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Ludmila Ulitskaya in Conversation

Recipient of the 2002 Russian Booker Prize, Ludmila Ulitskaya is considered the heir to Chekhov and among the most important writers in Russia today. In 2008, Ulitskaya began secretly corresponding with Amnesty International “prisoner of conscience” Mikhail Khordorkovsky, the anti-Putin Russian oligarch serving 14 years in a Siberian camp. Speaking through interpreter Jennifer Wolfson, the author read excerpts from that correspondence and discussed the current political, cultural, and social situation in Russia, with special attention to the ongoing anti-Putin protests and the recent presidential election.

This event took place as part of the 2012 PEN World Voices Festival.

Co-sponsored by The Cooper Union and The Renova Group of Companies.

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Russian protestors clash with riot police in Moscow 
News this week that Russian authorities had arrested more protestors and that teams of investigators raided the homes of blogger Aleksei Navalny, television star Kseniya Sobchak, and other prominent opposition voices is further proof of an intensifying struggle over freedom of expression in Russia. 
Navigating this treacherous terrain is the Russian PEN Center, chartered in 1988 and an important defender of the freedom to write in the post-Soviet era. Among Russian PEN’s most important campaigns were efforts to challenge the jailing of Grigory Pasko and Aleksander Nikitin. The center paid a stiff a price for its activism when then-President Putin sought to impose exorbitant land taxeson the organization’s central Moscow offices. For more than five years, the center was tied down in court with its assets frozen by the state.
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Russian protestors clash with riot police in Moscow

News this week that Russian authorities had arrested more protestors and that teams of investigators raided the homes of blogger Aleksei Navalny, television star Kseniya Sobchak, and other prominent opposition voices is further proof of an intensifying struggle over freedom of expression in Russia. 

Navigating this treacherous terrain is the Russian PEN Center, chartered in 1988 and an important defender of the freedom to write in the post-Soviet era. Among Russian PEN’s most important campaigns were efforts to challenge the jailing of Grigory Pasko and Aleksander Nikitin. The center paid a stiff a price for its activism when then-President Putin sought to impose exorbitant land taxeson the organization’s central Moscow offices. For more than five years, the center was tied down in court with its assets frozen by the state.

Click here to read more

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We believe that a mere apology in this case is clearly not enough. It does not settle the issue. The incident goes far beyond relations between top officials and a single editorial staff person. This ugly act committed by your colleague is your challenge for the whole journalistic community, and furthermore, civil society, the development of which you have repeatedly highlighted. The closure of the “hunting season” against a Novaya Gazeta journalist does not guarantee that history of this kind will not be repeated in the future. Impunity for Mr. Bastrykin serves as a signal to the regional authorities, and therefore does not have much impact on what is going on with journalists working for the local media.

Russian PEN, on why an apology from Alexander Bastrykin, who allegedly threatened to kill journalist Sergey Sokolov, is not sufficient. The letter to President Putin calls for Bastrykin to be prosecuted. 

Click here to read the full letter.

PEN International and 21 other international human rights and free expression organizations have issued an open letter to the Russian Duma protesting a draft law that would label non-governmental organizations that receive any international funding “foreign agents.”

The draft bill is the latest in a long line of Putinesque maneuvers aimed at chilling civil society in Russia; Russian PEN is only now emerging from a six-year legal battle stemming from an earlier attempt to shackle human rights and free expression organizations. The “foreign agents” proposal comes amid a wave of legislation clearly aimed at squelching dissent. Last month, Putin signed a bill imposing massive penalties on peaceful protesters and protest organizers, and the Duma is currently considering a bill that would give the government substantial control over Internet content.