An acclaimed satirist behind a hugely popular social media profile that lampoons the Kremlin has vowed to continue despite being unmasked when Russian authorities targeted his family.
Alexander Gorbunov, whose online persona StalinGulag has more than one million followers across platforms such as Twitter and Telegram, said “nothing will change” despite having his identity exposed.
In an interview with Euronews, the 27-year-old pledged to continue exposing the everyday injustices faced by ordinary Russians.
The wheelchair user is a self-taught financial trader from Makhachkala in the Russian republic of Dagestan.
He built a huge audience and influence on social media, becoming a frequent thorn in the side of Russian authorities and President Vladimir Putin.
The real identity of StalinGulag remained a secret until last week, when Gorbunov spoke out after police questioned family members including his 65-year-old mother and 80-year-old father in Dagestan.
He said investigators accused him of links to terrorism but had yet to provide evidence.
“For me, anonymity was very important,” he said. “I did not want any publicity, given the country in which we live. We know perfectly well how any criticism of the authorities ends.
“But when the police came to my parents, to my relatives … I simply had no other way out. I realized that, if you do not give this story publicity, everything will be much worse.”
In an increasing crackdown on dissent, Putin in March signed laws that allow courts to fine and briefly jail people for showing disrespect toward the authorities and to block media for publishing “fake news.”
Gorbunov is in no doubt that his StalinGulag postings triggered the visits from the police, who also questioned his brothers in Moscow.
“This is the only thing that could have caused such an interest in me,” he said. “The accusations are absurd.”
Asked if he would stop blogging or posting after having his identity revealed, he said: “No, nothing will change. When injustice occurs, when terrible things happen, you can’t be silent about it. And in this regard, nothing will change. I believe that I did not do anything wrong.”
He said he had considered leaving Russia, but concluded it would be “dishonest” to criticise authorities from overseas.
“To write about Russia, you have to live in Russia,” he said. “Russia is my country, I was born here, my ancestors were born and died here. I do not understand why I should leave, especially since I did not do anything reprehensible, nothing criminal.”
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