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This week's editor

En Liang Khong

En Liang Khong is openDemocracy’s assistant editor.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

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.

A Pyrrhic victory for Abramovich?

The judgment in the Berezovsky vs Abramovich case was a long time coming. Berezovsky lost comprehensively, but Abramovich would do well to consider carefully whether his victory was actually worth winning, says Vladimir Pastukhov

On the river: a Russian holiday diary

Holidays by the sea in Turkey or Egypt are beginning to lose their appeal to ordinary Russians, and they’re no longer that cheap either. This summer, Elena Strelnikova joined many of her compatriots in looking nearer to home for rest and relaxation.

Why I fled Russia

Maxim Yefimov was an activist working in the field of human rights in Karelia, in the Russian Far North. Following criticism of the Russian Orthodox Church, authorities attempted to incarcerate him in a mental institution. He was kept sane by the conviction he was doing right, but eventually the threat led to flee the country. Here is his story.

The dark doings of Russia’s Centre E

Russia’s shadowy ‘Centre E’ was officially set up to combat extremism and terrorism, but is now mostly known for incompetence and harassing opposition activists. In any other country, the agency would have been wound up long ago, says Grigory Tumanov.

Russia's police: new name, but can it change its spots?

Reform of the Russian police, initiated in 2009 by then president Dmitry Medvedev, is still ongoing and mired in controversy. Asmik Novikova and Natalya Taubina of the ‘Public Verdict’ Foundation offer a progress report.

How God came to vote for Putin: the background to Pussy Riot

The gradual intrusion of the Orthodox Church into Russian secular life and the state is something that went largely unnoticed by the Russian public. The Pussy Riot trial is beginning to change all that, writes Sergei Lukashevsky.

Strasbourg: Supreme Court of the North Caucasus

For the population of Russia’s North Caucausus, crippled by war, violence and lawlessness, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) enjoys an almost mythical reputation. But even those who are successful in Strasbourg face an impossible struggle for full implementation of the rulings, says Grigor Avetisyan. 

Palliative care in Russia: it's time to stop the suffering

In whatever country they manifest, life-limiting conditions are heartbreaking for children and their families. In Russia, a lack of resources and even more damaging disregard of children’s rights makes coping with the situation unneccesarily distressing, says Anna Sonkin

Media freedom in the Russian regions? You must be joking…

As the Kremlin tightens its grip even further on the Russian media, lawyer and legal rights activist Galina Arapova looks at the tough options faced by journalists, especially in the regions.

Pride, prejudice — just ‘don’t say gay’ in Russia

LGBT issues have taken a battering in Russia over the last year, with a number of regions introducing repressive laws against the so-called ‘promotion’ of homosexuality. The changes are part of a wider agenda to split Russian society, whipping up feeling against people ‘not like us’, says Igor Kochetkov.

Government — the main source of instability in the northern Caucasus

As violence in the north Caucasus hits the headlines again, Alexander Cherkasov sees the roots of the problem in the Russian government’s wilful misunderstanding of local issues and lack of strategy for dealing with them.

The Nationalists and the Protest Movement

The Russian opposition movement is of necessity a broad coalition, with little to hold it together but a common hatred of the Putin regime. Alexander Verkhovsky looks at how its most controversial element, the nationalists, fit into the picture.

Russian government declares ‘cold war’ on civil society

The draconian laws introduced by President Putin during his first 100 days continue to inflame hearts and minds. Some people have taken fright, but others are determined to carry on the fight, says Yury Dzhibladze

Russian rights at the crossroads

Anna Sevortian and Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch present a new week-long series on openDemocracy Russia

Siberia’s crying cannibal: when business became war

Last month, a Siberian gang leader accused of dozens of murders was unexpectedly given a prison sentence. Could it be that Russia is finally getting to grips with organised criminality? There is more to this case than meets the eye, says Aleksei Tarasov 

Updating Russia’s repressive software (and why the genie will say ‘no’)

The protests surrounding Putin’s third ascent of the presidential throne were dramatic and the new laws show the regime is fighting back. It will not be easy, says Nicu Popescu, and could turn into a protracted tug of war.

Customs and revenue on the Russia-Ukraine border

The break-up of the Soviet Union made foreign travel for Russians much easier, except, paradoxically, over the internal Soviet borders that previously required no passports or visas. The border guards that now patrol these crossings have too little to do and often turn to extortion in an attempt to increase their modest salaries - recounts Mikhail Loginov.

Is feminism in Russia a mortal sin?

The trial of Pussy Riot is encouraging Russians to talk openly about corruption. But how is their message being received in a country where feminism is still a dirty word?

Russia, over the cuckoo’s nest

President Putin’s first 100 days have been quite dramatic, with protests becoming edgier and draconian laws being introduced in response. It might be said that events in Russia are developing along the lines of Milos Forman's great film, says Dmitri Travin

Why local power and self-interest can be good for transparency

Think of your local Indian, South African, Mexican or Russian investor looking for guaranteed profits; pool them all together and you could have community of millions to leverage for demanding transparency in the extractive industries. It would be hard for their respective governments and companies to ignore the calls of seven million shareholders who have investments in the firms.

Snap goes the Crocodile

Marina Akhmedova spent four days in the company of drug users in Yekaterinburg, central Russia, and was met with a picture of desperation, punctured by love, humanity and misplaced hope. oDRussia is proud to reproduce Akhmedova’s harrowing piece of reportage journalism — perhaps unwisely, now banned in Russia. 

Why Russia needs a defamation law... a proper one.

Many democratically-minded Russians have seized upon the recent re-criminalisation of defamation as an further example of Russia’s regression during Putin’s third term. They miss the point, argues Poel Karp: Russia does need a law on defamation, but that law needs to apply to everyone, including those who hold office. 

Little Strangers. ‘Get me out of here!’

When twelve-year-old Lyosha tried to escape a children’s home to return to his family, he was sent to a psychiatric hospital — an abuse of psychiatry immediately reminiscent of Soviet days. Lyosha was eventually saved only by the investigative curiosity of local journalists, Aleksandr Koltsov and Ksenia Turchak. Alarmingly, they themselves are now the subject of a criminal investigation.

See it like Putin

Russia’s attitude to events in Syria and her stated determination to respect the viewpoints of both sides in that conflict is a cause for concern and reflection. It is, however, no more than another manifestation of President Putin’s aversion to the idea of any independence, for either his allies or his own citizens, says Maxim Trudolyubov

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