Anna Politkovskaya – Russia

Anna Politkovskaya was born in August 1958 in New York City, U.S.A., and graduated from Moscow State University in 1980. She worked for the Russian newspaper Izvestia from 1982 to 1993 before joining the staff of Obshchaya Gazeta where she stayed until 1999, when she became a columnist for Novaya Gazeta, one of the few independent newspapers in Russia which is known for its critical reports on politics and human rights.

While reporting for Novaya Gazeta in Chechnya in 2001 Politkovskaya was detained by military officials in the village of Ishettuni. The soldiers threatened her with torture and rape and subjected her to a ‘mock execution’ before releasing her. The same year she published A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya which chronicled the human rights abuses committed in the Chechen civil war and as a result of death threats fled to Vienna.

In 2002 Politkovskaya was awarded the PEN American Center Freedom to Write Award. Her work in Chechnya led her to be one of the few reporters trusted by Chechen rebels who later that year took hostages in a Moscow theater. This event ended in catastrophe when the Russian special forces pumped a toxic gas into the building, killing 39 of the rebels and more than 120 hostages. Two years later, in 2004, Politkovskaya herself was poisoned on her way to Beslan where she intended to mediate between sides in a school hostage crisis, which also ended in disaster. The same year her second book Putin’s Russia was published in which she argued that the President was a ‘power-hungry product of his own history in the armed forces’.

On Saturday 7 October 2006 Anna Politkovskaya’s body was found in the lift of her Moscow apartment. She had been shot in the head in what was clearly a contract killing. In February 2009, three men accused of her murder were acquitted following a trial that was described as deeply flawed. The Supreme Court overturned the acquittal and a retrial is due at a date not yet set. Politkovskaya was the third Novaya Gazeta journalist to be murdered. A fourth, Anastasia Baburova, was killed in Moscow in January 2009 as she came to the aide of Anatoly Markelov, the newspaper’s lawyer, who was also shot dead. They are among 22 journalists murdered in Russia between 2000 and 2009.
Writing sample:

People often tell me I am a pessimist; that I do not believe in the strength of the Russian people; that I am obsessive in my opposition to Putin and see nothing beyond that.

I see everything and that is the whole problem. I see both what is good and what is bad. I see that people would like life to change for the better, but are incapable of making that happen, and that in order to conceal this truth they concentrate on the positive, and pretend the negative isn’t there…

So far there is no sign of change. The state authorities remain deaf to all warnings from the people. They live their own life, their faces permanently twisted by greed and their irritation that anybody should try and prevent them from getting even richer. In order to head off that possibility, their priority is to cripple civil society. On a daily basis they try and convince the Russian people that civil society and the opposition is funded by the CIA, the British, Israeli and, for all anyone knows, Martian intelligence services, plus of course the world wide spider’s web of al-Qaeda.

Our state authorities today are only interested in making money. That is literally all they are interested in.

If anybody thinks they can take comfort from the ‘optimistic’ forecast, let them do so. It is certainly the easier way, but it is also a death sentence for our grand children.

From A Russian Diary translated from Russian by Arch Tait (London: Vintage, 2008). ISBN 978-0-099-52345-1.
For more click here:

BBC News Obituary

Random House Anna Politkovskaya website

The New York Review of Books article

Photograph by Tatyana Zelenskaya accessed from Wikipedia