If you don’t know Marina Litvinovich (above, pictured), you should. For starters, there’s no page in Wikipedia about her, and somebody should consider writing one (being a crusader, La Russophobe herself is not a suitable candidate, too easily accused of bias). For another, there are only 500 hits for her name on Google. La Russophobe has 20,000. That’s a cosmic outrage. Her only defense against Kremlin violence is notoriety and direct support from the West, clearly indicating there will be a price to pay if she is harmed. This must begin now. We are responsible. Her name and story needs to be injected into the mainstream media, where she has had virtually no recognition. That’s negligence on their part, plain and simple.
Marina is a genuine Russian patriot and hero, in the mold of Anna Politkovskaya and Lidia Yusupova (isn’t it an interesting pattern that so many modern Russian heroes are female?). She operates a blog (in Russian) called Abstrict2001 at Live Journal and has a played a number of significant roles in the modern Russian political debate. She has served as chief of staff to Irina Khakamada, liberal legislator. She is a key advisor to liberal presidential challenger Garry Kasparov. She publishes a website called The Truth About Beslan (also in Russian) in which she investigates the Kremlin coverup of its outrageous conduct during the Beslan hostage crisis. Like Politkovskaya, she has defiantely probed the truth about Beslan by interviewing key figures involved in the events and publishing their accounts. She’s been arrested by the Kremlin for taking part in public protests over its conduct regarding Beslan and she’s participated in wide variety of other protests, including those to oppose the cruelty of hazing in Russia’s military. Finally, she heads the Aid to Victims of Terror Foundation, whose work has been praised by Freedom House. In other words, she does more in any given day (indeed, any hour) to serve the interests of Russia than Vladimir Putin will do in his entire lifetime.
For her service to her country, Marina has been repaid in the classic Russian manner: Brutal physical assault by cowards in the darkness. On Monday, March 20, 2006, for instance Marina was attacked from behind as she headed her car just after 9 pm. She had valuables on her person which were left untouched. Here’s how Masha Gessen described the incident:
Monday night, Kasparov’s right-hand person, the political consultant Marina Litvinovich, left the United Civil Front office just after 9. About an hour later, she opened her eyes to discover that she was lying on a cellar awning and someone was trying to ascertain if she was all right. She was not: She had apparently been knocked unconscious by a blow or several blows to the head. She had been badly beaten, was bruised all over, and was missing two of her front teeth. Nothing had been taken from her: not her notebook computer or cell phone or money. She spent three or four hours in the emergency room that night, and she spent another three or four at the police station the following day. She found the police to be extraordinarily polite and considerate — and, as the organizer of many of Kasparov’s public speaking events and any number of protests, Litvinovich is something of an expert on police behavior. Some higher-up had apparently been sent down to the station to handle her case. At the same time, she told me, “I am not stupid and I could see what they were getting at: that I was just walking down the street and passed out. That I must be in poor health.” Litvinovich is 31 years old and healthy. “And that I fell in such an unfortunate manner that I got bruised all over.” Litvinovich has a bruise on her leg that, the doctors told her, was probably caused by a blow with a rubber baton. The police suggested it may have been a car bumper. Litvinovich pointed out that her clothes were so clean that she was wearing the same trousers and coat the following day. She clearly was not hit by a Moscow car. Moreover, this is one of several signs that she was attacked by professionals: She must have been held while she was beaten, then laid carefully on the awning on which she found herself. In other words, the attack was a message. The pristine execution and the fact that Litvinovich’s valuables were not touched serve to underscore this. So what’s the content of this message? Another young political consultant, an up-and-coming member of the Kremlin’s Public Chamber, Alexei Chadayev, put the message forward in his blog: “Women should not be in this line of work. … Marina is on the warpath, and no one ever said this war would be conducted according to rules.” This is this country’s ruling regime speaking. Its message is crude: as simple as a rubber baton, as brutal as a blow to a young woman’s face. If you are going to oppose the Kremlin, it is saying, this will happen to you.
That wasn’t the first time Marina has been physically attacked, proving the power of her work and the utter cowardice and impotence of those who oppose her, who cannot face her on any remotely civilized terms and can only resort to the crude violence of an animal.
Like Politkovskaya, Marina is also working to document the horrors of the Kremlin’s conduct in Chechnya. Reader Jeremy Putley directs us to some recent photos she has taken there, documenting the Kremlin’s total failure to rebuild the country after its brutal assault.
Capital of Chechnya, Spring 2006, with Marina in the foregoround.
Marina writes: “In Grozny the people live in half-wrecked houses. Bomb craters are the only places left vacant. Any building somehow left standing contains occupants, even where there are gigantic voids in the structure that make them unsuitable and unsafe for living. The city is full of waste piles and rats, and the homes are without utilities or sanitary facilities.”
Marina adds: “It’s also time to rebuild their homes.”
You can find other photographs of Chechnya, including these, taken by Marina here, here and here.