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Keith Gessen

Keith Gessen is a founding editor of n+1.

Boris Nemtsov

Keith Gessen, 19 March 2015

I always thought that Nemtsov would make it, that he would be shielded from the vengeance of the system in part because he was Nemtsov. He had a PhD in physics, but he wasn’t a serious thinker, nor did he pretend to be one. You could never tell if he was speaking out because he believed what he was saying or because he couldn’t stand being ignored. Or if he kept getting arrested at opposition rallies because he considered it an act of conscience or because he liked getting his picture taken.

In Donetsk

Keith Gessen, 10 September 2014

Mikhail Mishin is a small, fit man with a couple of gold teeth in his mouth. He grew up in Makeevka, a large town next to Donetsk, and for several years played professional football, rising to the Ukrainian Second League before eventually quitting at the age of 28. After a few tough years, his father helped him find work in the sports section of city government. He lobbied for money for sports facilities and attended their opening ceremonies, where he always gave a short speech about the moral and physical benefits of sport.

Diary: In Odessa

Keith Gessen, 16 April 2014

The last time​ I was in Odessa my passport was stolen. It was the summer of 1995, and hot. Odessa, sometimes called a mini-Petersburg on account of its handsome 19th-century centre, was a ruin. The opera house was a ruin; the famous boardwalk along Primorsky, which runs at right angles to Eisenstein’s famous steps, was a ruin. Gambrinus, the legendary bar, was still operating in a...

On Wall Street

Keith Gessen, 20 October 2011

When the protesters started occupying Wall Street, I was busy (sort of), and, to be honest, reluctant. I hate this stuff. I hate standing in the same spot, hemmed in by police barricades, shouting stupid slogans. ‘No justice/No peace’: really? ‘Whose streets?/Our streets!’ Well, yes and no. The futility too is a little frustrating. I have attended protests against the...

Khodorkovsky

Keith Gessen, 25 February 2010

In Moscow, the second trial of the former oil and banking tycoons Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev has now been going on for nearly a year. The trial itself, which is doggedly examining a series of esoteric and possibly imaginary economic crimes while skating over more serious – and also possibly imaginary – suggestions of violent criminality, has not been very interesting. The drama of two very bright men – one of whom, Khodorkovsky, is now a political figure of some significance – facing off against the entire apparatus of an authoritarian state, on the other hand, has been riveting. It was always bound to be.

Diary: Watching the Rouble Go Down

Keith Gessen, 20 November 2008

The financial crisis – or, as we like to call it here, ‘the effects of the American and European financial crisis on Russia’ – has taken a little while to get going, but it’s going now. Yesterday my grandmother sat me down for a serious conversation: she wanted to know if she should take her rouble-denominated life savings out of the Sberbank and put them into dollars. Everyone’s a financial adviser now. Or rather, I’m a financial adviser now. This is not good.

A Sad Old Literary Man

Keith Gessen, 19 June 2008

Alfred Kazin published his first and best book of literary criticism, On Native Grounds, in 1942, when he was 27 years old. It told, in highly wrought, dramatic prose, the story of American literature from what Kazin called ‘the opening struggle for realism’ in the 1890s to 1940. It was written over the course of four years but reads as if it had been done in white heat over six...

Letter

Not nonsense, alas

10 September 2014

Keith Gessen replies: My apologies. The order in question, warning against ‘sabotage’ of the partial military mobilisation, came from the Ministry of Defence. It was accompanied by orders for speedy compliance from the university administration, under a Ministry of Education letterhead. The University of Kharkiv, more formally the V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, is one of the...
Letter

Run on the Rouble

20 November 2008

Just before New Year, I went to the Sberbank and transferred my grandmother’s life savings out of roubles and into a new account denominated in dollars, as I threatened to do in my Diary (LRB, 20 November 2008). It took a while, because the Sberbank clerk wasn’t satisfied with the forms I brought authorising me to use the account: she kept calling someone at headquarters and saying, ‘I...

‘A Terrible Country’

Vadim Nikitin, 11 October 2018

One​ of my parents’ favourite Soviet films is called Autumn Marathon. Its main character, an academic translator, is living a double life. Out of divided loyalties rather than greed or...

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Keith Gessen

Joanna Biggs, 22 May 2008

Sad young and literary in 1938 and you could at least prove yourself opposing Hitler, sad young and literary in 1968 and you could demonstrate in Grosvenor Square, but what if you had the...

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