January 25–29, 2016

From January 25–29, PEN America will host a delegation of prominent Russian writers and publishers who are braving the currents of authoritarianism under President Vladimir Putin to stand up for free expression.

World-renowned author Ludmila Ulitskaya will lead the delegation at three public events in New York and Washington, DC to reflect on how the Kremlin uses media, literature, and other forms of creative expression to control the narrative of past and present. In additional meetings with fellow writers, publishers, journalists, scholars, and policymakers, they will spell out what it means to be a free-thinking Russian today. 

In tandem with the delegation, PEN America will release a new report on the disappearing space for dissent in Russia today.

With Ludmila Ulitskaya,whose novel about post-war Soviet dissidents The Big Green Tent was recently released in English, will be poet, critic, and independent website editorMaria Stepanova,novelist and journalist Anna Nemzer,and publisher and writer Ilya Danishevsky. They are joined by acclaimed Russian-American writer and PEN America Trustee Masha Gessen

Follow us at #RussiaWrites for updates and live tweets from public events.


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. These efforts, including the arbitrary application of laws that ban specific types of content, have created a climate of fear and self-censorship for the media, writers, and publishers, and those pursuing creative, cultural, and intellectual expression. Read the report »


Public Events (New York and Washington DC)

Voices from Russia: Literature and Free Expression Under Putin
Tuesday, January 26, 7:30pm | Brooklyn Public Library, New York City | Free 
A reading and discussion on the changing face of Russian literature.
Moderated by Boris Kachka

* SOLD OUT | Watch the video


The Closing of the Russian Mind?: Freedom of Expression in Putin’s Russia 
Wednesday, January 27, 7:30pm | Jewish Cultural Center, New York City | $15
A conversation on the writer’s experience in modern Russia as the government co-opts creative expression to control the national narrative. Moderated by Masha Gessen.
* SOLD OUT | Watch the video


The Closing of the Russian Mind?: Freedom of Expression in Putin’s Russia
Thursday, January 28, 4pm | The Atlantic Council, Washington DC | Free
A discussion on how censorship and the closing of the creative space are used by the Kremlin to control discourse. Moderated by Scott Stossel.
RSVP | Watch the video



About the Delegates

Ludmila Ulitskaya is an internationally acclaimed modern Russian novelist and short-story writer whose works explore morality and intellectualism, loyalty, feminism, and religious tolerance in the former Soviet Union. She has been awarded the Russian Booker Prize and the Simone de Beauvoir Prize, among many honors. Trained as a scientist, she made her first appearance on the literary stage in 1990. Her first novella, Sonechka (1992), was nominated for the Russian Booker Prize. She has since published seven novels and numerous short-story collections, children’s books, and plays. Her newest novel, The Big Green Tent, was released in English in November 2015 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Ulitskaya has emerged among the leading critical voices in Russia, stepping in to help coordinate the fragmented anti-Putin protests of 2011–2012. She resigned as vice president of PEN Russia in 2015 after a struggle over allowing dissent to be voiced about the invasion of Ukraine. 


Maria Stepanova is a poet, critic, and independent journalist. She is the author of 10 poetry collections and a book of essays, and winner of the 2005 Andrei Bely Prize. Her poems in English translation appear in the anthology Relocations. She founded the influential online cultural journal OpenSpace.ru, now reconfigured as the crowdfunded platform Colta.ru.



Anna Nemzer is a young Russian novelist with an expanding following. She was a finalist for the Belkin prize and is also an editor at TVRain (Dozhd), which struggles to continue as an independent TV station. She is one of the authors of the Museum of the 90s project, which examines a brief period of freedom in Russia filled with political and social transformations.



Ilya Danishevsky is a publisher as well as a writer and poet. He is chief editor of Vremena, and imprint of the Eskmo/AST publishing house, and focuses on authors who challenge the official discourse. He has developed a network of critical writers and provided them with a public platform to express their views. His novel Tenderness for the Dead was published in 2014.