Yesterday’s sentencing of Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, was just the latest in a steady stream of blows to the democracy that President Vladimir Putin has ruled with near-dictatorial authority for more than a decade. Navalny, an anticorruption activist, was given a 5-year prison sentence for what most observers say are trumped up charges of embezzlement.
If you know anything about Navalny, or about Pussy Riot, or about new laws in Russia that erode freedom of speech, punish gays and lesbians, and intimidate nongovernmental organizations, there’s a good chance you’ve read the work of Masha Gessen, Miriam Elder, or Michael Idov.
Gessen is the author of, most recently, The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin (as well as an upcoming book for Tablet’s sister organization’s Jewish Encounters series), and a regular contributor to the New York Times. Elder is on her last days as Moscow bureau chief for the Guardian (she is moving to Buzzfeed later this month, where she’ll be the site’s foreign editor). Idov is editor in chief of Russia GQ. All three are children of Soviet refuseniks and have dedicated the past few years (or, in Gessen’s case, the past two decades) of their journalistic careers to understanding what’s happening in Russia and to making that place comprehensible to the rest of us. Reporters of similar backgrounds have come before them (New Yorker and Tablet Magazine contributor Julia Ioffe among them), but they are the few holdouts. As the picture from there turns grimmer, and in light of their parents’ experiences, one has to wonder how much longer they’ll stick around.
In today’s Vox Tablet, contributor Julia Barton speaks to each of them about why they’ve chosen to live and work in the place from which their parents fled, what they want their readers to understand about life and politics in Russia, and what sort of future they see there, for themselves and for the country. [Running time: 14:00.]