Anna Politkovskaya

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Anna Politkovskaya
Анна Степановна Политковская

Photo by Tatyana Zelenskaya, 2004
Born Anna Stepanovna Mazepa
30 August 1958(1958-08-30)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died 7 October 2006 (aged 48)
Moscow, Russia
Occupation Journalist, author
Nationality Russian
Ethnicity Ukrainian
Alma mater Moscow State University
Writing period 1982–1996
Subjects Politics, freedom of press, human rights
Notable work(s) Putin's Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy
Notable award(s) Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism

Anna Stepanovna Politkovskaya (Russian: А́нна Степа́новна Политко́вская) (30 August 1958–7 October 2006) was a Russian journalist, author and human rights activist well known for her opposition to the Chechen conflict and then-Russian President Vladimir Putin.[1][2]

Politkovskaya made her name reporting from Chechnya. She was arrested and subjected to mock execution by Russian military forces there and poisoned on the way to participate in negotiations during the Beslan school hostage crisis, but survived and continued her reporting. She authored several books about the Chechen wars, as well as Putin's Russia, and received numerous prestigious international awards for her work.

She was shot dead in the elevator of her apartment building on 7 October 2006. The police failed to catch the killers.


[edit] Early life

Politkovskaya was born Anna Mazepa in New York City in 1958 to Soviet Ukrainian parents, both of whom served as diplomats to the United Nations. She grew up in Moscow and graduated from the Moscow State University Department of Journalism in 1980. She defended a thesis about the poetry of Marina Tsvetaeva. Politkovskaya was a citizen of both the United States of America and the Russian Federation.[3]

[edit] Journalistic work

Politkovskaya worked for Izvestia from 1982 to 1993 and as a reporter, editor of emergencies/accidents section, and assistant chief editor of Obshchaya Gazeta led by Yegor Yakovlev (1994–1999). From June 1999 to 2006, she wrote columns for the biweekly Novaya Gazeta. She published several award-winning books about Chechnya, life in Russia, and President Putin's regime, including Putin's Russia.[4][5]

[edit] Reports from Chechnya

Politkovskaya was widely acclaimed for her reporting from Chechnya and won a number of prestigious awards for her work.[6][5] She frequently visited hospitals and refugee camps in Chechnya to interview the victims.[7] She said about herself that she was not an investigating magistrate but somebody who describes the life of the citizens for those who cannot see it for themselves, because what is shown on television and written about in the overwhelming majority of newspapers is emasculated and doused with ideology.[citation needed]

Her numerous articles critical of the war in Chechnya described abuses committed by Russian military forces, Chechen rebels, and the Russian-backed Chechen administration led by Akhmad Kadyrov and his son Ramzan Kadyrov. Politkovskaya chronicled human rights abuses and policy failures in Chechnya and elsewhere in Russia's North Caucasus in several books on the subject, including A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya and A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya, which painted a picture of brutal war in which thousands of innocent citizens have been tortured, abducted or killed at the hands of Chechen or federal authorities.[4] One of her last investigations was the alleged mass poisoning of hundreds of Chechen school children by an unknown chemical substance of strong and prolonged action, by which they were incapacitated for many months.[8]

[edit] Criticism of Vladimir Putin and FSB

Politkovskaya wrote a book, Putin's Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy, critical of Putin's federal presidency, including his pursuit of the Second Chechen War. In the book, she accused the Russian secret service, FSB, of stifling all civil liberties in order to establish a Soviet-style dictatorship, but admitted "[It] is we who are responsible for Putin's policies...[s]ociety has shown limitless apathy...[a]s 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. We of all people ought to know that." She also wrote: "We are hurtling back into a Soviet abyss, into an information vacuum that spells death from our own ignorance. All we have left is the internet, where information is still freely available. For the rest, if you want to go on working as a journalist, it's total servility to Putin. Otherwise, it can be death, the bullet, poison, or trial — whatever our special services, Putin's guard dogs, see fit."[9]

"People often tell me that I am a pessimist, that I don't believe in the strength of the Russian people, that I am obsessive in my opposition to Putin and see nothing beyond that," she opens an essay titled Am I Afraid?, finishing it — and the book — with the words: "If anybody thinks they can take comfort from the 'optimistic' forecast, let them do so. It is certainly the easier way, but it is the death sentence for our grandchildren."[10][11][12][13][14][15]

[edit] A Russian Diary

In May 2007, Random House published A Russian Diary: A Journalist's Final Account of Life, Corruption, and Death in Putin's Russia, containing extracts from her notebook and other writings, in which she describes the poisoning on the plane to Rostov-on-Don on the way to the Beslan school hostage crisis and the worsening political situation in Russia.[citation needed] Because she was murdered "while translation was being completed, final editing had to go ahead without her help," translator Arch Tait writes in a note.[citation needed] "Who killed Anna and who lay beyond her killer remains unknown," UK Channel 4's main news anchor Jon Snow writes in the foreword to the book's UK edition. "Her murder robbed too many of us of absolutely vital sources of information and contact. Yet it may, ultimately, be seen to have at least helped prepare the way for the unmasking of the dark forces at the heart of Russia's current being. I must confess that I finished reading A Russian Diary feeling that it should be taken up and dropped from the air in vast quantities throughout the length and breadth of Mother Russia, for all her people to read."[citation needed]

[edit] Attempted hostage negotiations

She had, on several occasions, been involved in negotiating the release of hostages, including the Moscow theater hostage crisis of 2002 and the Beslan school hostage crisis of 2004.[16][17]

[edit] Relationships with Russian state authorities

In Moscow, she was not invited to press conferences or gatherings that Kremlin officials might attend, in case the organizers were suspected of harboring sympathies toward her. Despite this, many top officials allegedly talked to her when she was writing articles or conducting investigations. According to one of her articles, they did talk to her, "but only when they weren't likely to be observed: outside in crowds, or in houses that they approached by different routes, like spies".[4] She also claimed that the Kremlin tried to block her access to information and discredit her:[4]

"I will not go into the other joys of the path I have chosen, the poisoning, the arrests, the threats in letters and over the Internet, the telephoned death threats, the weekly summons to the prosecutor general's office to sign statements about practically every article I write (the first question being, 'How and where did you obtain this information?'). Of course I don't like the constant derisive articles about me that appear in other newspapers and on Internet sites presenting me as the madwoman of Moscow. I find it disgusting to live this way. I would like a bit more understanding."[4]

[edit] Death threats

While attending a conference on the freedom of press organized by Reporters Without Borders in Vienna in December 2005, Politkovskaya said: "People sometimes pay with their lives for saying aloud what they think. In fact, one can even get killed for giving me information. I am not the only one in danger. I have examples that prove it."[18] She often received death threats as a result of her work, including being threatened with rape and experiencing a mock execution after being arrested by the military in Chechnya.[19][20]

[edit] Detention in Chechnya

During a reporting trip in 2001, Politkovskaya was detained by military officials in the Chechen village of Khottuni.[21] Politkovskaya followed the complaints from 90 Chechen families about "punitive raids" by federal forces. She interviewed a Chechen grandmother Rosita from a village of Tovzeni who endured 12 days of beatings, electric shocks and confinement in a pit. The men who arrested Rosita presented themselves as FSB employees. The torturers requested a ransom from Rosita's relatives who negotiated a smaller amount that they were able to pay. Another interviewee described killings and rapes of Chechen men in a "concentration camp with a commercial streak" near the village of Khottuni.[citation needed]

Upon leaving the camp, Politkovskaya was detained, interrogated, beaten and humiliated by Russian troops. "...the young officers tortured me, skillfully hitting my sore spots. They looked through my children pictures, making a point of saying what they would like to do to the kids. This went on for about three hours."[22] She was subjected to a mock execution using a multiple-launch rocket system BM-21 Grad, then poisoned with a cup of tea that made her vomit. Her tape records were confiscated. She described her mock execution:

"A lieutenant colonel with a swarthy face and dull dark bulging eyes said in a businesslike tone: 'Let's go. I'm going to shoot you.' He led me out of the tent into complete darkness. The nights here are impenetrable. After we walked for a while, he said, 'Ready or not, here I come.' Something burst with pulsating fire around me, screeching, roaring, and growling. The lieutenant colonel was very happy when I crouched in fright. It turned out that he had led me right under the "Grad" rocket launcher at the moment it was fired."[22]

After the mock execution, the Russian lieutenant colonel said to her: "Here's the banya. Take off your clothes." Seeing that his words had no effect, he got very angry: "A real lieutenant colonel is courting you, and you say no, you militant bitch."[22]

In 2006, Colonel-General Alexander Baranov, the commander of the Russian Kavkaz deployment mentioned by Politkovskaya's camp guide as the one who ordered captured militants to be kept in the pits, was found guilty by the European Court of Human Rights, with regard to unlawful detention, violating the right to life, and the forced disappearance of a Chechen militant suspect, Khadzhi-Murat Yandiyev, he ordered to be executed.[23]

[edit] Poisoning

While traveling to Beslan to help in negotiations with the hostage takers, Politkovskaya fell violently ill and lost consciousness after drinking tea. She had been reportedly poisoned, with some accusing the former Soviet secret police poison facility.[24][25]

[edit] Threats from OMON officer

In 2001, Politkovskaya fled to Vienna, following e-mail threats claiming that the OMON police officer whom she had accused of committing atrocities against civilians was looking to take revenge. The officer, Sergei Lapin, was arrested and charged in 2002, but the case against him was closed the following year. In 2005, Lapin was convicted and jailed for torturing and disappearing a Chechen civilian detainee, the case exposed by Anna Politkovskaya in the article "Disappearing People".[26][27][28]

[edit] Conflict with Ramzan Kadyrov

In 2004, Politkovskaya had a conversation with Chechnya's Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov in Chechnya. One of his assistants said to her: "One had to shoot you in Moscow, right on the street, as used to kill people in your Moscow". Ramzan repeated:"You are the enemy. Shoot...". Novaya Gazeta editor Dmitry Muratov said that on the day of her murder, Politkovskaya had planned to file a lengthy story on torture practices believed to be used by Chechen security detachments known as Kadyrovites. She described Kadyrov as the "Chechen Stalin of our days" in the last interview of her life.[29][30]

[edit] Assassination and investigation

Grave of Anna Politkovskaya at the Troyekurovskoye Cemetery in Moscow

Politkovskaya was found shot dead on Saturday, 7 October 2006 in the elevator of her apartment block in central Moscow. She had been shot twice in the chest, once in the shoulder, and once in the head at point blank range.[31] The funeral was held on Tuesday, 10 October, at 2:30 p.m., at the Troyekurovskoye Cemetery. Before Politkovskaya was laid to rest, more than 1,000 people filed past her coffin to pay their last respects. Dozens of Politkovskaya's colleagues, public figures and admirers of her work gathered at a cemetery on the outskirts of Moscow for the funeral. No high-ranking Russian officials could be seen at the ceremony.[32] There was widespread international reaction, and Russian state authorities were accused by some of her colleagues and friends of negligence in doing nothing to prevent her murder or even of actual involvement in her assassination.

On 25 November, 2008, it was reported that the murder might have been ordered by a Russian politician according to the defence lawyer representing four men charged over Politkovskaya's murder at a trial in Moscow, which was now re-opened to the public: Musayev told reporters that the case notes mentioned, as one of the proposals, an unnamed politician, based in Russia, as being behind her death.[33][34]

On 5 December, 2008, Sergei Sokolov, deputy editor of Novaya Gazeta testified in court that he had received information from sources that he would not name that defendant Dzhabrail Makhmudov was an agent of the FSB; he said Makhmudov's uncle Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, who was serving a 12-year jail sentence for the attempted murder of a Ukrainian businessman, also worked for the FSB.[35][36]

Commenting on the end of the trial against a few suspects in Moscow on 19 February 2009, Andrew McIntosh, Chairman of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly’s Sub-Committee on the Media and Rapporteur on media freedom, expressed his deep frustration at the lack of progress in investigating the murder of Anna Politkovskaya on 7 October 2006 and the inability of the Russian authorities to find her killers: “Two years ago, in its Resolution 1535 (2007), the Assembly called on the Russian Parliament to closely monitor the progress in the criminal investigations regarding the murder of Anna Politkovskaya and hold the authorities accountable for any failures to investigate or prosecute. The closure of the trial yesterday can only be regarded as a blatant failure. I call on the Russian authorities and Parliament to relaunch a proper investigation and shed light on this murder, which undermines not only freedom of expression in Russia, but also its democratic foundation based on the rule of law. There are no excuses for these flawed investigations into murders of politically critical journalists writing against corruption and crime within government, such as the murders of Georgy Gongadze in Ukraine in 2000 and Paul Klebnikov in Moscow in 2004”.

[edit] Documentary

In 2008, Swiss director Eric Bergkraut made a documentary, Letter to Anna, about Politkovskaya's life and death. It includes interviews with her son Ilya, her daughter Vera, and her ex-husband, Alexander Politkovsky.[37][38][39]

[edit] Awards

[edit] Bibliography

[edit] References

  1. ^ World Politics Review LLC,Politkovskaya's Death, Other Killings, Raise Questions About Russian Democracy, 31 Oct 2006
  2. ^ "Anna Politkovskaya: Putin's Russia". BBC News. Retrieved on 2006-10-09. 
  3. ^ 'Independent journalism has been killed in Russia' Becky Smith
  4. ^ a b c d e "Her Own Death, Foretold". Politkovskaya, Anna. Retrieved on 2006-10-15. 
  5. ^ a b "Anna Politkovskaya". Lettre Ulysses Award. Retrieved on 2006-10-09. 
  6. ^ Naming ceremony for the “Anna Politkovskaya” Press Conference Room, an announcement of European Parliament
  7. ^ Danilova, Maria (2006-10-09). "Officials: Russian Journalist Found Dead". AP. 
  8. ^ What made Chechen schoolchildren ill? - The Jamestown Foundation, 30 March 2006
  9. ^ Poisoned by Putin Guardian Unlimited, 9 September 2004
  10. ^ Short biography from the 2003 Lettre Ulysses Award
  11. ^ Last article by Anna Politkovskaya
  12. ^ Obituaries: Anna Politkovskaya, The Times, 9 October 2006
  13. ^ "Russia's Secret Heroes", an excerpt from A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya.
  14. ^ "Disquiet On The Chechen Front", TIMEeurope Heroes 2003
  15. ^ Video - on the documenting the Chechen war as Russian journalist, PBS' Democracy on Deadline
  16. ^ Anna Politkovskaya, I tried and failed, The Guardian, October 30 2002
  17. ^ "Murder in Moscow: The shooting of Anna Politkovskaya". The Independent. 2006-10-08. Retrieved on 2007-05-19. 
  18. ^ "Trois journalistes tués le jour de l’inauguration à Bayeux du Mémorial des reporters'" (in French). Reporters Without Borders. 2006-10-07. Retrieved on 2006-10-09. 
  19. ^ Meek, James (2004-10-15). "Dispatches from a savage war". The Guardian.,,1327791,00.html. Retrieved on 2006-10-09. 
  20. ^ Her Own Death, Foretold 15 October 2006
  21. ^ How the heroes of Russia turned into the tormentors of Chechnya 27 February 2001
  22. ^ a b c Politkovskaya, Anna (2003) A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya, translated by Alexander Burry and Tatiana Tulchinsky, The University of Chicago Press, 2003, ISBN 0-226-67432-0
  23. ^ Bazorkina vs. Russia, a judgement by European Court of Human Rights, 27 July 2006.
  24. ^ "Russian journalist reportedly poisoned en route to hostage negotiations". IFEX. 2004-09-03. Retrieved on 2006-10-11. 
  25. ^ Sixsmith, Martin (2007-04-08). "The Laboratory 12 poison plot". The Sunday Times. Retrieved on 2007-05-20. 
  26. ^ "Russians remember killed reporter". BBC. 2006-10-08. Retrieved on 2006-10-09. 
  27. ^ Danilova, Maria (2006-10-09). "Officials: Russian Journalist Found Dead". AP. 
  28. ^ Siberian police 'obstructing Politkovskaya murder inquiry' 6 November 2006
  29. ^ Russian: [1] «Тебя надо было расстрелять еще в Москве, на улице, как там у вас в Москве расстреливают... Тебя надо было расстрелять...». Рамзан вторит: «Ты — враг... Расстрелять... Ты — враг..."
  30. ^ "Politkovskaya Gunned Down". 
  31. ^ Journalist Gives Her Life for Her Profession Oct. 09, 2006
  32. ^ "Thousands mourn Russian journalist". Reuters. 2006-10-10. 
  33. ^ (Russian)Убийство Политковской заказал некий политик в России, и об этом упоминается в деле, заявил адвокат обвиняемых NEWSru November 25, 2008.
  34. ^ "Russia murder trial judge queried". BBC (BBC News). 2008-11-25. Retrieved on December 10, 2008. 
  35. ^ "Politkovskaya suspect accused of working for gov't". Associated Press (Yahoo! News). 2008-12-05. Retrieved on December 10, 2008. 
  36. ^ "Editor Links FSB to Politkovskaya Death". The Moscow Times. 2008-12-08. Retrieved on December 10, 2008. 
  37. ^ Death of a Journalist. A new documentary, "Letter to Anna," charts the life and death of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya. It is unlikely to be released in Russia. By Roland Elliott Brown, Moscow Times, May 16, 2008
  38. ^ Letter to Anna: The Story of Journalist Politkovskaya's Death
  39. ^ Hot Docs Review: Letter to Anna - The Story of Journalist Politkovskaya's Death
  40. ^ Award photograph
  41. ^ World Press Freedom Prize 2007
  42. ^ Shannon Maguire (July 15, 2008). "International Media Assistance is an Underappreciated Key to Democratic Development". Nation Endowment for Democracy. Retrieved on 2008-08-31. 

[edit] External links

NAME Politkovskaya, Anna Stepanovna
ALTERNATIVE NAMES Политковская, Анна Степановна
SHORT DESCRIPTION Russian journalist
DATE OF BIRTH 30 August 1958
PLACE OF BIRTH New York City United States
DATE OF DEATH 7 October 2006
PLACE OF DEATH Moscow Russia
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