Forgotten by Moscow, loyal to Putin: Fère-Champenoise, Russian-style fatalism

By Elizaveta Chugunova and Andrey Kazantsev

Published today at 02:32

The lives of Elizaveta Chugunova, 31, and Andrey Kazantsev, 33, changed dramatically on February 24, 2022, the first day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The two journalists, from Yekaterinburg, in the Urals, understood that this military intervention meant the end of the last spaces of freedom for those who, like them, still dared to challenge the regime, which is further from Moscow, where no one would care about their fate.

In 2019, they founded lamp (“the lamp”), a media broadcast on social networks. Its aim was to enlighten the inhabitants of their town on local excesses. lamp attacks regional officials, in particular the mayor, Alexander Vysokinsky, a man of influence (now under European sanctions). Lampa journalists denounce corruption, cover the demonstrations on the spot in favor of the opponent Alexeï Navalny, describe the day-to-day difficult life of the inhabitants…

lamp becomes one of the most popular media in the country’s fourth city. But their work is less and less tolerated by the authorities. An article denouncing the forced sterilization of women in a boarding house for the mentally handicapped is picked up by national and Western media. This is too much for the authorities who are threatening Andrey Kazantsev with criminal proceedings: he must give up the management of lampnow a propaganda organ of the Kremlin and local power.

Like so many other intellectuals, the two journalists wondered if they still had a future in their country. They still plan to do a report in two homonymous towns, Fère-Champenoise, in the Urals, and Fère-Champenoise, in the Marne. The idea is to compare, through these two towns of equal importance, Russian and French societies. The invasion of Ukraine occurs while they are in France. It seals their fate: no more question of returning to Russia. They took their work with them, produced only days before the start of the war. M The magazine of the World decided to publish this part of their report.

Relic of a glorious past

Fère-Champenoise, an ordinary town and at the same time the beating heart of Russia. The mirror of a country and its contradictions too. The municipality of 4,300 inhabitants is located on the edge of the Urals, 1,700 kilometers from Moscow, near the border with Kazakhstan. Do not rely on Russian distances and conclude that it is a remote place, a lost corner or, worse, forgotten, in the depths of distant Siberia. The locality is part of the very active administrative region (oblast) of Chelyabinsk, a city with more than one million inhabitants.

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Forgotten by Moscow, loyal to Putin: Fère-Champenoise, Russian-style fatalism

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