Month: August 2022

Background Briefing: August 31, 2022


A Russian Journalist Remembers Gorbachev

We begin with the death of the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev who is loved in the West but loathed in his own country but whose place in history is secured by his work with President Reagan to end the Cold War and his opening the door to freedom of speech in the Soviet Union which is now being rolled back by Russia’s President Putin. Joining us is a Russian journalist who has interviewed Gorbachev a number of times, Stanislav Kucher, a journalist and former Russian TV presenter currently based in New York City. He has previously worked as Editor-in-Chief of the Snob multimedia platform, Chief Political Analyst and Creative Director of Kommersant-fm all-news radio network, Anchor at Sovershenno Sekretno TV channel and Editor-in-Chief of the Russian edition of National Geographic Traveler. We discuss how Gorbachev’s reforms backfired in as much as Glasnost, speaking freely, that was meant to stimulate Perestroika, economic restructuring, unravelled a regime based on lies and controlled by repression.


Will Russians Eventually See Gorbachev in a Kinder Light?

Then we examine the possibility that although Gorbachev is blamed for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the economic devastation and chaos that followed, Russians might eventually see him in a better light as Putin’s ill-fated war in Ukraine grinds on and the darker forces of nationalism and repression turn back the clock. Joining us is Ilya Yablokov, a lecturer in journalism and digital media at the University of Sheffield in England whose research interests include disinformation, conspiracy theories, international broadcasting and political communication as well as journalistic practices of self-censorship in the post-socialist countries. He is the author of Fortress Russia: Conspiracy Theories in the Post-Soviet World and co-author of Russia Today and Conspiracy Theories: People, Power, Politics on RT.


Internal Battles Within Russia’s Security Services

Then finally, we assess what kind of internal battle is going on within the Russian security services between those who support the nationalists and those who want to tone down the bellicose and genocidal rhetoric of the nationalist war hawks dominating State TV. Joining us is Michael Gorham is Professor of Russian Studies at the University of Florida and author of two award-winning books on language culture and politics: After Newspeak: Language Culture and Politics in Russia from Gorbachev to Putin and Speaking in Soviet Tongues: Language Culture and the Politics of Voice in Revolutionary Russia. He has recently published articles devoted to the political and rhetorical impact of trolls, hackers, blogging bureaucrats, tweeting presidents, dictators on Instagram, Alexey Navalny on YouTube, and the Putin administration’s recent efforts to enlist all legislative, technological, and rhetorical means possible to establish a “sovereign internet” independent of the World Wide Web.