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Foto: Daria Gorshenina

Russian UvA student creates podcast about Ukraine and the war

Sterre van der Hee,
4 november 2022 - 11:01

Russian UvA student Daria Gorshenina (24) talks about the Russian invasion of Ukraine with other young Russians in her podcast Too good too late. 'Just saying the word "war" could get me fined or thrown in jail in Russia.'

Daria, how did you end up at the UvA?
'I am a second-year student in the intenational Erasmus Mundus master's program in Journalism, Media and Globalization. I did the first year of my master's in Denmark, where I studied at Aarhus University and the Danish School of Media and Journalism. In the Netherlands I am doing my second year, I am now taking courses as part of my specialization in politics and communication.
I didn't plan to study here - I had enrolled in the Totalitarianism & Transition program at Charles University in Prague, but after Russia invaded Ukraine, Russians in the Czech Republic could not get a temporary residence permit, including for study purposes. Then the UvA looked at my program and welcomed me here.' 

Artwork Too good too late

How do you yourself now view the Russian invasion of Ukraine?

'It is a military aggression to carry out Putin's imperial ambitions. I am ashamed of what my country is doing. In the last five to ten years, it became clear that the Russian community is very polarized: some people support European values and a democratic change of power. For example, they donated to opposition leader Navalny or to human rights organizations. But others take advantage of the system and openly propagate pro-state views. There is also a passive group that is not interested in politics.

Through all kinds of mass rallies, for example after the poisoning of Navaly or falsification of elections, I hoped that the authoritarian regime would be overthrown. Unfortunately, like me, many like-minded people have moved to Europe or to countries outside the post-Soviet area because they do not want to be persecuted or because they do not want to support the regime through tax payments in Russia.'


How your Russian family feel about this?
'According to statistics, older people should support the war, but my mother does not. I am a journalist and years ago taught her some basics about media. For example, I taught her which media and Telegram channels to follow for news. So we never argued about the events of the moment and whether to call it a "war" or a "special military operation." I have no father, which in this case is not so sad, because he might have had to go to the front to kill Ukrainians. My other relatives are not interested in politics.' 

'Although relations between the European Union and Russia have seen better times, I hope they will be restored after the war'

In your podcast, you engage with young Russians. Why did you want to do that?
'I notice that European media pay a lot of attention to the situation in Ukraine and how Ukrainians are going through difficult times, and also some Russians who may or may not support the war. But I saw no representation of a young Russian generation - the so-called Putin generation - who have had Putin as president for most of their lives. 
With my podcast, I want to get a young generation thinking about our homeland, its history and the future consequences of this war. When the Soviet generation is gone and the war is over, it will be our responsibility to rebuild Russia.  But my podcast is also an attempt to explain to the European community about "those crazy Russians." Although relations between the European Union and Russia have seen better times, I hope they will be restored after the war. We can reestablish our cultural and social ties. I see my media project as a small step toward this goal. '


So do you only talk to like-minded people?
'In the podcast I talk to all kinds of young Russians about their attitudes toward the war, how the war has affected them, what image they have of the future Russia and what they want to do to bring about a better future.  I talk to them regardless of their positive or negative stance on the war. It's easy to ignore someone if they don't have the same beliefs as you, and it's easy to cut all ties with a country that does crazy things. But at the end of the day, the young people of my generation are still my fellow countrymen. Russia is still Europe's closest neighbor. Russian propaganda wants to do everything to drive Russian society and Russian and European communities apart. That is why dialogue with people with different views is necessary.'

Want to know more?

Daria's podcast can be listened to on Spotify or through various podcast apps. You can find a direct link here.

What implications does making this podcast have for your own return to your family in Russia?
'I cannot live in Russia or visit my family in Russia for the time being. First, I cannot work there as a journalist, because I am not willing to compromise and make propaganda for the state media, which are the only media left in Russia. Moreover, just by saying the word "war" there, I can be fined and thrown in jail. So my podcast itself is already a crime, but it's only an official crime when the authorities notice it. And so far they don't. We'll see, maybe it's just a matter of time.'

What are your hopes for the future?
'I hope that one day I can come back to Russia, and then Russia will be a democratic state making reparations to Ukraine. '