Saturday, August 25, 2018

MWF- The Fifth Estate: Masha Gessen

The Melbourne Writers Festival is currently on from 24 August - 2 September 2018, with the theme this year being "A matter of life and death." This afternoon Sally and I went to Deakin Edge at Federation Square to see author, staff writer for The New Yorker, and occasional guest on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee Masha Gessen. Hosted by Sally Warhaft as part of The Wheeler Centre's journalism series the Fifth Estate, this hour-long discussion explored Masha's 2017 book The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia.

The book charts the lives of four different Russians born in the 1980s and the impact of historical events in Russia as they come of age. I haven't read the book but it sounded really interesting, particularly the psychological effects of living under totalitarianism (similar to torture) and how that impacts the way people behave. Masha spoke about the resurgence of what sociologist Yuri Levada termed homo sovieticus, where under communism people were fearful, isolated and authority-loving. Through all these changes in the country over the past few decades, people have craved order and stability, which has been provided by the state. Masha felt that Putin's Russia has become a less extreme version of a totalitarian state, although that could change over time.

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