Portrait of Masha Gessen

On Thursday, Jan. 26, at 8 p.m., Amherst will welcome acclaimed Russian-American journalist, author and activist Masha Gessen for a discussion of "The Trump-Putin Connect: What We Imagine and Why" in the Cole Assembly Room of Converse Hall. The talk is free and open to the public, and will be followed by a Q&A.

Noted for her opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Gessen has written about a range of topics, including LGBTQ rights, Russia’s Jewish state and the 2016 U.S. presidential election. She was born and spent much of her childhood in Moscow before moving with her Jewish family to the United States. After the fall of the Soviet Union, she returned to Moscow, where she and others created post-Soviet Russia’s first weekly magazine, Itogi. She also served as a member of the board of directors for the Moscow-based LGBT rights organization Triangle; as the head of U.S. News & World Report’s Moscow bureau; and as chief editor of Vokrug Sveta, a popular-science journal. She was dismissed from this position at Russia’s oldest magazine after refusing to send a reporter to cover a nature conservation event featuring Putin, considering it political exploitation of environmental concerns.

As a journalist living in Moscow, she experienced the rise of Putin firsthand. Her 2012 bestselling biography The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin—hailed as “an unflinching indictment of the most powerful man in Russia” by The Wall Street Journal—delivers a chilling account of the rise and reign of one of the most influential figures in world politics. 

She is also the author of Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot—named a Best Book of 2014 by NPR and The Guardian—about a Russian punk rock group arrested for staging an unauthorized performance protest opposing Putin and the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Her 2015 book The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy, about the perpetrators of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, was named a Best Book of the Year by Time magazine. 

Her most recent book, Where the Jews Aren’t: The Sad and Absurd Story of Birobidzhan, Russia’s Jewish Autonomous Region, was hailed by Publisher’s Weekly as “one of the 20th century’s most chilling stories of struggle, perseverance, and despair.” 

A fluent writer in Russian and English, Gessen is a regular contributor to The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, Harper’s, Vanity Fair and Slate, among other publications. She also serves as the Russian translator for the award-winning TV show The Americans.