Anna Politkovskaya

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Anna Politkovskaya
Анна Политковская
Memorial to Anna Politkovskaya, in Paris
Occupation Journalist, author
Nationality Russian
Ethnicity Father of Ukrainian descent (village Kostobobr, Semenivs'kyi rayon, Chernihiv oblast, Ukraine)
Citizenship Russian, American
Alma mater Moscow State University
Period 1982–2006
Subjects Politics, freedom of press, human rights, social issues
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 (August 30, 1958October 7, 2006) was a Russian speaking Jewish journalist and human rights activist well-known for her opposition to the Chechen conflict and Russian president Putin.[1][2]

Politkovskaya made her name reporting from lawless Chechnya, where many journalists and humanitarian workers have been kidnapped or killed. She was arrested and subjected to mock execution by Russian military forces there, and she was poisoned on the way to Beslan, but survived and continued her reporting. She authored several books about 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 October 7, 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.[3]

Journalistic work

Politkovskaya worked for Izvestia from 1982 to 1993, and then 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,[4] and President Putin's regime,[5] most recently the book Putin's Russia.

Reports from Chechnya

Outside Russia, Politkovskaya received wide acclaim for her work in Chechnya,[6] where she frequently visited hospitals and refugee camps 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.

Her numerous articles critical of the war in Chechnya described abuses committed by Russian military forces, by Chechen rebels, and by 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.[8] One of her most recent investigations was about 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.[9]

Criticism of Vladimir Putin and FSB

She 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 this book she also accused the Russian secret service FSB of stifling all civil liberties in order to establish a Soviet-style dictatorship, but admitted that "it is we who are responsible for Putin's policies": "Society has shown limitless apathy... 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. We of all people ought to know that." She also wrote that

"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."[10]

"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."[11][12][13][14][15][16]


  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 2006-10-09. 
  3. 'Independent journalism has been killed in Russia' Becky Smith
  4. Her Own Death, Foretold. Politkovskaya, Anna. Retrieved on 2006-10-15.
  5. Anna Politkovskaya. Lettre Ulysses Award. Retrieved on 2006-10-09.
  6. Anna Politkovskaya. Lettre Ulysses Award. Retrieved on 2006-10-09.
  7. Danilova, Maria (2006-10-09). "Officials: Russian Journalist Found Dead". AP. 
  8. Her Own Death, Foretold. Politkovskaya, Anna. Retrieved on 2006-10-15.
  9. What made Chechen schoolchildren ill? - The Jamestown Foundation, March 30, 2006
  10. Poisoned by Putin Guardian Unlimited, September 9, 2004
  11. Short biography from the 2003 Lettre Ulysses Award
  12. Last article by Anna Politkovskaya
  13. Obituaries: Anna Politkovskaya, The Times, 9 October 2006
  14. "Russia's Secret Heroes", an excerpt from A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya.
  15. "Disquiet On The Chechen Front", TIMEeurope Heroes 2003
  16. Video - on the documenting the Chechen war as Russian journalist, PBS' Democracy on Deadline
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