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Russian Independent Journalism and Society amid the Backdrop of War

November 2, 2023 @ 6:30 pm 8:00 pm

Please join the Russia and Eurasia Program at The Fletcher School for a presentation by famed Russian independent journalists Olga Churakova and Sonya Groysman, creators of the notable “Hi, You’re a Foreign Agent” podcast. They will discuss what it is like for independent reporters to be tyrannized by the Russian government and talk about their latest season, “Sisters,” about how Russia’s aggression against Ukraine affects Russian society, especially soldiers’ relatives. They will also touch on what the future holds for individuals and organizations, especially independent journalists and media, who have been declared “foreign agents” in Russia.

Fletcher visiting scholar Maxim Krupskiy will also participate in the conversation, commenting on Russia’s repressive legislation on “foreign agents.” He will explore the latest amendments being made to the “foreign agents” law amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with the Russian authorities increasingly declaring the need to completely cleanse the Russian public space of those who disagree with the regime’s policies, confiscate their property, and deprive them of their means of subsistence. The event will be moderated by Arik Burakovsky, Assistant Director of the Fletcher Russia and Eurasia Program, and Alexander Gubsky, publisher of The Moscow Times. The event is open to the public and supported by The Moscow Times. Please make sure to register via Eventbrite to participate in the event in person.

Sonya Groysman is an independent Russian reporter and video documentary director for Dozhd TV (TV Rain), Russia’s last independent television channel, who lives and works in exile. As one of the first Russian journalists to be declared a “foreign agent,” a label used by Russian authorities to discredit independent reporters, she started a successful podcast called “Hi, You’re a Foreign Agent” with her co-host Olga Churakova. Initially, it was a reality show about what it is like to live with the “foreign agent” status. Today, they focus on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the crackdown on dissent in Russia, and the public’s resistance to it. Previously, she worked as a reporter and producer at the investigative news outlet Proekt (Project), which was shut down by the Russian government. In 2022, she was a finalist for the Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Award for journalism, and she is a 2023-2024 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.
Olga Churakova is an independent Russian journalist and podcast host who covers political developments in Russia. She previously worked for the investigative journalism outlets IStories and Proekt (Project), where she wrote about corruption, Russian domestic politics, and protests in Belarus. In July 2021, the Russian authorities banned Proekt’s work and labeled Churakova a “foreign agent.” The designation was intended to discredit her and limit her ability to work but instead led her to start the popular podcast “Hi, You’re a Foreign Agent.” Working outside of Russia now, she and her co-host Sonya Groysman discuss their professional challenges and the problems faced by other journalists in the same situation. The podcast received the Medusa Award as the best podcast in Russian, and with the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war, it was included in the selection of the best anti-war media projects. Churakova was nominated for the Russian Editorial Board award more than 15 times and shortlisted for the European Press Prize for “Master and Chef,” an investigation about Russia’s presence in Libya. Churakova began her career in 2012 at the daily Novaya Gazeta and has also worked for the business daily Vedomosti and Dozhd TV (TV Rain) as a political journalist. She was a 2022-2023 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.
Maxim Krupskiy is a Research Scholar at the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a Visiting Scholar at The Fletcher School. He is a human rights defender and attorney with more than twelve years of law practice in Russia defending refugees and asylum seekers, civil activists persecuted by the Russian authorities, and NGOs recognized as “foreign agents.” Throughout his professional career, he has specialized in the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Over the past seven years, as an independent expert, he has prepared more than forty independent anti-corruption expert opinions in the field of migration, administrative, environmental, criminal, criminal procedural legislation, and legislation on nonprofit organizations. His Ph.D. research, “The phenomenon of social anomie in a contemporary society,” examined the role of NGOs and other forms of civic activism in creating social connections that resist modernity’s challenges. Using the example of Russian society in a state of social entropy and bifurcation, he has shown that one of the main ways to overcome such a state can be social consolidation on the basis of the spontaneous civic activity of individuals.

Fletcher Russia and Eurasia Program

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