Daily Archives: October 7, 2007

October 7, 2007 — Contents

Sunday, October 7


On August 30, 1958, Anna Mazepa was born in New York City, the child of Soviet-Ukrainian diplomats to the United Nations. She married Alexander Politkovski in 1978, became Anna Politikovskaya, had two children with her husband, and divorced him in 2000.

Meanwhile, she also became one of the greatest patriots in Russia’s history, boldly recording and opposing the rise of the neo-Soviet, KGB-run dictatorship that we see displayed before us in all its horror today, warning us years before anyone else that it was on the way. When she first began to sound her warning some people called her paranoid, obsessed, a “russophobe.” Now, she’s a soothsayer and her words are the last, best hope for Russia’s survival.

On October 7, 2006, at the age of 48, she was shot and killed in the entranceway of her apartment building in Moscow, an act of cowardly retaliation in response to a lifetime of valiant patriotism, writing the truth about Russia for those who would heed it, as recklessly indifferent to her own safety as any Russian solider who ever stood against any invading army. Just like so many Russian patriots before her, from Pushkin through Solzhenitsyn, she was tormented and tortured by the nation she was fighting desperately to save, and finally killed by it.

Today, on the one-year anniversary of her murder, we remember Anna. And solemnly we promise her that we will never forget. In the words of Abraham Lincoln:

We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain;
That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom;

And that government of the people, by the people, for the people,

Shall not perish from the earth.

And these words are vitally important to carry into today’s Russia by any means possible. For, as Alexi Pankin wrote in the Moscow Times:

On Thursday August 30th, which would have been the 49th birthday of slain Novaya Gazeta journalist Anna Politkovskaya, my wife and I attended a commemoration gathering for her on Pushkin Square. Of Moscow’s more than 10 million residents, less than 300 came to pay their respects. Afterward, we looked for a cafe where we could sit quietly and reflect upon the event, but to no avail — every cafe in the vicinity was packed with people apparently unaware of or indifferent to Politkovskaya’s passing.

Pankin, a deluded neo-Soviet bagman, then attempted to rationalize this Russian behavior by arguing that poor Russians can’t be expected to stand up for Anna after being so shocked by events like the Beslan tragedy. It’s easy to understand his craven cowardice, of course, since when Anna pointed the finger of blame where it belonged, at the people of Russia, she was executed. But how dare any Russian claim his is a nation of brave patriots when so few are willing to stand for justice?

There are many who truly understand Anna, however, for that was the power of her courage, to blast through all that nonsense. For instance, most recently (September 18th) she was given a posthumous 2007 Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy. NED said: “Throughout her distinguished career as a Russian journalist, Anna was an outspoken advocate for human rights and an end to the devastating war in Chechnya. Up to the day of her death, Anna reported on the corruption and abuses of high-ranking officials and the need to protect those who were victims of the war. Her career was marked by a determination to report the truth regardless of the consequences, for which she paid with her life. Earlier this month she received UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Prize on the 10th anniversary of the award, the first time it was awarded posthumously. Anna’s award will be accepted by her colleague at Novaya Gazeta Elena Milashina, a courageous investigative journalist in her own right. Ms. Milashina has reported from Chechnya on a number of occasions, focusing primarily on investigations of the Beslan tragedy.”

A square has been named after her in Italy, but the best thing we can do to honor Anna’s memory is to identify her successors, like Milashina, and support them as whole-heartedly as we can. In doing so, we are really only supporting our own best hope for future happiness and security.

Today, we devote our blog for three full days entirely to remembering Anna Politkovskaya, one of the greatest Russian patriots who ever lived. She gave her life for her country. We can do no less. We will not post new content to the blog until Tuesday morning, October 9th. In so doing, we bow low before the memory of our fallen hero.


Links to additional reflections on Anna’s life:

Politkovskaya: The Face that Launched a Thousand Dreams

She walks in beauty like
the night of cloudless climbs and starry skies, and

all that’s best in dark and bright
in her aspect, and in her eyes.

Anna’s Daughter Vera (right)

Anna’s Killer, Vladimir Putin, with some of his
other victims

“The Putin School of Journalism”

Politkovskaya: A Hero for Our Time

A Hero for Our Time

by Jeremy Putley

Russia is a country without many heroes. It had a good many, once. But under Vladimir Putin, president since 2000, most of the heroes are in prison, exiled or dead. The bravest and best of them was Anna Politkovskaya, assassinated a year ago today.

In her four published books and her journalism Anna Politkovskaya reported and commented fearlessly on the injustices and the corruption, the crimes and the lies she found wherever she went. In so doing she wrote the history of the Putin era. The importance of her contribution to the record of what really happened at events such as the Dubrovka theatre siege lies in the efforts of Russia’s sinister regime of siloviki to falsify history. As a minor, but significant, example, the number of the hostages killed by the rescuers at the siege was officially 139, but in reality, as accurately recorded by Politkovskaya, 200.

Attempts by the Russian government at falsification of the historical record, or disguising what really happened, are a trademark of Putinism. The suppression of the truth of the Chechnya war was deliberate policy, intended to hide the lawless anarchy created in Chechnya, the war crimes committed by the Russian military, and the mass murder of the civilian population. In A Dirty War, published in 2001, and A Small Corner of Hell, in 2003, Politkovskaya wrote about what was really happening there. On the blanket of secrecy she commented: “The time of Putin is the time of silence about what’s most important in this country.”

Putin’s Russia, in 2004, is about a man who, as the book’s blurb says, had marketed himself as an open, enlightened leader eager to engage with the West. Unlike many European and American journalists and politicians, Anna distrusted Putin’s press image, and set about dismantling it, arguing that he is a product of his own history, and so is unable to prevent himself from stifling civil liberties at every turn. The following passage from the book discloses the sense of moral outrage that was the inspiration for the best of her journalism. She relates how a missile bombardment on a farmstead, in April 2004, killed everyone there – a mother and her five children – and writes:

Why do I so dislike Putin? Because the years are passing. This summer it will be five since the second Chechen War was instigated. It shows no sign of ending. At the time the babies [killed in the bombardment] were yet unborn, but all the murders of children since 1999 in bombardments and purges remain unsolved, uninvestigated by the institutions of law and order. The infanticides have never had to stand where they belong, in the dock; Putin, that great “friend of all children”, has never demanded that they should. The Army continues to rampage in Chechnya as it was allowed to at the beginning of the war, as if its operations were being conducted on a training ground empty of people.

This massacre of the innocents did not raise a storm in Russia. Not one television station in Russia broadcast images of the five little Chechens who had been slaughtered. The Minister of Defence did not resign. He is a personal friend of Putin and is even seen as a possible successor in 2008. The head of the Air Force was not sacked. The Commander-in-Chief himself made no speech of condolence…and in Russia all was quiet.

Why do I so dislike Putin? This is precisely why. I dislike him for a matter-of-factness worse than felony, for his cynicism, for his racism, for his lies, for the gas he used in the Nord-Ost siege, for the massacre of the innocents which went on throughout his first term as President.

This is how I see it.

It was passion and honesty, as well as Anna Politkovskaya’s undoubted courage, which made her Russia’s greatest journalist in her lifetime. I once so described her on an internet forum; a Russian wrote to inform me that she was not well regarded in her own country, and moreover my opinion was in bad taste. I had not intended to praise the quality of her journalism so much as the indomitable spirit which informed it, the shining courage which made her so necessary to her profession in the time in which she lived. Russian people in general are still unaware, no doubt, that they lost a truly heroic figure in October 2006. Her books remain unpublished in Russia, I believe.

Her last book, published posthumously in February this year, is entitled A Russian Diary. In the foreword the broadcaster Jon Snow writes: “For many of us who continue to aspire to the highest standards of journalism, Anna Politkovskaya will remain a beacon burning bright, a yardstick by which integrity, courage and commitment will be measured.”

Politkovskaya’s bravery was remarkable. There were many recorded instances, of which one is referred to by Matthew Evangelista, in his 2002 book, The Chechen Wars:

In February 2001 she travelled to Chechnya to investigate stories of mass detentions in underground pits, torture, and summary executions. Not only did she verify the stories, but she herself was arrested by the FSB and threatened with rape and “execution”. Unbowed, she continued to issue critical reports about the behaviour of Russian forces in Chechnya.

Evangelista continues:

In October 2001 Politkovskaya had to flee the country after receiving threats on her life. She had published more controversial articles on the Chechen War, including the interview with [the Russian war criminal, General Vladimir] Shamanov. In September she wrote about alleged summary executions and torture committed by a unit of Interior Ministry troops in Grozny. The report contained detailed accusations of torture by Sergei Lapin; an officer who allegedly shaved his nickname “Kadet” on the back of the head of Zelimkhan Murdalov, a 26-year-old Chechen man in custody before breaking his arm and thorax and cutting off his right ear. Supposedly transferred to the hospital, Murdalov was never seen again.

Anna did not remain abroad for long, and in spite of information that her life was in danger she returned to Moscow. In October 2002 she was involved in the Dubrovka theatre siege as an intermediary between the Chechen hostage-takers and the would-be liberators. And in September 2004 she was poisoned, almost certainly by the FSB, and hospitalised, en route to Beslan, to prevent her reporting on the events of the school siege and massacre.

After an unconscionably lengthy delay, a parliamentary commission reported on the Beslan tragedy. The report by the Torshin commission was a work of cynical mendacity intended to whitewash the Russian government and its agencies. It was interesting only in showing that the heirs to the Soviet Union’s praesidium, or central committee, are capable of lies intended to falsify, to the Russian people and the world, the historical record of what really happened, and to hide the crimes of the officials who ordered the assault on the school knowing that hostage deaths would be the inevitable consequence.

It was therefore with a sense of being lied to yet again that, at the end of August, I watched on the Russia Today TV channel the hour-long press conference given by the Russian prosecutor-general, Yuri Chaika, in which he announced that the investigation into the murder of Anna Politkovskaya was complete, that the guilty were under arrest, that there was a Chechen trail, and that an unnamed person living abroad was identified as having ordered the murder.

I don’t think so. The person who ordered the murder had a motive, and that person is to be found in Russia or in Chechnya. It is unlikely that he will be named by the unconvincing Mr Chaika, since he doesn’t know who it is – or, if he does, is not going to tell us for fear of a bullet or two.

The Hero of Russia title and medal replaced the Soviet equivalent in 1992, since when an unknown number of persons have received the honour. In her book, A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya, Anna Politkovskaya wrote of “Russia’s secret heroes”:

I had two very simple questions. The first was, How many soldiers have received state awards for their participation in the Second Chechen War? And the second was, How many of them earned the Hero of Russia title?

The Information Department sent me to the Putin administration’s Department of Government Awards. “That information is classified,” the assistants firmly stated, categorically refusing me any chance to talk with the bosses of their departments. “It’s not subject to disclosure.”

“But that’s absurd!” I objected. “Why are the Hero of Russia and other awards confidential?”

“For the protection of those who receive these awards,” came yet another cryptic response.

Anna Politkovskaya was not nominated to receive the Hero of Russia award. In any case she would have declined the title, which has been much dishonoured by being awarded to unworthy men.

Her lasting contribution and her title to greatness are in this ironic truth: that her record of what really happened in her country under President Putin will stand. The falsehoods and secrecy promulgated by the corrupt men who now rule in Russia will not stand. The eventual verdict of history on the Putin presidency will be as it was recorded by the courageous, lone woman journalist who died a martyr to the truth, one year ago.

Politkovskaya: Human Being

Anna Politkovskaya: Human Being

by Anne Applebaum

She wasn’t charismatic, she didn’t fill lecture halls and she wasn’t much good at talk shows either. Nevertheless, at the time of her murder in Moscow Saturday, Anna Politkovskaya was at the pinnacle of her influence. One of the best-known journalists in Russia and one of the best-known Russian journalists in the world, she was proof — and more is always needed — that there is still nothing quite so powerful as the written word.

The subject of Politkovskaya’s writing was Russia itself, and in particular what she called Russia’s “dirty war” in Chechnya. Long after the rest of the international press corps had abandoned Chechnya — it was too dangerous for most journalists, too complicated, too obscure — she kept telling heartbreaking Chechen stories. The Russian army colonel who pulled 89 elderly people from the ruins of Grozny but received no medals, or the Chechen schoolboy who was ill from the aftereffects of torture but could get no compensation. A hallmark of her books and articles was the laborious descriptions of how she tried, and invariably failed, to get explanations from hostile and evasive Russian authorities. But she had no patience for the fanatical fringe of the Chechen independence movement either. Ideologues on both sides of the war repelled her: What interested her were human stories, particularly when they concerned brave, kind, and honest ordinary people.

Over the years Politkovskaya won scores of international prizes. At home she was threatened, arrested and once nearly poisoned by the same Russian authorities who refused to respond to her questions. The only official acknowledgment of her status was backhanded: In 2002, when Chechen rebels stormed a Moscow theater, she was called upon to help negotiate the release of hostages. She failed to keep them alive – and then she was murdered too. On the afternoon of October 7, she was shot to death in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building.

Politkovskaya was not, it is true, the first Russian journalist to be murdered in murky circumstances since 2000, when President Vladimir Putin first came to power. On the contrary, she was the twelfth. Among the worst crimes — all, of course, unsolved — were the murders of two provincial journalists from the city of Togliatti, probably for investigating local mafia; of Paul Klebnikov , the American editor of Forbes magazine’s Russian edition, probably for knowing too much about Russia’s oligarchs; and of a Murmansk television reporter who was critical of local politicians.

Nevertheless, Politkovskaya’s murder marked a distinct turning point. Her assassin made no attempt to disguise his crime as a theft or an accident: He not only shot her in broad daylight, he left her body in the elevator alongside the gun he used to kill her — standard practice for Moscow’s arrogant hit men. Nor could her murder be easily attributed to distant provincial authorities or the criminal mafia. Local businessmen had no motivation to kill her — but officials of the army, the police and even the Kremlin did. Whereas local thieves might have tried to cover their tracks, Politkovskaya’s assassin, like so many Russian assassins, did not seem to fear the law.

At the time of the murder, no one in Russia expected that anyone would ever be arrested for murdering Politkovskaya. When asked about her death, President Putin himself dismissed her as a “person of no importance” – not an indication that Russian investigators are likely to waste time investigating her murder. But even if the assassin were someday to come to trial, he – or whoever paid him – had already won a major victory by killing her. As Russian history well demonstrates, it isn’t always necessary to kill millions of people to frighten all the others: A few choice assassinations, in the right time and place, usually suffice. After the death of Politkovskaya, it’s hard to imagine many Russian journalists following in her footsteps.

Even the most ardent fans of Anna Politkovskaya’s writing did complain, on occasion, that her gloom could be overbearing: She was one of those journalists who saw harbingers of catastrophe in every story. Still, it remains difficult for anyone to write about her, now that she is dead, without employing the same foreboding tone that she herself would have used. Her life, and her death, was so much like one of the stories she would have written herself.

Politkovskaya: Woman of Action

Politkovskaya: Woman of Action

by Svetlana Gannushkina
Civic Assistance Committee

Translated from the Russian By Zaxi Blog

In August 1996, during the storming of Grozny, one of most tragic episodes of the first Chechen campaign, when we were thrashing about in efforts to find any means possible of assisting the people fleeing the war, I suddenly received a call from Anna Politkovskaya.

By the first day of school on September 1, she wanted to publish a large portrait in the Obshchaya Gazeta newspaper at which she worked at the time of a Chechen child who, clutching a bouquet of flowers, was going to a Moscow school. That was her innocently inventive way of fighting the Chechen phobia.

I replied that unfortunately, the Chechen kids who ended up in Moscow would not be going to school this year. Moscow authorities had just adopted a resolution stating that only children whose parents had Moscow registration papers – or the old Soviet “propiska” – would be allowed to study in the capital. And these children’s parents not only have no propiska, but also no idea how they will find dinner for their children. The storming of Grozny is underway, and people are fleeing wherever their noses lead them. There is no one there to meet them in Moscow or in any of the other cities. Meanwhile, our organization is collecting money from friends and acquaintances to help the refugees feed themselves for just three or four days.

On the very next day, Anna Politkovskaya came to our reception office, brought the money she collected at her paper’s office, and took our and our visitors’ interviews. Following this visit, a series of vivid articles followed about the plight of Chechen and other refugees in Moscow.

Our acquaintance began with that call, which was followed by a collaboration that lasted until the last days of Anna Politkovskaya’s life. During the second Chechen campaign, Chechnya had turned into Anna’s main subject and place to which she traveled constantly. Chechnya transformed her, becoming the essence of her life

Her articles about the second Chechen campaign were for many people the only opportunity available to learn the truth, if that had still retained any desire to learn it. She not only wrote, she intervened in people’s fates, demanded answers from investigators, prosecutors, and the military. She was threatened, and not only in Moscow with phone calls and letters, but also at the scene in Chechnya, where she was threatened with immediate vigilante justice. I doubt that Anna was not afraid – it was just that the things happening around her were so frightening that personal fear vanished somewhere into the background, becoming less prominent.

Anna responded to every appeal for help, to every anguished cry of pain. Our last work together was when Anna interviewed me in the August of last year. This was one month after the night of July 12-13, 2006, when a group of young kids was slaughtered on the Chechen-Dagestani border. The kids were drawn there by provocateurs, which then dressed them up into camouflage outfits and led them into Chechnya, where they met a barrage of gunfire.

Information about an averted terrorist act crossed all the international new agencies and could not be received as anything but a major victory in the fight against terrorism – now threatening Chechnya from outside its borders, since in the words of Ramzan Kadyrov, almost all of the bandits have been destroyed in Chechnya itself.

The kids were recruited in the Khasavyurt region of Dagestan, where I arrived on August 16 and where over a stretch of two days, I came across 17 families that in July suffered a terrible tragedy. The mothers told me how their kids were being invited to come out to the sea, to talk about the fate of the Chechen people, and that they were then dressed up as rebel fighters. The youngest one among them was 14. Thirteen boys were killed, five were wounded and miraculously escaped alive.

I returned to Moscow to discover that besides an appeal to the prosecutor not to sue the survivors and to investigate the provocation instead, I was unable to write a thing myself. Then I called Anna, told her about my trip and offered her to take my notes for her work. Anna came immediately, we went through my notes together, and a day later an article came out in which the truth was told about the brutal bloodbath in Khasavyurt.

That is how she wrote – quickly and honestly, not giving herself pause for rest and showing herself no mercy. And Anna demanded the same intensity from us – those who by custom are called human rights campaigners. She had the right to do so.

Her voice started ringing so loudly that it was being heard in the remotest corners of our little world. And it sounds today, it sounds after being picked up by hundreds of other voices across the globe.

I would very much like to see thousands of people from across the world come to Moscow on October 7 of this year. Just to visit the cemetery, to walk through the streets of Moscow with Anna Politkovskaya’s portrait. To show those who believed the words of the Russian President, that her “influence on the political life of Russia was minimal,” just how wrong he was.

Her influence will keep stretching. Her articles will stand up to indifference and passivity, to gnaw the conscience. Anna Politkovskaya will stay with us. Her voice will still sound for a long time to come – for as long as there \those who need protection, whose pain has not been assuaged. New generations will read her articles, and it will help them accept the burden of responsibility for what is happening in our world.

Politkovskaya: Colleague

Here is what Anna’s colleagues at Novaya Gazeta wrote about her as their collective remembrance, translated lovingly by La Russophobe staff, with the Russian original following:

One said: She was beautiful. And as time passed, she only became more beautiful. You know why? Because she through her own labors she improved on the handiwork of God. Life itself, the act of living, made her more beautiful with each passing day.

Another added: As a person ages, she begins to express her soul. Her soul was beautiful.

She was feminine. Skillful. Charmingly ready to joke, laugh or cry out loud at injustice. Any injustice, against anyone, was perceived as a personal attack upon her. And fought against injustice until the very last opportunity. She was amazingly courageous. Where will you find a braver person? Among the many machismo gentlemen surrounded by their armored jeeps and their bodyguard. Not there, surely, not there.

She was threatened. They tried to intimidate her by organizing surveillance and searches. She was arrested in Chechnya by “our troops” and threatened with being shot on the spot. She was poisoned when she flew to Beslan. It emerged only later. Although she survived, she was weakened and sick at heart.

Many, even her friends Novaya Gazeta, sometimes said : “Well, Politkovskaya reports rumor.” Not true! She always wrote the truth. But there were many times that the truth she told was so horrible, her readers lacked the courage to believe it, and responded with the psychological defense mechanism that her stories had been invented. Sometimes even we ourselves did that.

Indeed, it may be an ordinary human’s greatest challenge to look horror directly in the eye. We fear that if we look directly into the eyes of evil, we might not ever get the chance to look away, that it will consume us. But Anya looked evil in the eye, and lived to tell about it, surviving challenges mere mortal eyes could not endure.

For us she remains alive. We do not accept her passing. Her murderers, and their masters, we will seek them out, wherever they may be hiding.

And not for Anya alone. Two other colleagues have also been struck down. Igor Domnikov. Yuri Shchekochikhin. And now our Anya. When they struck her down, they killed not only a journalist, not only a human rights activitist, not only a citizen. They killed a beautiful woman and a mother.

As long as there is a Novaya Gazeta, these murderers will have no peace.

* * *

Она была красивой. Причем с годами становилась только красивее. Знаете почему? А просто свое лицо мы сначала получаем от Бога как заготовку, а потом делаем его сами. Тем, как живем.

Еще говорят: в зрелости на лице начинает проступать душа. Ее душа — красивая.
Она была женственной. Умела очаровательно смеяться удачной шутке и плакать от несправедливости. Но любую несправедливость — по отношению к кому бы то ни было — она воспринимала как личного врага. И боролась с ней до последней возможности.
Она была удивительно мужественной. Куда мужественнее многих и многих мачо в бронированных джипах, окруженных телохранителями.

Ей угрожали, ее пытались запугать, устраивая слежки и обыски. Ее арестовывали в Чечне «наши» десантники и угрожали расстрелом. Ее отравили, когда она летела в Беслан. Она выкарабкалась. И хотя здоровой после этого уже не была, сильнее всего у нее по-прежнему болела совесть.

Многие, даже доброжелатели «Новой газеты», порой говорили: «Ну, ваша Политковская — уж слишком…». Не слишком! Она всегда писала правду. Другое дело, что эта правда часто бывала столь ужасной, что сознание многих отказывалось ее воспринимать. И отсюда — как защитная реакция — это «уж слишком». Иногда — даже у нас в редакции.

Наверное, самое трудное для обычного человека — не отворачиваться от того, что страшно. Но если смотреть злу прямо в глаза, оно не выдерживает, пасует. Аня смотрела злу прямо в глаза. И, может быть, поэтому выходила победительницей из тяжелейших ситуаций. И, может быть, поэтому оставалась живой там, где опустивший глаза не выжил бы.

Для нас она и остается живой. Со смертью нашей Ани мы не смиримся никогда. И кто бы ни взял под свой контроль это зверское убийство — в центре Москвы, посреди бела дня, — мы сами будем искать убийц. Мы догадываемся, где они могут находиться…

Как там в России обстоят дела с независимыми СМИ? Этот вопрос обсуждается то в Европе, то в Америке. А в «Новой газете» за последние годы убито три ведущих журналиста.
Игорь Домников. Его убийцы — благодаря усилиям честных следователей и самой газеты — предстали перед судом.

Юрий Щекочихин. Даже родным власти отказали в законном праве ознакомиться с результатами вскрытия… Но мы продолжаем свое расследование. И убийцы будут наказаны.

Сейчас — наша Аня Политковская… Они убили не только журналистку, правозащитницу и гражданина, они убили красивую женщину и маму.

Пока есть «Новая газета», ее убийцы не будут спать спокойно.

Politkovskaya: Unforgettable


by Andrea Riscassi

Piero Gobetti , a young 20-year-old liberal and anti-fascist Italian man, is buried in the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris. He was killed by the violent actions of the “black squadron,” which spread all over Italy in the first two decades of the 20th century. Gobetti comes to my mind in these days while we are commemorating Anna Politkovskaja, one year after her murder.

What do Piero Gobetti and Anna Politkovskaja have in common? I do not know whether the Russian journalist, who was shot one year ago, was liberal. It might be. Her anger against the communism, against the Soviet Union, against the quietness of fellow-citizens and her incessant appeal to individual responsibility are typical of a liberal facing a dictator.

Anna Politkovskaja, as well as Piero Gobetti, fought against a regime. They both did it in a direct and shameless way, without any simulation. He denounced Mussolini, as he meant to be the conscience of a nation; she didn’t like the way Putin addressed himself to the “low instincts of the crowd.” “I do not love Putin because of what he stands for,” Anna wrote before being killed with 4 gun shots in her apartment’s elevator.

As the anniversary of the killing, and national elections, approached, the Russian authorities did their best to send to prison a mixed group of Chechen and Secret Service officials. Some of them have been released already. Others might be soon.

Politkovskaja talked about “selective justice.” In fact, it is useless to expect anything else from those “independent” inquiries claimed by the OSCE and the Russia of Vladimir Putin. Someone at the Kremlin should be made to explain the reason why Anna Politkovskaja was killed. They should also explain why Aleksandr Litvinenko was poisoned in London, why Michail Khodorkovsky still serves time, why journalists like Larisa Arap end up in mental hospital for denouncing the inhumanity of the patients’ treatment inside the hospital. The should tell the world why Ramzan Kadyrov is the ruler of Chechnja. But this won’t happen.

Anna Politkoskaja has never spared anybody: she wrote everything she could see get into print. She put killers’ names forward, no matter that they were wearing the Russian Army uniform, the Chechen death-squadron uniform or the Islamic terrorists’ garb. She has never justified the Chechen, bur she tried to warn the Russian society against the danger of criminalizing a whole people: by doing it, thousands of young boys could be transormed into potential kamikazes.

In Chechnja she tells how to raise a potential human bomb: “He studied Islam at school only for 7 years. However, he received another kind of education, by constantly going to funerals. His neighbours have been killed one after the other. His older brothers were killed during zaciski, one in the summer 2001 and the other in November 2002. Two days after his second brother’s arrest, an unidentified fellow abandoned his body in the cemetery. What about the wahabi? They left Chechnja quite a long time ago: in no way they can be considered responsible of anything. The generation to which Islam belongs is our own responsibility.”

There are many articles and books written by Anna Politkovskaja which make your flesh creep or make you cry, even after many readings. Cowards with gun did hush her up. She will always be 48, as she used to saying about all the innocent victims she wrote about. Anna can not write any longer, but all her articles are there to denounce a country which is sinking into the danger.
Italy is one of the most faithful ally of the Russia of Putin. If the Italian politicians and public entrepreneurs read the books by Politkovskaya before doing business with such a criminal regime, then they would probably become aware of what is going on in that huge country. They should read the same books also those people, who decided to set the Olympic games in Sochi, a famous Russian seaside town. Had they, a different result would have obtained. Instead, the next Olympic games will be welcomed by an evil regime.

Anna loved Russia, like we do, many of us who remember her. The Russia of Tolstory and Sakharov and not the one of Putin and Kadyrov.

Today we are meant to remember Anna Politkovskaja and all the journalists who have met her fate because they did their job: They inform all the people, who want to know. We are really grateful to all those, who in the last few months have signed appeals and organized happenings to say: we do not forget!

Andrea Riscassi is a journalist for RAI Italian public television and the author of a book about the orange revolution in Ukraine.

Politkovskaya: Friend

Writing on the BoingBoing blog at the end of August, blogger Jasmina Tešanović remembers her friend

Seventh of October 2006:

Accompanied by a nervous dog named Van Gogh, Anna Politkovskaya returns to her three room flat, on the seventh floor with a single bag of groceries (she will have to return downstairs for the second bag).

Inside the elevator, five gunshots. The killer drops his gun and walks out of the building. A 14 year old, Nina, is the first to see Anna dead on the elevator floor. Nina screams and runs up to the seventh floor on foot. An elderly woman from the eighth floor calls the elevator to her own floor, then calls the police. Then the old woman hurries off to buy her own groceries because all the shops will be closing at 4PM.

Anna Stepanovna Mazepa Politkovskaya ( her ex husbands name), mother of a 28 year old son and a 26 year old daughter… murdered in Moscow. The long-expected news shocks no one, even as it hurries around the world. Repeated attempts had been made on her life, and success, was only a matter of time. What did this tiny, unpretentious woman do to merit this? She was a journalist from Novaya Gazeta, a magazine founded in 1993 by Mihail Gorbachev, as an attempt at Russian full democracy through truth and openness. She was always close to death while wandering in the lethal war zones of Chechnia, alone, in the dark, to get the story from the other side…

Once she was kidnapped by the Russian military, who staged her fake execution, much as they had done to Dostoyevski some centuries earlier. The military commented after that they would have preferred an authentic execution… Arrested, she was kept in a hole of solitary confinement for four days without food, water, light, even buttons, for fear that her buttons might be microphones. During her attempt to reach Rostov and mediate in the Beslan school terrorist kidnappings, she was poisoned.

Anna wrote about the dirty wars in Chechnia, on terror attacks and the political instrumentalization of terror by the Russian government, of the aftermath of terror, on numerous abuses of civil human rights, of the double crimes inflicted on victims, the crimes of the terrorists and the crimes of the state.

It is incredible how the biggest opposer to Putin and his virile masculine Russian model (just as Yeltsin was before him) should be this minute fragile creature who did not smoke, drink, or enjoy any bursts of adrenalin. And yet only a hit-man could silence her.

She hated the misery and felony of Russian official power, but she despised the Chechnian militant heroism and its historical cult. While reporting on the impotent war-games convulsing the region, she tries to create a new line of understanding, a language for survivors and grieving mothers. The missing red thread of the missing peace. Her motto: I live my life and I write what I see.

She used to say in her low key, matter of fact voice:

Sometimes one has to pay with one’s own life for one’s own words. She found no swaggering male glamour in being a war correspondent: for her, war was about dirt, stench, confinement, thirst, hunger, hatred, grief.

My texts are written for the future. They bear witness to the new victims of the new Chechnia war.

That is why I write all the facts I can.

Maybe some day, there will be a war tribunal for the many criminal deeds in Chechnia , and Anna’s life and death will be a part of that.

What are those tales and facts she is talking about in her work? The letters of a Chechnian father whose son was abducted and killed, to Putin and Kofi Anan. These are the questions of the father:

– who insulted, tortured my son and according to what law?

– what was he guilty of?

– why is there no enquiry about it and no criminal charges?

One mother of a dead Russian soldier refused to bury him (she kept it under her window sill for 15 days) while demanding an official report of his death. Thus the authorities were forced to do it, and other Russian mothers followed her example to find the truth. Breaking the general rule: You have your son’s body, shut up, you should be grateful.

Instead of saying: thank you for my dead son, they asked: Why, for what noble cause?

The case of a young Chechnian woman who disappeared preemptively, accused by the Russian authorities as a potential kamikaze. And her mother asking both sides: why? Sometime I think that I am put here in the middle in order to see if I can survive all of them, says the mother, reflecting Anna’s own standpoint as a reporter.

The episode at the gala dinner when Kadyrov (the pro-Russian Chechnian who suppressed the rebels) made Chechian girls, winners of a beauty contest, dance and collect money from the floor where the heroes threw it: Kadyrov the peacemaker.

Anna was lonely. Why write books that cannot be published in Russia and are not understood in the West?

Just before she died she said: My life is so hard, but most of time humiliating. At age of 47 I have a sign on my forehead that I am rejected by society, and I don’t have the strength to fight it any more. Not to mention the joys of my work – the poisoning, arrests, threats… phone calls to my editors because of the texts of the crazy woman from Moscow… living this way is terrible. I need more comprehension.. But the most important thing is to be allowed to do my work, to tell what I see…

Anna is not here to see and write anymore: but she belongs to a long history of women’ activism, pacifism and the creation of an alternative, invisible history.

Her description of Malika — the girl who took the lead against the Russian tanks which invaded a Chechen village, killed alone (2002) while nobody from her lot had the courage to follow her cry “You cowards”… a voice like Jean of Arc, like Antigone.

She discusses boldly of the instrumentalization of the female kamikaze bombers and their desperate ideology: take me with you, I too want to avenge myself… the new fake heroines are women manipulated, like a fashion-show with explosive waist-belts. At last, through getting killed ‘for her people,’ a woman in Chechnia can become a martyr saint — escaping her historical role as traditional mother, cook, housewife, nurse.

Such true life stories against all constructed patriotism and patriarchal nationalism… that makes Anna an international pacifist thinker.

The whole world is afraid of nuclear proliferation while instead I am afraid of hate: nobody can predict the paths revenge will take. The children from our camps will never forgive the children who grew up in cosy homes. The refugees need understanding and solidarity, not gifts of cash or the hypocrisy of those who fast to “share the suffering” and yet secretly nibble cheese in the closet.

“I live my life and I write what I see:” anywhere on the planet, we can retrace Anna’s steps, and we owe her that.

Politkovskaya: Truth Seeker

We Mustn’t Forget Russia’s Truth Seeker[1] Anna Politkovskaya

S.R. Brophy

12 February 2007

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”

—Albert Einstein

A. Introduction: “What are we Supposed to do?”

An article in the Washington Post entitled “U.S. Hopes for Democracy in Russia Fade,” quoted a U.S. official as saying “what are we supposed to do?” (with regards to the undeniable authoritarian Russian regime) and the same official lamented that we shouldn’t exaggerate our ability to shape Russian politics.

No sane person thinks that we are capable of shaping Russian politics (or the politics of any country for that matter). What we are capable of doing is controlling our own actions. In this respect the answer to the question “what are we supposed to do” is simple.

We are supposed to act in accordance with our beliefs and principles and not fall prey to the mistaken belief that appeasing the Russian government will somehow lead to a change in their behavior. We are supposed to stand united with those who fight for liberty, democracy, and justice. We are supposed to remember with whom we are dealing, because as the Russian proverb goes, ‘live in the past, lose an eye, forget the past lose both eyes.’

Anna Politkovskaya was murdered one year ago. She new what she was supposed to do and she did it—even though there was danger, risk and in the end, death because of what she believed in. But she did it because she knew that the Russian regime could and would get worse. Time has proven Anna correct…which begs the question, are we doing what we are supposed to do?

B. Anna Politkovskaya: Truth Seeker

Until recently the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko consumed the media. It is, as of yet, unsolved. If Russian history has taught us anything, it will remain so. But Litvinenko’s murder is not the subject of this article. This article is about Anna. Litvinenko’s murder overshadowed the heinous killing of the brave Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. It is a sad state of affairs when one of the G8 countries is the topic of such intrigue. Aren’t these countries supposed to be an example to the world? Anna Politkovskaya was trying very hard to tell the world something. It would be wise of us to listen.

Anna Politkovskaya was a staunch critic of the Putin administration and of the Russian army leadership. She was a fervent supporter of the rule of law and human rights, and argued that Putin was stifling civil liberties and moving the country back to a Soviet style dictatorship. “Everyone is convinced that the Soviet Union has returned, and that it no longer matters what we think.”[2] In light of death threats, and a case of poisoning, she continued to confront the government whom she accused of abusing her beloved Russia and its people. On October 7th, 2006, she was killed contract style-four bullets, including one in the head- in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building. United States Congressmen, Representatives Adam Schiff and Mike Pence, Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus for the Freedom of the Press, wrote to Putin calling on him to fulfill his promise to investigate the murder. Pence said, “The troubling trend of the intimidation and murder of Russian journalists must be investigated vigorously by President Putin and his government. The killers must be brought to justice if Russia is to be taken seriously as a nation that values a free press.” Anna is the thirteenth journalist who has been murdered since Putin’s ascendancy to President. All thirteen cases remain unsolved.

On October 16, 2006, the National Endowment for Democracy held a memorial gathering for Anna Politkovskaya. Among the speakers were Don Jenson of Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, Andrei Piontkovsky of the Hudson Institute, David Satter, author of Age of Delirium and Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State and also affiliated with the Hudson Institute, Susan Glasser of the Washington Post, Undersecretary Paula Dobriansky, and former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzinski. One of Anna’s Moscow colleagues sent a message to be read at the memorial. In it he said, “…to keep silent now, after Anna’s murder amounts to becoming complicit with her murderers.” The theme throughout the memorial was not only one of remembrance, but also one of responsibility and honor.

Undersecretary Paula Dobriansky said that the role of a true journalist is to bring the truth, especially regarding difficult situations, to the citizens of the world; and that is exactly what Anna Politkovskaya did. David Satter said that Anna acted according to her own moral criteria, and did not fall to the pressure of the authoritarian Putin regime. He said, “…what she represented were a set of values, and those values insofar as they represent something that is basic to all people, and represent the best in people, are the most formidable enemy of a regime which tries to rule through violence, and has no respect for the truth.”

Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzinski said that Anna Politkovskaya was a lonely hero; that she stood for something transcendental, something utterly good, amidst silence, indifference, hostility, cowardice and opportunism. And Andrei Piontkovsky stated that Anna was a dedicated person of one noble mission, to save the souls of the Russian people. “What made her unique was… her enormous moral and spiritual courage.” Piontkovsky also said, “If Saint Peter has read Anna’s book, Putin’s Russia, I think that Mr. Putin may find at the Pearly Gates that Anna was much more influential than he would like to believe.” Following Anna’s murder, Putin made a public statement in which he stated, “She was known among journalists, and in human rights circles and in the West, but I repeat that she had no influence on political life.”

Anna’s most recent book, Putin’s Russia-Life in a Failing Democracy is a damning conviction of Putin and the current state of affairs in Russia. She says, “This book is about Vladimir Putin-but not, as he is normally viewed in the West, as seen through rose colored glasses. This book is also about the fact that not everyone in Russia is prepared to put up with Putin’s kind of government. We demand our right to freedom.” In it she says that stability has come to Russia, but a stability under which no one seeks justice in courts that flaunt their subservience and partisanship. In her own words, “Nobody in his or her right mind seeks protection from the institutions entrusted with maintaining law and order, because they are totally corrupt.”

She called to the responsibility of her own people to change the political climate in Russia, and blames apathy for the increasing police state that it has become. “Society has shown limitless apathy, and this is what has given Putin the indulgences he requires.” She argued that Russian citizens respond to his actions and speeches not just lethargically, but fearfully. “As the Chekists have become entrenched in power, we have let them see our fear, and thereby have only intensified their urge to treat us like cattle. The KGB respects only the strong. The weak it devours.” Since Putin’s ascendancy to President, many former KGB or FSB (the domestic successor to the KGB) hold influential or lucrative positions. His main support derives from Russia’s intelligence services, stemming from his own former intelligence career.

Anna also lamented that there seems to be a change in moral values. She argues that this change in moral values is more noticeable as the war in the Caucasus continues and broken taboos increasingly become familiar facts of life. “Killing? Happens every day. Robbery? What of it? Looting? Perfectly legal in a war. It is not only the courts that fail to condemn these crimes, but society as well. What was regarded in the past with repugnance is now simply accepted.”

There seems to be a lingering culture of Communism, not just in Russia, but in many of the former states of the Soviet Union. Communism is a system of monolithic political control. The Communist regime did not provide for opposition or dissent. The few vocal non-Party members were harassed, imprisoned, or killed. The majority of the population kept quiet, regardless of whether or not they believed in the party line. The people learned they were better off conforming, even if only externally. At work and in social environments, the people erected a façade of compliancy and congeniality towards the ruling regime. Relationships were superficial, speech was guarded, and truth became nonexistent.

This is important because of the moral devastation Communism left in its wake. People learned to lie, cheat, and steal-often out of survival exigencies-but that does not negate the moral deficit these actions produce. Russia’s recent history, since the Bolshevik’s 1917 coup d’etat, has been a tragic story of oppression and manipulation. The fall of the Soviet Union and Communism was touted as the beginning of a new era, a new Russia-free and democratic. But evidence shows that Russia and her leaders are not forging a new path, but following the old one. Anna said, “There is no doubt that Communism was a dead loss for Russia, but what we have today is even worse.”

Russia is a dangerous place, not just for its citizens and journalists (even Western correspondents-those who record the truth-are hesitant to go there), but for all of us who believe in the rule of law and universal values. The West has given Russia plenty of rope to forge her own way, her own democracy, but she is hanging herself. We must not look away this time. We must listen to Anna, and her call for help. In 1975 Alexander Solzhenitsyn stated, “On our crowded planet there are no longer any internal affairs. The Communists say ‘Don’t interfere in our internal affairs. Let us strangle our citizens in peace and quiet.’ But I tell you: Interfere more and more. Interfere as much as you can. We beg you to come and interfere.” Though Anna did not ask, or expect, the West to help save Russia, we must. We must stop condoning Putin’s policies, and we must stop inviting him to our table, until he is ready to start serving his country, instead of ruling it. The longer we refrain from truly standing by our own moral principles, the larger the dissonance will become between our thoughts and deeds. Then we too will be susceptible to falling morally ill, if we already haven’t. Anna was right; Putin’s Russia really is a failing democracy.

Note from the author:

I cannot claim to be unbiased. All people are subject to deeply embedded internal ideologies and beliefs stemming from sociological influences. I am an outsider, idealist, and a product of Western civilization which is based on democratic and Christian principles. I do not claim to be an expert on Russia; just a devout student of history and international affairs. My information is secondhand; therefore I am relying on the integrity of the authors who have decided to record what they have seen with their own eyes. That being said, there is no doubt that certain facts can be gleamed intuitively. Common sense and accepting that there is such a thing as universal values, leads to only one conclusion. Cultural pluralism does not account for what is occurring in Russia.

[1] I have borrowed the term ‘truth seeker’ from David Satter’s book Age of Delirium. He defined truth seekers as those who could not reconcile themselves to the difference between the stated law and actual practices.

[2] Politkovskaya, Anna. Putin’s Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy. p 232.