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Event Details

Masha Gessen: On Russia & Ukraine

25 August 2022
6.30pm – 7.30pm AEST
City Recital Hall
Masha Gessen

When Gessen speaks about autocracy, you listen.

The New York Times

Masha Gessen | Peter Hartcher

The world has watched in horror as Putin launched a violent invasion on Ukraine. So far, the war has led to the death of thousands with millions of Ukrainians fleeing their homeland in search of refuge. While for many of us, this war feels like another crisis in a series of unprecedented events, for Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen it was inevitable.  

The best-selling biographer of Vladimir Putin has spent years examining the resurgence of totalitarianism in Russia under Putin’s leadership. Now a staff writer for The New Yorker, Gessen remains an outspoken critic of Putin’s authoritarian regime and writes fearlessly about the future of Russia and this unfolding tragedy.  

Join Masha Gessen in conversation with journalist Peter Hartcher for an evening of insights into this critical moment on the world stage.  

This event is presented by the UNSW Centre for Ideas and Sydney Writer's Festival, and supported by Auckland Writers Festival and Byron Writers Festival. To explore the full UNSW x Social Sciences Week program head here.


Standard – $30 + booking fees 
UNSW Sydney Student – $10* + booking fees

*UNSW Sydney student tickets are available only to currently enrolled students. Valid UNSW identification (zID) must be produced at the event.

Booking Fees 
Booking fee per transaction: Online $5.95 | Phone/Email: $6.95.  

Bookings made over the counter at the City Recital Hall Box Office do not attract a transaction fee.  


This event will take place live at City Recital Hall. Please note this is a live event only, and will not be available via livestream. 


The health and safety of our patrons is our top priority. This event will abide by the Public Health Order prevailing at the time. Please follow our conditions of entry, and check back here for updated information prior to the event.

  • Do not attend the event if you feel unwell, have recently experienced any cold or flu-like symptoms or are awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test.
  • Face masks are recommended.


Wheelchair Accessible
City Recital Hall has two main entrances. The Pitt Street entrance has level access from the street leading into the ground floor foyer. There is also lift access at the Ash Street entrance to the ground floor foyer. Wheelchair accessible seating, toilet facilities and parking are available.

Assisted Listening
Patrons using hearing aids can access the hearing induction loop available in the auditorium. To utilise the loop, please switch your hearing aid to the "T" position. Please note: Seats 51-54 in every row are not serviced by the induction loop. For further information, please email or call the box office on 02 8256 2222. 

Auslan & Captioning
Auslan interpreting services and/or live captioning can be provided upon request.


City Recital Hall is steps away from the Wynyard light rail stop, a five-minute walk from Wynyard and Martin Place train stations and numerous bus routes along Martin Place. For trip planning, maps and ticket info visit or call 131 500.

Wilson Parking operates a car park next to City Recital Hall at 123 Pitt Street, Sydney. Accessible parking spaces are available in the car park beside venue elevators. Patrons can access the hall directly using car park lifts from one hour prior to performance start times. 

For additional transport info to City Recital Hall visit their website.


For all enquiries, please call the Centre for Ideas on 02 9065 0485 or email

The Centre for Ideas is happy to receive phone calls via the National Relay Service. TTY users, phone 133 677, then ask for 02 9065 0485. Speak and Listen users, phone 1300 555 727 then ask for 02 9065 0485. Internet relay users, visit, then ask for 02 9065 0485. 


Masha Gessen

Masha Gessen

Masha Gessen began contributing to The New Yorker in 2014 and became a staff writer in 2017. Gessen is the author of 11 books, including Surviving Autocracy and The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, which won the National Book Award in 2017. Gessen has written about Russia, autocracy, LGBT rights, Vladimir Putin, and Donald Trump, among others, for The New York Review of Books and The New York Times.  

On a parallel track, Gessen has been a science journalist, writing about AIDS, medical genetics, and mathematics; famously, Gessen was dismissed as editor of the Russian popular-science magazine Vokrug Sveta for refusing to send a reporter to observe Putin hang-gliding with the Siberian cranes. Gessen is a Distinguished Writer in Residence at Bard College and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, a Nieman Fellowship, the Hitchens Prize, and the Overseas Press Club Award for Best Commentary. After more than 20 years as a journalist and editor in Moscow, Gessen has been living in New York since 2013.

Peter Hartcher

Peter Hartcher

Peter Hartcher is a leading Australian journalist and author. He is the political editor and international editor of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. He is the papers’ main commentator on national politics and international affairs. He is also a visiting fellow at the leading Australian think tank on foreign affairs, the Lowy Institute for International Policy. He has been writing about politics, economics and international affairs for nearly 40 years, including a decade as a foreign correspondent in Tokyo and Washington. His first book was a pathbreaking study of Japan’s Ministry of Finance and its economic dysfunction, The Ministry, published by Harvard Business School Press in 1988. His new book is Red Zone: China’s Challenge and Australia’s Future. Francis Fukuyama has described it as “clear eyed and utterly frightening”. 

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