PEN America and the NYU Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia Present: A conversation with filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and scholar Nina Khrushcheva
As the conflict in Ukraine grinds on for a fifth year, a new generation of Ukrainian politicians and activists are reckoning with a complex past and an uncertain future. In this conversation, filmmaker Oleg Sentsov will discuss his five-year imprisonment by Russia for speaking out against the occupation of Crimea. In conversation with scholar Nina Khrushcheva, they will discuss how emerging voices are harnessing art, filmmaking, writing, and political activism to chart a new course in a country deeply divided — and torn between Europe and Russia.
Oleg Sentsov, best known for his 2011 film Gamer, was detained by Russian authorities in Crimea in May 2014 on the basis of his outspoken criticism of the Russian occupation of Crimea. On August 25, 2015, he was sentenced to 20 years in a Russian prison on spurious charges of terrorism. Despite being tortured while in custody, he always maintained his own innocence. The witness who testified against him later retracted his testimony, saying he had been tortured into giving it. Appeals against the original verdict were rejected by the Russian Supreme Court in November 2015 and June 2016. A request for Sentsov’s extradition to Ukraine was denied in October 2016 on the grounds that Russia considered all residents of Crimea Russian citizens after the annexation. On May 14, 2018, Sentsov declared an indefinite hunger strike, stating that “the one and only condition for its termination is the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners that are currently present on the territory of the Russian Federation.” On October 6, after 145 days, Sentsov was forced to end his hunger strike, under the threat of being force fed by authorities. On September 7, 2019, after more than five years of detention and concerted campaigns for his release by PEN America and other free expression groups and governments, Senstov was freed from a Russian penal colony as part of a historic prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine. He was one of 35 Ukrainian citizens that returned home. Oleg Sentsov is the winner of the 2017 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award.
Nina Khrushcheva is Professor in the Graduate Program of International Affairs at The New School. She is a senior fellow of the World Policy Institute and an editor of and a contributor to Project Syndicate: Association of Newspapers Around the World. After receiving her Ph.D. from Princeton University, she had a two-year appointment as a research fellow at the School of Historical Studies of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. She is a member of Council on Foreign Relations. Her articles have appeared in Foreign Policy, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times and other publications. She is the author of Imagining Nabokov: Russia Between Art and Politics(Yale UP, 2008), The Lost Khrushchev: A Journey Into the Gulag of the Russian Mind (Tate, 2014), and her latest co-authored book is In Putin’s Footsteps: Searching for the Soul of an Empire Across Russia’s Eleven Time Zones (St. Martin’s Press, 2019).