Zhanna Nemtsova is a journalist at Deutsche Welle (DW), where she anchors and produces Russian content, including her program “Nemtsova Interview”. The program interviews leading European, Russian, and American politicians and intellectuals.
Nemtsova is also the founder of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom, located in Bonn, Germany. The foundation aims to promote the ideas of freedom and democracy and keep alive the memory of her father Boris Nemtsov, who was a member of the Russian opposition and was killed in 2015. The foundation hosts the annual Boris Nemtsov Forum in Berlin and supports Russian political prisoners and asylum seekers.
How would you describe yourself?
Quite an optimistic and joyful character, not really taken seriously by many who meet me for the first time and have never dealt with me in the professional life.
You are a journalist and run a foundation that promotes Freedom. How did you pick your career path?
As a teenager, I didn’t have any clear career goals. I majored in world economy with a minor in foreign languages. I started my journalistic career when I joined RBC TV, a Russian version of Bloomberg. I was a stock-market commentator and an anchor of other analytical shows that focused on financial markets. I was really passionate about all the things related to the financial world. The turning point in my career was the assassination of my father Boris Nemtsov in 2015. He was a liberal Russian opposition politician, an outspoken critic of President Putin who was shot dead meters away from the Kremlin.
I had to leave Russia because of the death threats I received on social media. I started my new life in Germany where I joined DW’s Russian Service (DW is a German International broadcaster) and produced a weekly television show “Nemtsova.Interview”. The focus of the program was on politics and social transformation. I covered mainly Russia and the post-Soviet space, but also Europe and the USA whenever it had something to do with Russia. It was a big change in my journalistic focus. In memory of my father, I founded the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom in Germany in 2015 to keep his political legacy and develop projects that are in line with his values. I regard it as a moral duty of mine. To be honest, I had never wanted to be involved in any kind of social activism, but now I feel that I have to do it.
The turning point in my career was the assassination of my father Boris Nemtsov in 2015. He was a liberal Russian opposition politician, an outspoken critic of President Putin who was shot dead meters away from the Kremlin.
You are “fearless” in your current position. Help us walk in your shoes and understand where you get the strength from.
I guess that it all depends on your personal characteristics and background. I feel that I partly followed in my father’s footsteps. “To be fearless” to a large extent means to be confident in the work you do or/and in the values you promote and in your ability to deliver good professional results.
What excites you when you wake up every morning?
I am excited when I have an interesting plan for the day be it some professional responsibilities or entertaining activities.
Share some examples where you have made a difference in your country and community.
I believe that it is too early to assess my personal contribution to journalism or to the civic movement in Russia. I am proud that we managed to build an efficient yet relatively small NGO and I find all the projects we are doing important for my country. Among them is the annual three- week Boris Nemtsov School of Journalism and Cultural Studies that we have every summer in Prague. We have already done two schools (30 participants from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, other countries took part in each school) and now we are preparing the third one.
What are some of the challenges you face? How do you overcome them?
Everybody faces challenges in either one’s professional or private life. It all depends on the kind of a challenge you face. What is key and what I lack as a skill, is to be able to wait, to give a particular situation a second thought and not to take immediate decisions.
To be honest, I had never wanted to be involved in any kind of social activism, but now I feel that I have to do it.
How do you manage self care? Do you believe in work-life balance or integration? What are some of the strategies you adopt?
I pay a lot of attention to my well-being because I see a direct link between efficiency and physical condition. To get enough sleep is important, don’t ignore it. To eat more or less healthy food and to do exercise – these are my rules. One cannot do everything in a short period of time, be the first everywhere. I would say that it is better to gradually grow and to leave some time for yourself. Also, one should have clear priorities and differ between really important tasks and goals and those that are not really significant.
Do you consider yourself a “Global Girl”? Why?
I do and I don’t. I am global because of my way of life, my solid command of the English language, my experiences in cross-cultural communication, my genuine interest in different cultures. Yet I represent the Russian culture (not current political culture), I love my language and most of the time I interact with people who are fluent Russian language speakers and who understand our realities. So, half/half is the answer.
What is the advice you would give your 16-year-old self?
To be much more hard-working.
What are three values you think are most important for a global leader?
Humanity, deep analytical skills, vision.
What’s next for Zhanna?
Good question as now I am at the crossroads. Not sure that I want to carry on with my journalistic career. But what matters for me is the Foundation. In the coming years, I plan to devote more time and effort to what I consider the sense of my life.