One of the most trenchant observers of Russia and its history, Masha Gessen is a journalist, activist and bestselling author of the National Book Award-winning The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia. They have covered political subjects including Russia, autocracy, L.G.B.T. rights, Vladimir Putin, and Donald Trump, among others, and their understanding of the events and forces that have wracked Russia in recent times is unparalleled. The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin is the chilling account of how a low-level, small-minded KGB operative ascended to the Russian presidency and, in an astonishingly short time, destroyed years of progress and made his country once more a threat to his own people and to the world.
In The Future Is History, Gessen follows the lives of four people born at what promised to be the dawn of democracy, against the machinations of the regime that would crush them all. The Washington Post described The Future Is History as "ambitious, timely, insightful and unsparing," and it was awarded the 2017 National Book Award for Nonfiction. Gessen's latest book is Surviving Autocracy, a bracing overview of the calamitous trajectory of American democracy under the Trump administration. “When Gessen speaks about autocracy, you listen” (The New York Times Book Review).
A regular contributor to The New York Times, The Washington Post, Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, Vanity Fair, and Slate, among other publications, they are a staff writer at The New Yorker and the recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Carnegie Fellowship. Gessen teaches at Bard College and lives in New York City. Learn more.
Professor of Sociology Jennifer Utrata will moderate the Q&A portion of the lecture.
Established in 2002 in honor of President Emeritus Susan Resneck Pierce, the Susan Resneck Pierce Lectures in Public Affairs and the Arts lecture series brings public intellectuals, writers, and artists of high recognition in public affairs and the arts to campus for timely discussions on current affairs, creativity, and expression. Previous Pierce lecturers include novelist Colson Whitehead, former national security advisor H.R. McMaster, poet Nikki Giovanni, former senior advisor to President Obama Valerie Jarrett, columnist Leonard Pitts Jr., filmmaker Spike Lee, author Sherman Alexie, choreographer Twyla Tharp, and many others.