Anna Politkovskaya

Anna Politkovskaya

Infobox Writer
name = Anna Politkovskaya
Анна Степановна Политковская

caption = Photo by Tatyana Zelenskaya, 2004
birthname = Anna Stepanovna Mazepa
birthdate = birth date|1958|8|30|df=y
birthplace = New York City, New York, U.S.
deathdate = death date and age|2006|10|7|1958|8|30|df=y
deathplace = Moscow, Russia
occupation = Journalist, author
nationality = Russian
alma_mater = Moscow State University
period = 1982–1996
subject = Politics, freedom of press, human rights
notableworks = ""
awards = awd|Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism|2001

Anna Stepanovna Politkovskaya ( _ru. Анна Степановна Политковская) (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 Putin. [World Politics Review LLC, [ Politkovskaya's Death, Other Killings, Raise Questions About Russian Democracy] , 31 Oct 2006] [cite news|url=|title=Anna Politkovskaya: Putin's Russia|publisher=BBC News|accessdate=2006-10-09]

Politkovskaya made her name reporting from Chechnya, where many journalists and humanitarian workers have been kidnapped or killed.fact|date=August 2008 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.

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. [ [,,1896806,00.html 'Independent journalism has been killed in Russia' Becky Smith] ]

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".cite web|url=|title=Her Own Death, Foretold|publisher=Politkovskaya, Anna|accessdate=2006-10-15] cite web|url=|title=Anna Politkovskaya|publisher=Lettre Ulysses Award|accessdate=2006-10-09]

Reports from Chechnya

Politkovskaya was widely acclaimed for her reporting from Chechnya and won a number of prestigious awards for her work. [ [ Naming ceremony for the “Anna Politkovskaya” Press Conference Room] , an announcement of European Parliament] She frequently visited hospitals and refugee camps in Chechnya to interview the victims.cite news|title=Officials: Russian Journalist Found Dead|author=Danilova, Maria|publisher=AP|date=2006-10-09|accessdate=2006-10-09] 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.Fact|date=August 2008

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. 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. [ What made Chechen schoolchildren ill?] - The Jamestown Foundation, 30 March 2006]

Criticism of Vladimir Putin and FSB

Politkovskaya wrote a book, "", 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." [ [,,1300193,00.html Poisoned by Putin] Guardian Unlimited, 9 September 2004]

"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." [ [ Short biography from the 2003 Lettre Ulysses Award] ] [ [ Last article by Anna Politkovskaya] ] [ [,,60-2394867,00.html Obituaries: Anna Politkovskaya] , "The Times", 9 October 2006] [ [ "Russia's Secret Heroes"] , an excerpt from "A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya."] [ [ "Disquiet On The Chechen Front"] , TIMEeurope Heroes 2003] [ [ Video - on the documenting the Chechen war as Russian journalist] , PBS' "Democracy on Deadline"]

"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.Fact|date=May 2008 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.Fact|date=May 2008 "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."Fact|date=May 2008

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. [Anna Politkovskaya, [ I tried and failed] , "The Guardian", October 30 2002] [cite web|url=|title= Murder in Moscow: The shooting of Anna Politkovskaya|publisher=The Independent|date=2006-10-08|accessdate=2007-05-19]

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". She also claimed that the Kremlin tried to block her access to information and discredit her: :"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."

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." [cite web|language=French|url=|title=Trois journalistes tués le jour de l’inauguration à Bayeux du Mémorial des reporters'|publisher=Reporters Without Borders|date=2006-10-07|accessdate=2006-10-09] 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. [cite web|url=,,1327791,00.html|title=Dispatches from a savage war|author=Meek, James|publisher=The Guardian|date=2004-10-15|accessdate=2006-10-09] [ [ Her Own Death, Foretold] 15 October 2006]

Detention in Chechnya

During a reporting trip in 2001, Politkovskaya was detained by military officials in the Chechen village of Khottuni. [ [,,443569,00.html How the heroes of Russia turned into the tormentors of Chechnya] 27 February 2001] 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 shock 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.Fact|date=August 2008

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 hoursFact|date=May 2008." 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."

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." [ [ 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]

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. [ [ Bazorkina vs. Russia] , a judgement by European Court of Human Rights, 27 July 2006.]


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. [cite web|url=|title=Russian journalist reportedly poisoned en route to hostage negotiations|publisher=IFEX|date=2004-09-03|accessdate=2006-10-11] cite web|url=|title=The Laboratory 12 poison plot|author=Sixsmith, Martin|publisher=The Sunday Times|date=2007-04-08|accessdate=2007-05-20]

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". [cite web|url=|title=Russians remember killed reporter|publisher=BBC|date=2006-10-08|accessdate=2006-10-09] [cite news|title=Officials: Russian Journalist Found Dead|author=Danilova, Maria|publisher=AP|date=2006-10-09|accessdate=2006-10-09] [ [,,1940816,00.html Siberian police 'obstructing Politkovskaya murder inquiry'] 6 November 2006]

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. [ Russian: [] «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…"] cite web|url=|title=Politkovskaya Gunned Down ]


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 head and a third time in the shoulder at point blank range. [ [ Journalist Gives Her Life for Her Profession] Oct. 09, 2006] The funeral was held on Tuesday, 10 October, at 2:30 p.m., at the Troyekurovsky 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.cite news|publisher=Reuters|title=Thousands mourn Russian journalist|accessdate=2006-10-10|date=2006-10-10] 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.


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. [ [ 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] [ [ Letter to Anna: The Story of Journalist Politkovskaya's Death] ] [ [ Hot Docs Review: Letter to Anna - The Story of Journalist Politkovskaya's Death] ]


* 2001: Prize of the Russian Union of Journalists
* 2001: Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism
* 2002: PEN American Center Freedom to Write Award
* 2002: International Women's Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award
* 2003: Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage [ [ photograph] ]
* 2003: Hermann Kesten Medal
* 2004: Olof Palme Prize (shared with Lyudmila Alekseyeva and Sergei Kovalev)
* 2005: Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media
* 2006: International Journalism Award named after Tiziano Terzani
* 2007: UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize (awarded posthumously for the first time) [ [ World Press Freedom Prize 2007] ]
* 2007: National Press Club/John Aubuchon Freedom of the Press Award (posthumous)
* 2007 Democracy Award to Spotlight Press Freedom by the National Endowment for Democracy, [cite web|url= |title=International Media Assistance is an Underappreciated Key to Democratic Development |author=Shannon Maguire |publisher=Nation Endowment for Democracy |date=July 15, 2008 |accessdate=2008-08-31]


*Политковская, Анна (2003) "Вторая чеченская" ("Second Chechen [War] ")
* [ Politkovskaya, Anna (2003) "A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya"]
* [ 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
* [ Politkovskaya, Anna (2004) "Putin's Russia"]
* [ Politkovskaya, Anna (2007) "A Russian Diary: A Journalist's Final Account of Life, Corruption, and Death in Putin's Russia"]


External links

* [ “The Chronicles of Hell”. Exhibition dedicated to the memory of Anna Politkovskaya] by IPVnews
* [ Book Festival readings, Anna Politkovskaya] at the Edinburgh International Book Festival's Audio Recordings and Transcriptions 2004-05 (Russian translated to English, streaming audio)
* [ Website dedicated to the memory of Anna and reviewing some of her writing]
* [ "Czar Putin"] - Christiane Amanpour of CNN describes an anniversary of both Politkovskaya's death and the birthday of Vladimir Putin from Moscow
* [ The Writer’s Conscience: Remembering Anna Politkovskaya & Russia’s Forgotten War, December 6, 2006, CUNY Graduate Center, New York City - audio]
* [ Photo report from 2008 Moscow rally] dedicated to 50-th anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya (in Russian)

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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