Who Is Reporting Critically About Politics In Russia?

This is perhaps a less exciting question now than it was early last year around the time of Vladimir Putin’s election and during the huge protests around the capital. Now, there is less of a chance that such journalism will have a clear effect. But now that Putin is assured quite a while longer as President of Russia, it is more important now than ever to think critically about politics in Russia. Granted, it is a different game in Russia than in the United States and Europe. The inner workings of the government are much more shadowy, and it is much more dangerous to critique the government (BBC reports that “human rights groups say there have been 19 unsolved murders of journalists since 2000.”). However, some journalists do manage to do it very well every week while also staying alive. And since I would like to report on Russian current events in the future, it will be valuable to examine exactly how contemporary journalists report on Russian affairs. Unfortunately, probably due to the personality type this job attracts, most of these journalists are not very active on mediums other than their publications. But considering how much they write otherwise, that shouldn’t be a problem (Also, because this will be easier if I don’t have to worry about accurately translating everything, I will primarily cover the work of these journalists that is written in English.).

Masha Gessen

Gessen is arguably the most high-profile of the lot, having been on The Daily Show for her highly critical, investigative biography of Putin, and currently serving as the director of Radio Liberty’s Russian service and resident Russian affairs prolific badass at The New York Times. She is a fantastic, darkly realistic writer, who recently made news after being fired from Vokrug Sveta magazine for “refusing to cover President Vladimir Putin’s hang-gliding stunt with cranes.” Her work for The New York Times is indispensable.

Links to her work for:

The New York Times

Vanity Fair

Andrew Kramer

Kramer, also a prolific writer for The New York Times based in Moscow, writes from a similar perspective to Gessen. Fortunately, he also regularly updates his Twitter with empowering anti-Putin  ideas (Sample tweet: “Occupy Chechnya: Putin is the 99 percent.”). His recent piece on the petty and tragic new ban on Americans adopting Russian children was especially well explained and researched.

Link to his work for The New York Times.

Oleg Kashin

Kashin has been a journalistic heavyweight in Russia for a decade, but he unfortunately made the biggest news when he was “severely beaten outside his Moscow home” in 2010 following his coverage of protests in Moscow. He currently writes an insightful Russian-language column for the journal Open Space.

Link to his work on Open Space.

Brian Whitmore

Brian Whitmore is an invaluable source because, in addition to being a senior Russian affairs correspondent for Radio Liberty (Masha Gessen is his co-worker), he also writes for the Atlantic and maintains an excellent, active Twitter feed about his work.

Links to his pieces in: Articles for Radio LibertyThe Atlantic

His website

His blog

His twitter

Sergei Loiko

Loiko drew attention to himself in December as one of the few journalists at Putin’s press conference to openly level critiques at him (this is a link to a pretty remarkable video of the exchange). He also writes comprehensive, scathing articles about Russian politics for The Los Angeles Times.

Link to his work for The Los Angeles Times.

Novaya Gazeta

Finally, Novaya Gazeta. Too many ace journalists work there to mention here. It has a print and online edition that is famous for its harsh critique of the Russian government (Take, for example, these headlines from today’s edition: “Gleb Pavlovskiy: ‘What Putin is most afraid of is to be left out,'” “Putin, the man of silence, has spoken, thus making the biggest mistake of his political career.”). However, it remains a mainstream publication, publishing interviews like this one with former President Dmitry Medvedev. Most high-profile liberal journalists in Russia seem to have worked for Novaya Gazeta at one point.

–Ben Stone

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