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The Russia File

The Russia File podcast explores Russia: its history, politics, culture and society, and its relations with the surrounding countries, the United States and beyond. It is a companion podcast of the Kennan Institute’s Russia File blog. Hosted by Maxim Trudolyubov and Izabella Tabarovsky.

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The Russia File podcast explores Russia: its history, politics, culture and society, and its relations with the surrounding countries, the United States and beyond. It is a companion podcast of the Kennan Institute’s Russia File blog. Hosted by Maxim Trudolyubov and Izabella Tabarovsky.

The Autocrats’ Playbook: Putin’s Russia and Erdogan’s Turkey

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Many prefer to measure today's authoritarian regimes against the West’s standards in everything from governance to culture. But taking a closer look at the authoritarian world itself and studying its evolution is probably more illuminating.

Despite constant geopolitical infighting, Russia and Turkey display striking similarities in the stance they take toward the West. Moscow and Ankara's crackdown on media, political opponents, the non-governmental sector and even independent universities inevitably call for comparisons between the two.

The Kennan Institute's Maxim Trudolyubov discusses novel authoritarian trends with Ayşe Zarakol, reader in international relations at the University of Cambridge, and Sergei Guriev, professor of economics at Sciences Po Paris.

Jul 22 2021

34mins

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The Contemporary Relevance of Andrei Sakharov's Message

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A Soviet nuclear physicist and Nobel laureate, Andrei Sakharov fought for disarmament, world peace, and human rights. To what extent is his legacy relevant for today’s Russia and the world? What is the state of those values now, at a time when autocracies are on the rise and new international conflicts are developing?   The Kennan Institute's Maxim Trudolyubov discusses Sakharov's legacy in light of his recent centennial with Cecile Vaissie, a professor of Russian and Soviet studies at the University of Rennes 2, and Arkady Ostrovsky, Russia, and Eastern Europe editor for The Economist.

Jun 07 2021

30mins

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Rethinking the Space Race

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The Soviet pilot Yuri Gagarin made his pioneering spaceflight 60 years ago. In the USSR, it marked a time of optimistic, forward-looking modernization, of which the Soviet space program was the hallmark.

Maxim Trudolyubov discusses the Soviet-American space race and today’s newfound space enthusiasm with Victoria Smolkin, associate professor of history and Russian studies at Wesleyan University, and Asif Siddiqi, professor of history at Fordham University.

Apr 23 2021

33mins

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Weak Strongman: Discussing the Limits of Putin's Power with Timothy Frye

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Russia is often seen as a country that was led astray by a former KGB officer, Vladimir Putin. Informed by his training and character, it is often implied, he turned himself into an all-powerful ruler and turned Russia into the autocracy it is today. But what if he simply was helpless to do any better and is not in fact all-powerful?   The Kennan Institute's Maxim Trudolyubov discusses constraints on Putin's ability to execute authority with Timothy Frye, whose book, Weak Strongman: The Limits of Power in Putin’s Russia, will be out this month. Timothy Frye is Professor at the Department of Political Science at Columbia University, New York, and a co-Director of the International Center for the Study of Institutions and Development (ICSID) at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

Apr 09 2021

29mins

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Sputnik V: International Success, Domestic Problems

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Sputnik V, Russia's COVID-19 vaccine, is not just a scientific achievement but a golden moment for vaccine diplomacy. Despite the initial distrust—some of which persists to this day—dozens of countries have granted Sputnik V emergency use authorization. Why is Russia falling behind in its domestic vaccination campaign, and will Russia be able to maintain its international vaccine leadership? We talk about Sputnik V with Olga Dobrovidova and Judy Twigg, experts on Russian science policy.

Mar 15 2021

30mins

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Beyond Electoral Politics: Social Change, Not Political Awakening

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Most Russians have long stopped expecting that any real change may come from electoral politics, a playing field tightly controlled by the Kremlin. And yet, a slew of recent, successful popular movements are proving that, even without real elections, Russians can stand up for their interests. People have defended their electoral choice in Khabarovsk, prevented unwanted construction in Yekaterinburg, and stopped a huge landfill from being built in the Arkhangelsk region. Russia’s most prominent opposition figure Alexei Navalny also recently returned to Moscow from Berlin, where he had received medical treatment in the aftermath of his attempted poisoning. Navalny was promptly arrested, but his followers are organizing protests all over Russia. The Kennan Institute's Maxim Trudolyubov discusses Russia's newfound social and political activism with Zhanna Nemtsova, co-founder of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom. The organization is named after Boris Nemtsov, Zhanna’s father, who was murdered almost six years ago.

Jan 24 2021

28mins

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A Poisonous History: The Kremlin's Fear of an Imported Revolution

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For years journalists Irina Borogan and Andrei Soldatov have reported on Russia’s security services. This time, they decided to look at the agencies’ history and wrote The Compatriots: The Brutal and Chaotic History of Russia's Exiles, Émigrés, and Agents Abroad. With the poisoning of the Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny and its aftermath, the book is suddenly more topical than one is comfortable to admit. Borogan and Soldatov discuss the KGB of old and Russia’s existing security organizatio

Dec 16 2020

32mins

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Russian-Speaking Israelis and How They Changed Israel

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Thirty years ago, a million Russian-speaking immigrants arrived in Israel. Overnight, they became one of the largest Russian-speaking communities in the world outside the former Soviet Union. Who are the Russian-speaking Israelis? What did their arrival signify for the country? We discuss these questions with Ksenia Svetlova, Matti Friedman, and Yossi Klein Halevi. Matti Friedman’s piece in Mosaic: https://bit.ly/3qBd40k  Yossi Klein Halevi’s piece in Mosaic: https://bit.ly/3owVkkK

Dec 07 2020

51mins

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Electoral Politics and the Role of the Media

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The media environments in Russia and the US are almost mirror opposites. In the US, mainstream media can cut away from the sitting president on live television or poke fun at him in their opinion pages. In Russia, independent media are happy just to stay alive. The internet and social media, often seen as sources of polarization in the US, are a lifeline for the embattled journalists in Russia as well as Belarus. Yet, we have a lot to learn from each other—and to disagree upon.

Nov 12 2020

30mins

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Why Study Russia?

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America’s universities and think tanks produce first-rate studies of Russia’s history, culture, and politics. And yet, the way Russia features on the U.S. political stage and in the American media is not particularly nuanced. Why is that? Jill Dougherty, a long-time CNN journalist and an expert on Russia and Kevin Rothrock, Senior Editor at the English-language edition of Meduza, join the Kennan Institute’s Maxim Trudolyubov to discuss the state of Russia studies and Russia stereotypes in the American political language.

Oct 16 2020

34mins

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Vladimir Putin’s Version of World War II

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Earlier this year, Vladimir Putin published an article in a Washington, DC think tank publication seeking to explain to American audiences the “real” lessons of World War II. Why is so much of Vladimir Putin’s attention devoted to WWII? In what ways does it serve his political interests at home and abroad? What messages was he trying to communicate, and to whom? Historians Ivan Kurilla and Dariusz Stola help Izabella Tabarovsky unpack these questions—and to fact-check the piece in the process.

Sep 25 2020

39mins

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Russia’s Military and the World’s Post-Arms Control Future

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While everyone is preoccupied with the COVID-19, public protests, and electoral politics, the world’s three largest nuclear powers are busy modernizing their arsenals. They are doing this in a world that will soon be left without any strategic arms control treaties. Is nuclear still the world’s most powerful deterrent? What do Russian and all other major military forces want? The Russia File discusses this and other questions with Michael Kofman, Director of the Russia Studies Program at CNA.

Jul 31 2020

35mins

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Limited Violence, Unlimited Manipulation: How Informational Dictatorships Work

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With presidential term limits for Vladimir Putin nullified, has Russia become more authoritarian? What is the difference between "overt" and "informational" dictatorships? Do democracies – or the West as a political and cultural concept - still have the appeal they once had for the countries that emerged from the former Soviet Union? Does the left-right divide still make sense in today’s world? Russia File's Maxim Trudolyubov discusses this and more with Daniel Treisman, a professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Jul 13 2020

38mins

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Searching for Hidden Narratives of World War II in Russia

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For the Kremlin, the memory of World War II is fodder for a national myth of military glory and sacrifice. But for ordinary Russians, the story is more complex. Izabella Tabarovsky, Maxim Trudolyubov and Masha Lipman delve into the myths and explore stories that never became part of the national narrative.

Jun 19 2020

54mins

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Belarus's Parallel Realities: An Entrenched Presidency Meets an Awakened Society

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Well-known Belarusian journalist Franak Viačorka and the Russia File's Maxim Trudolyubov discuss Belarusian society's newfound agency and wonder why President Lukashenko is no longer comfortable being seen as pro-Russian.

May 28 2020

38mins

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Russia in a Pandemic and Moscow's Two Competing Instincts: Increase Control or Shift the Blame

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In a conversation with Samuel Greene, director of King's Russia Institute, the Russia File discusses the Kremlin's COVID-19 politics and Russian society’s newfound empowerment.

May 12 2020

27mins

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