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Law & policy

Masha Gessen: On Russia & Ukraine


Join Masha Gessen in conversation with journalist Peter Hartcher for an evening of insights into this critical moment on the world stage.

When Gessen speaks about autocracy, you listen.

The New York Times

The world has watched in horror as Putin launched a violent invasion on Ukraine. So far, the war has led to the death of thousands with millions of Ukrainians fleeing their homeland in search of refuge. While for many of us, this war feels like another crisis in a series of unprecedented events, for Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen it was inevitable.

The best-selling biographer of Vladimir Putin has spent years examining the resurgence of totalitarianism in Russia under Putin’s leadership. Now a staff writer for The New Yorker, Gessen remains an outspoken critic of Putin’s authoritarian regime and writes fearlessly about the future of Russia and this unfolding tragedy.

Join Masha Gessen in conversation with journalist Peter Hartcher for an evening of insights into this critical moment on the world stage.

This event is presented by the UNSW Centre for Ideas and the Sydney Writers’ Festival. Supported by Auckland Writers Festival and Byron Writers Festival.


Masha Gessen began contributing to The New Yorker in 2014 and became a staff writer in 2017. Gessen is the author of 11 books, including Surviving Autocracy and The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, which won the National Book Award in 2017. Gessen has written about Russia, autocracy, LGBT rights, Vladimir Putin, and Donald Trump, among others, for The New York Review of Books and The New York Times.

On a parallel track, Gessen has been a science journalist, writing about AIDS, medical genetics, and mathematics; famously, Gessen was dismissed as editor of the Russian popular-science magazine Vokrug Sveta for refusing to send a reporter to observe Putin hang-gliding with the Siberian cranes. Gessen is a Distinguished Writer in Residence at Bard College and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, a Nieman Fellowship, the Hitchens Prize, and the Overseas Press Club Award for Best Commentary. After more than 20 years as a journalist and editor in Moscow, Gessen has been living in New York since 2013.

Peter Hartcher is a leading Australian journalist and author. He is the political editor and international editor of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. He is the papers’ main commentator on national politics and international affairs. Hartcher is also a visiting fellow at the leading Australian think tank on foreign affairs, the Lowy Institute for International Policy, and has been writing about politics, economics and international affairs for nearly 40 years, including a decade as a foreign correspondent in Tokyo and Washington. His first book was a pathbreaking study of Japan’s Ministry of Finance and its economic dysfunction, The Ministry, published by Harvard Business School Press in 1988. His new book is Red Zone: China’s Challenge and Australia’s Future. Francis Fukuyama has described it as “clear eyed and utterly frightening”.

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Auslan interpreting services and/or live captioning can be provided upon request.

Details correct at the time of publication.