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This week’s front page editor


Francesc Badia i Dalmases is Founder, Director and Editor of democraciaAbierta

Constitutional conventions: best practice

2012: the year the Kremlin lost control of the script

Throughout the Putin heyday, Russian political discourse was invented, manipulated and owned by a handful of Kremlin spin doctors. Over the last year, that changed. Though they failed to make real policy headway, the opposition did something potentially just as significant: they began to win the war of imagination.

Russia's 2013: Macbeth, or the Comedy of Errors?

2012 started in a huge upsurge of opposition activity: street protests, marches, arrests and imprisonments. A year later the scene is much calmer. Daniil Kotsyubinsky considers the future for the opposition, and does not find what he sees particularly encouraging

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. 


What is behind the mask of revolution? Global separatism in the Russian context

Across the world, a youthful flame of revolution has engulfed leaders, governments and the very notion of modern Westphalian order. In an extended essay, Daniil Kotsyubinsky wonders if the logical next phase of history is regionalism, and starting with his own native Russia. 

Among the convicts: Russian nurses on life in the gulag

In another report from her recent visit to the Vyatlag prison complex in central Russia, Ekaterina Loushnilova is entertained by some of the camp's nurses. They share with her not only cranberry liqueur and pickled mushrooms, but also their vivid experiences of camp life.

Under the capital's streets: a guide to ancient Moscow

Moscow, unlike St Petersburg, is an unplanned city that has grown organically over the centuries, and where new developments can still mean the destruction of older buildings of historical interest. A few traces remain, however, from medieval times and even prehistory. Alexander Mozhayev has been investigating them.

Talking point: the logic of Russian foreign policy

What factors drive foreign policy in Russia? Who drives it? And in whose interests - the elites or ordinary people? Marie Mendras and Fyodor Lukyanov join oDRussia editor Oliver Carroll for a debate in Paris.

The economy-class governor

St Petersburg used to be called Russia’s second capital. As Putin’s home city, it enjoyed popularity and success when he became president in 2000. But not any longer. The distinctly uncharismatic governor, appointed to make cuts and keep order, is both the symbol and cause of that, says Mikhail Loginov

Believing in tears: a snapshot of new Russian documentary cinema

The Sixth London Russian Film Festival, which took place in London earlier this month, introduced 11 new feature films and 7 documentaries to the British public. Masha Karp went to watch the documentaries, hoping to see a true picture of Russia today.

Corruption, corruption, corruption

Russia’s higher education institutions are popularly assumed to be among the most corrupt in the country. Augusto Come considers how the perceptions and realities of corruption in education will eventually impact Russia’s youngest generations (photo:

Russia paralysed by pragmatism

Officially, the Russian government is above politics. While this stance worked well during the boom years, since the financial crisis it has been paralysing government. Reform is urgently needed. But how can these be pushed through without recourse to politics? Russia’s non-political period is drawing to a close, Dmitry Butrin reckons.

Has the Russian opposition lost its way?

From the euphoria of last winter, reality has bitten Russia's opposition. President Putin is resurgent, popular interest in politics is waning and doubts are emerging about the self-styled leader of the protests, Alexei Navalny. Ben Judah wonders if there is an easy way back for Russia's opposition. 

The geopolitics of drug trafficking in Afghanistan

%22Bordering"In Afghanistan, opium is not clandestinely traded on some back alley black market. Opium is the market.

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.

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