To Be, or Not to Be

A personal essay in which Russian emigre Masha Gessen ruminates on the culture’s tendency to privilege those who’ve suffered for a lack of choice — in becoming refugees, in picking their gender — and the choices (her own, and those of her parents and ancestors) that have impacted her life.

Published: Jan 29, 2018
Length: 16 minutes (4,037 words)

Autocracy: Rules for Survival

Russian emigree Masha Gessen, author of The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, offers sobering pointers on how to survive under—and stand in uncompromising resistance to—the rule of a totalitarian autocrat.

Published: Nov 10, 2016
Length: 10 minutes (2,554 words)

To The Penal Colony

A jailed Pussy Riot activist’s family makes an 11-hour trek to visit her:

“Gera, you cannot pee every five minutes!” said Petya to his four-year-old daughter. “You cannot appraise a work of art from the point of view of effectiveness.” Now he was speaking into a lapel mic that belonged to the German television crew following us in another car. Before we left the hotel in Zubova Polyana where we had spent the night, I’d had to pull the car away from the back porch so the Germans could film the lanky Petya running to the car with huge, plaid, Chinese-made rectangular bags we were taking to the colony for Nadya, Petya’s wife and Gera’s mother. “This is the sixth time I’ve been filmed loading bags into a car for Nadya.” He laughed as he got into the passenger seat. He seemed to enjoy the publicity connected with his wife’s imprisonment, and only now, months after I first met him, was I starting to appreciate how hard, tedious, and unceasing was the work he did on her behalf.

Published: Feb 1, 2014
Length: 12 minutes (3,013 words)

What It’s Like to Grow Up Gay in Russia

For this week’s Longreads Member Pick we are proud to feature a chapter from Gay Propaganda, a new collection of original stories, interviews and testimonials from LGBT Russians both living there and in exile. The book was edited by Masha Gessen and Joseph Huff-Hannon, and will be published by OR Books in February. We’d like to thank them for sharing this chapter with Longreads Members. 

Read a free excerpt, and become a Longreads Member to receive the full story and support our service. You can also buy Longreads Gift Memberships to send this and other great stories to friends, family or colleagues.

Source: OR Books
Published: Jan 30, 2014
Length: 10 minutes (2,575 words)