The SRAS Newsletter
A Resource for Students, Educators, and Anyone Curious about Russia
Baikal Environmental Studies: Apply by February 18!
|| The protest on Sakharov Prospect was even larger than the previous one, held on Bolotnaya Square. The next protest is scheduled for February 4th.
This month, we've modified the structure of our newsletter to bring you the widest possible overview of the fascinating political events that have taken place in Russia over the last month and those political issues that will be important throughout 2012.
In addition to our new center-piece article (modeled on our popular Library structure), you'll find politics-related language lessons and political videos that provide clear, interesting spoken Russian. We also have lots of primary source documents and scholarly research about Russian history, politics, culture, and more.
Our two new summer programs are also must-sees. Mass Movements will examine the Russian Revolution and the fall of Communism as case studies for understanding wider patterns of revolution and protest. The Russian Elections will detail specifically the interactions between social and political forces in Russia today. Also make sure to check out Baikal Environmental Studies (with its early deadline!) and the rest of our great summer line-up of study abroad programs.
There is a new, exciting year ahead of us! Да здравствует Новый 2012-й год!
In this month's newsletter:
- 10 Issues to Watch - Koroche! - Programs and Funding!
- Books - Primary Documents - Language and Culture
$200 Jury Award for Your Research!
Submit by January 31st! Vestnik, the world's first online journal focused on showcasing student research on Eurasia, invites papers written by undergraduates, graduates, and postgraduates on any subject related to Russia and the states of the former Soviet Union.
The Moscow Protest: My Experience
Alexandra Spurlock studied Russian as a Foreign Language in St Petersburg with SRAS over the 2011-2012 academic year. As part of that experience, she traveled to spend a weekend in Moscow. Read her eye-witness account of one of the protests that took place on December 10, 2011.
- Programs and Funding! -
Russian Studies Seminar: The Russian Elections
This intensive four-week course will detail the social forces shaping Russia's political scene and how politics may impact Russian society after the elections of 2011 and 2012.
Baikal Environmental Studies
Get your application in early for this incredible experience working with state agencies, academic institutions, and NGOs to advance environmental initiatives. Deadline: February 18, 2012!
Mass Movements: From Protest to Revolution
Mass Movements: From Protest to Revolution is a unique summer seminar that will examine the Russian Revolution and the fall of Communism as case studies for understanding wider patterns of revolution and protest.
Russian Folklore Expedition
New from SRAS - work a fully-immersive expedition to the Russian countryside into your study abroad program!
- Learning a Language May Come Down to Gestures
- Currently Open Grant and Scholarship Cycles
| Study Abroad
10 Issues to Watch in Russian Politics for 2012
1. Continued Protests
Russia's opposition has vowed to maintain large-scale protests on a regular, through infrequent basis. The next rally is tentatively scheduled for February 4. The opposition does, however, remain continuously active online and the next rally is likely to draw tens of thousands again.
2. The "Return" of the Communists
The biggest "winners" from the current discontent in Russia have been the Communists. Many liberal voters voted for them because the Communists are seen as the party best able to oppose Putin; the party gained second place in the Duma with nearly 20% of all seats. Until another politician and/or party can offer a strong challenge, the Communists are likely to continue to draw support from unlikely sources.
3. The "Fall" of Putin
Current polls show Putin with just 36% support, down from the 71% he received when he last ran for president. However, his closest competitors have only single-digit support. While the coming political season will be his most difficult, and he may win only after a run-off election is held, he almost certainly has enough public support to win. However, his campaign so far has been seen by many as clumsy, from his candidacy announcement, to his initial crude response to the protests, to his new political program that some have said amounts to an ironic promise to fight his own legacy, to his recent pledge to not participate in debates because he is "too busy." All of these moves have become more fuel for his opponents rather than placating Russia's protesters.
4. The Politicization of the Orthodox Church
The church sided with Russia's discontented soon after the first protests. Most recently, Patriarch Kirill's Christmas sermon urged dialogue between society and the authorities. Many commentators have speculated that Kirill, who is politically adept and very well connected, is looking to improve his position with both society and the authorities by becoming a mediator between them.
5. Relations with the West
Putin's United Russia lost its legislative supermajority and parties that oppose improved relations with the West have gained seats. Thus, Russia, after being accepted to the WTO after 18 years of negotiations, may not actually accept the invitation. The relaxed visa regimes negotiated with the US and Europe may face a similar fate. Changes in US-Russia relations may come from the US as well. Michael McFaul, America's new ambassador to Russia, has promised to renew efforts to integrate Russia with the West. However, Republican contenders for president in the US, including front runner Mitt Romney, have indicated they would be more confrontational with Russia.
| Study Abroad
6. The Return of Rogozin and Advances for Nationalism
Dmitry Rogozin is a nationalist politician who was appointed NATO ambassador after his popular party, Rodina, was found guilty of "inciting ethnic hatred." He has now returned to domestic politics as Deputy Prime Minister responsible for the defense industry. He has created a new Rodina as a "social organization" affiliated with Putin's People's Front. Some see this as an official effort to reign in Russia's nationalists, who rioted in Moscow in December, 2010. It may have the added effect of helping to weaken The Fair Russia Party, which absorbed the original Rodina and many of its members but which has distanced itself from nationalist ideology. Nationalism may also have a new, powerful supporter in the opposition. The rising star of the protest movement, Alexei Navalny, sees himself as a Nationalist Democrat (see below for more on Navalny). The current protests are also an odd mix of liberals, nationalists, and communists, meaning that if the protests gain more political voice, it is likely that these groups will as well.
7. Prokhorov and Kudrin
Mikhail Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire, and Alexei Kudrin, a former Finance Minister, have both pledged to enter politics and represent Russia's middle class and business interests. Prokhorov is registering to run for president and Kudrin has pledged to form a political party that may (or may not) eventually support Prokhorov. However, despite (or perhaps because of) Kudrin's political weight and Prokhorov's billions, the two would-be politicians do not have wide support among the electorate and are unlikely to be serious political forces in time for the next presidential vote.
8. Possible Reforms
The Medvedev Administration has moved fairly quickly to propose reforms that reflect some of the protestor's demands. This includes simplifying the registration procedure for political parties (the number of which have shrunk substantially over the last decade), returning gubernatorial elections (abolished under Putin), allowing the regions more autonomy by allowing them to keep more of certain locally collected taxes (including those on cigarettes, alcohol, and gasoline). Whether these will be passed and how they will be enacted will be a major issue to watch in 2012.
9. The Kremlin Shuffles
Several high-level personnel changes in Russia have been alternately read as either 1) preparing for Putin's return to the presidency or 2) made in response to the recent protests. Boris Gryzlov, who once famously said the Duma is "no place for discussion" has been replaced as Duma Speaker by Sergei Narushkyn, who is better known for statesmanship and compromise. Additionally, Vladislav Surkov, known as the architect of "managed democracy," has been dismissed as Deputy Chief of Staff and appointed Deputy Prime Minister. Whether this will be a demotion or promotion is yet to be seen as his Deputy PM position was modified before his arrival to include a vast array of social responsibilities ranging from health care, communications, education, and modernization. Narushkyn's former position as Head of the Presidential Administration is now occupied by Sergei Ivanov, a long-time member of Putin's inner circle. More shifting in government staff is likely as the presidential election approaches and after it passes.
10. Navaly's Rising Star
While the protests have been largely organized by members of the Solidarity movement, the true star of the protests has become Alexei Navalny. A lawyer and who made a name for himself as an anticorruption blogger targeting firms such as Transneft and Gazprom, his current popularity can be credited to his charismatic and forceful public speaking at the protests. Some say that, given time, he could be a political force to challenge Putin. Others say that his public support comes from being a non-politician and entering politics would be difficult. Navalny considers himself a "Democratic Nationalist" and has previously participated in the Russian March, an annual nationalist demonstration. He has advocated potentially violent means of taking power if a dialogue fails with the Kremlin. While other protest participants have also been receiving attention of late (such as Gregory Yavlinsky of Yabloko who looks to be making something of a comeback in national politics and Ksenia Sobchak, a pop icon that has turned political over the past several months), it is Navalny who is the main protestor to watch – not only for his wide popularity, but also for his curious mix of politics.
| Study Abroad
- Kороче -
Top Movies in Russia
MTV's Top 5
Nashe Radio's Top 5
Russian TV Reporting
Cheap Eats Moscow
Cheap Eats St. Petersburg
A Student's Irkutsk
A Student's Vladivostok
- Language and Culture -
MiniLesson: Акции протеста в России - Protests in Russia
A brand-new Russian Mini-Lesson on rigging elections.
Moscow Theaters on YouTube
This is a new YouTube page will feature full-length performances of some of Moscow's best theatrical productions.
Our Russian holidays page is fully updated for 2012!
- Обращение Михаила Прохорова: Я хочу работать на Вас
- Предвыборный ролик КПРФ: "Хочу в СССР!"
- Interactive Panoroma of St. Petersburg
- The 11 Best Russian Films of the Year
- Moscow in Time-lapse Photography
- Odin Biron, American Star of Russian Stage, TV
| Never Too Many Books!
| The Most Extraordinary
| George F. Kennan:
An American Life
| Reform of Russia's
| Study Abroad
- Primary Docs and Other Cool Stuff -
Medvedev's Address to the Federal Assembly
Dmitry Medvedev proposed a number of initiatives to further develop the country's political system. In addition, the President outlined his position on the main directions of domestic and foreign policy, economic modernization and social development, defense and security.
Election Fraud Galvanizes Communists
An incrediby insightful interview with Russian scholar Stephen Cohen - covers lots of bases of Russia's current political reality.
News in Photos: 20 Years After the USSR Break-Up
December 25, 2011 marked 20 years since Michael Gorbachov resigned from his position as the president of the USSR and announced disintegration of the Soviet Union. 44 pictures represent few turbulent months of 1991.
«НТВшники» «Что дальше?»
NTV has long been a very pro-Kremlin channel. However, here, they feature Presidential candidate M. Prokhorov surrounded by celebrities that say they will or will consider voting for him. Prokhorov expresses solidarity with the Bolotnaya protestors (though he does not call for new elections).
August 1991. Moscow and Muscovites
A set of portraits done of average Muscovites from August, 1991 - the month the Communists tried to retake power via a military putsch and failed in large part due to average people taking to the street to make their voices heard.
Swearing-in for Ambassador-designate to Russia
Michael McFaul's swearing-in as ambassador to Russia can be seen online. Hear his and Secretary Clinton's thoughts on the future of US-Russia relations.
North Korean Labor Camps
This documentary is not politically correct - both in its language and on its emphasis on negative (but still quite real) Russian stereotypes. However, it does give a fascinating look at the use of North Korean labor in the Russian Far East - an important contributor to the economies of both the RFE and North Korea.
25 Russians to Watch
From investment bankers to internet entrepreneurs, the FT’s Moscow correspondents offer an insiders’ guide to the country’s movers and shakers.
The Mathematics of Russian Election Fraud
Whatever problems Russia may have, a lack of highly skilled mathematicians, statisticians and programmers certainly isn’t one of them.
If you have views or material you would like to contribute to the newsletter, please contact us. Want the newsletter?