THE FUTURE IS HISTORY
HOW TOTALITARIANISM RECLAIMED RUSSIA
ALSO BY MASHA GESSEN
HOW TOTALITARIANISM RECLAIMED RUSSIA
RIVERHEAD BOOKS NEW YORK 2017
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Verses from "Snow-Clad Is the Plain" by Sergey Yesenin are translated from the Russian by
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Gessen, Masha, author. Title: The future is history : how totalitarianism reclaimed Russia / Masha Gessen. Other titles: How totalitarianism reclaimed Russia. Description: New York : Riverhead Books, 2017. Includes bibliographical references and
Identifiers: LCCN 2017014363 (print) | LCCN 2017034714 (ebook) | ISBN 9780698406209
(ebook) | ISBN 9781594634536 (hardcover) Subjects: LCSH: Russia (Federation)-Politics and government—1991- | Russia (Federation) —History—1991- | Moscow Region (Russia)-Intellectual life. | Russia (Federation)—
Classification: LCC DK510.763 (ebook) | LCC DK510.763 .G48 2017 (print) | DDC 947.086—
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017014363
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IN MEMORY OF SVETLANA BOYM
PART ONE | BORN IN THE USSR
PART TWO | REVOLUTION
PART THREE | UNRAVELING
PART FOUR | RESURRECTION
PART FIVE | PROTEST
PART SIX | CRACKDOWN
seven people act as the main characters of this book, making appearances throughout the narrative. I have used a modified Russian convention to refer to them. As anyone who has ever read a Russian novel knows, Russians have numerous names. A person's legal name is the full first name plus a patronymic—a form of the father's name. In contemporary life, however, the name/patronymic combination is generally reserved for formal occasions and for older people. At the same time, most full names have a variety of diminutives that derive from them. Most Russians have a diminutive that was chosen for them in childhood and continue to use it throughout their lives; most, though not all, diminutives derive clearly from their full name, which can be reverse-engineered from the diminutive. For example, all Sashas are Alexanders; most Mashas are Marias. Children are almost always addressed by their diminutive.
In this book, those who first appear in the story as children are called by their diminutive throughout (e.g., Masha, Lyosha). Those who first appear as adults are called by their full names (e.g., Boris, Tatiana). Those who first appear as older people are introduced by their name and patronymic and referred to by these names for the duration of the book. Below is a list of the main characters. Dozens of other people are mentioned in this book; their names are not on this list because their appearances are episodic.
Boris Nemtsov, father Raisa, mother Dmitry, husband Dina Yakovlevna, grandmother
Masha (b. 1984)
Tatiana, mother Galina Vasilyevna, grandmother Boris Mikhailovich, grandfather Sergei, husband Sasha, son
Seryozha (b. 1982)
Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev, grandfather
Lyosha (b. 1985)
Yuri, biological father
Serafima Adamovna, grandmother
Marina Arutyunyan, psychoanalyst
Anna Mikhailovna Pankratova, grandmother Lev Gudkov, sociologist
Alexander Dugin, philosopher, political activist
i have been told many stories about Russia, and I have told a few myself. When I was eleven or twelve, in the late 1970s, my mother told me that the USSR was a totalitarian state—she compared the regime to the Nazi one, an extraordinary act of thought and speech for a Soviet citizen. My parents told me that the Soviet regime would last forever, which was why we had to leave the country.
When I was a young journalist, in the late 1980s, the Soviet regime began to teeter and then collapsed into a pile of rubble, or so the story went. I joined an army of reporters excitedly documenting my country's embrace of freedom and its journey toward democracy.
I spent my thirties and forties documenting the death of a Russian democracy that had never really come to be. Different people were telling different stories about this: many insisted that Russia had merely taken a step back after taking two steps toward democracy; some laid the blame on Vladimir Putin and the KGB, others on a supposed Russian love of the iron fist, and still others on an inconsiderate, imperious West. At one point, I was convinced that I would be writing the story of the decline and fall of the Putin regime. Soon after, I found myself leaving Russia for the second time—this time as a middle-aged person with children. And like my mother before me, I was explaining to my children why we could no longer live in our country.
The specifics were clear ...