The Russians are coming, again. At least that's how it has often seemed in the last several years, since more than a decade of lessened US-Russian tensions gave way to a partial return of the old East-West tug of war for international power and influence.
The collapse of Soviet communism after 70 years in the early 1990s led to a blossoming of democratic and capitalist values in Russia. But a flagging economy soon led to soaring prices and lost jobs, meaning that many people eventually wondered if they'd traded rigid controls for a kind of freedom that merely meant instability. That set the tone for the rise of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who in recent years has used the income from soaring gas and oil prices to fill his government's coffers, salve the public, isolate the opposition, and flex his nation's diplomatic muscles, particularly on issues involving Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Nicholas Daniloff knows about Russia's old ways, from the inside out, as in from a jail cell. Daniloff is a journalism professor at Northeastern University, but in 1986, as a Moscow correspondent for the Associated Press, he was arrested by the KGB and accused of spying. His arrest spurred international headlines and intense negotiations, which resulted in his release three weeks later in what amounted to a prisoner exchange.
Daniloff has remained a keen follower of events in the former Soviet Union. In his memoir last year, "Of Spies and Spokesmen," he wrote: "What I see happening in Russia today is the failure of strong, independent media to develop -- what Benjamin Franklin called 'the bulwark against tyranny.' The Kremlin has caged national TV broadcasting that reaches the masses, while allowing a small amount of critical reporting by newspapers that reach a comparatively small number of people." In other words, some of the old tight controls are back.
As part of the Ford Hall Forum lecture series, Daniloff will further discuss Russia today from 6:30-8 p.m. on Thursday , April 30, at the Rabb Auditorium, Boston Public Library, Copley Square.