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A dissident in the USSR, a dissident in Putin's Russia

"It is time to stop this histrionic snivelling about the feelings of veterans who are insulted by criticism of the Soviet regime", the former anti Soviet dissident, Alexander Podrabinek wrote in his blog, prompting a furore on the Russian blogosphere. His opponents responded with threats and his supporters have expressed their fears for his safety.The official Russian media has remained silent.

Kazakhstan: warm up for the OSCE

In 2010, Kazakhstan takes over the chair of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Increasingly strident attempts to muzzle independent voices in the Kazakh media suggests how the government is preparing itself, says Irada Huseinova

The Khodorkovsky-Ulitskaya correspondence

Ludmila Ulitskaya  Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, sits in prison. Ludmila Ulitskaya, one of Russia's finest novelists, started writing to him. The two have never met, but their correspondence, just published by Novaya Gazeta, is making waves. The novelist asks questions he has probably never been asked before. Khodorkovsky answers with astonishing frankness. The letters make gripping reading.

Freedom for Sale

Round the world, people appear willing to give up their freedoms in return for the promise of prosperity or security. But why?  John Kampfner explores this in his  new book Freedom for Sale. One of the countries he studied was Russia

Zugdidi: Will I ever go back?

Zugdidi Fountain

Zugdidi fountain, with streams of water spouting up into the air from paving stones painted in the colours of the Georgian flag.

Last year openDemocracy Russia editor Zygmunt Dzieciolowski travelled in Georgia and Abkhazia. In Zugdidi he met Georgian refugees from Abkhazia with one question uppermost in their minds - would they ever be able to go back?

Natalya Estemirova: kidnapped and murdered

On 15 July the body of human rights activist Natalya Estremirova was dumped in a wood in Ingushetia.  This obituary appeared today on our partner site

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

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev on trial - again











Few believed that a second Khodorkovsky trial would actually happen, but it is. Maryana Torocheshnikova is sitting through the surreal twists and turns

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 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


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

Ending Chechnya’s counterterrorism operation - or not

On 16 April the KTO, Chechnya's counterterrorism operation, was declared over. But Human Rights Watch's Tanya Lokshina is not celebrating. She is too busy documenting the ongoing disappearances and punishment being inflicted on the lives of ordinary Chechens

Not quite white: an educated gastarbeiter in Moscow

Educated gastarbeiters in Moscow may not sleep under lorries, but they are subject to prejudice and potential harassment, says Irada Huseinova


Blog for democracy, from the streets of Moldova

This impassioned blog comes from the streets of Moldova's capital. Natalia Morar is one of the young people who sparked the mass demonstrations against recent elections which returned the communists to power.

Undefended - Russia's migrant workers

As Russia plunges into recession, its vast migrant workforce faces mounting abuse, reveals an important new report from Human Rights Watch

Diary of an Uzbek Gastarbeiter

Once a physics teacher in Uzbekistan, Shukhrat has to work as a builder in Russia to keep his family alive. He has been robbed, cheated, almost burned to death deliberately. Welcome to the life of a migrant worker..

Markelov: A Hero of our Time

Human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov was gunned down on a Moscow street in January. His friend, a leading light in Memorial, remembers him

Battle for Russia’s past

The raid by on Memorial's offices in St Petersburg in December 2008 has far wider ramifications for Russia's identity and history. What action have the courts taken? And what was the real purpose of the raid?

Politkovskaya’s murder: solved or fudged?

The trial of the alleged killers of Anna Politkovskaya, murdered in October 2006, has been underway in Moscow since November 2008. In this revealing account of the trial so far, Maryana Torocheshnikova considers whether those responsible have walked free.

(This article was first published 29 January 2009)

Murder, Moscow-style

Lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova who were gunned down on 19 January 2009 in the centre of Moscow shared a passion for justice. Baburova is the 4th journalist on the Novaya Gazeta to be murdered. This article comes from Novaya gazeta


The Embrace of Stalinism

Why is Russia romanticising the memory of Stalinism, enquires Memorial's founder Arseny Roginsky, when its defining feature was the use of terror?

Eleven hard disks

What exactly was confiscated when the Prosecutor's Office in St Petersburg raided the premises of the human rights organisation Memorial on 4 December 2008? Tatyana Kosinova itemises the material , which includes Memorial's massive project for a Virtual Gulag Museum

Memorial: the making of an activist

The human rights organisation Memorial has representatives all over Russia and neighbouring countries. How do ordinary people become human rights advocates? And how do they work with the European Court of Human Rights? Dokka was head official of his village in Chechnya when he became involved, during Russia's first war against Chechnya. This is his remarkable, typical, story.   

Russia: raid on Memorial HQ

Yesterday, 4 November, armed police raided the Petersburg offices of Russia's leading human rights organisation Memorial.  Why did they do it? And what does it portend?

South Ossetia: fear and loathing in the buffer zone

In the buffer zone between South Ossetia and Georgia, the August war had continued by other means, reports this representative of the Russian human rights organization the Demos Centre. When the looting and destruction ended, the kidnapping and hostage taking began.

South Ossetia: aftermath of war

Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch revisits Tskhinvali following the August attack by Georgian troops to find the locals re-building, and Russian troops digging in

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