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This week’s editor

Alex Sakalis, Editor

Alex Sakalis is associate editor of openDemocracy and co-edits the Can Europe Make It? page.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Outcasts — inmates of the Black Eagle

In Stalin’s time there were nearly a hundred GULag camps in Ivdel. Today, the maximum security penal colony FBU-IK 56 survives in their place. Ekaterina Lushnikova travelled there to speak to the inmates — some of Russia’s most hardened criminals.

A Soldier's Tale 9: changed, but not utterly dehumanised

In his final letter home from the army our conscript Tolya “finds” a mobile phone, is pursued by a mad officer and wonders what kind of man the army’s made of him

A Soldier’s Tale 8: violence is no joke

Our conscript Tolya continues his study of violence in his airborne division of the Russian army

A Soldier’s Tale 7: Hopes dashed, business as usual!

Our conscript Tolya had such high hopes of his new posting in the elite regiment of the Russian airborne division, but the bullying goes on – if anything it’s got worse

A Soldier's Tale 6: new beginnings? Perhaps!

Conscript Tolya has been moved again, this time to a show regiment. Life suddenly looks rather better, but is it for real?

A Soldier’s Tale (5): a new life? Not b… likely!

Our conscript, Tolya, has left basic training. He hopes that things will be different, but his hopes are soon dashed when he meets his demobbers or dembels.

Winter Storm in Tatarstan

Jobs are scarce, pension rises mediocre and the local authorities have even taken away the Christmas trees. But despite the disquiet, appetite for protest in Tatarstan remains low, says Oleg Pavlov

A soldier’s tale (3): hospital, then what?

In this third excerpt from his letters, our Russian conscript ends up in hospital, with time to reflect on what lies ahead. He reflects on the bullying of the ‘bitches’ by the ‘grandpas’. So deeply entrenched is it, he reckons, that the army would fall apart without it.

A soldier’s tale (2): trying to blend in

In this second letter home our new conscript Tolya is starting to settle in to his two-year stint in Russia’s army. He tells us about the food and how he has learnt to avoid being beaten up.

A soldier’s tale (1)

A new Russian army recruit writes home about life at a parachute regiment basic training camp

Panicking about swine flu in Orenburg

The region is gripped by swine flu panic, much of it orchestrated, in the opinion of Elena Strelnikova. But every cloud has a silver lining – we’re all having unscheduled holidays

Pskov: the Paratroopers’ Town, My Town

Pskov Embankment 

Pskov is an ancient Russian city not far from St Petersburg. Life there in the 21st century is not always easy, but it's home and I shall stay, says Anna Lipina

Life in Nizhny Novgorod doesn’t stand still

Niyhnz Novgorod Kremlin

Nizhny Novgorod's Kremlin

Nizhny Novgorod is one of the largest cities in Russia. It is currently enjoying its first baby boom for many years, thus demonstrating a determination not to be cowed by the economic crisis, and the future no longer holds the fears it used to, reports Lira Valeyeva

Notes from Samara

Samara's panorama 

Each region has its own problems and ways of dealing with the economic crisis. The response of Samara's residents has been to sink back into overwhelming apathy, Sergei Khazov observes

Life in Kazan: defying the crisis

The economic crisis has reached Tatarstan, and in a land like Russia where the rich are free to act solely in their own interests, the effects are harsh. Still, regional identity remains cohesive, so in many ways life goes on as always, writes Oleg Pavlov

Kazan-Qolsharif Mosque

The impressive Qolsharif Mosque in Kazan's Kremlin attracts the faithful and tourists

Sakhalin, the Island of Cyclones and Abundant Snow

Sakhalin scenery

Ksenya Semenova comes from Sakhalin Island, on Russia's far eastern coast. She is 23, has never been to the Russia mainland, and loves the island, with its exotic natural beauty. Wryly, she describes how ‘the crisis' is hitting them, why President Medvedev came to visit and why the islanders are cross with him.

Far East is still far away

Khabarovsk panorama

The Kremlin's choice to hold the latest EU-Russia summit in the far eastern city of Khabarovsk, right by China, may have been political - China wants Russia's gas too. But for the residents of Khabarovsk, the summit just meant traffic jams, and China's proximity just means industrial pollution

Summer in Saratov

Saratov Center 

Summer brings a holiday air, and seasonal jobs, to the Volga city of Saratov, observes Olga Bakutina in this Letter from Russia. But the underlying economic problems remain, and the autumn promises to be hard

The Vyatlag Archipelago

Vyatka colony cell 

Penal colonies are still holding thousands of prisoners in the Kirov Oblast, reports Ekaterina Lushnikova in this latest in our series of Letters from Russia

Letters from Russia: Lipetsk ! You can get a life – in spite of everything!

Life may be hard and is often unfair, says our correspondent from Lipetsk, but people manage, in spite of the crisis and all the other problems.

Lipetsk-Industrial zone

A sunny Mayday in Izhevsk

Letters from Russia:

It is rare that we hear voices from cities in Russia other than Moscow and St. Petersburg. Much of the political and cultural  life of the country is indeed concentrated in those two urban centres. But that other Russia of the provinces, which Russians themselves call the ‘glubinka’, is a hugely significant factor  and not just because of its rich mineral resources. The very fact of its vastness is a determining factor on the country’s politics and culture. openDemocracy Russia and our patner Russian site www.polit.ru will be running a regular series of letters to the outside world from regional journalists, from Sakhalin in the east to Kaliningrad in the west. We have asked our authors to focus on the daily life of their neighbours, friends and colleagues, to tell us how they are feeling during this global crisis. We want to hear about their concerns and priorities. We want to share their dreams. We will hear how people are coping with hardships of daily life; how their lives are affected by corruption, how they feel about their government and the future of their country.

Let us start in the Western Urals city of Izhevsk…

Editors of openDemocracy Russia, Editor of polit.ru

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How do people spend a sunny public May holiday in the provincial city of Izhevsk ? Nadezhda Gladysh sets out with her collie dog Greg   Greg-collie to find out

Undercurrent

A grizzly Vietnam vet, motorcycle hound and great survivor sends an electric miracle to Jim Gabour's door.

Richard Rorty: living in dialogue

The late American philosopher made a matchless contribution to democratic dialogue across cultures in an era of global diversity, says his colleague Ramin Jahanbegloo.
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