NEWSWATCH: “A Problem Much Bigger Than Putin” – New York Times/ Mikhail Khodorkovsky

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

“More than 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the attempt to build a democracy in its place, Russia has once again become an authoritarian state. The same inability to build democratic institutions plagued the leaders of the February Revolution of 1917, which led to the Bolsheviks gaining power later that year. … Still burdened by a ‘besieged […]

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Five years of Russia’s Foreign Agent Law; Russia’s Foreign Agent Law has made the existence of many NGOs practically impossible. But solidarity is rising among organisations that are working against these restrictions.

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(opendemocracy.net – Daria Skibo – August 14, 2017) Daria Skibo is a sociologist and researcher at the Centre for Independent Sociological Research, St Petersburg. Russian civil society received July’s news happily: the case against Valentina Cherevatenko, the first person to face criminal charges under Russia’s Foreign Agent law, was dropped. In June 2017, Cherevatenko, head of the Women of the […]

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Russia Leading ‘Assault’ on Freedom of Expression – HRW

File Image of Stylized Eye Surrounded by Binary Code

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – July 18, 2017) Russian authorities have clamped down on Internet freedoms and introduced “invasive” surveillance” online, under the pretext of fighting extremism, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report published today. The report criticizes Russia for unjustly imprisoning dozens based on their activity online and for introducing new laws that give the government tools […]

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Why Russian Officials Want to Control the Social Sciences; In authoritarian regimes, the social sciences are the most vulnerable to state interventions

Bookcase file photo, adapted from image at nlm.nih.gov

(Moscow Times/Kennan Institute – themoscowtimes.com –  wilsoncenter.org/program/kennan-institute – Irina Olimpieva – July 11, 2017) Irina Olimpieva is a senior researcher at St. Petersburg Center for Independent Social Research On June 23, the Board of Trustees of the European University in St. Petersburg accepted the resignation of the rector, Oleg Kharkhordin. The EUSP is a private Russian university operating as a […]

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Jury Deliberating For Second Day In Case Of Accused Nemtsov Killers

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(Article ©2017 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – June 28, 2017 – also appeared at rferl.org/a/russia-chechnya-nemtsov-murder-trial/28583189.html) The jury in the trial of five men who are charged in connection with the 2015 killing of opposition politician and former Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov is continuing deliberations for a second day in Moscow. The jury on June […]

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Punishing Putin Mostly Means Punishing His Foes; Washington wants more sanctions. But they would further strangle a pro-democracy movement on life support.

Kremlin and River

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Leonid Bershidsky – June 12, 2017) Leonid Bershidsky is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru. After being surprised by broad-based protests in late March, the Russian authorities were ready to prevent a repeat on Monday. Police detained hundreds across the country […]

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NEWSLINK: “New book announcement from Brookings: The New Autocracy. Information, Politics, and Policy in Putin’s Russia. Edited by Daniel Treisman. Corruption, fake news, and the ‘informational autocracy’ sustaining Putin in power.” – Brookings Institution

Bookcase file photo, adapted from image at nlm.nih.gov

“After fading into the background for many years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia suddenly has emerged as a new threat — at least in the minds of many Westerners. … Under … Putin … Russia is neither a somewhat reduced version of the Soviet Union nor a classic police state. Corruption is prevalent at all levels of government and […]

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‘Putin’s GULAG More Horrible than Stalin’s,’ Researchers Say

File Photo of Prison in Russia with Wall, Barbed Wire, Guard Tower

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, May 7, 2017) Many people of good will around the world have been horrified by the case of Rizvan Ibragimov who has been subject to electro-shocks and other forms of torture for writing a history of Chechnya challenging the version approved by Ramzan Kadyrov, but they have dismissed such crimes as “Chechnya […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Kremlin Critic Navalny Says Russia Stops Him Traveling Abroad” – Reuters

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

“Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said … authorities in Russia were stopping him [from] going abroad to seek urgent medical treatment after an attack that left him mostly blind in one eye.  … authorities … unexpectedly issued … an international passport … [giving] the impression he could fly to a foreign clinic to get treatment …. But he said a senior official from the country’s prison […]

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Russian Police Probe Radical Pro-Kremlin Group Over Navalny Attack

Kremlin and River

(RFE/RL– rferl.org – May 5, 2017) The leader of a radical pro-Kremlin group says police plan to question him and his colleagues over an attack on Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny that has impaired his eyesight. Igor Beketov, leader of a group calling itself the South East Radical Block (SERB), told RFE/RL on May 5 that Moscow police contacted him […]

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Russia Gives Putin Critic Navalny Passport to Travel Abroad

Alexei Navalny file photo

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Ilya Arkhipov – May 4, 2017) #Russian opposition leader Alexey #Navalny said he’s been issued with a passport that would allow him to seek treatment abroad for eye damage suffered when an assailant threw a chemical in his face. The Federal Migration Service notified him that he can collect the passport after a five-year struggle to […]

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Interfax: March 26 rally organizers warned of illegality of staging rallies in city center – Moscow authorities

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

MOSCOW. March 23 (Interfax) – Moscow authorities have considered all the applications filed by organizers for public events to be held in central Moscow on March 26, Vladimir Chernikov, head of the Moscow Department for Regional Security and Combating Corruption, told Interfax on Thursday. “The Department has received five applications from a group of people for public events to be […]

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Interfax: Moscow authorities believe their rejection of Navalny’s requested anti-corruption rally final

File Photo of Alexei Navalny Being Grabbed by Police at Protest

MOSCOW. March 18 (Interfax) – The Moscow authorities do not plan on reconsidering their refusal to approve the anti-corruption march scheduled by opposition activist Alexei Navalny and his supporters in Moscow for March 26, Vladimir Chernikov, the head of the regional security and anti-corruption department for Moscow, said. “This decision is final,” Chernikov said, replying to a relevant question from […]

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NEWSLINK: “What Russians think when they hear ‘Putin’s a killer'” – Washington Post/Andrew Roth

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

“… Change may be coming under the Trump administration. The State Department and the White House have been silent this week on two events: the latest sentencing of opposition leader Alexey Navalny for embezzlement, likely ending his 2018 bid for president, and the mysterious, life-threatening illness of Vladimir Kara-Murza, another opposition figure, who, his family believes, has been poisoned twice since 2015. …”

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NEWSWATCH: “With court ruling, Kremlin moves to block political biggest threat: Navalny. The ruling reinstating a guilty verdict for anticorruption blogger Alexei Navalny effectively rules him out of next year’s presidential race. But it may help him remain a viable Kremlin opponent.” – Christian Science Monitor/Fred Weir

Kremlin and River

“The legal odyssey of Russia’s best-known opposition leader, anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny, has been mindbogglingly complicated, full of twists and turns. … with a simple and totally predictable political result. … a regional court’s ruling … upheld … Navalny’s embezzlement conviction and handed him a five-year suspended sentence … [making it] almost impossible for him to run against … Putin […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia’s Bad Equilibrium” – project-syndicate/Anders Åslund

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

After more than two years of economic contraction, Russia seems to have achieved some semblance of stability. Though economic growth is expected to reach only about 1% in 2017, the fear of economic destabilization that has permeated the country since its 2014 invasion of Crimea – which was met with crippling sanctions from the West – has all but evaporated. […]

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NEWSWATCH: “LIFE UNDER ALTERNATIVE FACTS” – The New Yorker/Mikhail Iossel

There was no real cognitive dissonance existing in the minds of most people in the Soviet Union of the nineteen-seventies and eighties. Everyone knew that everything said on the radio or on television, everything (with the exception of weather reports or sports results) was a blatant lie, spoken pro forma …. no one was duped into thinking this was actually […]

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NEWSLINK: “Russia investment and political stories go their separate ways” – bne/Intellinews/Ben Aris

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

“There are two Russias at the moment. The first is the evil “Putin’s Russia” that kills journalists, bombs civilians and invades other countries. Then there is “bull Russia”, where investors have been making fat profits ….”

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Putin Country; As authoritarian control and renewed superpower tension dominate headlines, telling stories of Russia’s everyday heroes can reveal lost alternatives.

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(opendemocracy.net – Susan Richards – January 19, 2017) Susan Richards is a non-executive director and founder of openDemocracy. She has produced a number of feature films and written a prize-winning book, Epics of Everyday Life, about the lives of ordinary Russians in the transition from communism. Lost & Found in Russia, Encounters in the Deep Heartland, which covers the period […]

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RIA Novosti: Putin orders check on prison conditions

Russian Jail File Photo Showing Outer Wall, Windows, Barbed Wire

(RIA Novosti – January 3, 2017) President Vladimir Putin has ordered the nation’s prosecutor-general to investigate the observance of the law inside Russia’s prison system, state-owned news agency RIA Novosti reported on 3 January, citing a statement on the Kremlin website. “The prosecutor-general is to conduct a check on the conformity by the Federal Penal Service of implementation of legislation […]

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Putin’s Authoritarianism Simply a Response to Archaic Localism of 1990s, Russian Analyst Says

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, December 28, 2016) Pavel Pryanikov, the editor of the Tolkovatel portal, argues that the current upsurge in authoritarianism in Russia is a response to the archaic localism separate from the state that emerged after the collapse of Soviet power in 1991, the latest turn of a cycle described by Russian philosopher Aleksandr […]

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Real Arrangements of Russian Power under #Putin Increasingly like Those in #Stalin’s Times, Pavlova Says

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, December 6, 2016) One of the most typical characteristics of #Russian political power is that it is unlimited because it has little relationship to the public face of the state and is not formalized. That is the case with Vladimir #Putin’s regime now, Irina Pavlova says; and it is one of “the […]

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Navalny blames authorities for using criminal proceeding to bar him from elections

Alexei Navalny file photo

KIROV. Dec 5 (Interfax) – Opposition activist Alexei Navalny believes that the authorities are trying to use criminal proceedings as a way to bar him from nomination in elections. “They want to deprive me of the electoral right. If this process begins, I will again be deprived of the electoral right for three years,” Navalny said at the Kirov Leninsky […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Politkovskaya Ten Years On” – Sean’s Russia Blog/Sean Guillory

Anna Politkovskaya file photo

It’s been ten years since an assassin put four bullets in Anna Politkovskaya — three in her chest, one in her head, the hallmark of a contract hit. … We can recall her career and her drive to cover the horrors of #Chechnya in ways few would. … We can quote her many articles and books for their continued relevance. […]

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Expert: Putin’s Reported Plan to Restore KGB May Reflect Fear of Overthrow

Stylized Artist's Depiction of Shadowy Figures in Dark Coats and Dark Hats, One Carrying a Briefcase

(Voice of America – voanews.com – Jim Kovpak – MOSCOW, September 26, 2016) The consolidation of Russia’s intelligence agencies into a massive security ministry, in effect recreating the old Soviet KGB, is a worrisome prospect for some Kremlin watchers. The plan reportedly under discussion would merge the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia’s principal security agency, the Foreign Intelligence Service and […]

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NEWSWATCH: “The murder that killed free media in Russia; A decade after the assassination of Anna Politkovskaya, news organisations increasingly avoid topics that could anger the Kremlin” – The Guardian (UK)/Shaun Walker

File Photo of Mourners with Photo of Anna Politkovskaya

 … In the decade since [Anna] Politkovskaya’s death, the space for independent journalism in Russia has narrowed …. Since 2006, the Committee to Protect Journalists has recorded 20 journalists’ killings, while Freedom House has counted 63 violent attacks on reporters. But for the most part, the threat of closure keeps publications in line and encourages self-censorship. … news sources have […]

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Interfax: Kremlin criticises media’s take of “Yarovaya laws”

Dmitry Peskov file photo adapted from image at kremlin.ru/wikimedia commons

(Interfax – September 26, 2016) The Kremlin has criticised media coverage of the so-called “Yarovaya package” of anti-terrorist laws, accusing journalists of being too emotional in their reporting and exaggerating the laws’ provisions, privately-owned Russian news agency Interfax reported on 26 September. “All of these themes are being reflected in the media within a very lively discussion. Much of it […]

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In Putin’s ‘Corporate Fascist State,’ Ideological Labels like ‘Liberal’ are Irrelevant, Inozemtsev Says

Vladimir Putin

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, August 22) It is a profound mistake to discuss Kremlin politics in terms of liberal, conservative or any of the other ideological labels, Vladislav Inozemtsev says, because in “the corporate state of a fascist type” that Putin has established, individuals even just below the supreme leader are “cogs” in a machine who […]

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NEWSWATCH: “More of Kremlin’s Opponents Are Ending Up Dead. A Pattern That Suggests State Involvement” – New York Times

Kremlin and River

In a series of public meetings on Capitol Hill … [Vladimir] Kara-Murza, a leader in the Russian opposition, urged American lawmakers to expand economic sanctions against the Russian government under a law known as the Magnitsky Act. That would hasten political change in Russia, he argued. … in Moscow a month later, in May 2015, the changes Mr. Kara-Murza detected […]

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Russia’s Solitary Man; [Putin is firing powerful allies and is setting himself up as tsar]

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Brian Whitmore – August 15, 2016) Vladimir Putin is throwing his old pals under the bus. He’s replacing them with loyal and docile servants. And he’s building a security apparatus that answers to him alone. A year ago, Putin fired longtime associate Vladimir Yakunin as head of Russian Railways. A few months back, he effectively dismissed […]

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Putin’s Latest Personnel Changes Make a Stable Long-Term Dictatorship More Likely, Pastukhov Says

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, August 15, 2016) The retirement of Sergey Ivanov as head of the Presidential administration, whatever the proximate causes, “symbolizes a change in eras of the Putin administration,” from one of a kind of collective leadership to a one-man dictatorship that is likely to last a long time, according to Vladimir Pastukhov. Ivanov’s […]

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Detention of PARNAS party members in Russia’s Tatarstan “absolutely stupid” on part of local law enforcement agencies – Russian Central Elections Commission head

File Photo of Mosque in Kazan and other Landmarks

MOSCOW. Aug 16 (Interfax) – The detention of PARNAS party members in Tatarstan is a sign of the local law enforcement agencies’ lawlessness, Russian Central Elections Commission (CEC) Chairperson Ella Pamfilova said. “This is outrageous. The mildest words here are: it’s absolutely stupid. This is direct connivance with the law enforcement agencies; the Tatarstan authorities have never been notable for […]

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On Russian studies [and Re: “Opportunities and Constraints of Authoritarian Modernisation: Russian Policy Reforms in the 2000s”]

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

Subject: On Russian studies Date: Fri, 12 Aug 2016 From: Brian D Taylor <bdtaylor@maxwell.syr.edu> Thanks again for all you do with JRL. It’s a very valuable resource. I would like to say, though, that “real Russian studies” are not particularly rare. If you ask social scientists who study Russia, they could point you to many detailed analyses of practically every […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia’s flirtation with fascism: Putinism is real, but fleeting” – The Daily Star (Lebanon)/Vladislav Inozemtsev

Kremlin and River

Assessing the Russian political system, Vladislav Inozemtsev writes in Lebanon’s The Daily Star that: … the Russian system should be characterized as proto-fascist – tamer than European fascist states during the 1920s and 1930s, but still featuring key elements …. the structure of Russia’s political economy; the idealization of the state as a source of moral authority; and … international […]

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United Russia: Same Game, New Tactics

Russian State Duma Building file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Ola CichowlasJ – June 16, 2016) By June 19, President Vladimir Putin is expected to sign a decree that will officially kick-start the campaign season. Within a few days, all the parties taking part in the election will host conventions and declare their list of candidates. These State Duma elections will be the first time […]

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Jailed for a repost: The definition of extremism in Russia gets ever looser

Kremlin and River

Russia has seen a dramatic rise in criminal prosecutions on charges of internet extremism over the last few months. Yet most of these cases concern not the creation of extremist content but retweeting, liking or reposting it. RBTH found out more. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – YEKATERINA SINELSCHIKOVA, RBTH – June 7, 2016) On Feb. 20, Yekaterina Vologzhenova, […]

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Jailed for Protesting Against the Kremlin – Life 4 Years After Bolotnaya

Russian Riot Police file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Eva Hartog – May 13, 2016) The Bolotnoye protest followed disputed parliamentary elections that saw the ruling United Russia secure a narrow parliamentary majority and Putin return to the presidency. The lights went out without so much as a flicker in the Moscow apartment shared by Andrei Barabanov, his mother and girlfriend one evening in […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Putin’s Russia. Down But Not Out. Part I.” – Foreign Affairs/Maria Lipman, Sergei Guriev, Daniel Treisman, Katie Allawala

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

Over the past decade and a half, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has been an economic dynamo and a basket case, an imperfect democracy and a tightening tyranny, a constructive diplomatic actor and a serial military aggressor—sometimes all at once. The only constant has been surprise, as the zigging and zagging has left outside observers, and even many Russians, scratching their heads. […]

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Russia Is Giving up on Its Tragedies-and on Itself

Tower and Building Inside Kremlin

(Eurasia Daily Monitor: Volume 13, Issue 45 – Jamestown Foundation – jamestown.org – Pavel K. Baev – March 7, 2016) Pavel K. Baev is a research professor at the Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO) and nonresident senior fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings. President Vladimir Putin’s approval rating is regularly accepted as a proxy […]

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Moscow’s authoritarian future

Sergei Sobyanin file photo

Recent moves against Moscow’s street traders don’t only violate Russia’s Constitution and hurt the economy. They also consolidate the regime’s power. (opendemocracy.net – Anastasiya Ovsyannikova – March 9, 2016) Anastasiya Ovsyannikova is an economist and journalist. She has worked for F5 and Cityboom.ru, as well as Moscow’s Sakharov Center. The overnight demolition of 104 street kiosks in Moscow last month […]

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Even motor processions are now a demonstration in Russia

Moscow Roads

A law signed into force by Russian President Vladimir Putin equates car processions to demonstrations and the establishment of tent cities in public places – to protesting. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – March 10, 2016) Motor processions and tent camps in public places in Russia have been added to the list of events defined by law in Russia […]

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Putin signs law commemorating victims of political repressions

File Photo of Prison in Russia with Wall, Barbed Wire, Guard Tower

(Interfax – March 9, 2016) Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a bill reinforcing the right of central-government bodies and local authorities to conduct measures to perpetuate the memory of the victims of the political repressions and provide support for nonprofit organizations involved in such efforts. The bill was proposed by the Russian government. The law reinforces the […]

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Review: Arkady Ostrovsky’s ‘The Invention of Russia’

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

This new history tells a compelling, if normative, story of how Russia’s journalists and entrepreneurs threw off their former shackles, only to put them back on again. (opendemocracy.net – Maxim Edwards – February 3, 2016) Maxim Edwards is Commissioning Editor at oDR. He writes on nationalism, inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations, with a focus on post-Soviet countries. His articles have appeared […]

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Just How Bad is Putin? Ever More People Are Counting the Ways

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, January 31, 2016) As the number of Vladimir Putin’s violations of international law and normal morality grows, ever more people are offering lists of the actions for which he must be held accountable. Three particularly interesting examples of that trend have been offered over the last several days. Russian journalist Oleg Kashin […]

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Ever more Russians are at risk of repression as Putin’s Russia heads toward totalitarianism

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – January 27, 2016) There is an old observation that in a democracy, anything that isn’t prohibited is permitted; in an authoritarian system, anything that isn’t permitted is prohibited; and in a totalitarian one, anything that is permitted is compulsory and any failure to go along can result in arrest or worse. Judging from […]

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NEWSLINK: “How a liberal bastion is persevering in an increasingly illiberal Moscow. The Andrei Sakharov Center, one of the last safe spaces for Russia’s liberal community, has been fined and fined again for its purported ‘political activity.’ But celebrity support and crowdsourcing have kept it alive.” – Christian Science Monitor

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Russian Minister: Security Concerns Justify Restricting Civil Rights

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Anna Dolgov – November 28, 2015) Russia’s interior minister said restricting civil rights is justifiable if security considerations demand it, according to a television interview that was broadcast Thursday night and prompted criticism from human rights advocates. Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev told NTV television that police and security agencies must “tighten the screws” in case […]

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New Museum Stakes Claim to Russia’s Gulag Legacy

File Photo of Gulag Victim Ivan Burylov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Howard Amos – November 5, 2015) [Photos here http://www.themoscowtimes.com/arts_n_ideas/article/new-museum-stakes-claim-to-russias-gulag-legacy/542211.html] Russia’s largest museum devoted to the horrors of the Soviet gulag has opened, even as many Muscovites remain unwilling to talk about political repression. Moscow’s new Gulag Museum opened Friday even as the country remains polarized by the legacy of its brutal system of Soviet-era prison […]

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