Amy Knight is a former Woodrow Wilson fellow. Her books include Who Killed Kirov: The Kremlin’s Greatest Mystery, Spies Without Cloaks: The KGB’s Successors, and How the Cold War Began: The Igor Gouzenko Affair and the Hunt for Soviet Spies.
Zimnyaya Olimpiada v Subtropikakh. Nezavisimyi Ekspertnyi Doklad [Winter Olympics in the Subtropics: An Independent Expert Report] by Boris Nemstov and Leonid Martynyuk
The Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev, 1991, National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 345 translated from the Russian by Anna Melyakova and edited by Svetlana Savranskaya
Delo GKChP [The Case of the State Committee on a State of Emergency] by Valentin Varennikov
The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB by Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan
Bez Putina: Politicheskie Dialogi s Yevgeniem Kiselevym (Without Putin: Political Dialogues with Yevgeny Kiselev) by Mikhail Kasyanov
Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War by Stephen F. Cohen
Letter to Anna: The Story of Journalist Politkovskaya’s Death a film directed by Eric Bergkraut, with English narration by Susan Sarandon
Putin. Itogi. Nezavisimyi Ekspertnyi Doklad (Putin: The Results: An Independent Expert Report) by Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov
Raoul Wallenberg: Report of the Swedish–Russian Working Group
Report on the Activities of the Russian–Swedish Working Group for Determining the Fate of Raoul Wallenberg (1991–2000)
Liquidatsia: The Question of Raoul Wallenberg’s Death or Disappearance in 1947 by Susan Ellen Mesinai
Cell Occupancy Analysis of Korpus 2 of the Vladimir Prison: An Examination of the Consistency of Eyewitness Sightings of Raoul Wallenberg with Prisoner Registration Cards from the Prison Kartoteka by Marvin W. Makinen and Ari D. Kaplan
Swedish Aspects of the Raoul Wallenberg Case by Susanne Berger
The revelation this week that Edward Snowden had already received help from the Russian government during his sojourn in Hong Kong has put a new perspective on his relations with the Kremlin. Is Snowden’s flight to Moscow turning him into precisely the traitor US authorities accuse him of being?
Why has the Obama administration been welcoming a series of senior Russian officials to Washington while Russia makes new arms deals with Syria? One reason may be Washington’s newly-declared cooperation with Moscow in fighting terrorism, prompted by the April bombings in Boston.
The close cooperation between Moscow and Washington on the Boston bombing investigation raises new questions about the issue of human rights in Russia. Will the US government now turn a blind eye to Russia’s increasingly brutal crackdown on its own democratic opposition because of overriding concerns about national security, just as it did after 9/11?
Although they have gotten little attention in the Western press, the regional elections taking place throughout Russia on October 14 may be Vladimir Putin’s greatest test since his return to the presidency last spring. With voters in seventy-three of Russia’s eighty-three regions going to the polls less than a year after the Kremlin faced allegations of widespread fraud in parliamentary elections, the looming question for Putin is whether he can ensure a favorable outcome without overt manipulation. For the opposition, a primary concern is whether their candidates will even be on the ballot.
Though he was inaugurated only weeks ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin already faces serious challenges to his administration. Judging from a controversial cabinet appointment that Putin made last week, one way the Kremlin may try to combat growing opposition is to revive a traditional Soviet-era weapon—propaganda. The person running the propaganda machine will be the new Minister of Culture, 41-year-old Vladimir Medinsky, who some Russian commentators have already dubbed the Russian Goebbels.
It came as little surprise that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin won Russia’s March 4 presidential election, but the fact that he received over 63 percent of the vote was unexpected. To be sure, the Kremlin had launched a huge propaganda effort on Putin’s behalf, and the four other candidates on the ballot, including billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov (who represented no party and had no clear platform), hardly offered viable alternatives. But Putin’s popularity had been eroded following December’s disputed parliamentary elections, and recent large-scale protests had called into question the continued strength of his support. In fact, there are multiple indications that the Kremlin has again manipulated the outcome. If these reports are correct, they suggest Putin is playing a dangerous game, since the widespread perception that December’s elections were fraudulent was what brought tens of thousands of Russians into the streets in the first place.
For much of the past decade, Putin’s Kremlin was able to consolidate its power by marginalizing the democratic opposition and providing enough economic benefits for middle-class Russians to keep them quiet. As recently as late November, Putin’s smooth return to the presidency for six and perhaps twelve more years seemed virtually assured. But then there were the December 4 Duma elections, marred by allegations of widespread fraud, and everything changed. Now, with presidential elections less than six weeks away, the old formula may no longer work. Which leaves two possibilities: a vigorous reform effort, or more drastic steps to insure the election outcome.
There are many reasons for the growing disillusionment with Putinism, among them the way Putin announced earlier this fall that current president Dmitry Medvedev would step aside in the March 2012 presidential elections so that he could run largely unopposed. But there also seems to be an increasing sense among Russian voters that the Kremlin has done nothing to stop pervasive corruption and that its own behavior is often above the law.
On October 7, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin celebrates his birthday, which this year—his 59th—is probably an especially happy occasion for him. Two weeks earlier, on September 24, President Dmitry Medvedev announced that he would step aside so that Putin instead of him could represent the United Russia Party in the March 2012 presidential elections. This means that Putin—who after years of dominating the political scene is unlikely to face a credible challenger—could serve as leader of the Kremlin until 2024, when he will turn 72, in the age group of his predecessors in the Soviet era. But perhaps Putin should not celebrate too soon.
Judging from Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to Moscow on September 12, the British government has decided to cave in to the Russians in the long-running dispute over the November 2006 murder in London of former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko. The victim, who was highly critical of Vladimir Putin and had been given asylum in Britain in 2000, died an agonizing death at a North London hospital on November 23, three weeks after being poisoned with polonium 210—a rare and highly lethal radioactive substance. As a result of Russia’s unwillingness to cooperate with its investigation of the crime, Britain ended intelligence sharing with Moscow and introduced new visa restrictions on Russian businessmen trying to go to the UK. But Cameron’s meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev and Putin this week indicates that Britain is reassessing its Moscow strategy—and by extension, its view of the Russian leadership.
At first glance, it is hard not to conclude that the future looks dire for Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, the former Yukos executives who have been in prison since 2003 and are widely seen as victims of the Kremlin’s power politics and greed over oil assets. Yet despite this apparent bad news, there may be growing reason to hope that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev will be released early. Above all, there has been a dramatic shift in how the Russian media is handling the case.
The liberal oppositionists clearly face an uphill struggle in trying to reach beyond the circle of urban educated people who comprise Russia’s small online community of bloggers and activists. But they have by no means given up.
As the story of the horrific January 24 bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport continues to unfold, the parallels with past major terrorist attacks in Russia are striking.
Since a Russian judge sentenced former Yukos oil executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner, Platon Lebedev, to thirteen and a half years in prison on December 30, many commentators have viewed the outcome as a major setback for Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. In the long run, however, the case against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev may hurt Prime Minister Vladimir Putin more than Medvedev as the two rivals position themselves for the 2012 presidential contest.
Poor Yuri Luzhkov. He can’t keep his mouth shut. Just when it seemed that the fall-out from his abrupt dismissal in late September as Moscow’s mayor had begun to dissipate, Luzhkov gave an interview on CNN in which he once more attacked Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the man who fired him.
Considered one of the world’s most prolific weapons traffickers, Victor Bout has become the object of a high-level tug-of-war between Washington and Moscow over US efforts to extradite him from Thailand, where he is being held. Yet amid all the speculation about Russia’s interest in the case, one of the more revealing clues about Bout’s Kremlin connections has gone largely unnoticed.
Since becoming president of Chechnya in 2007, Ramzan Kadyrov has made the republic into his own fiefdom, which he rules by violence and terror.
The fate of Raoul Wallenberg, the heroic young Swedish diplomat who saved the lives of thousands of Hungarian Jews before he was arrested by the Soviets in Budapest in early 1945, is one of the great unresolved mysteries of World War II. Now the Russians have come up with startling new information about his death.
The horrors of Soviet prisons and labor camps were described vividly in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, Yevgenia Ginzburg’s Into the Whirlwind, and later, by the Soviet dissident and former political prisoner Anatoly Marchenko, in his 1969 memoir, My Testimony. To judge from a disturbing new report about the tragic death of 37-year-old lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison in late November, Russia’s current penal system is almost as bad as it used to be.
The horrific November 27 bombing of the Nevsky Express halfway between Moscow and St. Petersburg could have serious political repercussions for the Kremlin. News of the explosion, which killed twenty-six and injured around a hundred passengers aboard the luxury, high-speed train, sent shockwaves throughout Russia. Adding to the sense of danger were the deaths of two high-level federal officials in the attack, as well as a second bombing at the site many hours later, which injured Alexander Bastrykhin, the head of the powerful Investigative Committee of the Russian Prosecutor’s Office, and several of his subordinates, who had come to examine the damage. These bombings were followed by yet another explosion, on a railway track in the North Caucasian republic of Dagestan, on November 30. As Yulia Latynina, one of Russia’s top independent journalists put it: “The feeling of war, of a complete and total disintegration of the state, is hanging in the air.”