Editor's Note: On "Russian Dissent"
A brief announcement about a new Substack for censored Russians
Some weeks ago I had an idea to set up a Substack for Russian writers who were now either out of work or being censored. I reached out to a couple of old acquaintances and soon had a number of people I knew (as well as many I did not) who had seen their articles suppressed in Russia and were interested in publishing in English.
We agreed to set up a Substack for them and also to provide translation services, and as of today, “Russian Dissent” will be publishing at RussianDissent.Substack.Com.
None of this has anything to do with TK — apart from an introductory note I’ve written there, I won’t have a role at the site — but if anyone is interested, I recommend checking it out.
The main purpose of the site is to give censored or threatened voices a forum. The first writers who agreed to join are mostly tied to longtime Marxist theoretician Boris Kagarlitsky, a well-known figure in Moscow who wrote for the English-language Moscow Times for many years, and with whom I had a passing acquaintance in the nineties. Kagarlitsky at one time was the political editor of the legendary oppositional paper Novaya Gazeta, but more recently has been tied to the site RABKOR.ru. He has gotten in trouble with the current regime on more than one occasion. His apartment was searched in 2012, and he’s written articles with titles like, “Putin’s Closed Government” and “Artists Sold Out on Putin.” His first article on “Russian Dissent” is called “The Blitzkrieg Failed. What’s Next?” Boris is pretty unsparing about the Ukraine war:
There are only two options for getting out of this situation: negotiate or cause a nuclear apocalypse. And even if some part of humanity has a chance of survival, most Russians will not. Not everyone will die. But we shouldn't delude ourselves about a paradise either. First, there will be hell…
The adventure failed. And the sooner this is recognized, the lower its price will be. Prolonging the conflict only increases the damage… Maintaining power in its current madness is not patriotism, but national betrayal.
Many of the writers on Kagarlitsky’s site have seen articles made invisible on Russian territory. Here’s a sample, from a piece explaining Western sanctions to Russian readers:
For the past 20 years, the Russian Federation, instead of investing and developing the country, has been investing in currency capsules controlled by Western countries. That is, we sacrificed the development of the country, so that in the end, we could merge everything with one adventurous decision! Having a stash in someone else’s pocket, how could you think to spit in the face of the owner of this pocket?
I suspect many Americans will find the attitudes in some of these pieces to be puzzling or even off-putting. For one thing, even Russians who are fiercely opposed to the war in Ukraine are often not positively disposed toward the West. A theme that pops up at times is an embittered belief that American policymakers may have concluded long ago that the Russian people were more useful to them as enemies than as friends. In Alla Glinchikova’s article, “I Can’t Not Write,” she opines that the United States never even wanted its “accidental victory” in the Cold War:
What to do with all the Sovietologists now, all those Centers for the Study of the Enemy, the experts in the Russian language? Why are there still so many weapons? Most importantly, how can European allies be rallied around the United States, if the USSR is disintegrating, and Russia is becoming an open market democracy?
After a short period of confusion, petty corruption, and feeding of the remaining pieces of what was left of the USSR to the post-Soviet elite and the oligarchy, an idea was pulled out of the dusty bag of “civilizational theories” to justify a new conflict based on an “insurmountable difference” of civilizational values. From another, no less dusty bag, neoliberalism was taken out as the main condition for democratization and modernization…
If “Russian Dissidents” ends up becoming a viable home for censored Russian voices, it should be a positive thing. Russian writers may benefit by seeing feedback from American readers, and Americans may learn something as well. In case anyone is wondering, there’s no financial angle here. My only role is to donate resources to translate and format the articles. I thought it might help, and hope it does.