What next for the Crimean Tatars?

Crimean Tatar leaders are vehemently against a return to Russian rule. But why, when so often they have been at odds with the Ukrainian Government?

Sochi, the Caucasus and Russian Romanticism

Since the 19th century the Caucasus has been Russian’s ‘window on the East,’ its access to another, often very romanticised world. The Sochi Winter Olympics took place in the Caucasus, but they presented a less complex image.

Out of the Guantanamo frying pan into the Russian fire

While Russia steps up calls for the US to close the Guantánamo Bay prison camp, its own abuse and mistreatment of Russian nationals who returned to the country from Guantánamo a decade ago is less well publicised.

Educating Orthodoxy

The Russian Orthodox Church has been expanding its educational activities to include not only seminaries but universities offering a wide range of courses. But if you’re a woman, don’t even think about wearing jeans to class.

Dagestan: Russia’s hottest spot

Asked to name Russia’s most troublesome region, most people would plump for Chechnya. But its neighbour Dagestan is now officially the most dangerous part of the Federations.

Russia in the Middle East: a well-played hand disguises fading fortunes

There is no doubt that Russia’s diplomatic coups in the Middle East late last year caused its stock to rise. But is Moscow really the new boss in town or is this all just hyperbolic nonsense?

Nobody wants Russia’s Turks

Russia’s Meskhetian Turks, exiled from their homeland seventy years ago, have to put up with ignorance, prejudice, discrimination and violence on a regular basis. A travelling exhibition, now in the US, shows pictures of their suffering – past and present.

Blood and treasure

Can an invasion of Afghanistan ever be considered to be a mission accomplished? The British in the 19th century, the Soviets in the 20th and now 21st century ISAF is pulling out its troops. What have they achieved and what is likely to happen afterwards?

Leaving Afghanistan leaves Tajikistan wary

What impact will the withdrawal of the Western-dominated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan this year have on neighbouring Tajikistan?

Afghanistan, then and now

Modern urban versus traditional rural Afghanistan, then and now. Time may have moved on, but the problems are big enough to be extremely concerning.

Sochi Olympics – the dangers of rebranding

What does President Putin hope to gain from hosting the Winter Olympics? There is a grave danger that the messages behind the Kremlin’s rebranding exercise could boomerang against the government.

Nailing things down…

Pyotr Pavlensky is the performance artist who nailed his scrotum to the cobblestones of Red Square. Pained, the government reaction was to institute criminal proceedings against him. Yelena Kostyleva talked to Pavlensky the night before his first interrogation.

Russia’s spinning moral compass

Vladimir Putin’s latest political course as president – from the jailing of Pussy Riot to the law against gay ‘propaganda’ – strikes many as being one defined by the Russian Orthodox Church. But is it really so?

Prayers for the dead

In Kyiv, Metropolitan Pavel – aka ‘Pasha the Merc’ – has succeeded in closing down Ukraine’s only specialist HIV/AIDS clinic, which was inconveniently located in the grounds of the Pecherskaya Lavra. A new clinic has yet to open, and now all the patients can do is pray…

Ring out new bells!

While lightning and neglect are taking their toll on Russia's wooden churches, a growing volunteer movement is making its mark in saving this precious cultural heritage. Architectural restoration expert Alexander Mozhayev reports.

The Zone

The northern territory of the Perm region is known as 'the Zone' –  a remote region of prison camps and correctional facilities. Ola Cichowlas came to know it quite well….

The indiscreet charm of the Russian cynic

Russia’s foremost historian of culture reflects on the cultural functions of cynicism in Soviet and post-Soviet society. He ruefully concludes that Russia has yet to escape the Soviet paradigm: the Pussy Rioters, in their demonstrations against official cynicism, were merely the latest incarnation of a familiar character – the Soviet trickster. 

Putin’s war patriotism

There are few new ideas driving the Putin regime forward. If the Kremlin has an ideology, it is a deeply conservative and miltaristic one, with no goals, vision or future.


Nickel and dimes

The fertile territories around Voronezh have long been referred to as Russia’s ‘breadbasket’. They also hold the last major nickel reserves in Europe, and the mining companies are about to move in...

God is your refuge

A monastery near Moscow has opened its doors to the city’s homeless — in exchange for food and shelter, the men help out on the farm. Marina Akhmedova spent some time among the labourers, discovering how they ended up on the streets, and finding out what they think of the meaning of life. 

How God came to vote for Putin: the background to Pussy Riot

The gradual intrusion of the Orthodox Church into Russian secular life and the state is something that went largely unnoticed by the Russian public. The Pussy Riot trial is beginning to change all that, writes Sergei Lukashevsky.

Tatarstan: the restoration of history, religion and national feeling

The Republic of Tatarstan is spending some of its not inconsiderable oil and gas revenues on restoring the ruined capital of an 8th century civilisation. This project may play well to the sense of Tatar identity, but it has many critics, recounts Maxim Edwards


Chechnya’s women face fresh constraints, new rules and increased violence sanctioned from above. At home, they are subject to unwritten codes that systematically disenfranchise them. They must brave all this to enforce their rights under the Russian constitution. Beyond that, there is only the European Court of Human Rights.

‘Pussysteria’, or the awakening of Russia’s conscience

On 10th July a Moscow court extended the pre-trial detention of three members of feminist punk rock band Pussy Riot, charged with hooliganism after they performed a ‘blasphemous’ and anti-Putin song in the city’s main cathedral in February. Vladimir Pastukhov believes there is much the case tells us about the relations between the Putin government and the Russia’s Orthodox Church.

The Russian Orthodox Church: from farce to tragedy?

Evidence of cronyism, inappropriate luxury and an un-Christian lack of clemency towards punk band Pussy Riot have led many Russians to question the role of the Russian Orthodox Church. Now the subject of open ridicule, the Church has allowed itself to be engulfed in the wider crisis of the Russian state, writes Tikhon Dzyadko. 

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