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tv   Joshua Yaffa Between Two Fires  CSPAN  April 8, 2020 10:01am-11:02am EDT

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our mission continues to provide an unfiltered view of government, already we brought you primary election coverage, the presidential impeachment process, and now the federal response to the coronavirus. you can watch all of c-span's public affairs program on television, online or listen on our free radio app and be part of the national conversation through c-span's daily "washington journal" program or through our social media feed. c-span, created by private industry, america's cable-television company, as a public service and brought to you today by your television provider. >> good evening, everybody. welcome to politics and prose. i'm bradley graham, a co-owner of the book strolled along with my wife lissa muscatine. while the bears certainly been a lot of news this week, much of it of course about the start of
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donald trump's trial in the senate, but some important things have been happening in russia as well, particularly the announcement wednesday by vladimir putin shifting greater authority to parliament which has left many wondering what this means about putin's own plans to relinquish the presidency, or not, in a few years here so we are especially fortunate to have with us this evening an expert on putin's russia, joshua yaffa, who is the moscow correspondent for the new yorker. he's been covering russia from much of the past decade. his new book "between two fires" offers a truly fascinating and revealing look at the impact that the putin era has had on above all the nation's psyche and the moral struggles and calculation that many russians
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confront. josh has written a very nuanced portrait of russia, , nothing le the simplistic view of that country, and oppressed people lorded over by a kgb trained dictator. josh describes the people who fall somewhere in the middle between an oppressor and oppressed prone to compromise and accommodation with the state but still nimble and resourceful enough to try to turn the system to some advantage with mixed results. in his book he highlights the stories of a number of individual russians who have struggled to balance the strict and often arbitrary demands of a modern authoritarian regime with their own personal desires and consciousness. among the people he writes about by the director of the countries main television channel, an orthodox priest, a human rights activist, and a crimean
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zookeeper, plus several others. josh is telling these cases exempt fight a persistence of a russian archetype, the wily man, the leading sociologist once put it, someone prone to adapt to a repressive system by going along with it while also trying to circumvent its rules. josh interest in russia goes back to back decades. he started learning russian in college and first visited it as a student in the summer of 2001. getting a masters degree in international affairs he worked a bit as associate editor at foreign affairs and then moved to moscow eight years ago. he reported for the economist and several other publications before landing at the new yorkers in 2015. josh will be in conversation here this evening with julia ioffe, i russian born american
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journalist who were so spent time covering russia for the new yorker as well as foreign policy. between 2009-2012. in the years since, julia has written for the new republic, political and atlantic and currently covers national security and foreign policy for g2 magazine. ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming both josh and julia. [applause] >> hello, everyone. thank you so much for the wonderful introduction. thank you, everybody for come out tonight to see the wonderful joshua yaffa. josh and i go back quite a number of years, special the times when josh it up in moscow to get his accreditation at the foreign ministry from foreign affairs magazine when i was accredited foreign policy magazine and they said joshua
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yaffa, are you a girl? josh, this is a really -- congratulations on what is a really terrific and vote important book. as we're talking backstage i was saying to you i'm so glad you have written this because we read so many books about putin's it was also read so many books about an article about the dissidents opposition and we don't, that's like maybe 10% of the population. we don't hear a lot about people born between who make do, who get by. as a russia watch i'm so glad you bring this because it's such a rich topic but a one to ask you about why he decided to write about this and where the idea came from? >> thanks for the generous introduction and thank you all for being here tonight. the idea came to me slowly as i found i wasn't exactly able to capture what i was seeing and feeling about russia.
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maybe because i was an understandable picture first myself when i arrived to russia with that dichotomy that you mentioned of looking for the oppressors and looking for the oppressed and either wanted to label everyone many stalwart aura neo--- that makes for good journalism to a point, easy journalism which from my perspective started out was the same thing as good. but with time i realized i wasn't doing justice to the country come to the people come to the place as was actually beginning to understand it and was a lot left out of the russia story. in fact, the majority of the real russia story was left out of of the picture. i didn't totally have conceptual framework for understanding what russia was then. if it wasn't this battle perpetual into unavoidable
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battle between putin and deposition or whatever form that takes throughout russian history. and so the prism of the wily man which we can talk about a bit which takes up most of the prologue of the book was away for making sense what was going on in russians aside in helping me understand the way most people like people everywhere in fact, right, this was not unique to rush and that was the other i do want to say insight because it's obvious and banal to a certain degree, but maybe underappreciated by me, was how much the dynamics that guides people's lives in russia ultimately so familiar and universal with people who are simply trying to get by, to make do, who have some quite noble or at least understandable ambition for the lives and what they want to accomplish and set about doing so in whatever reality they happen to be in. they can't change the larger macro reality but they can try
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at, through compromise in this idea of winding this gets accomplished what they can't get in so doing oftentimes they change to the process of those compromises and an aggregate society certainly changes over time. >> it also i think we are all drawn to the start of oppressor and oppressed because it's an easy story but it's a sexier story, a a conflict, also the prism that we see it from which we sit here in the west, right? in many countries, there's a dictator, saddam hussein and there's moammar gadhafi and all the people or against him who because against gadhafi there must be good and virtuous. then someone like aung san suu kyi happens and we don't know where to put her. did this give you any insight into why things like that happen? >> no, , but it made me realize
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the more interesting for me deal of journalistic inquiry was exactly that gray zone that's often time left unexplored but that became an interesting psychological i guess problem for me to understand how it is that individuals navigate the circumstances and the characters in the book i purposely chose people who i at least couldn't come to some final conclusion about where they good or bad? there were people who defied my attempts at categorization. i would welcome of the people's choice of in that i wouldn't argue they were objectively, but they were by me and that's what interests me in them and that's how you ended up in the book. i was searching for the characters were even after spending how many hours with them over months in some cases years i still couldn't put them in the box of where they doing
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something noble or were they to be committed or criticize? i wasn't sure myself and it was important that that's where i landed with each of the characters rather than the experience of the characters itself. didn't allow me to reach some kind of conclusive moral position. >> before we get deeper into this do you want to outline, i think you're going to read something? >> i read all of it a page and a half or so from the prologue. at the start of 2012, i moved back to moscow to work as a journalist covering russia for foreign audiences at the economist and with times for the new cooper in the western imagination rush is nation of captive by dictator interested only in its own power and profit as the story goes putin lowers over population of over 145 main people trapping the medicaid welded shut by propaganda and repression. yet over the course of several
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years as i reported on a time of major historical turmoil and change russia, street protest the wind i write, extravagant preparation for the 2014 winter olympics in sochi, , the annexation of crimea, stand up with the west over the war in ukraine, follow from allegations of meddling in collusion in the 2016 u.s. presidential election, at the combined total of sanctions and economic crisis. and it ordinary russians who showed no sign of some of being held against their will. these are not necessarily enthusiastic putin supporters or even people who voted for him. instead they traded the putin state as a given neither good nor bad but simply there like an element in the earth's atmosphere. and then when constructing the lives around it. governments of course exist in america and europe as all manner of external structures and constraints that people myself included must constantly navigate. the pressure conformism is universal and never present, future of existing world no
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matter where you find yourself. but the presence of the state and the aura of inevitability of its demand struck me as take a acute in russia. one could not live in ignorance or indifference to the urges encopresis of this diptych of fact it was to your advantage to guess what it wanted from you and to deliver that while sitting clever enough to extract some benefit for yourself. this roughly speaking is the predicament of the wily man. sociologist who came up with a concept in an essay in 2000. for whom the state contains both threat of great hardship and the promise of incomparable opportunity. i came to understand that in russia the two forces state in citizen speak in dialogue, conversational timber oftenest by the foreign year. a one-time student who became a respected sociologist in his own right vote for many russians quote, the state is not simply a
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technical apparatus of large-scale administration but a symbolic institution embodying and reproducing the basic understanding of human nature. the state takes up almost pantheistic importance. though made by man in his image is also an omnipresent force whose power exceeds that of its creator. and moscow in my travels around the country i met fiercely proud and brilliant men and women, activists, economist, journalists, business owners who believe the best if not the only way to realize their vision was in concord with this date. it was hard to believe they were wrong nor was i confident i was choose any giveaway. that was my friend with a graduate degree from oxford and came back to moscow to take a job in a state-run think tank, place were smart and professionals out of good ideas. half of which are implemented and the other half of which those with more warring political implications were discarded. i would periodically have lunch with a youth activist who had
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been unable to resist the offer to take a seat in parliament where he was quickly told to vote along party lines as the criminal dictated or risk losing the funding for his youth programs. for a while the most fashionable job in moscow was working on state-funded urban beautification projects, expanding pedestrian zones, renovating city parks, launching bike sharing programs, rethinking public transport routes. such initiatives made the city i did have more pleasant and humane. with time similar effort to expand to other cities around the country. even in absence of larger democratic reforms, if anything, russia's politics tacked in an opposite regressive direction, it cities became more desirable, attractive and enjoyable places to live. i debate emerged among my friends in moscow. is it laudable to lend one's talents and expertise to the state so as to achieve real change on a local level or does it only help perpetuate an
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unjust and inefficient system? the question was never really settled but surface time and again, a referendum on the permissible of compromise that repeated at regular intervals. does harnessing the resources and power if institutions you ultimately considered malevolent to achieve something good mean the joke is on them, or you? although the gulen is a most unhelpful metaphor for anderson putin putin's russia, i found myself returning to one thing. if you're stuck inside an unjust system, isn't cheating it a bit here and there for your own purposes and entirely rational, even virtuous, response? may be there are no good answers to these questions, and a possibly captured in a russian saying, between two fires, the condition of being stuck in the middle of two opposing forces bigger than yourself. making it out the other side is just about the best outcome available. the more i thought and wrote about the ways people actually live and work in putin's russia, the more i realize it was large impossible to separate them into
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two camps, the oppressed and the oppressors. yes, there were victims and those whose resolute unyielding positions brought them great frustrations and hardship, just as the with the unambiguously corrupt and sadistic use the states authority merely to line their pockets or who got off on enacting all manner of petty cruelties. but most of the people i encountered were neither. they were strivers, nimble and resourceful, who usually set at with virtuous and thoroughly understandable motives. why to fascinate with the compromises and prevarications required in bringing those initial motives to life, and how over time those concessions can change a person in the very rationale that motivated one's actions in the first place. >> thank you for that. so i see some people kind of shaking their heads about already about some of the compromises you described and i
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just want to start by saying or asking you about what you said earlier where this is not a phenomenon unique to russia. in fact, we've seen the slot under the trump administration, that people who are very much against him, a lot of people who were never trumpers, the kind of slowly, well, i could help the country, blah, blah, blah, how do you see, like did you come down on in beside of, where are the red lights for any of these people? i want to interrogate this concept a little bit more. what's the line between somebody who is co-opted and a collaborator? do we need people like levada? >> sure. you definitely need them and i applaud them and they have my admiration. i have no beef with them. the opposite. i hope and in great esteem. i just don't think they are necessarily the most affected or
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elective journalistic prisms for representing russia. as far as where the red lines like, in this book i purposely didn't draw them. that's different what i i might say about my own life in my own political and social context i think there are a lot of interesting parallels tween the kinds of compromises i describe in the book and the reason people go for them in the first place, where the hoping to achieve and what they think they can cheat and where they are right, where compromise does yield at least some version of the thing they were searching for and where it goes totally alive for they themselves emerge so squeezed and jaded from the process that they're not the same person they were when they went in. the big difference that i see and maybe you see more of thankfully doesn't exist here
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that actually welcome degree of diversity in american social economic life outside of the state. in russia that's not the case and that makes this question of compromise more and edible and i think it is here. i think you i can understand it but it's not as if the really wasn't any other choice for person x or y realizing their motives for their professional ambitions or whatever.
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why he would've put his hand out and taken state money from the government that he found objectionable at least. and the person said in a russia you don't have the choice of making a movie with state funding or without state funding. make the movie without state fun and consciousness clean but that's not really the offer on the table. the offer on the table if you want to make a movie or not? if you want to make a movie, there's really only one way to do that currently in russia and when you put the question that way, it becomes a lot harder, impossible for me to sit and judge him taking money from the government to make these movies. he's a film director who was born of theater and stage and film director born in in a cern time and place. he only has one shot at the
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prime productive years of his career, why should make the kinds of films he wants to make? >> and this is more of a comet that a question but i have been surprised personally to come back from russia to the states where russian dissidents and journalists are a lot of as he was and martyrs because a stand up to the state because they refuse to make the kinds of compromises you describe in your book and yet essence things get difficult here, you see so many people making like running to make compromises that are so much, the bar is so much lower. the stakes are so much lower. more. it is like like a jail or not go to jail? like to kill or do not get killed? i make a movie or not make a movie? if i can i pay my mortgage and have nice lifestyle or not pay my mortgage and have less than nice lifestyle. to turn it into a question is,
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you live in both worlds. you straddle both worlds, the u.s. and russia. do you understand why we fantasize those extremes in a place like russia, possessed with putin. all we want to know is what he wants, what he said, what it means and then the hero martyrs, why were not interested in -- i hope people are more interested and buy your book because you made it so interesting but you have an insight as to why we fetishize those extremes? >> that's just our narrative proclivities, analytical proclivities anywhere, that going back to greek literature, the idea of defined roles is more digestible and understandable. i'm not sure how particularize mr. rush but putin makes it so easy. you such a perfect comic book super villain that it's hard to resist the urge to make every story about him because stories
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framed around him so good, so juicy, they sell well, underwrite. he makes it too easy. beginning to suspect by design he's very happy with that arrangement in this kind of positioning in politics through that prism. i'm not sure how particular it is to russia, despite putin occupying a particular place in our collective geopolitical imagination. >> do you think because so much of it, so much of contemporary russia revolves around putin and the state embodies and there is an obvious ideology like there was in the soviet union, you mentioned -- which would be great if you could explain. do you think being a standard first aid ideology, do you think
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it makes it easier for people to compromise? >> definitely. we agree on the definition but essentially means a status but if someone who places the state any kind of elevated position who seeds certain interests and privileges to the state above those of the individual thinks the state interests take primacy over the inches of the individual and that seems to be how putin sees the world, the collapse of the soviet union was a great catastrophe not because he was a committed marxist but because this is a state power grew feeble and we can collapse from within, and that is the great tragedy is forced putin understands it. someone like constantine ernst, the head of channel one who i write about in one of the chapters who is an interesting guy because he has this background as a quasi-hippie who
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is making shows about german art house films while wearing a black leather motorcycle jacket and with long hair grew into being the premier and the most powerful acanthus of the putin era. but for him while that's a fascinating transformation to me and when he takes no small amount of pride in, he still likes to position himself as this kind of counterculture rebel even though he wields power over the that country. there is some degree of continuity or maybe less contradiction raven compromise in this case because he someone who despite his taste in art house film and choosing to put off the quirky american television series fargo on prime time on channel one, he never stopped believing in the central or premier authority of the state. for him that's not a
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contradiction and that's what makes them interesting to me something a friend of his told me for my profile of the chapter of him that's about him that's in the book, he said ernst is an intellectual but he's no liberal. i had to sit without thought for a minute because in my life those terms are often interchangeable or collapsible into one entity. >> but they have been historically. in european or american culture. since you mention are ernst and ensure a lot of you read the excerpt, the profile of constantine ernst, the director channel one in the new yorker a couple weeks ago, i i thought e was a really interesting choice because, this is a bit of criticism. i didn't see what compromise was making. he loved films. having an aesthetic is a really an ideology, interesting to me a little bit of -- a kind of karl
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rove of the putin administration who love tupac and obama as stylistic choices, but came from that generation, born in the early '60s that were so absolutely cynical and they just saw this data something to be milked. like you pay lipservice to what ideology you want but you get yours. so what compromises its ernst making? >> i think is compromise as you say it's not necessarily political or moral. i don't think he's is any sortf conflict with himself. it is a stylistic, special after the annexation of crimea and the outbreak of war in the donbass and all that followed is russia's politics have really curdle into something quite aggressive and inward looking and suspicious of the outside world, suspicion of cosmopolitanism, suspicious of a lot of the values that ernst
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once and somewhere deep down hold dear, his channel has been forced to adopt certain aesthetic or stylistic tropes that i know he must find distasteful. you can't actually be a loyal footsoldier in the crimmins began to war and maintain these high aesthetic, intellectual standards -- kremlin. i must say he has kept channel what a little less covered in mud and the other state chairs and that's interesting to see but nonetheless there's something about his stewardship of the channel and makes it a little less gross and full for us than the programming on some of the other channels but there still a full-fledged beach or just participant in the kremlin's information war. -- beat your chest. he knows when duty calls that's what the times required. but i suspect that deep down he
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would rather be spending his nights picking which in the art house films if you want to buy the rights to to air on prime time on channel 1000 having to defend egregiously fake segments that end up on his network like the start of this crucified boy in eastern ukraine that turned out to be a completely invented fake news scandal for him that had to then spend some weeks and months and begin with me explaining and defending. i know that's not the position he would like to be in. >> good on you for pressing him on that. since were on ernst, two more questions on him. one, when you wrote about that incredible elaborate display of russian history and culture he put on you did mention one of the rings didn't open which became a kind of trope for everything that is wrong with the government. how do you explain that? >> that's a function of no great editorial, i don't know,
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purposeful decision on my part. if anything if i would include it, this malfunction of the ring for an opening ceremonies which was otherwise this really incredible spectacle that was welcomed by all manner of russian society, including opposition figures -- >> quite a nationalist. >> fair enough. but when the rain didn't open and this is seen as the one embarrassing snafu in an otherwise glorious and successful production, ernst himself made fun of it, and in the closing ceremony he had one of the rings for a second also not open, a kind of wink at the audience, or not flash, and then it did. that struck me as interesting case ernst having a a very rare for that degree of russian power and russian officialdom, that sort of self-deprecation, , that sort of self irony. those are not features you normally see in people who occupy those positions of power in russia.
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>> you mention this a lot in the book that is also part of like part of the state maintains its image and legitimacy. it is people like you on tv and it has these winks and nods, mistakes which we are not totally dumb. look, we have some press. we are nice to foreigners, which leads me to ask why did you go on -- when a lot of our friends i think would say like, don't legitimize them. don't even go near it. what was at choice like for you? described that experience. >> the choice of pretty easy. i would welcome or except criticism of the moral defensibility of that choice but i just wanted to see what the factory floor of the sausage factory looked like. here i was in studying ernst watching so much of channel one, contemporaneously going back and
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watching old clips, watching the very show, time will tell, i kind of jerry springer about politics i guess the best way to say it, sort of crass shot fast sort of show but about syria. however weird that sounds as a concept. >> to syria get pregnant? [laughing] >> there is a paternity test during the commercial break. so when they invited me on the show and their counsel issue to inviting any living breathing american within a 100-mile radius of moscow because there are not that many americans who speak russian who are willing to be beat like a birthday party piñata by every guest who wants to step up and have it back to the course of the hour. but i was because i wanted to know what it was like onset. i wanted to know what the hosts like and what it felt like to be at the center of that sort of
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spectacle. it was as i expected. my function there was to be the ready-made or kind of stand-in villain on whatever the topic du jour was and was in this kind r for america. i was always reduced to josh the american. a notion that my own views, by all politics, politics of in your group might actually certain questions be in total opposition to the reigning official american position come what is the official american position? that's also lost because of the continuity of power at this point in russia over 20 years, i think this notion that there can be this total u-turns and social policy, this -- >> contradictions within one administration as we see now. >> right. but i was there to just be the stand-in avatar for america when whatever the topic was and however american need to be used as the bogeyman. i didn't expect much else, and i
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treated it like both a productive reportorial exercise and something comical that would later be a good story with you and everyone here. in that sense it served its purpose. what was interesting is that one night and went to go see one of the hosts of the show, i got he was a former soviet paratrooper picky served in afghanistan and in this real no-nonsense tough guy who was the most kind of crass and over-the-top. he once tried to punch another american in the middle of the show, not me, by the kind of likes to throw elbows and really mix it up on the show. i went to see him one night to have a conversation just one and one, no cameras. it wasn't for the tv or anything. he really was thoughtful and calm. we disagreed on substance on just about everything but he wasn't, he didn't try to choke
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me. there were no antics. he didn't interrupt me and we sat and talked for three hours. at the candidate of it i told him, i have to admit i'm a bit surprise by the tenor of this conversation. like this was kind of nice. normally when i'm on the show you interrupting me, shouting at me, calling me names and here we just sat and had a nice talk. he said something like, it's in the chapter, i forget the exact wording but something like people don't go up to boxers on the street and ask them why they are not punching them in the face. when i'm in the ring and doing one thing and when i'm out walking around the street and doing another. i don't know how is any different from hosts on foxnews or msnbc? i don't know. it's a job and you have character but i think there was a heightened degree of both showmanship and cynicism in that statement to me. >> fascinating. and while we have you, chemical more behind the scenes? how did you decide which
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characters were going to be in the book? who was left on the cutting room floor? i think people love to hear about kind of the process and the decisions that were made. >> i did think of it in the bit in the beginning kind of like a casting call, who were going to do my characters and how would a popular the book and who didn't want to follow. i thought about it in a few different, through a few different lenses at once for a few different criteria in mind. one is i wanted a representative, as represented as you can be come across a sample of people whose experiences or professions, lives got at a lot of different aspects of russia but that i tt were important or interesting. i knew i wanted someone from media, couldn't any better than ernst, ahead of channel one. so that was a pretty easy box to check once it seemed like he was in. i knew i wanted a priest, summer to represent the russian orthodox church. that actually was one of the
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harder, longest amount of time for me to find quote the right priest. that's the world i i know relatively less about, if just by the nationwide job and living in moscow. i ended up knowing a lot of people in media, even a state media and just doing how the world works, who the major players were. i didn't know much about orthodox church and had to live on the advice of russian journalist friends, people who were themselves regular churchgoers or just money with the church will a new who was who in the world and who the interesting characters were in the world because again the initial criteria for anybody was they had led experienced in some way or could reflect on this question of compromise. i was already narrowing from the very beginning my prism pretty severely. and down the line i knew i wanted someone from crimea. i knew i wanted someone from chechnya. i knew i wanted someone who could reflect on the question of historical memory. i ended up for that focusing not
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so much on one individual by the institution, a museum called perm 36 outside of the city of perm that is one of really the only museum to political oppression and good luck in all of russia. it's the only museum or memorial complex on the actual site of a former prison camp in all of russia. there's no other arch which are stop more complex museum on the actual site in all of russia. it's the only one. i want to capture that wide range of russian life and also geographically. i wanted there to be as little moscow's possible. moscow is incident inevitable because rush is such a -- a lot of what's happening in zip happening in moscow but it wanted to resist the temptation to have all my characters live and work in moscow. the last important criteria for me was when i alluded to at the
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beginning, which is a one to five people whose compromises were and somehow confounding to me that i couldn't solve them for answer and they didn't know her as a set where i landed on the moral permissibility of the compromise. i wanted to emerge from my time with him still not able to cast conclusive judgment on them and it really did end up at that place. there is no character in the beaucoup i would say is all the way good or all the way bed. it are some who am more sympathetic to, the humanitarian aid worker, someone who my heart really goes out to i guess you could say. unfortunately she died tragically in a plane crash in 2016 before you begin actively reporting for this book. just like as you said, ernst to someone who, he's a big boy. he knows what he's doing. maybe he knows better, and so i don't feel that same kind of protectiveness this is surely about him, and he can answer for whatever people want to hold
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them to account for, whether it's the crucified boy story or the fake news about mh17 those on channel one. that i think as i said he's maybe engaged in copy my panties also just an experienced player who knows what he's doing. there was a wide range of my own attitude but i never could say this person is in good category, this process in that category. >> anyone interesting left on the cutting room floor that you want to tell us about? >> yeah, i mean, not really because at least, thank god, i had the wherewithal or efficiency to drop people early, right? i didn't like it months into reporting with someone only to realize they were the right one. the priest character took a while to come together. there were some false starts there but that all actually as you know there's no such thing
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as wasted reporting it with our spent a lot of time with some of the priests who did make it to the book, because i was so ignorant of that world particular. it was just a great education in what the russian orthodoxy scene is like and how priests think about the patriarch and what life is like even by caprice. i needed a lot of education on that subject. there were some priests who did make it into the book but i'm sure their expenses and stories they sure did some of reflect my ability to act as a narrator of that world. >> last question before we go to the audience. you end your book very presciently and the think a properly on younger people. and the other group that we in the west fetishized is young people around the world and here, the grown-ups great the problems but the high school from parkland, florida, will solve again issue and greta
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thunberg will solve climate change and college students and rush are going to get rid of putin for us. what was your take away about come like what would you tell americans imagine people in russia? are they are great hope for a democratic russia or getting rid of putin, or other just like their parents? >> i don't know, despite having spent a lot of time with russian general people trying to figure out that exact question. a low bit of both. i'll try to give them a less recently and to the net. >> widely. >> there definitely is something going on that's different with this generation and their parents. that seems very clear to me from spending time with them, and that has to do for reasons of objective history, the formative experience for so many people or anybody really in putin's generation was the decline of the soviet union.
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i actually think the period before the clips which is dominated by this quietly doublethink that was the sort of -- that really produced a generation or two of cynics and i'm not sure rush has been able to overcome the in the years hence. those people to occupy the positions of power. will soon not though the end ie replaced eventually by people whose formative experiences just came after, and there's no great magic or alchemy involved. it's just the fact this generation was steeped in that time, didn't have those experiences and emerge with less cynicism and more trust. and they see the way that russian young people engage in kind of social activities that require higher degrees of trust, higher bonds between individual individuals. not even necessarily activism, we can say. just the way that they seem to
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trust one another to do the right thing ultimately, right? i don't necessarily think their parents see the world that way. i don't think the parents navigate their lives resuming that this person will probably do me right in the end. i think as you know from your experience, if you agree, a lot of russians who are safe 50, 60 plus with navigate the world with exactly the opposite expectation. in aggregate i think that does change the society if you have 120, 40 million people thinking that way. and soon you won't. soon you will have people who were steeped in a different culture. the question is, how strong will the inertia of the system be? eventually those young people with their ambitions, with their aims for the life, their dreams of want to realize those dreams. >> or compromise on the screens. >> right. but if the architecture hasn't changed so much, it will require compromises that look similar to
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the compromise of the parents. how will the emerge not experience? what they agree to the same source of compromises their parents did and will they be changed by this compromises? will the emerge resuming the paris more than they do now? i don't know. that's where my claws i weasel answer comes tentacles we have to run that came to see the outcome. >> were going to go to audience questions. there's a mic right there. i'm going to be a tough moderator because josh is interesting, we want you more from him. please see your name, make your question very short and please make it question, not a statement. if you don't i will cut you off. >> my name is david. this is a question about somebody might've left on the cutting the floor. his name is -- and you wrote about him in 2013, a very frustrated entrepreneur who was impressed by his competitors who use the system against him. whatever happened to and why did you write about.
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>> is a real blast from the past. past. thanks mentioned that story. i kept up with him for a little bit and he became a kind of entrepreneur rights activist, and he was helping other entrepreneurs who ended up in similar situations who faced police or criminal repressions launched on the bike club law enforcement officials or by the competitors in cahoots with officials who was in this case, like a said he and i kept in touch for a bit. he was giving advice and counsel to other entrepreneurs, and i have no real good answer as to what i didn't include them other than the book is already 380 pages long. at a certain point certain point i couldn't get everybody in butt i take your point and i always thought that he was a great character, and certainly the act of running a business in russia requires no small amount of compromise, no matter how clean you want to be or really are,
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still it's inescapable when the tax or veterinary pleas or whomever show. i do write about that in the form of a character in crimea who is a zookeeper. part of his experience is about the crimea annexation also part about running his business, his you can post annexation crimea. >> anyone else? >> my name is rick davis, and what i wanted to ask you is, how does everything right about these people making compromises in their lives, how did that affect the dealings outside wor? is it just two completely different answers. >> was not necessarily, , like y place but russia especially, domestic politics and for politics are really overlapped one grows under the other. it is affected by the other. in the case of some like ernst, as russia adopted this much more
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aggressive stance especially in relation to the west and a kosovo after 2014, ernst ernst is head of channel one. was absolutely swept up in that. in fact, they change the whole tenor of this channel and a complete change the nature of the compromises required of him. someone like the doctor, frankly her death on board a russian military aircraft flying from sochi to syria was directly linked both to her cooperation with the state or her willingness to participate in state led humanitarian missions also with the russian intervention in syria. she was on a mission that was meant to be kind of good pr mission led by the russian defense ministry to travel to syria and deliver medicines hospitals and that sort of thing. but her death was a great outcome of russian foreign policy you could say to a certain sense. even in the case of perm 36, the
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museum dedicated to political repressions and the gulags. it was subject to what you could fairly call hostile takeover from the state in 2015. it was founded in the '90s i some local diy historians and eventually taken out from under them ten years later or more by the state at a time, at the peak of the anti-western, and the ukraine hysteria when, among other things, among other quote-unquote sends that the museum had committed, it was too soft on ukrainian nationalist prisoners who were held at the museum -- i'm sorry, held at the prison in the postwar years. and in the new era with anything linked to ukrainian nationalism was equated with fascism, and that was used as an explanation for why russia had to intervene in donbass elyse stand up for the citizens of donbass and was
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embroiled in this whole conflict, it was to prevent the return of this ugly ukrainian fascism. the museum couldn't have these exhibits that spoke to kind of those historical figures. even in places where you would expect to come russia's relations and attitudes affected the asset compromise is required in my characters. >> caroline, thank you so much. my question is, we can expect that putin may read this book. what is the motivation for someone like ernst to be like fully open with you knowing that, you know, putin might read this book and do you think that there's any like underlying like plays, how open he was a what he said, is it anything that your experience with that, like that kind of big brother kind of watching you, watching these
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people and sharing those stories, does that change the narrative? >> i can't really evernote for fully penetrate why someone chose to speak with me and be open with me, and that does affect the course what they're telling me or how i i processed what they're telling me, why did they're telling me. it is ultimately unknowable to a final degree. and some like ernst i think he really felt i need or at least a sense of relief in having this earnest, curious, fundamentally i get sympathetic american journalist sit and listen to him and taking seriously, take his career seriously and give him that credibility as someone who collaborate with the state that we all in america are going to say is evil and putin is horrible, fine. i don't think he has no illusions about that.
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but i will grant him the status of this cultural and artistic talent and visionary may be even, and the fact that i i wod see him in that light and through giving voice to his compromise is also allowing to come off as more than just banal propagandist without any brains. i think that was important to him, important to his self image and there's something satisfying and having that read back to him like an american journalist. i think that's true for his particular case the something like that was going on for a lot of the characters. they wanted to be taken seriously and understood. the human rights worker in chechnya who effectively change sides i can see this and became a kind of course human rights activist for the regime i think was motivated by similar dynamic. a lot of her old colleagues in
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the russian human rights community had turned their backs on her and really criticized her for that move, understandably, she was left without a lot of former colleagues and friends. i was there willing to listen to restore and hear out and take her source. i think a lot of the characters have something appealing it that. >> can i piggyback really on that question? did you find people, it was interesting that people who spoke to you were quite aware of what the redoing but there are also people in the system who at a certain point drink the kool-aid a little too much and stop even be aware of the fact that they make compromises and they really come to really believe this thing. did you notice any of that where you just saw the person kind of, like they cross a a certain lie in the line disappeared so far beyond the rearview mirror that they just lost all that prospective? >> sure. some the people who were not
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necessarily characters in the book who i didn't choose exactly for that reason because that's slightly less interesting are not the compromise i wanted to pursue but, of course, they come in as supporting characters. there's another russian television personality who in the '90s was a real avowed liberal, loved western journalistic standards, and is now the most egregious and kind of disgusting television host on russian state media. >> he's like a russian candidate. >> yeah, but even i think more if possible clownish and file. and i think he's exactly the kind of person, right? he so inhabited, his new role, that it don't think he reflects back on his old one and is any real capacity or interest in understanding how we come got m point a to be let alone bearing his soul in some way to a journalist who wants him to
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explain that journey. but even with someone like ernst there were moments where we were talking past each other absolutely. one of them was about mh17, the shootout of this malaysian airlines play plane in 2014. there's been a lot of investigation, independent ones also by the dutch government or by an independent commission led by the dutch that proved conclusively that it was shot down by a russian made at the aircraft system that was provided covertly two russian-backed separatists in eastern ukraine at the time. channel one has put forward all sorts of absurd and contradictory theories about what actually happened mh17. none of them of course being shut down by a russian missile. the ukraine's were kind of shootout putin's presidential plane, all sorts of contradictory theories that don't even matchup with one another. the point is just to produce a lot of noise and make people not believe in any one thing. when ernst and i would talk
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about mh17 it was clear we were not actually talking about an objective factual universe. in the book i write about it felt like we having a conversation about aesthetics of religion like we were two intelligent minds almost taking place from this kind of intellectual sparring match talking about big ideas or our favorite films, or whatever, rather than an actual objective historical fact. one specific thing did happen to mh17 and all other things didn't happen to my definition. it was hard to have it -- >> like 300 lives were lost. >> in moments like that i did feel like okay, whatever, however we could have these shared cultural references and shared cultural taste, actually there is something that keeps us from having a true common conversation. >> fascinating. [inaudible]
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>> thanks. thanks very much. your comments about russian youth is really what spawned this question and is going to be, have something along the lines of exchange programs and who learns more and what happens in exchanges between american youth and russia. what i want to change the question to another hypothetical. what would happen, hypothetically, if you could put together a bunch of russian journalists with a bunch of american journalists in someplace where it wasn't bogged so they could spend a week in total secrecy and so forth? >> that happens all the time in moscow in fact, in rooms that a bug or not i don't know but that is daily business in moscow. some of my closest friends are russian journalists. >> who comes away changed? how are they change? who is changed more from the
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experience? >> i'm not sure either side -- i'd be curious to hear what julia says. i think i certainly emerged with a respect for the work that russian journalist do and an acknowledgment actually that our attitude toward russian of journalism as this profession under siege which is, but it can fear toward a kind of patronizing affect by not actually giving credit to the real work that's being done every day. there are journalists being attacked, journalist being murdered not there are also far more journalist doing really brave, , incredible, impactful work. and by painting all of russian journalism with a broad brush into saying ipd these poor people who are perpetually dodging bullets from the kremlin, i don't want to deny the reality but also denies the work that is being done. >> i will say -- the other thing
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i i would add to what joshaid is that we tend to i think a lot of journali to thinking these guys are kind of remedial journalist. they lived under and a certain machine, they don't really know to actually report or do journalism and effect a lot of these guys put on a master class every single day and you think wholly shit, how are they able to get the scoop and the analysis they provide can be super rigorous. i also think that americans overly fetishize people like us and by asking us are you not scared to go to russia? are you afraid to be killed or beaten up? the fact is we're quite privileged by being may be less untouchable under trump a quite untouchable as american citizens, and it's a russian friends and colleagues were under daily threat not just the being beaten up and killed but more likely to just be driven out of the profession by the economics of it which is far less sexy which we don't really care about here when we hear
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about this or that independent journal or news website getting shut down because advertisers are being pressured not to advertise and, therefore, people can't be paid and people of families than mortgages, et cetera, that we don't really give those people martyr status the way we do to the ones who are killed. so that the child will know to end on. .. journalists were very generous pointing the way to sources and ideas. i would be happy to end on a note with them. thank you. >> thank you, guys. >> copies are available at the
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checkout desk up front. josh will be here signing books, for me mine to the right of the table and help staff by folding up the chairs, thanks again. [inaudible conversations] >> weeknights this month we are featuring booktv programs showcasing what is available every weekend on c-span2. tonight we feature authors of history book starting with paresis -- professor serena save in on the boston massacre. history professor benjamin park who wrote about the founding of not who, illinois by mormon leader joseph smith in 1839. that is followed by gretchen soren on her book driving while black, how the automobile impacted the lives of african-americans. booktv all this week and every weekend on c-span2.


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