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Can Russia Escape Its History? With Russian Novelist Mikhail Shishkin

Will Russia continue its vicious circle of upheaval and autocracy, or will its people find a way out of history?

Mikhail Shishkin is one of the most celebrated living Russian novelists and the only author to have won all three major Russian literary prizes. All his books have been adapted for the stage in Russia and they have been translated into 30 languages.

In March 2023 he came to Intelligence Squared to discuss his new book My Russia: War or Peace? which is both a historical and a personal view of this troubled and conflicted country. In conversation with historian Victor Sebastyen Shishkin traced the roots of Russia’s problems, from Kievan Rus via the Grand Duchy of Moscow, empire, revolution and the Cold War to the now thirty-year-old Russian Federation. He explored the uneasy relationship between the Russian state and its citizens, and set out his view that there are really two Russian peoples: the disillusioned and disaffected, who suffer from what he calls a slave mentality, and those who embrace so-called European values and try to stand up to oppression. And he addressed the most vital question of all: Will Russia continue its vicious circle of upheaval and autocracy, or will its people find a way out of history?



Mikhail Shishkin

Acclaimed Russian novelist whose new book is My Russia: War or Peace?

One of the most prominent names in contemporary Russian literature and the only author to have won the Russian Booker Prize, the Russian National Bestseller, and Big Book Prize. His books, which include the novels The Taking of Izmail and Maidenhair, have won numerous international literary prizes, and he has written for publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and Le Monde. He has lived in Switzerland since 1995. His latest book is My Russia: War or Peace?  

Victor Sebestyen

Budapest-born historian and journalist 

Budapest-born historian who was a child when his family left Hungary as refugees.  He has worked for numerous British newspapers, including the London Evening Standard and The Mail on Sunday.  He  has written for American newspapers such as The New York Times and was an editor at Newsweek.  He reported widely from Russia and Eastern Europe when Communism and the USSR collapsed and  covered the wars in former Yugoslavia.  He is the author of Lenin the DictatorRevolution 1989:  The Fall of the Soviet Empire, and four other history books published in the UK,  the US and  numerous European  countries.