RIGA, Latvia — There’s a certain kind of American podcast where two young journalists investigate their own medium-size problems, laugh a lot, interview their moms.
Sonya Groysman, a 27-year old journalist in Moscow working for the independent news site Proekt, was a fan of those shows, and so when she and her colleague Olga Churakova ran into trouble, it seemed natural to start recording. But the problems they’ve discussed in that familiar format are terrifying and existential. Last month the two women were placed on the Russian government’s list of “foreign agents,” a designation that threatens to end their careers and, if they fail to fill out reams of paperwork and attach a 24-word disclaimer even to personal social-media posts, could mean heavy fines and jail time.
So their podcast is called “Hi, You’re a Foreign Agent.” The first episode begins with Ms. Groysman stumbling, laughing, through the disclaimer, which translates as: “THIS NEWS MEDIA/MATERIAL WAS CREATED AND/OR DISSEMINATED BY A FOREIGN MASS MEDIA PERFORMING THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT AND/OR A RUSSIAN LEGAL ENTITY PERFORMING THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT.” In another episode, Ms. Churakova tries and fails to get a job at a fast-food chain specializing in blini after explaining her new status.
I wrote in this space about the unlikely flowering in
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