I Wish We’d Known That: Leading Journalists Look Back at the Russian Story
The invasion of Ukraine seems to have finally eviscerated Russia’s post-Soviet hopes for democracy, human rights, and reconciliation with the past. Through this period – and especially the 23 years of Vladimir Putin’s rule – independent journalism strove in the absence of free institutions of state and alongside government-aligned media to bear attentive and accurate witness to Russia’s transformation. That has largely ended with Putin’s shuttering of independent media outlets, their offices disbanded and journalists forced into exile. If their work is not saved, the record it represents might be erased forever.
The Russian Independent Media Archive, a new project undertaken by PEN America with the Gagarin Center at Bard College, is preserving the archives of these outlets as vital resources for making sense of Russia’s past and its future. The project’s online platform forms a “digital ark” for securing this irreplaceable journalism, where possible in cooperation with the outlets’ editors, and offering access to writers, researchers, scholars, and others seeking to build a historical narrative that stands against propaganda efforts to reinterpret the past. Also collaborating on this initiative is the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.
As we unveil this project, noted journalists who have covered Russia will reflect on their reporting, drawing on the archive for insights on three questions: What did I not know back then? What has been revealed now? How can it help us in the future?
Masha Gessen, staff writer, The New Yorker; author of “Surviving Autocracy”, “The Future Is History”, “The Man Without a Face”
Susan Glasser, staff writer, The New Yorker; author of Kremlin Rising, “The Man Who Ran Washington” and most recently “The Divider”, which she co-wrote with her husband Peter Baker
Beth Knobel, associate professor of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University, former Moscow Bureau Chief for CBS News
Anna Nemzer, TV presenter at the major independent Russian TV channel “Dozhd”
David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker; author of six books including “Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire”.
The Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, PEN America, and the Russian Independent Media Archive (RIMA), a joint initiative of PEN America and Bard College that launches in April 2023.