Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Anna's Russia

Ann Politkovskaya was known as "Russia's lost moral conscience."

She was born August 30, 1958. Her life was constantly being threatened. Her family pleaded with her to leave the country for her own safety. She refused to give into threats and be shadowed by a bodyguard. She was poisoned and almost died aboard a plane - on her way to Beslan to report and possibly act as negotiator during the school siege. She lived in constant danger. She was courageous. She was fearless but never reckless. She continued reporting on the plight of the Russian people under the rule of Putin. She continued to expose the human rights abuses in Chechnya of which she accused Russian security forces of the abuse. She felt it was her duty to accept the risks involved as a reporter in order to uncover and report the truth (she compared it to a doctor's duty to aid in the healing of ill patients). She authored two books: "A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya," (2001); "Putin's Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy" (2004) and had just completed her third; "A Russian Diary." Her last article, an investigation into the torture in Chechnya, was never finished. Ann Politkovskaya was murdered by a gunman while leaving her apartment on October 7, 2006. She died at the age of 48, leaving behind her son, Ilya and her daughter, Vera. She became the thirteenth journalist to be murdered in a contract style killing since Vladimir Putin came into power in 2000. She was the third murdered reporter from Moscow's Noveya Gazeta.

Colleagues at the Novaya Gazeta, published a special issue promising that "her killers will not sleep soundly." The paper also offered a one million dollar reward (£534,000) to solve her murder.

Mr Putin called the crime "horribly cruel" and stated that Russian authorities would strive to find and punish the perpetrators.

But he also played down the significance of Ms Politkovskaya's work.

"This journalist was a severe critic of the incumbent authorities in Russia; she was well known among journalists and human rights campaigners and in the West. However, her influence on the country's political life... was minimal."

At a cemetery near Moscow, hundreds of mourners waited for hours in the rain to pass her coffin and say their last goodbyes.

"I think this was meant to show what happens if you speak out against the authorities. Unfortunately, we have very few journalists like her in Russia now." a women in the crowd said.

So much for Putin's theory that Anna's influence on her country's political life was minimal.

Her last article was released unfinished. It dealt with the horrific abuses of human rights, torture and humiliation in Chechnya
by the Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov. Much of the footage of two Chechens being tortured was too bloody and distressing to broadcast.

Ten suspects have just recently been arrested in connection with her murder.

An excerpt from her book, "Putin's Russia:" This massacre of the innocents did not raise a storm in Russia. Not one television station broadcast images of the five little Chechens who had been slaughtered. The Minister of Defense did not resign. He is a personal friend of Putin and is even seen as a possible successor in 2008. The Commander-in-Chief himself made no speech of condolence.

"Living streets full of dead eyes."

In one of her interviews Anna warns us: " Putin is very influenced by the Western opinion . . . So, it means that only the West now could change him, could change him from tyranny to democracy."

I sit here, safely behind my computer screen, writing about this and that and THIS. THIS makes me want to do more. THIS makes me wonder what I have done so far? THIS is more than a story to me. THIS makes me see the importance of the written word. What are my responsibilities as a human being to other human beings, to my country, to all life in general and to this planet? What if all of us took a stance for human rights. What if we would not - not ever and under any circumstances - tolerate human rights abuses . . . indignity, suffering, torture, humiliation . . . untreated illnesses, homelessness, hunger, loneliness, despair, hopelessness, sadness, ignorance, illiteracy . . . any unkindness?

Are my glasses hopelessly rose-colored or will there ever come a day?

Anna Politkovskaya was a brave human being.


Erik Donald France said...

All anyone can do is fight the good fight -- peacefully.

Bill Moyers gave an impassioned speech about the importance of writing, and reporting, not too long ago. I'd never heard or seen him so engaged. And so here.

eric1313 said...

I hope for this kind of change, too. Russia is a proud and ancient nation and homeland for a super diverse people; it spent so much time under the yoke of czarist oppression, then oppresion in the name of soialist equallity, and now it has barely had a gasp of freedom as the chains are re-applied to pull it under the waves of modern history.

I could go on and on about history.

but sometimes, I prefer herstory...

not that I mean to joke about this. Love these posts!

artquest1 said...

I came to your blog from Susan Miller's space, and I must say, I'm quite impressed. Some comments upon your essay on Politkovskaya:
I am of Russian descent, and I just recently returned from a several week trip to Russia with my four adult sons (first time for all of us). While obviously one agenda was to see and examine, another goal was to listen and hopefully to also begin to understand. I made it a point of asking leading questions, but never to discuss or argue. I was rather attempting to glean opinion and non-defensive values, and regarding Putin and the current government, I certainly received an earful.
Almost every Russian I spoke to was angry and embarrassed by Yeltsin (and to some extent Gorbachev) and the perception that they took a mighty, powerful and respected world power, and in a misguided effort to toady to the West, reduced it to a has-been. They loathe Bush, the Ukrainians (for taking much of their territory although it was ceded by Yeltsin), and former satellite territories for joining NATO and leaning towards the West, Estonia for denying the Soviet role in protecting it during WWII and an entire litany of perceived slights and affronts to their dignity.
They believe, that in the name of Democracy, a few ex-managers have become billionaires, the military has been dismantled and allowed to fall apart, the press and electronic journalism have license to defame and slander the Russian government and the Russian people, and the “vaunted political and individual freedoms” so loudly proclaimed by the West have resulted in a spike of alcoholism, lay-offs, consumerism, and a diminishment of love and feelings of patriotism and respect of the Motherland.
Repeatedly, I heard pride and delight in Putin and what they perceive he is trying to accomplish. They see him as restoring Russia to its rightful place as a world power, as a sober and articulate spokesman for Russian, not Western, values, and as someone who is willing to take a stand against Europe and the US, who are striving to treat Russia as irrelevant and at most a nuisance.
Unfortunately, Putin’s remarks that you quoted about her domestic irrelevancy and “…her influence on the country's political life... was minimal.” are probably pretty accurate. Although what she said was indeed an indictment of Putin’s repression and imperial presidency, I am very much afraid that to many Russians (and I include the educated and professional class here) what he is doing is not only admired but also almost revered. As things stand now he is Constitutionally unable to run again next year (he may change this), but if he were able to, my guess is that he would be overwhelmingly selected in a fair election.
Thank you for printing such a provocative essay, and one that deals with issues and personalities most of us will not hear about.
Best wishes, Bob

Pythia3 said...

Thank you Erik, eric1313 and Bob, for taking the time to read and comment on this post.
Bob, I really appreciate your insightful comment - so from what you are saying Russia is on the right road to recovery and healing. I pray this is true. I am always wary about political propaganda and wearing rose colored glasses.
Thank you, again :)
Bob, I'll stop by your blog this week.

artquest1 said...

Russia is certainly on a road, but I suppose it depends a great deal on what map you are holding as to whether this is the right road, and whether they are heading towards a desirable destination. The Russian people have little history of self-determination, a no real thirst for individual freedom or self expression. They do, however, have a strong bent towards nationalism that could easily be called chauvinism, and a willingness to experience privation and suffering for the benefit of the Motherland (read about the siege of Stalingrad, now Saint Petersburg, during WWII or the Napoleanonic invasion in 1812).
The Russia they long for, and the Putin they revere, has little appeal or resonance in the West or the US.
Feel free to drop by my blog, although it has been
somewhat ignored for the past few months.
Good chatting with you, Bob

Pythia3 said...

Hey Bob, sounds like you have a very good understanding of the political and overall emotional situation...and you have your finger on the pulse of Russia.
You should write something about it. I would love to read what you have to say - I think we could all learn a lot because it is difficult for us here in the USA to truly understand what the people are feeling.