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Snowden's 1st Year in Russia: The Highlights

Published: June 24, 2014 (Issue # 1816)



  • Edward Snowden at TED2014 — The Next Chapter, Session 2 — Retrospect, Mar. 17-21, 2014, Vancouver Convention Center, Vancouver, Canada.
    Photo: James Duncan Davidson / TED

A year ago, an airplane carrying U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden landed in Russia. It has been a wild ride for him since: nonstop prize nominations, chats with presidents and marriage proposals from female spies, among other adventures. The St. Petersburg Times takes a look at some of the highlights of Snowden's first year in the land of vodka, oil and — apparently — freedom of information.

Stranded

All Snowden wanted to do was change planes in Moscow en route from Hong Kong to Ecuador, but then he disappeared. Journalists played the "where's Snowden?" game in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport for days on end with the enthusiasm of 5-year-olds, and a few even accompanied the empty seat supposed to hold Snowden all the way to his next transit stop, Havana.

He eventually emerged to admit that the enraged White House had canceled his passport and applied for asylum in Russia. The saga of Snowden's sojourn in the transit zone lasted for a biblical 40 days until the Kremlin granted his request. Lesson 1 for Snowden: Mother Russia does not let you go easily.

That Website Job

First on the to-do list of any immigrant — even an intelligence fugitive — is getting a job. Capitalizing on Russia's extreme shortage of IT experts, Snowden scored a job as a developer at an unspecified "major Russian website," according to his lawyer, but no one came out and admitted to having hired the U.S. government's pale, bespectacled public enemy No. 1.

The only website to admit interest in Snowden was Russian social network Vkontakte. The deal was never confirmed, and it looks like it was a close shave for the ex-NSA employee, given that the network's flamboyant founder Pavel Durov — "Russia's Zuckerberg" and outspoken advocate of Internet privacy — has since been fired in what he claimed was a government ploy to take over the unruly website and milk it for information on its 60 million users. So much for upholding privacy.

Nobel Nomination

Over the past year, Snowden has been deluged with awards, right up to a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize — which his adversary, U.S. President Barack Obama, scooped up in 2009. It is not often you see two Nobel Peace Prize laureates at each others' throats, which perhaps explains why the award was instead given to the organization tasked with destroying Syria's chemical weapon stockpiles.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russia’s most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkin’s, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontov’s short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library System’s website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Club’s weekly meeting tonight at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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