Masha Gessen is no stranger to risk. The Russian reporter and political activist is perhaps best known for her probes of the Kremlin machine and unsparing descriptions of Vladimir Putin as a dictatorial thug. In her 2012 book, The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, Gessen offers a psychological portrait of the Russian president and writes that the city of his birth (Leningrad, now St. Petersburg) was “a mean, hungry, impoverished place that bred mean, hungry, ferocious children.” A seasoned chronicler of Russia’s crackdown on free expression, Gessen has most recently examined the story of the band Pussy Riot, three of whose members were imprisoned for two years in 2012 after their minute-long “punk prayer,” beseeching the “Mother of God” to “get rid of Putin.” Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot was published this January.

Read the full interview at Guernica.

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