Episodes
In the first part, a little exploration of MID, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, its decline - and yet why it still ought not to be taken lightly. Then in the second half I look at the current crises in Belarus and Ukraine. The article by Kadri Liik I mentioned is here, and my earlier 'Free Sergei Lavrov!' article here. I also looked at the Belarus crisis (and why it should not be turned into a 'Putin story') here. You can also follow my blog, In Moscow's Shadows, and become one of the...
Published 11/21/21
While still processing a month spent in Russia, I feel that the uniting leitmotif is survivalism, that every sector - from ordinary Russians through the liberal intelligentsia and the bureaucracy, all the way to the Kremlin - are hunkering down, bracing for winter. I explore what this means to each. Then in the second half I tackle a series of questions sent in by patrons, from whether I felt at risk in Russia (in short: no) to whether you can now get decent parmesan there (in short: yes)....
Published 11/14/21
A trip to Tula, 200km south of Moscow, provides a chance to mix a little history and travelogue with some thoughts about what the city reveals about the nature of provincial life, regional politics and the state economy versus the market economy. In the second half, I look at Tula's governor Alexei Dyumin, a former bodyguard to Putin and for some still a potential successor. How much do governors matter? The travel blog I mention is Travels in Deepest Muscovy, which will later feature a...
Published 10/24/21
Just back to Russia, my first trip since February 2020, and for this podcast I try something different - a random collection of impressions, mainly recorded on the street (so apologies for the often poor sound quality). Normal podcasting will resume shortly! You can also follow my blog, In Moscow's Shadows, and become one of the podcast's supporting Patrons and gain question-asking rights and access to exclusive extra materials right here. 
Published 10/17/21
Two quite big topics this episode. First of all, the restrictive new rules on 'Foreign Agent' status that, if applied, would make it almost impossible to discuss military, security and even space topics. They are as much about drawing sharper lines - are you with us or against us - as encouraging self-censorship. Then, after the break, some rumination on 'hybrid war' - why it's not that helpful a term, and why, when we talk about Russia, there is no one notion of 'hybrid war' but three. You...
Published 10/02/21
I confess at this stage I couldn't think of much to say about the Russian elections that wasn't obvious, or hadn't been said, so instead I recorded a 'magazine' episode covering a range of other topics: Team Navalny's latest video (here), this time on the corruption of Foreign Minister Lavrov, and why the opposition needs a new big ideaThe Zapad-2021 exercises and their political significance (coverage by Mike Kofman here and Konrad Muzyka here)Three stories that went under-reported in...
Published 09/19/21
A shorter episode that looks at a vicious criminal's end in a prison riot in Kamchatka, and after talking a little about prison realities in Russia, considers some possible lessons for Russia as a whole. I mention the vexed issue of police numbers, something I discuss here and here. You can also follow my blog, In Moscow's Shadows, and become one of the podcast's supporting Patrons and gain question-asking rights and access to exclusive extra materials right here. 
Published 09/06/21
Sometimes it's worth digging into what look like less important stories, to see what lessons the offer about the big picture developments, so I tackle three - who's likely to be the next ambassador to Cape Verde, why airfare hikes contribute to street violence, and why Naryshkin is now claiming to be a long-time mate of Putin's - and see what I can make of them. For those figures I threw out, the proportions of staff of different Presidential Administration departments estimated to be...
Published 08/29/21
There may be a little schadenfreude as America abandons Afghanistan and the Taliban sweep into Kabul, but Moscow is worried, above all about the country's three traditions exports: terror, refugees and opium. The fate of the Afghan regime - and the way the 1991 August Coup caught the West by surprise - are also reminders of the problems in trying to predict the future...especially when it comes to Russia. You can also follow my blog, In Moscow's Shadows, and become one of the podcast's...
Published 08/21/21
Having long relied on it as a stalwart of the ‘systemic opposition’, the Kremlin now seems to be treating the Communist Party (KPRF) as if it were a real opposition party. Might this push it into real opposition? I build off a recent piece I wrote in the Moscow Times. The previous podcast I mentioned is here. And in the second half, I indulge myself musing about occultism in Russian politics, from the search for Shambhala to 'red battle magician.' But is occultism perhaps really the best...
Published 08/04/21
Is PM Mikhail Mishustin thinking long-term? His vision for Russia seems to be technocratic, maybe even techno-authoritarian, but it is interesting - and maybe implicitly subversive. In the second half, I look at Russian-Ukrainian relations over the Donbas, public lunacy and private pragmatism. There's all kinds of silliness - including a case Moscow is taking to the European Court of Human Rights - but maybe the very tone actually reflects the resigned pragmatism new Donbas 'curator' Dmitry...
Published 07/27/21
Another short, single-segment episode, this time looking at 'On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians,' Putin's latest venture into the role of amateur historian (available in English here). Equal parts history, polemic and paranoia, it says more about VVP's state of mind than anything else, in my opinion. You can also follow my blog, In Moscow's Shadows, and become one of the podcast's supporting Patrons and gain question-asking rights and access to exclusive extra materials right...
Published 07/13/21
A brief, single-segment podcast on the distinctive roles of sport for today's Kremlin. Not a topic that I'd usually expect to discuss... The journal article I mentioned on RT is ‘Russia isn’t a country of Putins!’: How RT bridged the credibility gap in Russian public diplomacy during the 2018 FIFA World Cup' by Rhys Crilley et al, here. You can also follow my blog, In Moscow's Shadows, and become one of the podcast's supporting Patrons and gain question-asking rights and access to exclusive...
Published 07/12/21
The main reasons for the annual ritual of Putin's Direct Line phone-in encounter with the Russian people is to allow him to present himself as the caring father of the nation, savvy chief executive and watchful tsar. However, there is also a less-understood dimension: how the Kremlin uses it to gauge the mood of the masses. If it leads to genuine concerns being addressed, even in the name of keeping an authoritarian kleptocracy in power, is that a bad thing? In the second part, I briefly...
Published 07/03/21
The Geneva Summit: frankly, as good as one could expect, with Biden offering a shrewd carrot and stick - Russia can feel itself more like a great power, if it plays more by the rules. No step-change breakthrough, but a decent start. Worse news about the spread of COVID-19 in Russia, and again Putin and the government has gone AWOL, forcing Moscow mayor Sobyanin to take the lead. Why does this happen? The Baunov article I mentioned is here; you can also read something I wrote about the...
Published 06/18/21
A bit of a grab-bag: what to make of the continuing crackdown in Russia, is there scope to undermine the cohesion of the security forces in Belarus, should HMS Defender be heading into the Black Sea, and, in the second half, thoughts about the upcoming Geneva Summit between Biden and Putin. The article by Josh Huminski I mention is here. You can also follow my blog, In Moscow's Shadows, and become one of the podcast's supporting Patrons and gain question-asking rights and access to...
Published 06/12/21
A spur-of-the-moment, off-the-top-of-my-head take on what's going (wr)on(g) in Belarus: the Russian connection or rather the absence of any evidence of one, Lukashenko's motivations, and above all what can be done. We need a strategy, a sense of what we want, and above all the realise that we cannot force change on Belarus but should rather help the Belarusian people generate it. The article by Leonid Ragozin I mention is here.  For a general take of mine from August of last year that I...
Published 05/27/21
Is the Russian Orthodox Church a spiritual community, a political institution, or a business empire? The truth of the matter is that it has become all three, and I toy with the idea that we should think of it as FGUP RosBog, Federal State Unitary Enterprise 'Russian God'... In the second half, I note that most of Russia's security chiefs are in their late 60s. Are they going to be allowed to leave when they hit the compulsory retirement age of 70, or will Putin seek to hold onto them? Either...
Published 05/23/21
Today (9 May) is Victory Day, and the sad truth is that this also inevitably means claims and counter claims of 'memory wars' over the Great Patriotic War. So what can and should we do about this? And in the second part, a little historical vignette: how was the Kremlin fortress protected during WW2? The answer is by hiding it in plain sight. The Henry Jackson Society event convened by Dr Jade McGlynn that I mention is here, and the previous Victory Day podcast is here. If you want to read...
Published 05/09/21
From why the Kremlin fears Navalny to what Patrushev believes and whether Hungary is a Russian proxy, I reply to a selection of patron's questions. The articles I mentioned are my take on 'post-post-modern authoritarianism' in the Moscow Times here and Patrushev's interview in Argumenty i Fakty here.  You can also follow my blog, In Moscow's Shadows, and become one of the podcast's supporting Patrons and gain question-asking rights and access to exclusive extra materials right here. 
Published 05/01/21
A personal and unpolished snap response to the news that the Czech government is expelling 18 Russian diplomat-spies after an investigation linked the GRU's Unit 29155 - and the infamous 'Petrov and Boshirov' of Salisbury novichok fame - with the...
Published 04/18/21
Why is there this talk of Russia as a 'declining power' - and is it true? I'd suggest we ought to use the term with caution, not least as we are all declining...The Saradzhan and Abdullaev piece I mentioned is here.In the second part, I take a silly...
Published 04/13/21
Rumours that Zhirinovsky is going to step down from leadership of the Liberal Democratic Party look more credible these days, and oligarch Oleg Deripaska is even being mooted as a successor. So, it's time for a bit of an exploration of the LDPR, what it...
Published 04/02/21
Who are the main 'siloviki' or 'men of force,' the heads of Russia's security structures? In response to a request from a patron, I give a run-through of the people and their prospects.Relevant other IMS episodes I mention are on Shoigu (here),...
Published 03/24/21
All the Ms. First of all, as a counter to the understandable pessimism about Russia at the moment, I look at some of the aspects of Moscow that still make me marvel, and consider how they offer signs of long-term (which really means post-Putin) hope for...
Published 03/14/21