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Persian games: Iran’s strategic foothold in Tajikistan

While international attention on Iran focuses on the country's nuclear programme and anti-western rhetoric, few have noticed the country's constructive attempts to develop a sphere of influence in its fellow Persian-speaking Tajikistan. But as western states ramp up sanctions against Iran, will the overlooked Tajikistan be the one to lose out? asks Brenton Clark

A turbulent twelve months in Belarus

This Monday marked a year since Belarusians staged a peaceful protest (brutally suppressed) against rigged presidential elections. Although the regime has not been overturned, and the economy has managed to teeter on collapse without fully imploding, it is clear that Belarusian politics are now in a different place, writes Janek Lasocki

Russia’s crony capitalism: the swing of the pendulum

Cronyism has always played a significant part in Russian political and economic life, so the arrival on the scene 20 years ago of crony capitalism was no surprise. It has been through various stages over that period, ending up with the ‘predatory state’ that exists in Russia today. Vladimir Gelman wonders if it can move on or is the pendulum stuck?

Owning a massacre: 'Ukraine's Katyn'

A WWII mass grave was recently found in western Ukraine, pointing to a horrific massacre. Yet with German bullet casings unearthed and evidence pointing to Nazis as perpetrators, Ivan Katchanovski asks why the dominant theory to emerge is of Soviets murdering Poles.

The dog days of the Soviet Union (3): the plot fails

The 1991 coup attempt completely disintegrates with the tragic deaths of three young men and the continuing irresistible rise of Boris Yeltsin. openDemocracy Russia presents the last 2 entries of Rodric Braithwaite’s diary.

The dog days of the Soviet Union (2): the plot thickens

The (unsuccessful) coup d’état in August 1991 eventually brought about the end of the USSR. As British Ambassador, Rodric Braithwaite was in the thick of the rapidly developing situation and kept a diary. Yesterday we published his entries for the initial days of the coup. In today’s entries the plot thickens and starts unravelling. Photos: Jo Schwartz (

The dog days of the Soviet Union: the coup

The (unsuccessful) coup d’état in August 1991 eventually brought about the end of the USSR. Rodric Braithwaite was British Ambassador at the time. He kept a diary and has kindly allowed openDemocracy Russia to publish the entries for those eventful 5 days.

On the eve of collapse: encounters in a changing Russia

Next week marks the twentieth anniversary of the August 1991 coup attempt. While this proved a dramatic final nail in the Soviet coffin, many more fundamental changes — the breaking down of information walls and the dissipation of fear — occurred in the months and years leading up to then. Susan Richards, oD Russia’s founder editor, spent much of this time traveling around Russia, talking to ordinary Russians about their lives. We reproduce two accounts here.

Springtime for Lukashenka?

Effective opposition in Belarus has traditionally been limited by a limited sense of nationhood, a deeply controlled society and a social contract that exchanges rights for “stability”. The country’s deepening financial crisis undermines all three of these pillars. Could it be that the time for change has come, wonders Janek Lasocki?

Gorbachev: the wrong man for Andropov’s reforms

Gorbachev is hailed for doing away with Soviet totalitarianism, yet his predecessor Andropov was the man actually responsible for preparing liberal reform some twenty years earlier. With Gorbachev hopelessly unaware of the forces he was unleashing, failure was inevitable, argues Andrei Konchalovsky

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