Discourse in Danger: Attacks on Free Expression in Putin’s Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has seized upon information as a key weapon in his fight to promote Russia’s resurgence in the world. With the mainstream press increasingly toeing the Kremlin line, government restrictions have expanded to encroach upon other cultural spaces and modes of expression, including social activism, scholarship, art, and theater. 

Discourse in Danger: Attacks on Free Expression in Putin’s Russia documents the Russian government’s campaign to constrain free expression by limiting public access to information, closing avenues of civic engagement, populating discourse with approved ideas, and raising the stakes on dissent. Government tactics have included banning or blocking independent news sites, ensuring Kremlin-compliant leadership at a major social network, waging a propaganda war to promote its version of events regarding Ukraine, and empowering the Russian Orthodox Church to censor theater and art, as well as tarnishing independent civic groups as “foreign agents” and imposing near-complete restrictions on LGBT-activism or public expressions or discussions of homosexuality. These efforts have created a climate of fear and self-censorship in the media, publishing industry, and other creative endeavors in an attempt to subordinate universal norms such as the right to freedom of expression under newly constructed and state-imposed “Russian values.”

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Polina KovalevaPolina Kovaleva
Project Director, Eurasia
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Released in conjunction with The Closing of the Russian Mind: Expression, Creativity, and Culture in Putin’s Russia.