Russian Affairs: Masha Gessen

by Guy Somerset / 22 May, 2013
Vladimir Putin? "He's a thug."
“Courageous” and “chilling” are adjectives often applied to Russian journalist Masha Gessen’s biography The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin.

Gessen got a much warmer reception in conversation with Geraint Martin (and an audience of around 800) at the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival this morning.

Martin’s first question to Gessen was to describe Putin’s character. “He’s a thug,” was succinct, but also a thug who managed to become head of state with next to no public record. The Man Without a Face goes a long way to fill in the gaps, but there’s one line of questioning that seems to perturb Gessen.

When asked about the personal costs and risks of being a high-profile critic of Putin in the West, her response is somewhat surprising and endearing.

“That’s my least favourite question, because I can’t know. When I was working on the book, I kept it secret. My partner knew, my editor, no one else knew I was working on it.  When the book came out to a great deal of publicity throughout the West, I think it gave me some kind of protection.  It sounds horrible, but the death of Anna Politkovskaya taught the Kremlin that the cost of killing high-profile critics in the West is extremely high ... There are journalists and actors in much greater danger than I am precisely because the eyes of the world aren’t on them.  [The members of Pussy Riot] are serving two years - excessive for a 40-second peaceful protest. But it’s still two years, not the six or eight of the 26 people I mentioned earlier. Because nobody knows their names.”

In the last two minutes, someone closed out on a nice easy question.  “Would you prognosticate on Putin’s demise?”

She believes the Putin regime is in its “long, agonising death throes. The difficulty is they can take an awful long time.”

RUSSIAN AFFAIRS: MASHA GESSEN
MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

A post-mortem on Todd Barclay and Matt McCarten's fiascos
76497 2017-07-24 00:00:00Z Politics

A post-mortem on Todd Barclay and Matt McCarten's …

by Jane Clifton

In the catalogue of disaster, is a Todd Barclay worse than a Matt McCarten?

Read more
The Trump family's Kremlin connection
76655 2017-07-24 00:00:00Z World

The Trump family's Kremlin connection

by Paul Thomas

From “nothing to see here” to a Cold War-era spy story played out in real life, the Trump family’s Kremlin connection is a source of fascination.

Read more
The Journey – movie review
76661 2017-07-24 00:00:00Z Movies

The Journey – movie review

by James Robins

A van isn’t a great vehicle for a drama on how old enemies ended the Troubles.

Read more
Gaylene Preston on the difficulties of filming at the United Nations
76664 2017-07-24 00:00:00Z Movies

Gaylene Preston on the difficulties of filming at …

by David Larsen

Tracking Helen Clark’s tilt for the top job at the United Nations, Gaylene Preston documented the creatures of the diplomatic world.

Read more
Jackie van Beek puts the gags aside for The Inland Road
76815 2017-07-24 00:00:00Z Movies

Jackie van Beek puts the gags aside for The Inland…

by Russell Baillie

Best known for her comedy roles, Jackie van Beek takes a dramatic detour in her feature-directing debut.

Read more
Parisian Neckwear plays the long game, even as its centenary approaches
76427 2017-07-24 00:00:00Z Small business

Parisian Neckwear plays the long game, even as its…

by Rob O'Neill

Parisian Neckwear, founded in 1919, has survived depression, war, deregulation and a deluge of cheap imports. How? Just feel the cloth.

Read more
David Tamihere case: Key witnesses' doubts about murder of Swedish tourists
76738 2017-07-23 00:00:00Z Crime

David Tamihere case: Key witnesses' doubts about m…

by Donna Chisholm

Nearly 30 years after young Swedish tourists Urban Hoglin and Heidi Paakkonen disappeared in the Coromandel key witnesses say the mystery haunts them.

Read more
Modern slavery and tourism: when holidays and human exploitation collide
76728 2017-07-23 00:00:00Z Social issues

Modern slavery and tourism: when holidays and huma…

by The Conversation

With the advent of orphanage tourism, travellers think they're doing good. But they can often just be lining the pockets of the orphanages' owners.

Read more