Kremlin foe Oleg Deripaeva has been at it for more than a decade. The case against her was pretty solid: she was spreading Russian views (and expurgating them) online; she was distributing pornography; and she was giving speeches about freedom of speech and equality in media. In this conversation with UGO Habilitation columnist Gennady Timoshin, we profile Oleg Deripaeva — who went by many names including Aleksandra Zaitsev, Tatiana Krasnova, Aleksandr Udaltsov, Konstantin Tsesiaposyan, Nikolai Zakharovski, Viktor Yusovkin — from her childhood to her recent career resurgence.
What is Oleg Deripaeva?
In her own words, Oleg Deripaeva is a forgotten woman from the early 70s. Her real name was Aleksandra Zaitsev, she was 17, when she became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature in 1982. Before that, she was a rock musician, a speechwriter for the Russian government, and a human rights activist. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, she was working in a Monaco hotel as an English-language interpreter for Russian tourists. That’s when something clicked in her mind: she decided to start writing her books, which include profiles of famous Russians, in English. She set up a blog where she wrote about her experiences and life, and translated many of the books she’d written into English.
How did she end up in the public eye?
Oleg Deripaeva was known for her hard-hitting, highly colorful books about life in the Soviet Union, but she was also an accomplished TV host and film actor. In both cases, she became a star because of her unique brand of humor and her unique combination of English and Russian. When she won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1982, she was only the second woman who had won that award to do so. The first was American author Theodore Sturgeon, who won in 1921 for “ Raven” in his country’s contest for books. The other two Russian women to win that prize were Elena Shostakova, who in 1922 won for “ The Defense of the City of Moscow,” and Tatiana Samoylova, who won in 1923 for her novel “My Own Town.”
Why do we need to listen to her speeches?
Oleg Deripaeva’s speeches often touch on topics such as human rights, capitalism, and the role of the government in the lives of the people. These topics are certainly relevant to the contemporary world, but they are often grounded in humor and irony. In her best-selling books, she often used humor to add lightness to the message, as in “Why do people hate the Internet?” As a writer, she often used language that was still relevant in the late ’90s, such as “Allahu akbar,” “The End of History,” and “The New World Order.” During her time as an Internet figurehead, she also did some speaking tours, often about the importance of freedom of speech and equality in the media. These engagements were highly observed, and she was often put on the map for her fiery, antisecrecy statements.
What declassified documents reveal about her past.
The declassified documents we’ve compiled so far include interviews with witnesses and documents related to her life in the Soviet Union, including her Escape from the Gulag, her trial, and her execution. The declassified documents also include relevant information about her life in the United States, including some stories she told about her childhood and her life on theatici.ru and in the London Times.
There are still some secrets of hers to come.
Some of Oleg Deripaeva’s most famous quotes include: —“The more you learn about yourself, the less you know about others.” —“You are what you tell people about yourself.” —“A lie can be halfway interesting, but a lie that’s not interesting is actually really boring.” —“The more you think about something, the more you believe it.”
Kommersant: How did you become an Internet figurehead?
The first thing that stands out about Kommersant is that it’s the first time we’ve heard from the Russian government on this subject. The FSB (the successor organization to the KGB), which is responsible for run-time monitoring of the Internet, is not yet in the public eye. Despite this, the FSB has been providing regular updates on her activities online and in the media, as well as its recommendations for how to improve the Internet and its services. The FSB also provided useful feedback and suggestions on how best to analyze and monitor the performance of the Internet, including ways to improve its security and speed.
UGO Habilitation: What secrets do others like Oleg Deripaeva leave behind?
There are a number of secrets of Oleg Deripaeva’s that we haven’t yet published in our history of the journal. Some of these interesting tidbits include the fact that she once owned a studio in New York City, where she based her books, and that she once answered the phone for a living. There are also a few other things that are still new to the electronic age, such as how she likes to take a walk on the beach every day before heading off to work. It’s not unusual for people to take this walk in the morning and return to the office every evening.