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Masha Gessen on the Moscow duel

29 minutes

Three pillars hold up autocracy in Russia, author and New Yorker staff writer Masha Gessen says: media control, sham elections and downright terror. But the opposition movement spearheaded by imprisoned activist Alexei Navalny has struck at the heart of all three. This time on the show, Gessen explains how — and measures the power of democratic aspirations in a country struggling against corruption with hope, against the past with visions of a happier future.

Navalny, a lawyer who has become President Vladimir Putin’s chief political rival, leads the Russia of the Future party, whose motto is “Russia will be happy.” In prison, his health failing, and recently off a 24-day hunger strike, Navalny continues to command respect — and a vast YouTube following — in part because he is brave enough to fight the system, even if it costs him his life, Gessen says. 

It’s a powerful message for a generation from whom many of the tools of critical social analysis have been withheld. Against the odds, Navalny’s resistance is inspiring young people who have grown up with no ruler other than Putin, a former KGB officer who views the totalitarian past with nostalgia.

This episode comes from our colleagues at Democracy in Danger, a production of the Deliberative Media Lab at the University of Virginia. 

Additional Information

Democracy in Danger podcast

Surviving Autocracy by Masha Gessen

Related Episodes

Will Alexi Navalny make Russia more democratic?

More episodes from Democracy Works

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