Journalist-Activist Nadezhda Azhgikhina on International Journalism, Girls’s Wartime Roles, and Why We Can’t Simply ‘Cancel Russian Tradition and All Russians’

“Tens of millions of Russians are banned from the world, whereas concurrently dealing with unprecedented pressures inside Russia,” warns journalist Nadezhda Azhgikhina. “If this follow continues, you Westerners received’t have the ability to discover anybody to speak with in Russia.”

Nadezhda Azhigikhina is a Russian journalist and govt director of PEN Moscow since 2018. From 2013 to 2019, she was vice-president of the European Federation of Journalists. (Courtesy)

“Historical past is made by odd folks, not politicians. Dialogue is of nice worth as a result of one thing occurs when folks meet and speak,” says veteran Russian journalist Nadezhda Azhgikhina with enthusiasm. We stand in a nook of a lodge foyer one night in New York Metropolis after her full day of conferences, a college speak and dinner with shut buddies and colleagues.

True to her title, Nadezhda (that means hope in Russian), Azhgikhina is hopeful about the way forward for our world. As PEN Moscow’s govt director and member of the Union of Russian Writers, she served on the Gender Council of the International Federation of Journalists for practically 15 years. She articulates her concepts in excellent English however with an unmistakable Russian accent and an occasional smile that spreads throughout her face.

I ask her concerning the present international void that has silenced cross-cultural understanding of human tales throughout Russia. These tales bear scars of a historical past of revolutions and renewals, shifting political ideologies of openness to after which isolation from the West.

Azhgikhina hopes that the worldwide intellectuals and educators could possibly be, “on the frontline of breaking stereotypes and constructing bridges in several fields” and avoiding “scare ways of canceling Russian tradition and all Russians.”

“That is necessary for the longer term, our joint future. Canceling Russia has left many Russian intellectuals, college students, middle-class and open-minded folks feeling discriminated in opposition to by the West, in order that they have begun to alter their minds and assist the propaganda. The sanctions don’t have an effect on the Russian oligarchs, generals or politicians—it’s the liberal folks. Tens of millions of Russians are banned from the world, whereas concurrently dealing with unprecedented pressures from authorities inside Russia. If this follow continues, you Westerners received’t have the ability to discover anybody to speak with in Russia.”

Throughout the expansive Russian nation, she says, “There are various respectable folks. Girls are on the forefront, persevering with to assist one another.”

Azhgikhina recollects with nostalgia how the empowering open communications between Russian and American ladies up to now helped dismantle the long-held “subservient” picture of Russian ladies as portrayed within the Russian media. This portrayal, she says, was pushed by neo-liberal concepts after years of Soviet propaganda about formal (nonexistent) equality that penetrated society and the enterprise world.

Below Mikhail Gorbachev and his “scholarly first girl” Raisa Gorbachev, collaborations spurred worldwide ladies’s peace initiatives, launched the Moscow Heart for Gender Research by sociologist Anastasia Posadskay. This helped unbiased ladies’s organizations assemble throughout Russia.

The primary ladies writers from USSR and North America met in spring 1991 on the Glasnost in Two Cultures convention at New York College, and fostered cross-cultural citizen diplomacy, erasing misconceptions on each side. Following the Russian translation of the enduring e-book Our Our bodies Ourselves, initiated by Katrina Vanden Heuvel, household planning organizations within the U.S. and Russia labored collectively. The airwaves of Радио Надежда (Radio Hope) unleashed a revolutionary change to sentence gender-based violence (GBV). In response, younger males joined the motion in opposition to the crime.

The slogan, “Democracy With out Girls Is Not Democracy,” adopted by the Russian ladies’s motion, reached prominence past their borders, gelling with the worldwide battle for gender equality. It saved lives, opened doorways, lowered tensions, and united ladies to combat for nuclear disarmament, equal rights and safety.

Historical past is made by odd folks, not politicians. Dialogue is of nice worth as a result of one thing occurs when folks meet and speak.

Nadezhda Azhgikhina

Declining International Journalism Ethics and Feminist Reporting.

An Article 19 trustee since 2020 and previous vp of the European Federation of Journalists, Azhgikhina is alarmed concerning the depleting panorama of world journalism and the shortage of well-investigated and analyzed content material. She says the “conventional, family-held media corporations” have been changed with worldwide companies hyper-focused on monetary positive aspects and income, not supply of strong information content material.

“The globalization of markets has simplified content material and decreased the standard of data, since most media retailers right now use the identical info to report on points. The most costly departments, reminiscent of investigative, science and know-how, are overshadowed financially, and international correspondents have dramatically decreased across the globe,” says Azhgikhina, citing Nation Journal author John Nichols’ e-book, The Demise and Lifetime of American Journalism.

“We’re removed from actual journalism right now. Since they launched probably the most certified journalists from editorial places of work, right now we’re witnessing a world pattern with uniformed information and speedy info bites. They optimize every thing, to not inform and educate, however as clickbait. Goal reportage and voices from all sides are changed with ‘information packages,’ a really harmful pattern. The worldwide journalism group should rise and demand consciousness,” says Azhgikhina.

At the moment we’re witnessing a world pattern with uniformed information and speedy info bites.

Azhgikhina is hopeful about varied worldwide initiatives—amongst them the UNESCO Women Journalists as Peace Communicators convention.

A local of Tomsk, one of many oldest cities in Siberia, Azhgikhina moved to Moscow at an early age. With a Ph.D. in journalism from Moscow State College, the place she taught for a few years, Azhgikhina developed a notable journalistic profession. Her resume contains high positions at a few of Russia’s main media retailers, reminiscent of Ogoniok, Nezavisimaya Gazeta (certainly one of post-Soviet Russia’s most necessary day by day newspapers) and a private column in Delovoy Vtornik and JOURNALIST. In 1992, she co-founded the Association of Russian Women Journalists with Irina Jurna.

Nadezhda Azhgikhina in Moscow, Russia, on July 19, 1999. (Cheryl Diaz Meyer / Star Tribune by way of Getty Photographs)

She attributes her mind and worldwide success to her household. Like many Russian households, hers mirror numerous origins, which vary from devoted Communists and Gulag victims to educators, well-known Russian writers and students of Russian literature. She proudly recollects her maternal grandmother’s affect who, as a religious Communist and a “sensible feminist,” was the primary girl chief geologist within the mines.

“Throughout that period, ladies by no means labored as geologists or chief geologists. She acquired this place after graduating from Tomsk Technical Institute and had a seat on the desk the place there have been solely males. She inspired them to make use of foul Russian vocabulary, as if there have been solely males on the desk, which I can’t think about even now, however she managed.” Azhgikhina admits gender discrimination persists in Russia as throughout the remainder of the world.

U.N. Girls’s most up-to-date report confirmed that full gender equality across the globe is 300 years away. However in Russia, ladies’s political standing is much better off right now than within the late Soviet period. Girls maintain 27 % of the Russian parliamentary seats, in comparison with practically 20 % by the tip of the Soviet Union.

But Azhgikhina explains how solely moms with excessive salaries can simply afford babysitters and kindergarten, whereas these much less financially safe usually sacrifice their skilled lives, unable to afford both kindergarten or babysitter charges. Past Russia’s official nationwide technique on ladies, she sees a necessity for “selling ladies into decision-making positions on the nationwide degree.” Throughout some Russian areas, with a majority Muslim inhabitants, she says ladies are actively concerned in all ranges of energy and enterprise enterprises, making main contributions to the final improvement of the society.

“Mainstream media in Russia has not too long ago began masking gender-based violence however from a conventional, patriarchal values angle or with a non secular lens. This pattern accompanied normal development in patriarchal, homophobic, and nationalistic rhetoric,” Azhgikhina says.

Most Russians, based on current polls, imagine gender-based violence (GBV) is a punishable crime. It is a distinction from some 30 years in the past when Azhgikhina labored with NGOs and Russian journalists who lined GBV, together with honor killings and feminine genital mutilations, that are nonetheless practiced in some northern Caucuses areas right now.

When these matters are introduced within the media, there’s resistance from the traditionalists. To fight this, Azhgikhina explains how Russian feminists and activists promoted a disgrace award titled “Sexist of the 12 months.” It was launched ten years earlier than COVID-19 on March 8 (Worldwide Girls’s Day) as a web based commissioned initiative by younger feminists and feminist journalists, who highlighted sexist acts and statements within the public sphere, the information media and in commercials, which captured media consideration and protection.

Peace From a Feminist Perspective

I ask Azhgikhina if the present surroundings has “peace is on the ground that’s ready to be picked up,” as Philip Zelikow quotes in his e-book The Road Less Traveled. Or have international conflicts and eternally wars turned peace-builders into endangered species?

“As a result of we now have so many conflicts worldwide and lack sufficient details about occasions in several elements of the world, our international view could be very puzzling. I keep in mind discussions on many conflicts and actions the place such a humanistic method was not usually mentioned, together with methods to start out peace communication after the battle or methods to forestall new tragedies. Sadly, initiatives targeted on human dimensions. Methods to finish violence aren’t very talked-about now and don’t dominate the mainstream media agenda. The mainstream media has forgotten many fundamental ideas of journalism. As an alternative, they take part in info wars to impress escalation, as an alternative of discovering methods to instill peace.”

Azhgikhina says the present international surroundings challenges constructive ethical efforts, just because they’re “not very worthwhile.”

She regrets that these in Europe who nonetheless keep in mind WWII and the next world peace are slowly passing away. One other era of younger folks particularly contemplate wars and nuclear threats as “pc video games.”

“After I chaired a dialogue of younger students on media and nuclear risk as a part of a Russian-American dialogue in St. Petersburg earlier than the pandemic, no one recognized nuclear risk as something critical. This terrifies me. I don’t understand how this angle developed, however I believe it’s as a result of we don’t talk about it or emphasize peace sufficient because the pure foundation for every thing in our world. Sure, it’s necessary to report not solely about elections, pure disasters and leisure, however to remind our world concerning the fundamental values of what we should always do, what’s shameful to do, what is nice and what’s unhealthy.” Azhgikhina emphasizes how “our post-truth world” has left some folks disoriented.

She joins her colleagues and journalist buddies from worldwide organizations as Moral Journalism Community (EJN), in looking for and discovering “new methods to assist journalism as a public good.” These concepts embrace establishing unbiased foundations for investigative journalism, training in new applied sciences, working with massive knowledge and involving the viewers in forming media agendas and actions. She and her colleagues imagine that journalism will survive and preserve its mission, no matter present points.

The mainstream media has forgotten many fundamental ideas of journalism. As an alternative, they take part in info wars to impress escalation, as an alternative of discovering methods to instill peace.

Citing the 2019 International Federation of Journalists which adopted the International Constitution of Ethics for Journalists, subscribed to by practically all skilled organizations across the globe, Azhgikhina urges journalists to not prioritize protection of parliamentary and political points and cling to Article 19 of the Common Declaration of Human Rights.

“It underpins journalists’ accountability to their public, which takes priority over all else, together with public authorities. When the media was far more trusted, the general public understood that the data they offered empowered higher participation,” Azhgikhina says.

I ask Azhgikhina if, in her opinion, ladies in Russia and Ukraine will take the “street of diplomacy,” which Henry Kissinger described as “sophisticated and irritating” however one which “progress to it requires each the imaginative and prescient and the braveness.”

“It is extremely troublesome to generalize. There are various kinds of men and women, however I imagine ladies as contributors in international citizen diplomacy, peace-building, and peace communication are untapped. Girls have gained expertise in all spheres and might provoke the promotion and improvement of peacebuilding due to their fundamental capabilities. This isn’t as a result of ladies are higher than males, however as a result of ladies know methods to handle unimaginable, inconceivable conditions. It’s not by coincidence that girls regroup when dealing with crises or disasters.”

“I imagine that motivated ladies would in all probability discover extra versatile language to speak with. I imagine it’s doable for ladies in Russia and in Ukraine to discover a widespread language and assist one another. Perhaps they’re already on this path. It’s ladies’s potential which expedites and eases a standard language of peace in order that we are able to all overcome the implications of the tragedy we collectively face right now,” Azhgikhina smiles. 

And what’s her message to the ladies of the world?

“Let’s dream about all our futures, the way forward for our youngsters dwelling in the identical house and the identical universe. We’re all dwelling on a small, blue marble stone, floating in house. We must always by no means surrender. We should imagine within the inconceivable being doable. Our mission is just not inconceivable. We should first have a dream, then our dream can come true.”

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