Edinburgh Book Festival: Peter Pomerantsev; Adventures in Modern Russia

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Edinburgh International Book Festival
Peter Pomerantsev, Viv Groskop (chair)
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Peter Pomerantsev spent ten years working for TNT, the Russian television channel. Born in Kiev but educated in the UK (Pomerantsev is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh), his book ‘Nothing is True and Everything is Possible’ is his own account of that time and his impressions of Russia under Vladimir Putin.

What may come to be termed the ‘Putin era’ of Russian history has been marked by an extraordinary reversal of expectation; when Putin came to power it seemed as if there was still potential for Russia’s gradual adoption of something approaching western-style democracy. However, events appear to have reversed such expectations.

What Pomerantsev witnessed was a world turned upside down; gangsters turned movie makers, hallucinating Hell’s Angels, philosophy-quoting call girls all struggling for place in a society driven mainly by greed and regulated by liitle regard for legitimate authority and even less for ethics.

Pomerantsev’s career was ultimately limited by the restrictions placed on what authority saw as acceptable television. Although he and other foreign colleagues taught their Russian counterparts the language of television reality and documentary shows, the state proved reluctant to give space to anything remotely controversial or challenging.

When the frustration became too great, Pomerantsev left, becoming a commentator on Russian media and an active participant in efforts to establish Russian language media outlets aimed at the large Russian speaking populations outside Russia.

In ‘Nothing is True and Everything is Possible’ Pomerantsev not only offers us an insight into the workings of Russian media, but also shows us a country unwilling either to confront the realities of its imperial past or the frequently unpleasant aspects of its present.

Nonetheless, and in fact because of this, Pomerantsev’s book is worth reading by all those interested in and concerned by what is going on in Russia today.

Peter Pomerantsev 'Nothing is Real and Everything is Possible; Adventures in Modern Russia'
Faber and Faber £14.99 isbn: 9780571308019