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tv   Joshua Yaffa Between Two Fires  CSPAN  April 8, 2020 4:20pm-5:22pm EDT

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already this year we brought you primary election coverage, the presidential impeachment process and now the federal response to the coronavirus. watch all of c-span's public affairs programming online or listen on our free radio app and be part of the national conversation through the washington journalprogram or through our social media feed . c-span, created by private industry, america's table television companies as a public service and brought to you your television provider. >> good evening everybody. welcome to politics and prose. i'm bradley graham, co-owner of the bookstore along with my wife lissa muscatine. while there's been a lot of news, a lot of it about the trial in the senate but some important things have been happening in russia as well,
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particularly announced 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. 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 thenew yorker . been covering russia for much of the past decade and his new book "between two fires: truth, ambition, compromise in putin's russia" offers a truly fascinating and revealing look at the impact of the putin era has had on above all the nations psyche and the moral struggles and calculations that many russians confront. josh has written a very nuanced portrait ofrussia . nothing like the simplistic
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view of that country, oppressed people lorded over by a kgb trained dictator area josh describes a people who fall somewhere between oppressor and oppressed, prone to compromise and accommodation with the state but still double and resourceful enough to try to turn the system to some advantage with mixed results. in his book he highlights the story of a number of individual russians who struggle to balance the strict and often arbitrary demands of a modern authoritarian regime with their own personal desires and conscience among the people he writes about our director of the country's main television channel, an orthodox priest, a chechen human rights activist and a ukrainian zookeeper plus several others. in josh's telling these cases exemplify the persistence of a russian archetype, the
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wiley man as a leading sociologist put it. someone prone to adapt to a repressive system by going along with it while also trying to circumvent its rule . josh it interest in russia goes back to decades. he started learning russia in college and first visitedas a student in the summer of 2001 . after getting a masters degree in journalism in international affairs he worked as an associate editor at foreign affairs and then moved to moscow eight years ago . he reported from their first for the economist and several other publications before landing at the new yorker in 2015. josh will be in conversation this evening with julia yockey who spent time covering russia for the new yorker as well as foreign policy between 2009 and 2012. in the year since julia has
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written for the new republic, the atlantic andcurrently covers national security and foreign policy for gq magazine . it is and gentlemen please join me in welcoming bothjosh and julia . [applause] >> hello everyone. thank you so much for that wonderful introduction. if you everybody for coming out tonight to see the wonderful gretchen sorin. we go back quite a number of years especially the time when josh had opened moscow to get his accreditation of the foreign ministry from foreign affairs magazine when i was accredited from the foreign policy magazine and they said josh, are you a girl? anyway, this is a really,
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congratulations on what is a really terrific and really important book and as we were talking state i was saying to you i'm so glad you've written us because we've read too many books and we've also read so many books about and articles about the dissidents , opposition and that's like maybe 10 percent of the population. don't hear a lot about the people who make do, who get by and as a rush of water i'm so glad you've written this was such a rich topic but i wanted to ask you about why you decided to write about this . and where the idea came from. >> thanks for the generous introduction, thanks to you all for being here. the idea came to me slowly as i found i wasn't exactly able to capture what i was seeing and feeling about russia, maybe because i wasn't understanding the whole picture at first myself. when i arrived with that dichotomy that you mentioned of looking for the oppressors and looking for the oppressed
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and either wanting to label everyone a stalin or a neil stockholm one that makes for good journalism to appoint or easy journalism which from my perspective starting out was the same thing as good. but with time i realized i wasn't doing justice to the countries, to the people, to the place as i was beginning to understand it. there was a lot left out of the russian story or in fact the majority of the real russian story was left out of the picture i didn't totally have a conceptual framework for understanding what russia was and if it wasn't this battle, of perpetual unavoidable battle between putin and the opposition say or whatever form that takes throughout russian history, and so the prism of the wiley
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man which we can talk about in a bit will take up much of the prologue of the book was a way for making sense of what was going on in russian society and helping you understand the way that most people, like people everywhere in fact, this is not unique. to russia, that was the other , i don't want to say in because it's so obvious and banal to a certain degree but underappreciated by me . how much dynamics by people's lives in russia, are ultimately so familiar and universal to people who are simply trying to get by, todo , who have some notable, quite notable or at least understandable ambition or their life and what they want to accomplish and it's about doing so in whatever reality they happen to be in. they can't change that larger macro reality but they can try and through our lives and this idea of liveliness , get accomplished what they can and in so doing often times
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they change through the process of those compromises and in aggregate society only changes overtime . >> and it's also i think we were all drawn to this story of oppressor and oppressed because it's an easy story but it's a sexier story, this in a conflict and it's also the prism that we see it from which we see it here in the last period of in many countries, there's a dictator, their saddam hussein and there's moammar tanabe and all the people who because they're against cannot be they must be good and virtuous and then we don't know where to put her. does this give you an insight into why things like that happen? >> know, but it made me realize the more interesting for me field of journalistic inquiry was exactly that gray zone. that's often times left
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unexplored but became an interesting psychological i guess problem for me to understand how it is that individuals navigated those circumstances and the characters in this book i purposely chose people who i couldn't come to some final conclusion about. were they good or were they bad -mark they were people who defied my categorization i would welcome other people's choices in that regard and i wouldn't argue that objectively uncharacterized double but they were by me and that's what interested me and then that's how they ended up in the book, searching for the kinds of characters where even after sending how many hours them over months in places, years, i still couldn't them in the box of are they doing something noble or venal, related to be commended or criticized and i wasn't sure myself was important to me that that's where i landed with much of
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the charactersor rather the experience of the characters themselves . it didn't allow me to reach some kind of conclusive moral position. >> before we get deeper into this you want outline what the wiley man, i think you are going to read something of what the wiley man is, who he or she is. >> i'll read a page and ahalf 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 the economist and new the western imagination russia is a nation held captive by a dictator interested in his power and profit. as the story goes putin boards over a population of 145 million people, locking them in a cage welded shut by propaganda and repression yet over the course of several years as i reported on a period of major turmoil and change for russia, three protests the winter i
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arrived, extravagant reparations for the winter olympics, the annexation of crimea, standoff with the west over the war in ukraine, fallout from allegations of meddling and collusion in the us presidential election and the combined total of sanctions and economic crisis, i'm ordinary russians who showed no sign of somehow being held against their will . these were not necessarily enthusiastic putin supporters or even people who voted for him. instead they treated the putin state as a given, neither good nor bad but simply there like an element in the earth's atmosphere and went aboutconstructing their lives around it . governments of course exist in america and europe as do all manner of external structures and constraints that people myself included must constantly navigate. the pressure of conformism is universal and ever present. a feature of existing in the world. the presence of the state an order of inevitability of its demand me as particularly
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acute in russia read one cannot live in ignorance or indifference to the urges and caprices of the state. it was to their advantage to guess what it wanted from you to deliver that while also being clever enough to extract some benefit for yourself. this roughly speaking is the predicament of the wiley man, being the sociologist who came up with the concept in an essay in 2000 read for whom the state contains both the threat of great hardship and the promise of incomparable opportunity. i came to understand that in russia the 2 forces, state and citizen speak in dialogue . a conversational timber often missed by the foreign year. lovato's one-time student who became a respected sociologist and pollster in his own right wrote that for many russians , the state is not simply a technical apparatus but i symbolic institution embodying and developing basic
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understanding of human nature. the state takes on a pantheistic importance donated by men in its image it is also an omnipresent force whose power exceeds that of its creator. in moscow in my travels around the country and usually proud and brilliant men and women, activists, economists, journalists, business owners who believe the best if notthe only way to realize the vision was in concorde with the state . it was hard to believe they were wrong nor was i confident i would use any differently. there was my friend with a graduate degree from oxford who cameback to moscow to take a job in the state run think tank, a place where smart professionals thought of good ideas half of which were implemented and the other half of which , those with more worrying political implications were discarded. i would have lunch with a youth activist who had been unable to resist the offer to take a seat in parliament where he was quickly told to vote along party lines or
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risk losing funding for his youth programs. for a while the most fashionable job in moscow was working on the state-funded urban beautification projects , expanding pedestrian zones, renovating city parks, launching bike sharing and rethinking public transport routes . such initiatives made the city more monday with time similar effortexpended around the country .even in the absence of order democratic reforms if anything russia's politics tax and opposite unmistakably regressive direction the city became more desirable, attractive, enjoyable places to live and debate immersed among my friends in moscow. is it laudable to lend one talents and expertise to the state no activity real change on a local level or does this only help perpetuate an unjust andinefficient system . the question was never really settled and service and again, areferendum on the permissibility of compromise
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. harnessing the resources and power of institutions we ultimately consider malevolent to achieve something good then the joke is on them or you? although the glock is a mostly unhelpful metaphor for understanding putin's russia i found myself returning to one thing yvonne learned in the camps. if you're stuck inside an unjust system is it cheating it a bit and therefore your own purposes entirely irrational, evenvirtuous ? maybe there are no good answers to these questions and an impossibility captured in a russian saying, between two fires, the condition of stuck between two forces bigger than yourself and making it out the other side is just about the best outcome available. the more i thought and wrote about the way people actually live and work in putin's russia the more i realize it was largely impossible to separate them into two caps, the oppressed and the oppressor. yes obvious victims and those whose resolute positions and
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great frustration and hardship. just as they were unambiguously corrupt and sadistic who used the state authority to line their pockets but who got off on and acting all manner of petty cruelties most of the people i encountered were neither. they were strivers, nimble and resourceful who usually set out with virtuous, thoroughly understandable motives. what fascinated me where the compromises and prevarications required in bringing those motives to life and how overtime those in session and change a person and the very rationale that motivated such action in the first place . thank you for that. so i see some people shaking their heads about already some of the compromises you described and i just want to start by saying or asking you about what you said earlier where this is not a phenomenon you need to rush, and we've seen this a lot
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under the trump administration that people who were very much against it, a lot of people who were never numbers who thought i could help the country, blah blah blah. how do you see, did you come down on any side of where are the red lines or any of these people? i want to interrogate this concept a little bit more. what's the line between buddy who is co-opted and a collaborator ? do we need people like nepali , it's a rambling question when you need them and i applaud them and they have my admiration . i have no beef with them, the opposite, i hold them in great esteem, i just don't think there necessarily the most effective or elastic journalistic prisons for making sense of russia not as representatives. >> as far as where the redlines lie, in this book i
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purposely didn't draw them. that's different than what i might say about my own life and my own political and social context. i think there are a lot of interesting parallels to the kinds of compromises i described in the book and the reason people go for them in the first place, but they're hoping to achieve and what they think they can achieve 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 arrived or they themselves emerge so sweet and jaded from the process that they are not thesame person they were when they went in . the big difference that i see and maybe you see more and the audience can name some also is a singular role at the state plays in russia. thankfully doesn't exist here. there's actually a welcome degree of diversity in american social economic life outside of the state and in
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russia not the case and that makes this question of compromise more inevitable than here. i think here i can understand it but it's not as it there really wasn't any other choice for person x or y realizing their motives or theirprofessional ambitions or whatever . the one factor that struck me that's so simple and obvious and it wasn't until it was pointed out to me was what i learned when i was reporting the chapter about the theater director who was and is a very celebrated avant-garde experimental theater director who or a time when the boot in states had a short-lived interest in supporting our guard art forms he benefited from the largess and use state money to put on some remarkable productions, interestingly many of which were explicitly critical of the very state that was paying for them. but as one of his friend said to me about why he would have
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done this, why he would have put his hand out and taken state money from the government that he found objectionable at least and the person said in russia you don't have the choice of making a movie with state funding or without state funding, that would be an easy choice. make the movie without state funding and your conscience is clean. that's not theoffer on the table . offer is do you want to make a movie or not and if you want to make a movie, there's only one way to do that currently in russia and when you put the question that way it becomes a lot harder and certainly impossible for me to sit and judge surrender, taking money from the kremlin to make thesemovies . he's a film director or stage and film director born in a certain time and place. he only has one shot in the prime productive years of his career, why shouldn'the make the kind of films he wants to
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make ? >> this is i guess more of the comments in a question but i've been surprised personally to come back from russia to the states where russian dissidents and journalists are lauded as heroes and martyrs because they stand up to the state. because they refused to make the kinds of compromises you make in your book and yet things get difficult year. you see so many people making, running to make compromises that are so much, the bar is so much lower. the stakes are so much lower. isn't why not go to jail, do i not get killed, do i make a movie or not make a movie, it's like and i pay my mortgage and have a life nice lifestyle or not pay my mortgage and have a lesser lifestyle and their more than willing to make that compromise i guess to turn that into a question it's you live in both worlds, you settle both worlds, the us and russia read do you understand why we fetishize
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those two extremes in a place like russia? we're obsessed with you all we want to know is what he's thinking, what you want, what he said, what it means and the hero martyrs. why were not interested in i hope people are more interested when they buy your book because you've made it so interesting but do you have an insight into why we fetishize those two extremes? >> i don't think it's just in russia, those are our analytic proclivities anywhere but going back to greek literature if the idea of the hero and antihero and making roles more digestible and understandable so i'm not sure particular it is to russia so who can make it so easy. he's such a perfect comic book super villain that it's hard to resist the urge to make every story about him cause stories framed about him are just so good, so juicy red they sell well. they're fun to write and he makes it too easy.
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i'm beginning to suspect by design. he's very happy with that. with that arrangement and his positioning in politics through that prism but there again i'm not sure how particular it is to russia. despite putting occupying i think a particular place in our collective geopolitical imagination. >> do you think that because so much of contemporary russia revolves around houston and the state that he embodies and there isn't an obvious ideology like there was in the soviet union, you mentioned ernst with it would be great if you explain, you think that about as being a stand-in fora state of ideology, does that make it easier for people to compromise ? >> we agree on the definition but it essentially means
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estate is for all intents and purposes but it's someone who places the state in a kind of elevated position, who sees certain interests and privileges to the state above those of the individual and thinks they interests take primacy over the interest of the individual and that seem to be very much output in these the world, with the collapse of the soviet union was a great catastrophe not because he was a committed marxist but because his center of state power grew evil and weak and collapse from within and that's a great tragedy of the class as far as who can understand it and someone like constantin ernst, the head of channel 1 i write about in one of the chapter is an interesting guy because he has this background of opera so era quasi- hippie author who is making shows about german art house films while wearing a
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black leather motorcycle jacket and with long hair grew into being a premier and most powerful propagandist of the putin era. but for him, that's a fascinating transformation for me and one he takes no small amount of pride in the area he still likes to position himself as this kind of counterculture rebel even though he wields power over the country's television channel with the largest reach. there is some degree of continuity here, maybe less contradiction or even compromise in his case because he someone who despite his tastes in our house films and to think of what the offbeat quirky american television series fargo on prime time in channel 1, he never stops leaving in the central or premier authority of the state. for him that's not a contradiction and that's what makes him interesting to me. something that a friend of his told me for my profile on the chapter of him about him
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in the book he said ernst is an intellectual and an asset but he's no liberal and i have to sit with that thought for a minute because in my life, those returns are often interchangeable or on the collapsible into one entity. >> but they haven't been historically in european or american culture and since you've mentioned ernst, i'm sure a lot of you read the excerpts on the profile of constantin ernst, the director of channel one in the new yorker. i thought he was a really interesting choice because this is a bit of a criticism, i didn't see what compromise he was making. he loved films, having an aesthetic is it really an ideology and he seemed to me like in your portrait a little bit of the kind of karl rove of the early putin administration who love tupac and obama as stylistic choices that came from that
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generation that was born in the early 60s that was so absolutely cynical and they just saw the state as something to be no and you payment service to whatever ideology want but you get yours. what compromise once ernst making ? >> is compromise as you say, it's not necessarily political and moral. i don'tthink he's in any conflict with himself . it really is a stylistic and aesthetic compromise, especially after the annexation of private area and the outbreak of war and on bus that rushes politics have curled into something quite aggressive and inward lookingand suspicious of the outside world , suspicious of cosmopolitanism the values ernst wants and i think somewhere deep down still hold dear, his channel has been forced to adopt certain sites stylistic tropes i know he must find it faithful.
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you can't be a loyal footsoldier in the kremlin's propaganda war and maintain these i had, intellectual standards on the channel. i will say he channel 1 a little bit less covered in mud and the other two state channels and that's interesting to see but there is something about his stewardship that makes it a bit less gross and sulfurous in the programming on some of the other channels but there is still a full-fledged be your test participants in the kremlin's information war and he knows he had no choice. when duty calls, that's what the times acquired but i suspect that deep down, he rather be spending his nights picking which any art-house film he would want to buy the
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right to air on prime time in channel 1 rather than having been egregiously take segments and not on his network like the story of his crucified boy in eastern ukraine turned out to be a completely invented and fake new scandal for him that he had been spend some weeks and months and again with me explaining and defending and i know that's not the position he'd like to be in class good on you for pressing him on that. since we are on ernst, 2 more questions on him. one when you wrote about sochi and that incredible elaborate display of russian history and culture he put on you didn't mention one of the rings didn't open which became kind of a meme and a truck for everything that's wrong with the government . how do you explain? >> that's a function of no great editorial purposeful decision on my part. if anything if i wouldn't included it a malfunction of the ring during the opening ceremonies was otherwise this really incredible spectacle
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that was welcomed by all manner of russian society including opposition figures. now molly was a big fan of the opening ceremonies. >> but a nationalist. >> away when the ring doesn't didn't open and it was seen as the one snafu in an otherwise graceful production ernst made fun of it and in the closing ceremony he had one of the rings for a second also not open, a kind of a wink at the audience and a flash in the day and that seemed an interesting case of ernst having a rare for that degree of russian power and russian officialdom, that sort of self deprecation and that sort of self irony, those are not featured easy with people who occupy those positions of power in russia. >> that the great detail and you mentioned a lot in the book it's also part of how the state maintains its image and its patina of legitimacy
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is it has people like you on tv and it has these winks and not our mistakes which is where not totally gone but we have some press. we are nice to foreigners. why did you go on when a lot of our friends i think would say don't legitimize them, don't even go near it, what was that choice like for you describe that. >> the choice was easy, i was welcome or accepted accept criticism of moral defensibility of that choice i just wanted to see what the factory floor of the sausage factory look like. here i was in studying ernst watching so much of channel 1 contemporaneously going back and watching old clips, watching the very show that means time will tell, it's a kind of jerry springer about politics iguess is the best
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way to say . it's this crass shout best show about. , however we are not sound as a concept. >> does syria get pregnant? >> a paternity test and then commercial break so when they invited me on the show and they're constantly as you alluded to inviting any living breathing american within 100 mile radius of moscow because there aren't that many americans speak russian you are willing to be beat like a birthday party ta every guest wants to step up and have a whack over the course of the hour i was for reportorial purposes i guess you could say because i wanted to know what it was like onset . i wanted to know what the hosts were like and what it felt like to be at the center of that sort of spectacle. and it was as i expected, my function there was to be the
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ready-made or stand in villain on whatever the topic du jour was an discounted avatar for america. i was always really to josh the american read the notion that i own politics, the politics of the new yorker on certain questions might be in total opposition to the reigning official american position. what is the official american position? that's lost because of the continuity of power at this point in russia over the past 20 years, the notion that there can be this total turn in official policy . >> contradiction within one administration. >> but i was there just to be the stand in avatar for america in whatever the topic was an however america needed to be used as the bogeyman. and i didn't expect much else and i treated it like both a productive reportorial exercise and something comfortable that would later be a good story with you and
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everyone here so in that sense it served its purpose but what was interesting is that one night i went to go see one of the hosts ofthe show . i guy named shannon who was a former soviet paratrooper who served in afghanistan and is this real no-nonsense guy who was the most kind crass and over-the-top, he once tried to punch another american in the middle of the show, not me but he likes to throw elbows and mix it up on the show. and i went to see him one night to have a conversation one-on-one, no cameras, wasn't for the td or anything and he was really thoughtful and call. we disagreed on substance on just about everything he didn't try to choke me. there were no antics. he didn't interrupt me, he sat and talked for three hours and at the end of it i told him, i have to admit i'm a bit surprised by the tenor
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of this conversation read this was kind of nice red normally when i'm on the show or interrupting me, you're shouting at me and calling me names and here we are having a nice talk and he said something like in the chapter i forget the wording but something like people don't go up to boxers on the street and ask them why they're not punching them in face. when i'm in the ring i'm doing one thing and when i'm out walking around the streets i'm doinganother . and i don't know how is that any different than hosts on fox news or msnbc, it's a job and you have to inhabit the character but i think there was a heightened agreement of both showmanship and cynicism in that statement to me. >> fascinating. and while we have you and can we go a little bit more behind the scenes? how did you decide which characters were going to be in the book, who was left on the cutting room floor and i think people love to hear about the process and the decisions that were made.
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>> i did think of it in the beginning kind of like a casting call who were going to be my characters and how would i populate the book and i thought about it for a few different lenses. once or maybe a few different criteria in mind. one is i wanted a representative, or as representative as you can be cross several of people whose experiences or professions, lives .at different aspects of russia i thought were interesting though i knew i wanted someone from media. couldn't get any better than ernst, the head of channel 1 so that was a pretty easy box to check once it seemed like he was in. i knew i wanted a priest, someone to represent the russianorthodox church . actually was one of the harder ones and longest amount of time for me to find the rightpriest, but they
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were all i know relatively about . despite the nature of my job living in moscow i knew a lot of people even in state media and knowing how the world works . i didn't know much about the organ orthodox church and had to rely on the advice of russian journalist friends, people who were themselves regular churchgoers or were familiar with the church world and knew who was who and who the interesting characters were because the initial criteria for anybody was they had to have experience in some way or could reflect on this question of compromise so i was already knowing from the very beginning my prison pretty severely. and down the line i knew i wanted someone from crimea area i wanted someone from chechnya area i wanted someone who could reflect on the question of historical memory. i ended up focusing not so much on one individual button institution, a museum called permit 36. that is one of the really
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only museums to political repression and the blog in all of russia. it's the only museum or memorial complex on the actual size of a former prison camp in all of russia. there's no other auschwitz style memorial complex on the actual site in all of russia, it's the only one so i wanted to capture that wide range of russian life and also geographically, i wanted there to be as little moscow as possible, moscow was inevitable because rod russia is such a centralized place so what's happening happens in moscow but i wanted to resist the temptation to have all my characters live and work in moscow and the last important criteria was one i alluded to at the beginning which was i wanted to find people whose compromises were confounding to me, that i couldn't fault them or answer them and i
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didn't know where i landed on the moral permissibility of their compromise. i wanted to emerge from my time with them still not able to cast a conclusive judgment on them and it really did end up at place red there's no character in the book who i would say is all the way good or all the way back, there's some who i am more sympathetic to, the humanitarian and aid worker doctor lisa, someone who's my heart really goes out to, she died tragically in a plane crash in 2015 before i again the active phase of reporting for this book and it just like as you said ernst is someone who, he's a big boy. he knows what he's doing. maybe he knows better so i don't feel that same kind of protectiveness necessarily about him and he can answer for whatever people want to hold him to account for whether it's crucified boy
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story or the fake news about in age 17 that was on channel 1 so with that i think he's maybe engaged in a compromise and he's also an experienced player who knows what he's doing so there was a wide range of my own attitudes to the characters but i never could say this person is in a good category,this person is in a bad category . >> .. that is you know is wasted reporting even though i spend a lot of time with other priests who did make it into the book because i was so ignorant about world in particular and it was
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just a great education and with the russian orthodoxy is like and think about the patriarch and what live is like as a priest and the education on that subject. there were some priests who did make it into the book but i'm sure they are experiencing the joy they shared and i did reflect my ability to act as a narrator of that world. >> our last question before we go to the audience you and your book very presciently and i think appropriately on younger people and other groups that we in the west is young people over the world in here. the high-schoolers from parkland florida are going to solve the gun issue and greta thunberg is going to solve climate change and college in russia's going to get rid of putin for us. what was your take away?
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what would you tell americans that young people in russia? are they our great hope for democratic rush hour getting rid of putin or are they just like their parents? >> i don't know despite having spent a lot of time with russian young people and trying to figure out that exact question. a little bit of oath. i will try to get a less measly answer than that. there definitely is something going on different with this generation than the parents and that seems very clear to me spending time with them and that has to do to an objective history, and formative experience for so many people, everybody really include this generation. the decline of the soviet union i think the period before the collapse dominated by this wily doublethink that was the lengell franc of the society by the end
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that produced a generation or two of cynics and i'm not sure russia has been able to overcome that to occupy the top positions of power. they will be replaced eventually by people whose formative experiences came after and there is no great magic or alchemy that this generation wasn't steeped in that time it didn't have those experiences and emerged with less cynicism and more trust and see the way the russian young people engaged in the social activities that require higher degrees of trust and higher bond between individuals. not even necessarily activism i wouldn't say. just the way that they seem to 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 their parents
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navigate their lives presuming this person will probably do right in the end. from your experience if you agree a lot of russians who are 50 plus or 60-plus would navigate the world with the exact opposite expectations. there's a change in society if you have that many people thinking that way and soon you won't have people who were steeped in a different culture. the question is how strong will the inertia be. eventually those young people with their ambitions and their aims for their life and their dreams will want to realize those dreams. >> or compromise on those dreams. >> well right but architecture hasn't changed so much and it will require compromises quite similar to the compromises of their parents and how will they emerge from that experience? will they compromise with their
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parents did and will they be changed by those compromises? will they emerge at that end of the assembly were they do now? that's where mike was a answer comes in. >> okay we are going to go to audience questions. there's a migrate there. i'm going to be a tough moderator because josh is so interesting we want to hear more from him. please state your name and make your question very short and please make a question and not a statement and if you don't i will cut you off. >> i name is david and this is a question about someone he he loved on the cutting room floor. he wrote about him in 2013 the very frustrated entrepreneur who was impressed by his competitors and the system against him and whatever happened to him? >> a real blast for the past. thanks for mentioning that story. i kept up with bruce for a little bit and he became a kind of entrepreneur activist and he
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was helping other entrepreneurs in similar situations who faced criminal repression launched either by corrupt law enforcement officials or by their competitors in cahoots with enforcement officials as was in his case and like i said i kept in touch for a little bit. he was giving advice and counsel to other entrepreneurs and i have no real good answers to why didn't include him except that the book is already standard 80 pages long. they couldn't get everybody in but i take your point and that is thought reuss was a great character and certainly an act of running a business in russia requires no small amount of compromise no matter how clean you want to be. it's not as capable when the police will never show up. you write about a former
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character in crimea who is a zookeeper and part of it is about the korea -- crimea -- >> anyone else? >> my name is rick davis and what i want to ask you is how does everything you write about these people making compromises and their life how does that affect the dealings of russia with the outside world? is it completely different answers? >> not necessarily because like anyplace russia domestic politics and foreign politics are overlapped or one grows out of the other end is affected by the other so in the case of someone as rush adopted this much more aggressive stance especially in relation to the west after 2014 he was at the head of channel 1 was swept up
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in that. in fact to change the whole tenure of the channel and the completely change the nature of the compromise required. someone like him frankly her death on board a russian military aircraft flying from so she to syria was directly linked both to her cooperation or her willingness to participate in state-led humanitarian missions but also with russian intervention in syria. she was on a mission that was meant to be a good pr mission led by the russian defense ministry to travel to syria and deliver medicine to hospitals and that sort of thing. her death was a direct outcome of the russian foreign-policy. even in the case of the museum dedicated to political regression and gulags it was subject to what you could fairly call a hostile takeover from a
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state in 2015 party was founded in the 90s by some local diy historian and eventually taken out from under them 10 years later or more by the state at a time, at the peak of the anti-western into ukraine hysteria when among other things among other quote unquote sins kid committed he was too soft on ukrainian national prisoners who were held at the prison in the post-war years and in the new era anything linked to ukrainian nationalism was equated to fascism and that was viewed as an explanation for why russia had to intervene and donbass or the citizens of donbass. it was to prevent the return of ugly ukrainian fascism to the museum could have these exhibits that spoke to those historical
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figures. even in a place where he would expected russia's attitude toward the outside world affected the compromise of the characters. >> my question as if we can expect putin may read this book what is the motivation for ernst to be fully open with you knowing that he might read this book and do you think there's any underlying plays and how openings as to what he said, is there anything that in your experience under that kind of watching these people and sharing those stories does that change the narrative? >> i can't really ever know why
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someone chose to speak with me and be open with me and that does affect what they are telling me or how i process what they are telling me. it's ultimately unknowable to the final degree and someone like ernst i thank he really felt a need or at least a sense of relief in having this earnest curious fundamental empathetic american journalist sit and listen to him and taken seriously and take his career seriously and give him back credibility as an art tour may be who collaborated with the state that we in america are going to say he has no illusions about that but i will grant him the status of this cultural and artistic talent and visionary maybe even.
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the fact that i would see him in that light and through giving voice to his compromises also allowed him to come off as more than just banal propaganda. i think that was important to him and important to self-image. there was something satisfying and having that read back to him by an american journalist. for his particular case something like that that's going on they wanted to be taken seriously and understood that human rights worker in chechnya who effectively change sides against a good say became a kind of human rights activist form madiero was motivated by a similar dynamic in a lot of her old colleagues in the community had turned their backs on her and really criticized her for that move understandably and she
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left out a lot of former colleagues and friends. i was there and willing to listen to her story and a lot of the characters found something appealing in that rates the mechanic take you back really quickly on that question? did you find people -- it's interesting people who spoke to you were quite aware of what they were doing but there were also as you know people the system who have certain point drink the kool-aid a little too much without being aware of the fact that they made compromises. they have come to really believe this speaking of a fellow media person. any of that for you saw the person cross a certain line and so far beyond the rearview mirror that they lost all their prospective? >> sure. some of the people and some of the characters in the book why didn't she is necessary for that reason and it was of compromise and want to pursue
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but they come in as supporting characters. there's another russian television personality who was a real about liberal love journalistic standards is now the most egregious and disgusting television host on russian state media. >> like a rush and hannity. >> yeah but even more implausible, clownish and foul. they think he's exactly that kind of person. he so inhabited in the new role that i don't think he can go back on his old one and has interested in understanding how we got from point a to b let alone baring his soul to a journalist who wants him to 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 to shoot
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down of this malaysian airlines plane flying from amsterdam to koala lumpur. there are a lot of investigations and independence with once by the dutch government approved conclusively that it was shot down by a russian-made aircraft that was provided covertly to russia and back separatists in ukraine at the time. channel 1 is put forward all sorts of absurd and contradictory theories about what actually happened. none of them of course being that they were shut down by russian missile. ukrainians were trying to shoot down russian's presence a and all sorts of contradictory theories that don't even match up. the point was to produce a lot of noise and make people not believe the one thing or the other but when ernst and i were talking about that it was clear we were actually talking about an objective factual universe. in the book i write about this
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conversation about aesthetics of religion. we were too intelligent minds seeking pleasure from his intellectual sparring match talking about vague ideas or our favorite films or whatever and an actual objective historical fact. one specific thing did happen. it was hard to have that. >> 300 lives were lost. >> it was hard to have that conversation with him in a moment like that i did feel like okay however we could share cultural tastes actually there is something that keeps us from having a true common conversation. >> fascinating. sir? citi thanks, thanks very much. your comments about russian youth are what spawned this
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question and that's something along the lines of exchange programs and who earns more and what happened in exchange, exchanges between american youth and russia. but i want to change the question to another hypothetical. what would happen hypothetically if you could put together a bunch of russian journalist with a bunch of american journalists someplace where wasn't bugged so they could spend a week in total secrecy and so forth? >> it happens all the time in moscow in fact. if the rooms are booked i don't know but that's a daily visit to moscow with one of my closest friends a russian journalist. >> how would they change and who has changed more from the experience? >> i'm not sure. i think i've certainly emerged
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with respect for the work they russian journalist even acknowledge meant that our attitude journalism is this profession under siege which it is but it can veer toward patronizing affect by not actually giving credit to the real work that's being done everyday. there are journalists being attacked and there are journalists being murdered but there are far more journalist doing really brave incredible impactful work and by painting all of russian journalism with a broadbrush is hitting these poor people who are perpetually dodging bullets from the kremlin. i don't want to deny that reality but it denies the work that is being done. >> i will say the other thing i would add to what josh said is we tend to come to think a lot of journalists go there thinking
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they live under an authoritarian regime and they don't know how to report as journalism and in fact a lot of these guys every single day and how are they able to get through that scoop and the analysis they provide which can be super rigorous. i also think americans overly fetishize people like us by asking us aren't you scared to go to russian are you afraid you'll be killed or kidnapped? the fact is where craig privileged by being less untouchable under trumpets less untouchable as citizens as our russian friends and colleagues who are under daily threat not just to being killed but more likely to be driven out of the profession by the economics of it. when we hear about this or that independent news web site getting shut down because advertisers are being pressured not to advertise and therefore
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people can't be paid and families and mortgages, we don't really give those people as much thought to those of the people that were killed. that was a terrible thing to end on. you want to say one more thing so we can end on a happier thought? >> i've certainly learned a lot with this book and it could have without the work of russian journalists who were very generous in pointing the way to sources and ideas so i'm happy to end on that note. you should all read it to the extent you can. [applause] >> thank you guys. thank you guys. he's going to stick around and sign books. >> copies of "between two fires" are available in josh phlegley here signing books. please form a line to the right of the table and help our staff by folding up the chairs. thanks again.
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[inaudible conversations]
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>> good afternoon everyone. sorry we are running a little bit behind today. on behalf of the american enterprise institute is like to welcome you to conversation we going to have with pamela paul the editor of "the news york times" book review about her recent book "how to raise a reader" she co-opted it with her


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