Occupy Lermontov!

Yesterday, the town of Lermontov (located in Russia’s North Caucasus) experienced what some are calling “a small revolution.” As the state municipal building was preparing to close for the evening, a collection of townsfolk and former members of the city council gathered and eventually forced their way into the main lobby. Once inside, reporters accompanying the activists took turns interviewing ex-deputies and disgruntled locals. Acting head of the city’s government Viktor Vasil’ev warned protesters that they were breaking the law by illegally occupying state property. Undeterred, the former deputies announced the beginning of an indefinite hunger strike, promising to occupy Lermontov’s municipal building night and day, until their demands are met: chiefly, the cancelation of the city’s upcoming local elections, which the ex-deputies consider to be illegitimate because they were denied the right to participate. Continue reading ‘Occupy Lermontov!’ »

Navalny’s Money in the Bank

At the “Cabinet Lounge” on Monday, January 30th, Aleksei Navalny delivered a presentation to roughly fifty investment bankers — many of whom are gathered in Moscow this week for “The Russia Forum,” organized by Troika Dialog and Sberbank. The next day, Navalny on his blog joked that the bankers were curiously paranoid that an oppositionist victory over Putin would lead to looting wine warehouses. He added:

“Most interesting was the unofficial part [of the event], when we began to argue about a one-time compensatory tax on the results of [post-soviet] privatization.”

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal’s “Emerging Europe” blog published an article by Ira Iosebashvili, titled “Russian Opposition Instigator Inspires Financial Crowd.” The post begins:

“Moscow’s financial community has met the most recognizable figure of Russia’s nascent opposition movement — and some became spellbound.” Continue reading ‘Navalny’s Money in the Bank’ »

It Ain’t Lonely at the Top: Navalny’s Tenuous Coalition

It’s been several months since I first addressed the nationalist views of Aleksei Navalny, whose political prominence continues to grow by leaps and bounds. As it has throughout his public life, Navalny’s nationalism still unnerves many in the liberal democratic camp, who worry that a potentially dangerous intolerance compromises his prospects as a politician. Continue reading ‘It Ain’t Lonely at the Top: Navalny’s Tenuous Coalition’ »

Ending the Snow Revolution: Road Maps & Dead Ends

The first of possibly several waves of mass demonstrations has swept Russia. Yesterday, a crowd maybe as big as one-hundred thousand people gathered in downtown Moscow to protest voter fraud in the December 4th parliamentary elections. The big question now is: where does Russia go from here? For most observers on the ground, there is an air of intense expectation. Journalist Julia Ioffe echoed the sentiments of many Western correspondents when she tweeted: “Thousands protesting in cities all over Russia. Police don’t crack down. If [the] Kremlin doesn’t hear this, they sign [their] own death certificate.” Russian activists are similarly convinced that big changes are coming. A few hours ago, Evgenia Chirikova proposed (seriously, one assumes) that Vladimir Putin should publicly debate Aleksei Navalny (who is still serving out a fifteen-day jail sentence for taking part in December 5th’s Chistye Prudy march). Continue reading ‘Ending the Snow Revolution: Road Maps & Dead Ends’ »

Now Co-hosting ‘New Books in Russia and Eurasia’

A few weeks ago, Marshall Poe, who runs New Books Network, offered me the opportunity to co-host NBN’s “Russia and Eurasia” channel. As I’m a great fan of the show (due largely to Sean Guillory’s fine work over the last year), I happily accepted.

So after a bit of planning, getting the equipment, and executing, my first contribution went online about an hour ago: an interview with Jarrod Tanny, Assistant Professor of History at UNC Wilmington, about his brand new book, “City of Rogues and Schnorrers: Russia’s Jews and the Myth of Old Odessa” (Indiana University Press, 2011).

You can find the interview and my brief introduction here.

I think readers of AGT will enjoy it and the interviews I have planned for the future.

Subscribe to NBN via iTunes.

Ballad of the Bloggers

In the aftermath of last Sunday’s parliamentary elections, several large-scale opposition demonstrations are scheduled across Russia. The largest is expected to be the “Rally for Honest Elections,” planned for December 10th, Saturday afternoon, in Bolotnaia Square, not far from the Kremlin in Moscow. As I write this now, nearly 33,000 people have RSVP’d for the event via Facebook, promising one of Russia’s largest assemblies of anti-regime political forces since Vladimir Putin entered the Kremlin. Continue reading ‘Ballad of the Bloggers’ »

The Splendid Victory: Russia’s 2011 Duma Elections

The votes are in, the violations are online, and Moscow’s oppositionists are out on the streets, gathered at dawn in Kitai Gorod, chanting at cops to release their most beloved celebrity, Aleksei Navalny. Russia’s best known activist-blogger found himself in police custody earlier tonight, when Sunday’s parliamentary election results confirmed for many that the authorities had falsified the vote count. If you’re like me, you followed the protest’s events on Twitter, where dozens of prominent dissidents posted blurry photos of scary OMON officers and jubilant protesters carrying signs with angry and irreverent slogans. Some micro-bloggers suddenly started tweeting occasionally in English, indicating a belief (or at least a hope) that a wider world was tuning in. The word “revolution” appeared frequently in the protesters’ chants and in the online dispatches of witnesses. Continue reading ‘The Splendid Victory: Russia’s 2011 Duma Elections’ »

The RuNet Delusion

“If an authoritarian regime can crumble under the pressure of a Facebook group, whether its members are protesting online or in the streets, it’s not much of an authoritarian regime. The real effects of digital activism would thus most likely be felt only in the long term rather than immediately.”

This is what Evgeny Morozov, author of The Net Delusion, said about the Internet’s power to topple regimes. Subtitled “The Dark Side of Internet Freedom,” Morozov’s book focuses on the challenges facing states confronting digital threats and the Web’s unfortunate empowerment of fringe groups that sometimes spills into the real world as hatred and violence. This he presents as the untold story of online activism — the overlooked “dark side.” The good sibling to this nastiness is the more familiar story of Twitter-organization, flash mobs, and color revolutions. The Net Delusion is a useful counterweight to the loads of fluff that’s written about the democratizing wizardry of digital social networks. But there are reasons to wonder whether or not Morozov is only inflating popular delusions about the Web by overlooking the regular ineffectiveness of online mobilization. (For instance, the word “ineffective” only appears six times in the entire book, and always in the context of government attempts to control the Internet.) Continue reading ‘The RuNet Delusion’ »