Russian Defence Ministers have carried the military rank of General. Anatoly Serdyukov, recently dismissed by President Putin, was an exception, and his civilian status reflected a desire to make the MOD more subject to political control. Aleksandr Golts discusses the implications of his successor Sergei Shoigu once again accepting his General’s epaulettes (photo: RIA NOVOSTI AGENCY).

RuNet: Russia on the Chinese road?

A new internet law came into effect in Russia this month. Ostensibly designed to tackle extremist websites, the list of banned sites has already cast a much broader net. Things are likely to get even worse, says Irina Borogan.

Why do Arab rulers want a ceasefire in Gaza but not in Syria?

The rulers of Saudi Arabia and Qatar insist that Bashar Assad step down or be removed by force because the Syrian people want him gone. Yet, they ignore the fact that the Arab peoples want them all gone, not just Assad.

Blue skies, clear thinking: Russian democracy in the Cloud

The recent election to the Coordinating Council of the Russian opposition was a first. Run across the whole country, entirely online, it demonstrated an unprecedented unity between the various factions. Organisers Fyodor Krashenninikov and Leonid Volkov, take a long hard look at its successes, failures and implications for the future of Russia.

Russian military reform and Shoigu’s poisoned chalice

On 6 November, the Russian top brass’s dream came true: President Putin dismissed Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, whose ongoing and fundamental reform of the Military has perhaps been the only real reform of the last ten years. Military analyst Aleksandr Golts looks at the issues that confront his successor (photo: RIA NOVOSTI Agency).

Someone else? The latest twist in Russian politics

The Russian Defence Minister was recently sacked, ostensibly for corruption. The apparent weakening of the Putin myth and resulting unease inside the Kremlin must lead to a search for a new leader. Perhaps he has already arrived, muses Andrei Piontkovsky

Vyatlag: the Gulag then and now

Many of the Soviet Gulag camps are now deserted, but Vyatlag is still in operation, though now most of the prisoners are there for criminal rather than political offences. But as Ekaterina Loushnikova has found, memories of the cruelty and hardship of those terrible years remain.

Radio Liberty making waves: have no lessons from the past been learnt?

The imminent withdrawal of Radio Liberty from medium wave broadcasting has dented the image of American public democracy, which is perceived as kowtowing to the autocratic will of the Kremlin. The outcry has, predictably, been ferocious. Kristina Gorelik looks back at the Soviet and more recent past.

The war between the president’s men

The Russian regime may present a united front to the world, but behind the scenes the cracks are beginning to show. In the week when Putin fired a senior government member, Dmitry Travin looks at the people and the issues that divide them.

The death of Radio Liberty

US-funded Radio Liberty started broadcasting to the USSR in 1953. Now Russia’s new media law has led to the mass firing of the station’s journalists and the appointment of a new editor, Masha Gessen. But she’s unlikely to find many journalists prepared to work with her, thinks Anastasia Kirilenko

Summer is cancelled for Russia’s bureaucrats – but will they play ball?

October is Russia’s local election month, and some regions have just elected governors for the first time in seven years, part of an electoral reform designed to appease the opposition. But as Mikhail Loginov reports, another aspect of this reform will antagonise the regime’s most loyal supporters – its own bureaucrats.

RuNet, hate crime and soft targets: how Russia enforces its anti-extremism law

The internet is a tool that can be used for good, but it can also be manipulated by fanatics preaching violent hate propaganda. Policing is never going to be easy, but the Russian police inflate their statistics by choosing soft targets and ignoring the truly dangerous criminals, says Natalia Yudina

Vladimir Putin’s ever-decreasing circle of friends

President Putin’s popularity has been dented by the open opposition of two celebrities, hitherto ardent supporters: Lyudmila Narusova and Kseniya Sobchak, respectively widow and daughter of his former political mentor, Anatolii Sobchak. A real stab in the back and evidence that things are hotting up, thinks Daniil Kotsyubinsky.

Against persecution and torture: a statement from the Russian opposition

Responding to reports of an activist being kidnapped in Kyiv and then imprisoned in Moscow amid allegations of torture, the newly-formed Coordinating Council of the Russian Opposition released a statement. oDRussia reproduces the text in English translation.

US's last chance in Afghanistan: reconciliation with the Pashtuns

%22Bordering"The west's campaign in Afghanistan is simply out of date. If there is any hope in a positive outcome, then a paradigm shift from conflict to dialogue is required.

Obama or Romney? The Russian view

Russia may not figure much in American elections, but President Putin finds Mitt Romney’s description of that country as ‘geopolitical foe number one’ useful in his management of domestic politics. He could probably work with either candidate, but what sort of relationship with Russia might either of them pursue?

The Russian Mafia and organised crime: how can this global force be tamed?

We hear a lot about Russian organised crime and its links with the Russian state. But it operates not just at home: its reach is global. Euan Grant explains how it operates and what can be done to challenge its power.

Dummy candidates, disillusioned voters: ‘United Russia’ in a tight corner

A small city near Moscow is electing a mayor. Not the most startling news, perhaps, but the ruling party seems to have changed places with the opposition. Things are more topsy-turvey than usual and the voters have lost all faith with President and candidates alike, says Mikhail Loginov (photo: Ridus Agency)

Prisoner of Bolotnaya square

The ‘March of Millions’ opposition protests in Moscow on May 6 turned into a bloody standoff between demonstrators and riot police. Regional journalist Leonid Kovyazin was one of many arrested still to be released. Ekaterina Loushnikova travelled to a village in Kirov to speak to Leonid’s family, friends and colleagues.

 

The Cold White Heat of Today

The powerful impact of a new installation in London by Russian architect Alexander Brodsky

Towards a greater Putistan?

Russia's comeback president is intent on consolidating his power both at home and abroad. But against the odds, dissent against Vladimir Putin and his system is finding new channels of expression, says John Besemeres.

Central Asia, the power-contest

When the United States led the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, it planned to extend its power from Afghanistan to the wider region. Today, the actions of leading states - Russia, Pakistan, and China among them - are contributing to a very different outcome.

Russia-Pakistan relations: beyond Putin’s cancelled trip to Islamabad

Vladimir Putin was due to visit Pakistan this week, but has postponed his trip indefinitely and given no reason for his decision. Sadhavi Chauhan believes, however, that this setback is no threat to increased Russian cooperation with Pakistan and other Central and South Asian countries.

Georgian divisions: a dangerous poison?

Georgia goes to the polls today for tightly contested parliamentary elections. Despite an horrific prison abuse scandal on the eve of the vote, Mikheil Saakashvili believes his party has done enough to win; Bidzina Ivanishvili and his Georgian Dream party hope their energetic campaigning means otherwise. In reality, it is the post-election politics in Georgia that will matter, says Denis MacShane.

Russia is running out of cash

As the Russian government tries to put together its budget plan for 2013-2015, it is clear that it cannot possibly meet all its pre-election promises. Dmitry Travin looks at the financial crisis facing the country (photo RIA Novosti Agency).

The end of ‘Liberty’

In Soviet days foreign radio stations were a lifeline for people seeking another point of view. They continued broadcasting after the collapse of the USSR, though the BBC Russian Service programmes went online only in 2009. Now US-funded Radio Liberty is closing its doors. Mumin Shakirov, a special correspondent made redundant by the closure, reflects on the passing of an age. 

Russia, EU and ECU: co-existence or rivalry?

The creation of the Eurasian Customs Union (ECU) could well enhance Russia’s position in the post-Soviet space at the expense of the EU. However, as the most important battleground,Ukraine would have to be persuaded to abandon its EU Association Agreement to join the ECU instead, say Rilka Dragneva and Kataryna Wolczuk.

Work permits: creating a documented self in Russia

The life of a migrant worker is never easy. The upheavals of the past 20 years in the former USSR have resulted in waves of Central Asians going to Russia to find work. To judge by their tales, the bureaucracy is finding it very hard to cope. Medina Aitieva spent some time with migrants in Siberia.

The quest for home

Inter-communal conflict in Kyrgyzstan flared up in 2010. Since then ethnic Uzbeks, the largest racial minority, have been on the move. Sometimes they travel to Russia; sometimes back again. It's always difficult to know where to call home, says Abdujalil Abdurasulov.

Beyond the gastarbeiter: the other side of post-Soviet migration

The collapse of the Soviet Union left desperate human situations in its wake: prices shot up, wages weren’t paid and people were forced to travel in search of work. The post-Soviet migrant’s life — one typically fraught with problems of health, family and home — is the subject of Madeleine Reeves' new week-long series on oDRussia. 

Putin Redux: Continuity and change

Is Putinism a static system, or is it in need of renewal after the events of the past year? Richard Sakwa discusses the options before the Russian president and the elites that surround him.

Cautious Allies: regional powers in Afghanistan

%22Bordering"India, China, Russia and Iran have a surprising confluence of interests in a stable and prosperous Afghanistan, but so far the regional powers have been cautious not to give away too much. Their role may be path-setting as foreign forces leave.

The shepherds of Sevukh

The Avars are an ancient people living in the mountains of Dagestan (North Caucasus). Many of them are shepherds. The blandishments of modern life are encroaching on their centuries-old way of life, but they have no chance of doing anything else, even military service. Marina Akhmedova spent some time with them and tells their stories

The Gulag doctor

Doctor Leonid Atlashkin spent almost 20 years in the Soviet prison camps. Unlike many, he went there of his own accord as a young doctor in 1953, and just stayed on. He retired a long time ago, but he has his memories, as Ekaterina Loushnikova discovered when she went to see him.

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