Russian writer won’t be silenced

Dmitry Bykov: “I write every day because I feel like my writing replaces all these lies, all these wrong words produced by Russian power.” Photo by Jonathan Miller.

As one of Russia’s best-known public intellectuals, the poet, novelist, and literary critic Dmitry Bykov has long been a fixture on television, radio, social media, and in lecture halls around his country. His satirical poems and sharp-edged commentaries have often taken aim at President Vladimir Putin.

Putin’s government has gone to great lengths to silence him. In 2019, Bykov was poisoned on a flight to a speaking engagement and spent five days in a coma. An independent investigation blamed the same security service unit that poisoned opposition politician Alexei Navalny. More recently, Bykov was banned from appearing on state television or radio and from teaching at state universities. Spies attended his lectures and reported back to their superiors. Officials labeled him an “enemy of the people.” Five of the media outlets with which he has worked have been shut down.

In February, just days before Russia invaded Ukraine, Bykov secured a U.S. visa and left for Ithaca, New York, where he is an Open Society University Network fellow at Cornell University. His main goal, he says, is to continue to write and speak out.

Bykov is the subject of a profile by Homelands’ Jonathan Miller, who was active in bringing him to Ithaca. He tells Miller that societies need writers to help them imagine the future, but “the future is the most forbidden, the most banned topic in Russia.” You can read the full article here.