Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen is intent on exposing injustice, whether in her three talks in Tucson on Feb. 2, her books or articles in the New York Times, Slate and other publications. Her personal family history has run head-on into conflict with both the former Soviet Union and the current Russian state — as a Jew and as a lesbian parent.
“We were sure the Soviet Union was going to be forever,” Gessen told a luncheon audience of 120, at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, part of “A Day with Masha Gessen” sponsored by the LGBT Jewish Inclusion Project of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona and other community partners. “That was not entirely erroneous. The Soviet Union is coming back again.”
Russian President Vladimir V. Putin “views the entire world as his enemy,” said Gessen. In “Putin’s War against the West,” her Shaol & Louis Pozez Memorial lecture at the JCC to around 200 people that evening, she explained, “Gays are a perfect symbol of the West. There were no gays in Russia before the Soviet Union collapsed” in 1989, or at least none who spoke out. “There weren’t groups who fought for their rights prior to the fall of the Soviet Union. During the 2011 and 2012 anti-government mass protests, Putin blamed [U.S. Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton personally,” as well as citing other foreign agents.
“I was the first journalist to be blacklisted by the Putin administration 15 years ago. Yes, it was a great honor,” she said to extended clapping at the luncheon, which focused on her book “Ester and Ruzya: How My Grandmothers Survived Hitler’s War and Stalin’s Peace.” Ruzya was intimately involved with “Stalin’s peace.” For 11 years she was Moscow’s major censor of foreign newspaper articles, with a direct line to Stalin’s secretary.