Irina Prokhorova’s Faith in Ethical Evolution
‘If censorship begins even in one discipline, inevitably it will lead to everything being censored...’
Published: April 2, 2014 (Issue # 1804)
In 1992, as the remnants of Soviet society disintegrated around her, a woman with no business experience decided that the time was ripe to found the new nation’s first independent literary journal.
“Of course it was absolutely crazy at that time. Even most of my friends said, ‘Who needs such a thick, professional academic journal in 1992, who is going to read it?’” Irina Prokhorova recalled with a laugh.
But for Prokhorova, 58, the privation and hardships of that time were only half of the story. The other half was an extraordinary exhilaration and sense of freedom — that now, finally, anything was possible.
More than 20 years later, the journal — the New Literary Observer — has blossomed into a thriving publishing house, and Prokhorova is a prominent figure not only on Russia’s literary scene, but in philanthropy and politics as well.
Her televised debate representing her brother, billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, during the 2012 presidential campaign pitted her against Vladimir Putin’s surrogate, Nikita Mikhalkov. Prokhorova’s eloquence and intelligence left the famous movie director admitting that if it was she who was running, his vote would go to her.
In January this year, Prokhorova stepped up as leader of her brother’s Civil Platform party. While the move into politics may seem an unusual leap to some observers, for Prokhorova it is simply an extension of the work that she has been doing all along.
“We still have a mission to enlighten,” she said. “The idea of human freedom and independence, a new relationship between society and the government, fundamental ethical and philosophical principles — this is the foundation on which everything else is built.”
Despite her many titles and lofty ambitions, when Prokhorova welcomed reporters from The St. Petersburg Times into her office, casually dressed and holding her electric tea kettle in hand, it was clear that this is a woman of few pretensions.
Perhaps it is this lack of affectation that has earned her popularity as the host of two programs: the talk show “Value System” on RBC television and “Culture of the Everyday” on Komsomolskaya Pravda radio.
Or, perhaps, it is her passion for the values themselves, which underlie all of her cultural and political activities.
It was the desire to promote grassroots social movements that led to the creation in 2004 of the Mikhail Prokhorov Foundation, which supports cultural projects in neglected regional communities.
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