Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cry, the Beloved Russia I Left Behind

After many years I returned to a country that seemed headed toward democracy—until I looked closely

By Margarita Gokun Silver, WSJ
March 13, 2015 6:31 p.m. ET

Several days after the Feb. 27 murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, a museum in Perm, a town about 700 miles east of Moscow, announced a change of both management and focus. The museum, located at the site of Perm-36, the only surviving Gulag camp from the Stalin era, had previously been operated by a private organization and told the stories of those who perished during the worst repressions in Soviet history. Now, according to grani.ru, an independent Russian news portal, the museum will be run by the local government and will chronicle the lives and hard work of the Gulag’s administrators. The first exhibition is slated to focus on the guards and on technological advances that allowed them to keep prisoners inside.

A cruel joke or a sign of what’s to come in Russia?

When the news of Nemtsov’s killing reached Madrid, where I live, the first question people asked me was “What will happen now?” The second was the customary “Where do you think Russia is heading?”—the question everyone asks as soon as they learn that I was born there.

I shrugged, mumbled something noncommittal and tried to change the subject. Because, truthfully, I don’t know how to respond to those queries.

My firsthand experience with Russia is nothing if not fraught. While I was growing up in Moscow during the 1970s and 1980s, our apartment entertained equally the sounds of Communist propaganda from the four-channel television in the living room and Voice of America whispering in the dark kitchen.

(More here.)

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