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Artur Levin's column

"I'll be back when the elderly Soviets running the country and their demons are gone". An interview with Roman Perl


Roman has a telling surname - Pearl. And his journalistic biography fits well with this definition.

On the one hand, he can be safely called a pearl not only of St. Petersburg journalism, but of Russian journalism in general. He is an international reporter, author and presenter of an analytical programme at STO TV channel, he collaborated with RTVI, then with "Present time", and he has hosted his own Youtube show "Agenda”. The list goes on...

On the other hand, his career in his home country ended up being ridiculous. Nonsense.

In October 2021, Roman and his colleague Tatiana Voltskaya, a correspondent for Radio Liberty (recognized as a foreign agent media in Russia), were added to the registry of media outlets that are performing the functions of foreign agents.

According to the Russian Ministry of Justice, "these individuals received foreign funds from the Czech office of Radio Liberty and also participated in the creation and distribution of materials of the aforementioned foreign agent media.

And this is a fact. Roman did in fact work on the documentary series Unknown Russia.

The channel has over a million subscribers on YouTube. Cinema with a capital letter. Author's interpretation.

For one of these reports on the island of Gogland in the Gulf of Finland, Roman is sure to have been awarded the honorary title of foreign agent. You can watch it here.

We talked to Roman about what it's like to live in such a status in Russia and in Israel, where he and his family moved away from the "bloodbath set up by the Kremlin". About his family, his choice of employer and the shawarma he misses.

- Roma, why Gogland? What did you do there?

- I have no idea. I promised my comrades from the Ministry of Defence that we would behave ourselves, but our speakers didn't hold back much. And I didn't hold back either.

But what really caused me to be put on the register of foreign agents is anyone's guess.

- On that unfortunate day, you were joined by Bellingcat, Caucasian Knot and MNews, Galina Arapova, Director of the Media Rights Defence Centre, and eight journalists from the BBC Russian Service and Dozhd. Not a bad bunch!

And you yourself said in one of your interviews:

"There will be more hemorrhoids, what can you do. Putin's Russia, unfortunately, is full of hemorrhoids. There is no way out of it."

Did it really add to the problems?

- The rules of conduct for a foreign agent are very vague. All these reports, the posts on social networks - you can always get to the bottom of this if you want to. And first an administrative and then a criminal case can be opened. In addition, there is a high probability that the banks will block our accounts.

It all depends on who the fuck knows what. If you step on someone's shoes with an inadvertent comment, you'll get it.

And if there's some sort of property seizure, we'll be the first to go.

- When did you make the decision to leave Russia and how hard was it for you?

- In autumn last year. Right after I was recognised by the media as a foreign agent. It became clear that my prospects in the country weren't very good. I'd have to obey idiotic restrictions and live on food and water for at least a year before I could beg to be removed from the register. Or end up unemployed altogether. And it is not clear why the government, which I did not choose (no one chose), will tell me which employer to choose.

And by the winter it became clear that we are in Russia for a long time. And that we had to stay away from this country for some time.

The decision to leave was easy. The first six months after departure were more difficult. We were bored, of course. Even though many of our compatriots, both at the top and at the bottom, behaved like animals. We missed our beloved city and the people who surrounded us.

It got to the point that in the summer, as soon as we had a chance, my wife and I bought tickets and flew home to St. Petersburg. We left at the height of the mobilisation.

Now, by the way, we do not miss it. We just let it go.

- What did you have to leave behind in Russia?

- My wife's parents stayed in Russia (mine had even left before us), less close relatives. On the whole, they take a simpler attitude than we do to the war and to everything that was its consequence. Often this attitude is called ostrichism, but I don't blame them.

People want to live with their small problems and not think about global threats. This is normal. In general, I think that if a healthy petty bourgeoisie wins, there will be no global threats.

And I will definitely meet everyone who is left. The beast will die out sooner or later. And I will definitely come and in honour of this I will roll out a sea of beer and a cake from an authentic St. Petersburg shawarma to my friends.

- The question is obvious, but still. Why Israel?

- We live in a small town by the sea. An ideal place for a family with a small child. Beaches, huge playgrounds for children. We would really like to live in a big city again, but our daughter is better off here for now.

Israel was chosen because I am eligible for citizenship. Thanks to my grandfather. So I had no difficulties with bills, kindergartens or any other emigrant problems. And being able to fly without a Russian passport is worth a lot these days.

- Are you still working?

- In Russia, I have spent the last few years making documentaries for the TV channel "Present Time". I used to make films about Russia. Now I'm making films about countries which border Russia or are connected to it. Showing what has changed there after so many months of the Kremlin's bloodbath.

- What has to happen for you to go back to Russia?

- I will return when the senile Soviets running the country and their demons are gone. It's not certain that I'll come back to live, but I'll definitely be there for the shawarma cake.

By: Artur Levin

Photos: Instagram

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