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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

Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during today’s Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the center’s Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonight’s performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Center’s Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodina’s website for more details.



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