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Launched in 1998, this Moscow-based website publishes political news and commentary daily, as well as keeping close to the pulse of Russia’s intellectual life. Through its public lectures and seminars in Moscow and Kiev it offers a regular platform for debate on contemporary issues. Polit.ru, whose articles are outstanding among Russian internet sites for their quality, hosts Russian social thinkers, historians, philosophers, NGO activists, journalists, and economists.

Four Russias: the new political reality

Uneven modernisation has left its mark on Russia, and the authorities are only too happy to exploit it. What does the future hold for Russia’s regional divide? Русский

Stimulating the Russian economy

The dividing line between market liberals and supporters of active state intervention in the Russian economy has considerably shifted.

 

In memoriam Valery Abramkin, Russia's prison reformer

Celebrated Russian activist Valery Abramkin has died aged 66. Here we republish extracts from a lecture delivered in 2006, which contains many fascinating insights into the rules of behaviour, hierarchies and relationships within Soviet and Russian prisons. (With a foreword by Mary
McAuley.) 

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

‘Pussysteria’, or the awakening of Russia’s conscience

On 10th July a Moscow court extended the pre-trial detention of three members of feminist punk rock band Pussy Riot, charged with hooliganism after they performed a ‘blasphemous’ and anti-Putin song in the city’s main cathedral in February. Vladimir Pastukhov believes there is much the case tells us about the relations between the Putin government and the Russia’s Orthodox Church.

Russian TV: a different truth for east and west?

Russia’s 9 time zones are often exploited by TV management to pull controversial programmes, but the internet has changed the rules of the game. A recent film about kidnap victims in Chechnya was shown in the Far East, but not in European Russia. The ensuing outcry and internet activity show that people have had enough of censorship, says Tanya Lokshina

Russia's Communists: the paper tigers of the opposition

Twenty years after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian Communist Party is enjoying a mini-revival as a channel for popular discontent with the government. But its leadership is too rooted in the past and concerned with retaining control of the party to exploit this advantage, says Vladimir Gelman

Dead souls: rank and responsibility in the Russian military

In 2010, the Russian military experienced acute delays with procurement. The official response to the affair was outlined last month: three officers were to be sacked and several company directors punished. Basic research shows the government's position to be nothing more than a smoke screen, writes Alexander Volk.

A very Georgian disagreement

Post-Soviet Georgia is no stranger to drama or revolution, and after a short interregnum, the country once again finds itself in a febrile mood. Sergei Markedonov analyses the background to the present unrest.

Russia’s future — in its past

Russian intellectual Igor Kon has died aged 82. Here we present one of his final essays, first published on our partner website, www.polit.ru. Reflecting on the woes of Russian history, Kon displays trademark wit and moral argument.

Russia's multicultural myth

When a spokesman from Russia's migration service spoke about the purity of the white Russian race, he was summarily dismissed. But while his quasi-Nazi whistle chimes ill with official rhetoric of multiculturalism, it is alas in tune with much of Russian society, says Mikhail Zakharov.

Russia’s anti-fascist movement loses a champion

Independently-minded specialists carrying out research into the seamier side of Russian right-wing nationalist extremism are few and far between. The death of Galina Kozhevnikova at a young age is thus a veritable tragedy, laments Andreas Umland.

Sergei Sobyanin: man after Russia’s heart?

As new mayor of Moscow Sergei Sobyanin inherited a hugely wealthy city and a mass of problems. Putin’s vertical of power is collapsing and there are elections ahead. How will Sobyanin manage the inevitable political infighting, wonders Vladimir Pastukhov.

Caucasian prisoners (or how not to deal with militancy in Dagestan)

The southern republic of Dagestan is now Russia’s most violent flashpoint. Besieged by militants from one side, the republic is no better served by its security services on the other. Indeed, the brutality and lawlessness of these government forces actually risks motivating yet more young men to ‘go to the forest’ and join the fighters.

Russian modernisation: between chance and necessity

Modernisation is a task, not a problem. Russians must first want a modern country if it is to ever emerge. Alexander Auzan, one of Russia's foremost experts on modernisation, outlines the difficulties going forward.

 

 

Yeltsin’s complicated legacy in the Caucasus

Boris Yeltsin inherited many problems which he had to try and address while at the same time establishing the new Russian state. Many of these problems were, and continue to be, in the North Caucasus. Yeltsin’s presidency should be judged in the round, asserts Sergei Markedonov, rather than from the vantage point of Putin’s ‘vertical’ Russia.

Ukraine right-wing politics: is the genie out of the bottle?

Ukrainian politics has until recently been divided between two camps: the pro-Western democrats (recently represented by the "Orange" parties) and the pro-Russian anti-liberals (recently dominated by the Party of Regions). Now radical nationalists are gaining political strength. Will they manage to get their so-called Freedom party into the national parliament? Andreas Umland charts the rise of the right-wing All-Ukrainian Association "Svoboda".

St Petersburg's tower vertical defeated. For now...

The Okhta Centre protestors have achieved the relocation of the project to another part of St Petersburg. But it will be built, as will the much protested motorway through Khimki Forest, maintains Mikhail Zakharov. Protest movements are facing the serious possibility of running out of steam.

Putin’s retreat — beginning at the gates of Moscow

President Medvedev recently sacked the longstanding Moscow mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, despite his closeness to Putin. This move, redolent of Soviet politics, won him no points and now the activities of the new mayor are threatening to affect Putin too. Regular changes of government are essential, explains Vladimir Pastukhov

Fridman: How I became an oligarch

What do you need to succeed in business?A mixture of luck and good judgement, according to Mikhail Fridman, one of Russia’s richest men and currently head of the Alfa Group.Gorbachev’s 1980s reforms made private enterprise possible – Fridman and others like him did the rest, as can be seen from this transcript of his lecture at the Publishers’ Forum in Lvov.

Oleg Kashin: words that cripple

Last week in Moscow the journalist Oleg Kashin was thrashed to within an inch of his life. President Medvedev has ordered a high-level investigation into the attempted murder. Who would stand to gain this attack and is there any hope of a swift resolution? asks Mikhail Zakharov.

A strategy for North Caucasus: don’t mention politics or religion!

The recently published Russian government strategy paper for the North Caucasus chooses to focus solely on the socio-economic development of the region. The refusal to address key political or religious issues undermines the whole rationale for the document, laments Sergei Markedonov

Update the software of the Russian soul?

Government attempts to modernise Russia are doomed because the Russian mindset remains stuck in an unchanging peasant mentality, laments film-director Andrei Konchalovsky. No change will be possible without reloading our spiritual software, but do we want to change?

Lukashenko: Russia’s new Yushchenko?

Fresh from productive confrontation with Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, Dmitry Medvedev has waded into the Belarusian presidential election campaign. Appearing in a videoblog on Sunday, he accused Alexander Lukashenko of hiding behind “external enemies” in an attempt to cling onto power. For all it tells us about worsening relations between Luksahenko and the Kremlin however, Mikhail Zakharov remains unconvinced that this alone will be enough to remove the Belarusian leader.

Chechnya: choked by headscarves

In Chechnya there is official support for attacks on women when they are considered to have ‘flouted’ Islamic rules by not wearing a headscarf or covering up enough. Tanya Lokshina listened to some of the women’s despairing accounts.

Forget Luzhkov: bulldogs under the carpet again

The struggle between Moscow’s mayor Luzhkov and President Medvedev has gripped Russia. What are those’ bulldogs under the carpet’ really fighting about? There are bigger battles going on, explains Vladimir Pastukhov.

Tricky business in Abkhazia

Since Abkhazia declared its independence from Georgia in 2008, Russian money has been pouring in. But when it comes to doing business there, Russians can find themselves coming badly unstuck, as one investor from the Urals found. Anton Katin reports

Putin: on the shifting sands of doubt

A recent Kommersant newspaper interview with Putin revealed the extent of his isolation from reality and inability to see things in any way other than his own. This is potentially dangerous, explains Vladimir Pastukhov

The Battle for Khimki Forest

The plan to construct a section of the new Moscow-St.Petersburg motorway through the legally-protected Khimki Forest Park will destroy a rare eco-system. Dogged local resistance has turned this into a national, even international issue. But it has not derailed the plan The article was first published on March 17, 2010

Russia burns: an update

Lack of personnel and organizational incompetence have seriously hampered the Russian response to forest fires, writes Greenpeace's Alexei Yaroshenko. Worryingly, fires have reached some Chernobyl-affected regions, and many other villages have been essentially abandoned to their fate.

Natasha Estemirova: one year on

On 15 July 2009 Natasha Estemirova was kidnapped outside her flat in Grozny, bundled into a car, driven away and shot. One year later Tanya Lokshina still grieves for her, reflecting how difficult it is to come to terms with her death

Forbidden Art verdict: they're in mourning for Soviet censorship

On 12 July, the judge found Andrei Erofeev and Yurii Samodurov, organisers of the exhibition Forbidden Art – 2006, guilty of inciting hatred and enmity, and insulting human dignity. Samodurov was fined 200,000 roubles, and Erofeev 150,000 (some $12,000 in all). But they have not been sent to prison. The poet Tatiana Shcherbina, disgusted, sees a people in mourning for the Good Old Days when the state controlled everything

Russia back in the dock over 'Forbidden Art'

Three years ago an exhibition at Moscow’s Sakharov Centre of previously banned work entitled Forbidden Art led to the trial of its curator Andrei Erofeev and the director of the Centre, Yuri Samodurov. The prosecutors want them sentenced to three years in prison for ‘debasing the religious beliefs of citizens and inciting religious hatred’. The verdict is due on 12 July. If they are found guilty, it will not only change the political climate in Russia, argues Prof.Andrei Zorin. It will destroy the country’s reputation. Sign the petition..

The Black Widows of Dagestan: Media Hype and Genuine Harm

On April 9 2010, after explosions in the Moscow metro killed 39 people, rumours were circulated of 1,000 ‘black widows’ who had been recruited by the militants. When the press published the names of 22, Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch found that she knew some of these dangerous women : a seamstress whose real crime was being a human rights worker, a pious young mother whose husband had been tortured in the ‘6th Department’...

Does Russia need a memory law?

Russia’s Duma has been trying to draft a ‘memory law’, in order to protect the Soviet version of the events of World War II from revisionist interpretations. The historian Nikolai Koposov deconstructs the attempts so far. His view is that the proposed law is not only misconceived, but would be unworkable. He also points out that the unspoken agenda behind it is the defence of Stalin and Stalinism. In the end, the law is never going to be the right vehicle for defending historical truths, he concludes.
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