Let Us Not Forget Navalny
And if they dare to keep me like an animal
And fling my food on the floor,
I won't fall silent or deaden the agony,
But shall write what I am free to write…
-Osip Mandelstam who died in Stalin's Gulag, 12/27/38
The Soviet regime robbed people not only of their ability to live freely but also of the ability to understand fully what had been taken from them, and how."
― Masha Gessen, "The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia"
We celebrate Britney Griner's return to the United States. This talented young woman is home—such a sweet, innocent smile as she boarded the plane not knowing where she was going. The geopolitics of her release are fascinating to contemplate: Maybe our intelligence personnel turned Bout. After 11 years in prison, Bout may have already revealed all they wanted him to reveal, a rag dog sent home to be feted by the despot, and now a double agent? Maybe the United States and Allies wanted to throw Putin a bone so he feels he has a"win" and therefore won't unleash his nuclear arsenal, or he'll resist other atrocities, including his deals with Iran for yet more weaponry.
On and on it goes. Peter Zalmayev, my broadcaster friend in Kyiv, continues broadcasting uninterrupted in Ukrainian, Russian and English, albeit he may be wearing a winter coat, his beard growing a bit longer than usual.
So far as I can tell, nothing, absolutely nothing, will stop the Ukrainians. They are intrepid, freedom fighters to the core.
Imperial Russia, the Soviet Union, and now The Russian Federation has a long history of torturing and incarcerating its writers, artists, journalists and political dissidents. The word "defection" was coined during the Soviet period, and now we have "exiled dissidents," as opposed to defectors, many hoping and planning to return home. Much will depend upon how the conflict ends in Ukraine, whether Putin stays or goes, whether or not it is safe to return, whether or not Navalny surfaces unscathed from Putin's gulag and becomes President.
Meanwhile, writers will continue to write, artists to paint and sculpt, journalists to report the news, wherever they are and no matter the hardship. Let us not forget them, or Navalny, or the exiled dissidents, as we enter the holiday season.
Dedicated to the dissident artists, writers and journalists who have fled Putin's Russia and others who struggle to survive his gulag, now known as penal colonies.