Novaya Gazeta Europe was founded when the long-established opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta (eng. New Newspaper), was shut down by the government March in 2022.
Its Editor-in-Chief Dimitry Muratov was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021.
Novaja Gazeta Europe was launched in Riga shortly thereafter as an organizationally independent structure by Kirill Martynov, former political editor of Novaya Gazeta.
The online newspaper is blocked in Russia. Individual print editions were published soon afterwards in the Baltic States and in Germany.
Kirill Martynov is primarily known as Editor-in-Chief of Novaya Gazeta Europe, founded shortly after the Putin-led
invasion in Ukraine February last year.
He is also co-founder of the Free University of Moscow, founded
during the period of pandemic-induced lockdown. Martynov has a PhD in
philosophy, graduated from Moscow University. His first topic in philosophy was
of mind, which according to him was not popular in Russia back then. The,
in his own words, 'hero of his PhD thesis', was the American philosopher Daniel
Martynov was employed as assistant professor in
higher school of economics in Moscow. He
describes the institution as the best and most liberal university in Russia:
Partly because it was never linked to Soviet past.
During these years his professional focus
- I was deeply interested in political
philosophy, and my courses at the university was mostly about that. We discussed concepts like equality and democracy and justice. And
we tried to focus on some political philosophers from 20th century, like John
Rawls and Robert Nozick and other people who spoke about power and society, he
Martynov was fired from his position at the
Moscow University in 2020, in the middle of the covid crisis. The sacking
process was initiated when he was accused of breaking some ethical rules, he
explains. Assistant professor Martynov had posted some political speeches of
Putin on his Facebook profile, commenting on them. The university
administration told him to either delete the posts or to delete all links to
the university, which he did. Still, some months later he was informed that his employment
He received the email while attending a Zoom
conference, and shared destiny with ten other colleagues. Other academic departments,
law schools and more shared his destiny: Out of work, with no professional future
inside the Russian borders.
Putin's invasion and Kantian ethics
Martynov still maintained a minor position as teacher
at two other universities. He held his last lecture two days after the invasion in Ukraine.
Free University of Moscow
The Free University is a community of teachers and students. Since 2020, it has been working to make modern knowledge available to everyone, without censorship.
Their mission is «... to rebuild the university, freeing teachers from any administrative dictate.»
- My topic for students was some ethic issues of
Immanuel Kant. I decided, okay, we need to be professional, and I spoke about
Kantian ethics applied on this situation. All my examples were about
the war. It was quite easy to link Kant and what Putin actually did, Martynov comments,
a slight smile on his face.
- And I was fired again on the next day,
because I was reported by some administration staff. They came to me and said it was dangerous to discuss stuff like that inside the classroom. A few days later I
This spring the Free University of Moscow was declared a criminal group by Russian authorities, a so-called 'undesirable organization.'
- Consequently, they can prosecute students even for attending lectures or some of our events. The situation right now is really, really hard because we still provide free courses to students in Russia, but we are forced to hide the students' names to reduce their level of risk, Martynov says.
Free University of Moscow now exists primarily outside of the Russian borders. At present time, many faculty staff members have
left Russia, and many of them don't want to be linked or associated with Moscow,
Martynov explains. Most courses are now available online, the seventh semester
in a row. During these three years more than 10 000 students have taken courses,
according to Martynov.
- Right now, we are running several programs,
like graduate level programs. And we started around 55 free courses at this
semester. We now have up to 200 of teachers in our community.
Novaya Gazeta Europe was founded shortly after
- How did it come about that you and your
colleagues decided to start this newspaper?
- Well, it was a clear-cut situation, in which
we understood that Kremlin was going to destroy us. And in this situation, we had
a choice, either to wait or to do something on our own. And in order to take action, we needed to leave Russia and to start all over again, Martynov
The original Novaja Gazeta in Moscow was shut
down 28th of March 2022. The planning of Novaja Gazeta Europe was initiated the
very same day.
- We went online at 7th of April - 10 days later. We first started from a Telegram channel and got our website the second week, which was very similar to the one Novaja Gazeta had. We started a Youtube channel and we started to meet, he says.
Martynov came to the main bus station in Riga
and met friends and colleagues who left Russia by buses, and tried to take care
of them, find places to stay and ways to provide some money for them. Then they
started setting up the operation.
We were egoistic
- We were, in our minds, egoistic in a sense
that we just tried to protect our professional dignity. And, you know, the values
propagated by Novaya Gazeta are more important than Russian censorship.
Five of the journalists in Novaya Gazeta were
killed at work at the time it was shut down, among them Anna Politkovskaja. The threat
from Russian intelligence is a constant presence in the daily life of Novaja
- How do you take care of security, and how
much do you worry about it?
- Well, we have some basic rules on security.
We don't name the address of our office. We don't take photos from our windows.
We try not to provide any information about our plans where someone can find us. We stick to secure channels of communications. The most problematic here are those who report from inside Russia. We are also exposed to some risks, but I don't think it's the most crucial point. People
who will still try to do some journalism for the public good from inside
Russia are on a daily pressure, they risk arrest any time. For
us, our situation is perilous, but it's mostly about some emergency situation, not
a daily pressure.
Level of risks
- Do you fear for your life?
- Like Dimitry Muratov usually states, we never discuss questions about fears and security risks. Again, my personal view is that
there are a lot of people who share much higher levels of risks than me
personally. I'm not on the top of this list of people who are at
danger. We observe certain security rules which we ourselves have established. But
I try to focus on daily routine work, not on existential threats to
Russian independent journalists.
- As both a journalist and an academic: What do you think about the situation, living
in exile and having your fatherland involved in this terrible war?
- Well, we try to do what we can on our level.
That's the main idea behind all these activities. I think that in the long term
we need to fight for a normalization of Russia. If we have some historical chance to
bring democracy back to Russia and to provide a normal lifestyle to the people, without all this military mobilization and propaganda and restrictions and
censorship and rule of special services, we need to do this. We need to try to
do what we can. And, well, it's a coincidence that I'm a teacher and a journalist.
I try to do what I can to provide normal education to students inside Russia
and to provide stories and access to free information to the general public in
- Still, you are living and working under constant pressure?
- Well, a lot of people are under
heavy pressure, and we have a really bad feeling about our situation. But I think
that if you see that your work is appreciated by the
audience or by students, that means that you are on the right track. So you
need to just keep up with what you did before.
Martynov grows silent some seconds, then:
- In general, I'm losing this idea of being academic philosopher, because, well, the list of problems is not about
Wanted: Money, accreditation, cooperation
- What can Western universities do to be of
- This question is really important for us. We
need to be recognized by Western universities. We would be very happy if academics
would just support us by providing, for example, lectures for our students, for
instance on Youtube. We have several scientific projects together with our
colleagues in Europe, and we need to maintain this work in order to for example have common
conferences, and to educate ourselves and to provide these opportunities to attend
conferences to our students. And in general, we need this solidarity
with Western universities and some collaboration with them, he says.
The prospective of sharing scientific academic
activities with Western universities would be of great help for their students, he states.
- Try and imagine that you are a Russian
student in your 20s inside the country. In your lifetime you have first experienced Corona, and after that the war, and
after that the self-isolation of Russia, and you feel trapped. You don't
have any exits from this situation. You can only obey rules and orders. It’s a
A looming demographic catastrophe
- What do you think about the future for the
Russian nation and for the Russian state?
- I think Putin actually destroyed the future
both for the state and for the people. Starting this war was the worst decision
in the history of at least last decades of any political leader. He forced the
nation to engage in a senseless war and to kill thousands and thousands of
people, both Ukrainians and Russians.
This is senseless, also from av demographic
point of view, Martynov warns.
- Russia has quite an old population, the median age of Russian people is slightly over 40 years right now. It's
insane, you just don't have enough young people to go to fight and die. It's senseless,
even according to the standards of dictatorship of the past, it's senseless to start this
war in such a demographic situation.
It will be really hard to rediscover the future
for Russians, Martynov fears.
- I don't care much about the future of this present, Russian state.
- If this goes on, then what?
- Then the Russian people have to find some
other states, some other political organization. This is a question for the
future, says Editor-in-Chief and assistant professor currently on leave, Kirill Martynov.