EPILOGUE

JUNE 12, 2017, was the twenty-seventh anniversary of Russia’s declaration of sovereignty, whatever that had meant. It was the twenty-sixth anniversary of Boris Yeltsin’s election as Russia’s president. It was a national holiday. For its first decade, the holiday was known as the Day of the Passage of the Declaration of State Sovereignty, but in 2002 the name was changed to Russia Day. The declaration of sovereignty—Russia’s first step toward separating itself from the Soviet project—was no longer an event to be celebrated. The holiday had to be depoliticized without sacrificing its spirit of patriotism. Over the years, the festivities employed folk music, pop music, and theater productions on historical topics. In the end, the holiday became a cacophony.

One thousand seven hundred twenty people were arrested on Russia Day 2017—the largest wave of arrests in decades. Alexei Navalny had called them to the streets, and tens of thousands had come out in cities from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok, the most geographically widespread protest in Russian history. Most of the detainees were released within hours; many were sentenced to fines and between five and thirty days behind bars; a few would probably face several years in a prison colony. After about a week it emerged that some of the detainees in Moscow had been tortured, and that jailers in St. Petersburg had pumped noxious gas into the cells where protesters were held.

In Moscow, some of the more than eight hundred detainees had to spend the night on benches in a precinct courtyard because there was no room for them inside, but the scene in the city that day had been less tragic or frightening than absurd. This year’s Russia Day had been turned over to historical reenactments. No particular period had been chosen, but a medieval bent was in evidence. A few kids were wearing red silky costumes vaguely reminiscent of the Young Pioneers’ kerchiefs, but most grown men were dressed in chain-mail armor and carried shields and swords. Still, others wore Second World War–era uniforms and milled around barricades made of sand-filled burlap sacks. At one point, a man dressed as a twentieth-century peasant—a costume that in a different context could easily have been taken for hipster getup—climbed a wall of sacks with a sign that said, in English, “Putin Lies.” As he climbed, he shouted, in Russian, “Putin is a thief!” When he reached the top, a man in the uniform of the NKVD—the Second World War–era secret police—gave chase up the sacks. The protester tumbled down, into the arms of two other men in period secret-police uniforms, and these men handed him over to two contemporary policemen.

The bizarre spectacle of it all was too much for foreign correspondents, who tried to avoid scenic but incomprehensible shots of knights in shining armor literally shielding a teenage protester from the police. Instead, the reporters focused on the teenagers among the protesters. Everyone seemed to agree that the new face of Russian resistance was barely pubescent: a boy in shorts being tackled by police in riot gear, a girl charging a police line, a paddy wagon full of adolescents. One Russian Facebook user posted a photograph of the teenagers in the paddy wagon with the caption “Russia has a future.” He posited that “every mass arrest of young people strengthens youth protest,” which, in turn, was sure to bring about the end of the regime.

The poster was Georgy Satarov, a sixty-nine-year-old political scientist. Satarov was the man who, more than twenty years earlier, had been tasked by Yeltsin with articulating the new Russian national idea—and failed. Now he was shifting responsibility to the teenagers. It was yet another iteration of Levada’s old concept: the next generation, free of the fear, envy, and doublethink of Homo Sovieticus, would usher in a new era of freedom. The next generation kept getting younger. The first generation of people who had no memory of Stalin’s terror had not succeeded in overcoming the totalitarian legacy; the first post-Soviet generation—those born into perestroika and reared in the 1990s—had been the face of the protests of 2011–2012, but they no longer embodied hope; now it was up to the generation of kids born under Putin.

Masha was amused that a photograph of her being dragged off by police was captioned “Teenage girls among hundreds arrested at Russia protests.” She was detained briefly and released—she was still winding her way between drops of rain—and as soon as she got out, she went to work arranging representation for those who had been arrested. She was still doing this work under the auspices of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s organization, but he had cut back on the funding—or, more accurately, he had set limits, while the Russian government was doing the opposite. The number of arrests continued to grow exponentially, and Khodorkovsky’s money would not keep up. Fund-raising became a part of Masha’s job, and then an increasingly important part. And there was no end in sight; there would be more arrests, more fund-raising, and no possibility of a vacation. She decided to quit. She even announced it in a blog post: she would raise the money, she would make sure everyone who had been arrested on June 12 had representation, she would see those cases through to completion, and then she would quit. She would have another life.

Masha’s life as an activist had lasted five and a half years. In 2016, she had run for office—there was an open seat in parliament. There was no hope of winning—even getting on the ballot was an exceedingly difficult task—but Khodorkovsky had the idea that it was important to acquire campaign experience. Masha agreed, but the experience proved more bruising than she could have predicted. She cleaned up her act, quit drinking and doing recreational drugs, and began dressing in button-down shirts and blazers at all times, yet she was still criticized by the very people she was trying to court. The intelligentsia found her language too harsh and cynical. Many of them preferred to vote for a history professor who opposed the war in Ukraine but made no secret of his virulently homophobic views. The history professor did not win, either: not one anti-Putin candidate made a dent in the polls anywhere in the country. Khodorkovsky’s project of creating a shadow society looked much better on paper than it felt in real life.

Still, compared with the other Bolotnoye case defenders, Masha was leading a life of glamour. Most of the others had been sentenced to time in prison colonies. Some had been released after serving their two or two and a half years; others remained in prison, and still others were awaiting trial—they had been arrested later. The state continued to add defendants to the five-year-old case.

ZHANNA WAS SETTLED IN BONN. She had a job with Deutsche Welle, the taxpayer-funded broadcasting service. Like the Russian-language services of the British Broadcasting Corporation and the American Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, DW used to broadcast on short-wave frequencies during the Soviet period, was granted access to AM frequencies under Yeltsin, and lost it under Putin. It was now a Web-based broadcaster with modest audience numbers, but Zhanna became its star interviewer. At DW, no one told her not to delve into politics.

Zhanna started a foundation named for her father. She convened a board that awarded an annual prize to someone who demonstrated courage and determination in fighting the Putin regime. Remarkably, there was stiff competition for the award, and the board argued long and passionately. In June 2017, Zhanna made it public that her father had planned to run for president in 2018—though, she figured, he would have stepped aside if Alexei Navalny had decided to run. Navalny was running now, for what it was worth. For the time being, he was locked up for thirty days after calling for the June 12 protests. He was also facing ever-mounting trumped-up charges of fraud that could land him in prison for years. In an earlier trial, which ended on New Year’s Eve 2014—to ensure that most Russians were properly distracted when the verdict was delivered—Navalny was sentenced to house arrest, and his brother, Oleg, to three and a half years in a prison colony. The intention was clear: house arrest looked like a relatively humane measure, so this time there would be no mass protests. Navalny himself would be kept in line by his brother’s sentence: Oleg was a hostage. Navalny refused to play. With his brother’s permission and encouragement, he persisted with his investigations. He also refused to recognize his own sentence, because Russian law does not actually provide for house arrest as punishment. He walked the streets. The state asked him to desist, and he refused. The state gave up. And now Navalny was leveraging his ability to keep assembling people in the streets for his freedom—and his life.

In July 2017 a Moscow court sentenced five men to between eleven and twenty years in prison for the murder of Boris Nemtsov. All five were from Chechnya; an ostensible sixth accomplice was killed when the police attempted to detain him in Chechnya. The court spent next to no time trying to determine the men’s motives: the prosecution’s story seemed to be that they had organized the murder for no apparent reason. Zhanna and her legal team had insisted on summoning highly placed Chechen officials, but these were never interrogated. In the end, the murder would remain effectively unsolved.

Boris’s old activist friends—the scruffy lot with whom he worked after he left parliament—maintained a living memorial on the bridge where he was gunned down. The city had declined requests to name the bridge for Nemtsov or to create a permanent memorial there. Instead, every couple of months, and sometimes every few days, city workers descended on it and hauled away the flowers and placards. The next day, time after time, activists replaced them. They kept vigil. Though they were powerless to prevent the removal of the memorial, they made sure that a living friend of Boris was present at the site of his death every minute of every day.

IN NEW YORK, Lyosha found himself talking about Chechnya all the time. In the spring of 2017, news came that gay men there were being rounded up, interned, tortured, and, in some cases, killed. Chechen and Russian officials laughed off questions about the disappearances. In Moscow and St. Petersburg, LGBT activists refused to believe the reports at first, simply because they seemed too awful to be true, but soon the evidence was overwhelming. Chechnya had taken the Kremlin’s anti-gay policies to their logical extreme, making Occupy Pedophilia—the vigilante group of the sort that had haunted Lyosha back in Perm—into a state enterprise. The lucky gay men from Chechnya were those who managed to escape to other Russian cities, to attempt eventually to flee to the West.

Lyosha was granted asylum status in the spring of 2017. In the nearly three years that he had been in the United States, he had not been able to find a job in his field—academic positions, even temporary ones, turned out to be prohibitively difficult to come by—but he had learned English and become an increasingly visible activist. He was named co-president of RUSA LGBT, an organization of Russian-speaking queer people helping new asylum seekers. Eventually, he found a job at an AIDS nonprofit.

He was still living in Brighton Beach, the Russian enclave and one of the few neighborhoods in New York City that went to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Lyosha often faced incredulous questions from American friends: How could people who fled the Soviet Union and Putin vote for someone like Trump? But, of course, these were not people who fled totalitarianism. Most of them had arrived around the time the Soviet empire began disintegrating. If anything, what had driven them out was the fear of the Soviet collapse. They longed to return to their imaginary past, which would have made them Putin voters if they had stayed in Russia. Instead, they became Trump voters.

They were also blatantly and sometimes aggressively homophobic. Though many of the new queer asylum seekers rented apartments in Brighton Beach, they lived their gay lives in Manhattan. Lyosha, on the other hand, decided to organize Brighton Beach Pride. In May 2017, about three hundred people marched along the boardwalk from Coney Island, chanting against homophobia in both Russian and English.

SERYOZHA HAS NOT RESPONDED to my messages and phone calls since June 2015.

THE LEVADA CENTER was deemed a “foreign agent” and fined for not registering as one. The center added a line at the bottom of its website, saying that Levada had been “forcibly added to the registry of noncommercial organizations acting as foreign agents.” At first, Lev Gudkov panicked. How were researchers going to continue their work if they had to introduce themselves to potential respondents as “foreign agents”? But it ended up being less of an impediment than Gudkov had thought. He realized that for some people, the “foreign agent” designation had become something of a badge of honor. Potential respondents did not appear to be put off by the designation. In June 2017 the center finished analyzing its “most outstanding person of all time in the entire world” survey. Joseph Stalin came out on top, as he had in the previous survey, in 2012. For the first time ever, Putin took second place, sharing it with Pushkin.

IN 2015, the Moscow Psychoanalytic Society advanced to the status of a “component society” within the International Psychoanalytic Association. There were now twenty-three psychoanalysts who were full members and thirty more who were candidates—essentially, psychoanalysts in training who could work with patients. That made for fifty-three psychoanalysts—one for more than every two hundred thousand Muscovites.

In 2016, Arutyunyan’s son, Dmitry Velikovsky—the child who once thanked his parents for having raised him in an oasis—became one of three Russian journalists who worked on the Panama Papers, the giant trove of information on offshore accounts. The most surprising story in the Russian part of the Papers concerned cellist Sergei Roldugin, one of Putin’s closest friends from his university days, who had apparently amassed a fortune—or was safeguarding it for someone else. In the spring of 2017, Dmitry was among the more than four hundred journalists from around the world who shared a Pulitzer Prize for their work on the project. In Russia, however, the story had barely made a ripple and was soon forgotten.

In the spring and summer of 2017, the sidewalks (and much of the pavement) in central Moscow were ripped up again, for the third year in a row, to be replaced with ever more perfectly laid geometric tiles that had so reminded Arutyunyan of tombstones. The city also announced a plan to raze between four and a half and eight thousand buildings, including many structurally sound and architecturally interesting ones, and replace them with high-rise developments.

ALEXANDER DUGIN ENJOYED a period of international fame of sorts as a Putin whisperer: for a couple of years some analysts and journalists believed that he was the mastermind behind Putin’s wars. Dugin continued to insist that he had great influence but negligible power. Still, his star rose ever higher in unexpected ways. With the election of Donald Trump in the United States, the neo-Nazi movement known as the “alt-right” gained public prominence, as did its leader Richard Spencer, an American married to Nina Kouprianova, a Russian woman who served as Dugin’s English translator and American promoter.

THE REMAINS of Czar Nicholas II, his wife, and three of their daughters, which were interred in St. Petersburg in 1998, were exhumed in 2015 at the request of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Church, it was said, wanted to know whether the remains of two more people, found separately, also belonged to the czar’s family. These had been found in 2007 and had been positively identified by geneticists as belonging to the czar’s only son and one of his daughters. The Church, however, insisted on a comparative study of all remains. Once that was completed, there would certainly be a new burial ceremony, which would erase the memory of the earlier one and of Yeltsin’s speech, the one time a Russian leader apologized for the atrocities of the Soviet regime. But nearly two years after the exhumation, the remains were still unburied, perhaps because 2017 was the centennial of the Russian Revolution and neither the Church nor the Kremlin could find a way to handle the symbolism.

MIKHAIL PROKHOROV, the oligarch who once suggested to Zhanna that he could fund both her and her electoral opponent in order to watch the race, made a few other attempts to dabble in politics. The Kremlin kept showing him his place, and he kept not getting the message. Finally, when the print arm of a news outlet he owned—RBK, Zhanna’s old workplace—published an investigative piece on Putin’s daughter’s lucrative real estate concession in Moscow, Prokhorov was forced not only to sell RBK but to divest from Russia entirely. He moved to New York, where he had for several years owned the Brooklyn Nets basketball team.

MIKHAIL FRIDMAN, THE oligarch who said Zhanna was insane for returning to Moscow and who later stopped seeing Boris in order to protect his own status, continued to run a successful bank in Russia. During the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, the name of his bank, Alfa, surfaced twice in stories about alleged Russian meddling. One report claimed that the Trump campaign had established a back channel for communicating with Alfa-Bank—though a later report said there might be an innocuous explanation. Then Alfa came up again, in an unverified intelligence dossier published by BuzzFeed. Fridman sued BuzzFeed for libel.

NIKITA BELYKH, the member of the Perm legislature who had employed the other Lyosha, was appointed governor of the Kirov region while Dmitry Medvedev was president. For a few years, he enjoyed the reputation of Russia’s only pro-democracy governor. In June 2016, Belykh was arrested during a sting operation at a bar in Moscow. He was accused of accepting bribes. He was still in pretrial detention a year later.

PAVEL SHEREMET, the television journalist who made a film for Nemtsov’s fiftieth birthday, moved to Kyiv.* Soon after Nemtsov’s murder, Sheremet launched a show on Ukrainian television. In July 2016, Sheremet was assassinated by a car bomb in Kyiv.

VLADIMIR MAKAROV, the young civil servant accused of molesting his own daughter, served his five-and-a-half-year sentence. He repeatedly applied for parole and was denied. He was released in 2016. The European Court of Human Rights refused to hear his case, demonstrating that the accusation of pedophilia was the perfect persecution vehicle. Many more people have been brought up on child-sex-abuse charges since. In 2017, Memorial activist Yuri Dmitriev, who had discovered the sites of numerous Stalin-era mass executions, was arrested on child-pornography charges.

ILYA PONOMAREV, the parliament member who employed Masha during the protests, was accused of embezzlement. He fled the country, living for a time in California before settling in Ukraine.

ALL OF THE PROMINENT ORGANIZERS of the 2011–2012 protests faced a stark choice between exile and prison—or worse. Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion, moved to New York after he was threatened with criminal charges in 2013. Sergei Udaltsov, the radical-left organizer, was serving four years behind bars. Nemtsov was dead. Only Ilya Yashin and Navalny were still functioning out in the open. In the spring of 2017, Navalny lost most of the vision in one eye when an attacker threw acid at him.

THE MOSCOW SCHOOL FOR POLITICAL STUDIES, where Masha was on that Russia Day weekend she got a phone call about a search at her apartment, was declared a foreign agent and was forced to cease operations.

NEMTSOV’S ASSISTANT OLGA SHORINA, who called Masha that day, left the country. She lives in Bonn and helps Zhanna run the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom.

MARAT GUELMAN, the gallerist and political technologist who ran the contemporary art museum in Perm, left Russia in 2013 and settled in Montenegro, where he now runs a contemporary arts festival. He might have thought that Montenegro, with a total population of less than a million, was a backwater destination, but in 2017 it emerged that Russia had been plotting a coup there—because Montenegro wanted to join NATO.

VLADIMIR KARA-MURZA, the first person Zhanna saw when she came to the site of her father’s murder, survived his poisoning in 2015. He was in a coma for five days. Eventually, he was airlifted to the United States, where he underwent rehabilitation. He returned to work for Khodorkovsky’s foundation in Russia. He also made a film about Nemtsov. He screened it in Yaroslavl, the town where Nemtsov had held his last elected post, in February 2017. Less than forty-eight hours later, he was once again hospitalized with total organ failure. The doctors, fortunately, knew how to treat him, and this time the coma did not last as long.

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