Podcast Then & Now #16 – Teresa Cherfas in conversation with Anastasia Burakova

25 February 2024

by Teresa Cherfas

Welcome to the sixteenth edition of our Russian-language podcast Then & Now with me, Teresa Cherfas. 

We are still in shock at the news of the murder of Aleksei Navalny in a high-security penal colony in the settlement of Kharp. 

Aleksei Navalny’s political star rose as a leader of the opposition to the Putin regime in 2011.  That year, 2011, played a significant part in the  political coming of age of  today’s guest – Anastasia Burakova, a Russian human rights lawyer and activist for democratic change in Russia – and influenced the trajectory of her professional life.

However, ten years later, in November 2021, Anastasia was forced to leave Russia. She moved to Georgia after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, where she founded the Ark Project (‘Kovcheg’). Initially, set up to offer help to exiled Russians because of their opposition to the war, over time, Ark’s activities have broadened.

This podcast was recorded on 22 February 2024.

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My questions include:

  1. I am haunted by two thoughts that never leave me now – the death in prison of Aleksei Navalny and the second year of war inUkraine. What thoughts have occupied you most this past week?
  2. In an interview almost one year ago, you talked about a ‘white rose’ of resistance in Russia. Are there grounds for optimism in Russia today?
  3. The journalist Elena Kostyuchenko wrote in her book about Russia: “Why did I ever think my life would be different?” Do you have an answer for her?
  4. Tell us a little about your childhood. Were there any key moments in your biography that led you to your choice of profession and the path you followed?
  5. You have said that the year 2011 played a big role in your own development. What does 2011 in Russia mean to you? What are your most vivid impressions of that year?
  6. You left Russia at the end of 2021, just 10 years later. What happened in the intervening years in the field of civic activism?
  7. To what extent did human rights and civic activism face new and more difficult challenges in the period leading up to the invasion of Ukraine? What defined the relationship of the authorities to civil society?
  8. Soon after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, you founded the Ark Project. What was the idea behind the project and who are the beneficiaries?
  9. Is there any real hope for the Russian opposition in exile? What can it really do? 
  10. What do the countries that have welcomed Russian exiles have to gain from their presence? 
  11. Aleksei Navalny from prison urged the Russian people to act. He proposed that people should go to the polling stations on the last day of the election, 17 March, at 12.00 noon local time, and stand in line outside the polling station in protest. Do you think there’s a chance that many will do this following his assassination in prison by the Russian authorities?
  12. What do you think the future holds for you? And what are your thoughts about the future of Russia?

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