Podcast Then & Now #17 – Teresa Cherfas in conversation with Zoia Svetova

28 March 2024

by Teresa Cherfas

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

Our guest today is Zoia Svetova, renowned journalist and human rights activist. She continues to live and work in Moscow.  She is the author of several books, including Priznat’ nevinovnogo vinovnym [To Find the Innocent Guilty]. Her voice is perhaps one of the few authoritative oppositionist voices still heard in Russia today.  

This podcast was recorded on 26 March 2024.

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My questions include:

  • When it became known that Russian troops had invaded Ukraine in 2022, could you ever have imagined such a thing happening?
  • You decided to stay in Russia. Did you discuss with your family, your four adult children, whether to leave or stay in Russia?
  • Can I ask you to tell us a little about your family? After all, you are part of Russia’s hereditary dissident aristocracy, if I may put it like that. Tell us about your parents, what you most remember about them, about their lives? 
  • Your husband was also involved in the dissident movement.  How did you meet? And how did you bring up your children, what were the main moral values you tried to pass on to them?
  • When Putin became president in 2000, did you have any hopes?
  • Was there a key episode when it became clear for you which direction his regime was heading?
  • The title of this podcast, “Then and Now,” is associated with the fateful date of 24 February 2022. But there has since been another terrible date that will be a significant event in the perception of the world and of Russian public opinion  – 16 February this year. What was your first reaction when you learned of Aleksei Navalny’s death in the Polar Wolf penal colony.
  • What did Navalny mean for Russia, what did he symbolise? And what did his death in prison mean for the future of Russia?
  • You were at Aleksei’s funeral in Moscow. Could you share the mood that prevailed there, what you observed –  tell us about your impressions.
  • Should other political prisoners in Russia now fear for their lives?
  • Just recently, a presidential election was conducted in Russia. If I’m not mistaken, you were abroad at that time. Did you take part in the “Noon against Putin” protest? Did the protests bring any benefits? And is there any difference between such protests in Russia and abroad?
  • Your sons Tikhon and Filip are engaged in interesting work abroad. Does the fact that Tikhon is on the register of foreign agents and is editor-in-chief of the Dozhd TV company, which has been declared an undesirable organization in Russia, affect your life in Moscow in any way?
  • After the attack on Leonid Volkov, a leading member of Navalny’s team, in Vilnius, do you fear for your own children and other Russian oppositionists living outside Russia? 
  • What would have to happen in Russia for you to change your mind and leave the country?
  • What needs to happen in Russia for your children and grandchildren to return home? 
  • What are your thoughts about the recent terrorist attack at Crocus City Hall in Moscow?  Do you think 22 March 2024 will be another milestone in the history of the Putin regime?