On November 30, 2014, I received an unusual phone call from my grandfather.
He called to wish me happy birthday and then talked about the ongoing war in Ukraine. He was the vice admiral of the Pacific Fleet and a loyal servant of the Russian Federation. However, he was also one of the founding fathers of Vladimir Putin’s “United Russia” party and served as a “Trusted Face” in one of his earlier elections, which allowed him and a few dozen other individuals around the country to officially campaign on Putin’s behalf under the Russian law.
Then my grandfather proceeded to say something utterly shocking and unprecedented.
“You better be careful about what you publicly say about Vladimir Putin,” he began. “When your father was facing promotion the other month, he was extensively questioned about why he has a son publicly criticizing Putin’s policy.”
He then advised me to think about shutting down my website and focus instead on “the Russian side” of the argument.
I learned that my father was questioned about not only my general political positions but also the organizations with which I am affiliated (the Intercollegiate Studies Institute among them). The amazing part of this whole conversation is that my family in Russia does not speak or read English, and I have never discussed the details of my writing with my grandfather or my father.
The unavoidable conclusion is that the men who questioned my father about the precise details of my political expression have a profile on what I write and what I say.
As unbelievable as it might seem, the current political atmosphere in Russia supports such a conclusion. Many of my friends refuse to discuss politics over the phone for fear of prosecution. Popular Russian bloggers and journalists get arrested and jailed when criticizing the administration, and former Russian politicians leave the country in fear of their life. As much as I love my motherland, the degree of political tension and media supervision is now at Cold War levels, and the possibility of my going back anytime soon is nil.
Since the tactic of the Kremlin is now shifting toward media supervision and journalist intimidation, I urge every victim of Russian statism to continue to be vocal about the untold truth of Putin’s czarship. Some of these works will also be published on our website NVC Review. Only the voices of truth can end the continuing reign of Russian authoritarianism, and give 150 million people the country that they truly deserve.