November 01, 2012

Russian McCarthyism?

I spent the better part of September in Russia, meeting with writers, translators, photographers and partners, as well as working on a few stories that you will read in the months ahead.

On a cold, rainy day late in the month, toward the end of my trip, I met Alexander Skobov for coffee at a Shokoladnitsa at the base of Nevsky Prospekt. A taciturn, modest man with a thick, graying beard and a receding hairline, Skobov has seen plenty over the past forty years. He was a political prisoner under the Soviets (six years in psychiatric hospitals – a common destination for political dissidents who were “crazy” enough to protest Soviet power) and today remains an outspoken critic of the powers that be. After the Soviet Union fell, he worked for nearly two decades as a high school history teacher.

I was interested in getting the longer-term view on current events, of hearing what a dissident of the past regime felt about recent demonstrations, or what the opposition must do to help create a truly pluralistic society.

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