Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute

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Book Talk. I Love Russia by Elena Kostyuchenko
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Please join the Harriman Institute and The Delacorte Center for Magazine Journalism for a book talk with Elena Kostyuchenko. Moderated by Keith Gessen.

A fearless, cutting portrait of Russia and an essential cri de coeur for journalism in opposition to the global authoritarian turn. To be a journalist is to tell the truth. I Love Russia is Elena Kostyuchenko’s unrelenting attempt to document her country as experienced by those whom it systematically and brutally erases: village girls recruited into sex work, queer people in the outer provinces, patients and doctors at a Ukrainian maternity ward, and reporters like herself.

Here is Russia as it is, not as we imagine it. The result is a singular portrait of a nation, and of a young woman who refuses to be silenced. In March 2022, as a correspondent for Russia’s last free press, Novaya Gazeta, Kostyuchenko crossed the border into Ukraine to cover the war. It was her mission to ensure that Russians witnessed the horrors Putin was committing in their name. She filed her pieces knowing that should she return home, she would likely be prosecuted and sentenced to up to fifteen years in prison. Yet, driven by the conviction that the greatest form of love and patriotism is criticism, she continues to write.

I Love Russia stitches together reportage from the past fifteen years with personal essays, assembling a kaleidoscopic narrative that Kostyuchenko understands may be the last work from her homeland that she’ll publish for a long time—perhaps ever. It exposes the inner workings of an entire nation as it descends into fascism and, inevitably, war. She writes because the threat of Putin’s Russia extends beyond herself, beyond Crimea, and beyond Ukraine. We fail to understand it at our own peril.

Elena Kostyuchenko was born in Yaroslavl, Russia in 1987. She began working as a journalist when she was fourteen, and spent seventeen years reporting for Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s last major independent newspaper until it was shut down in the spring of 2022 in response to her reporting from Ukraine. She is the author of two books published in Russian, Unwanted on Probation and We Have to Live Here, and the recipient of the European Press Prize, the Gerd Bucerius Award, and the Paul Klebnikov Prize.



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