Russia: Journalist's Death and the Country's Future

Global Voices Online
Wednesday, October 11, 2006

President Vladimir Putin said this (RUS) about Anna Politkovskaya's murder in an interview with Suddeutsche Zeitung Tuesday:

I have to say that her political influence (and I think that the experts will agree with me) was insignificant inside the country, and, most likely, she was more noticeable in the human rights and mass media circles in the West. Hence, I think - and one of our newspapers has stated this correctly today - that to the current government in general and to the Chechen authorities in particular, Politkovskaya's murder has done much more harm than her publications.

The president's comments have added a new direction to the Russian-language blogosphere's already charged discussion of the journalist's legacy and death.

LJ user object (Vagif Abilov) writes:

When journalists, in a choir, interrupting one another, insist that the work of their slain colleague was of no use to anyone (and hence, the most likely explanation for the crime is provocation), their motivation is transparent, but it's still not enough to evaluate the significance of the deceased. But when the President joins them, it not only reveals all the significance of her cause, it also bares him ruthlessly.

Some comments to this post provide a glimpse into how divided bloggers are on the issue:


nekha: [...] And I don't understand at all what his words mean - that "journalists have to bear in mind..." and on about Politkovskaya's insignificance.

And it seems to me that Putin has lost his mind. Or that the whole world has gone crazy. [...]

nasralla: The president is arguing with the comments in the Western press about the cynical execution of the last journalist who was telling the truth. The reaction in the West is indeed inadequate, with more people gathering for the rallies there than here in Russia. It's not normal, isn't it?

korvin_: They say there were many people at the farewell ceremony [for Politkovskaya], even though it was held [at a remote location].

nasralla: But there were no rallies in other cities. The most important thing is that the government wasn't reacting to her publications because there was no response to them in the society. This means that they were going unnoticed and thus didn't pose threat to the government. And in the Western press, they are writing the opposite - that is, they are writing lies. And it's these lies that the president is arguing against.

beetlegoise: Yes, there's some crap in the Western press now. You'd think that the murderers were [from the Federal Security Service] ;(


object: I don't know how else to explain. Here: there is the President, and there are his citizens. And he is above them. And it's not fitting for the President to act like an online journalist.


Even [Ramzan] Kadyrov had better things to say about her death, he spoke in a more manly manner. Even if it was him who ordered to kill her.


While some Russian bloggers openly cheer Politkovskaya's death, others echo Putin's assessment of the journalist, admitting that her work and her fate doesn't really matter to them - while the image and fate of Russia are of primary concern. Such are the thoughts of the Moscow-based LJ user knyaje, who is responding to a tribute to Politkovskaya posted by his friend currently living in the Czech Republic - LJ user arcady_cz (Arcady Alexandroff, great-grandson of Igor Sikorsky, the famous helicopter designer):


Anna Politkovskaya committed this crime in the eyes of the regime - she was an honest, courageous, responsible and conscientious person. For the Putins-Kadyrovs, an honest person is the chief enemy, because you can't buy, hire or intimidate him. Sitting behind high fences, surrounded by the heavily armed guards, they, the cowards, have attacked a woman. Despicable, mean, pathetic bastards. This was known about them before; now, we've got yet another certificate affirming this.

I've stopped following the events in Russia over half a year ago. Before, when I was a regular reader of Novaya Gazeta [the newspaper Politkovskaya wrote for], I tried not to read Politkovskaya's articles: there was too much pain in them for me. I was thinking to myself: how is she capable of letting it all pass through herself, how come she hasn't broken down yet, hasn't become a victim of hopeless grief and despair, because of all that she'd seen? Something like this was beyond my abilities. Whoever does something that you consider impossible and beyond human abilities, elicits admiration. But despite this, unfortunately, such a person remains a vulnerable human being, made of flesh and blood, someone whose life is easy to interrupt, if only there's a desire to. They had the desire, they did interrupt it.

knyaje: [...] You know that I can't agree with you on this, and I am utterly disgusted with the howling of the liberal jackals, who have already stolen the country piece by piece and are willing to finish the process... I despise our human rights activists, who are defending everything but their country - and according to them, Russians are to blame for everything and everything should be like in the United States. [...] Really, I'd like [these people] to find themselves in Politkovskaya's place first - [Lyudmila Alexeeva]/[Yelena Bonner]/[Sergei Kovalyov]/[Valeriya Novodvorskaya]/[Konstantin Borovoy]... And on with the list... As for Politkovskaya... I feel pity only for the lost life, which could've continued for some more, but I don't feel pity for her as someone who was fighting for something... [She was asking for it.] I'm sorry, Arkash, if I offended you, but this is perhaps one of the only disagreements that we've had in a long time...

arcady_cz: I think I understand what you're trying to say, Kostya. You haven't offended me - it's a hard thing to accomplish, and moreover, we've known each other for too long. I understand your point of view, but I don't accept it. I think this is a sort of psychological defense for you. It's tougher for you than it is for me: you are staying in Russia and have to find a compromise with what surrounds you, because otherwise, I think, it's possible to go crazy.

I chose to escape and that's why I can afford such a luxury as a view from some distance. Nazism isn't on its way to Russia, it's already arrived in Russia and it'll show its [grimace] in less than a month, when tens of thousands of skinheads, feeling support from the very top, will march across the native city's downtown. Will be very lucky if there's no bloodshed this time. But [...] camps for people of the wrong ethnicity are inevitably looming ahead.

I'm scared for those who stay behind. For the relatives, friends, acquaintances, and just good people. I feel uncomfortable admitting to such intimate feeling, but I'm afraid for you, too. I don't know what to do in this situation. [...]

knyaje: Hm... I don't even know what to tell you. It's not a banal "thank you" - I'm genuinely grateful for your concern. But I still feel that you are exaggerating. You see, all this [circus] with the wrong ethnicity has an easy explanation - because of [...] the somewhat criminal policies of a number of comrades, including [Moscow's mayor Yuri Luzhkov] (though he does deserve a monument for a number of things), negative feelings toward these ethnicities have accumulated in Moscow - you see, they act as if they are in their own country, their own city, they disregard our laws and customs, they do whatever they please... And if they are not stopped, if the state doesn't restrict them, then the people would rise and destroy them. Honestly, I'd purge them myself - I mean, those who live and work honestly, let them live, and those who are involved in criminal activities, abuse and humiliate the Russian people, those who sell drugs to our schoolkids, those who exploit our girls, those who rob Moscow, throwing the natives out of their [homes] in order to live there themselves, those who walk freely while their thugs are pushing pregnant [women] out of their path [...] - such bastards I wouldn't just deport, I'd publicly shoot them, so that others don't feel like acting the same way. But I'd do the same to the corrupted officials, to the police officers who often protect the criminals [...] ... [...]

arcady_cz: I see. But people of different ethnicities will still have to find ways to live together. Moscow has always been cosmopolitan, and as any imperial capital, it used to draw in the resources of the large country, representatives of various peoples. And now it's forced to pay for such a position: big cities draw diverse populations. The problems of New York, Paris or even Prague are alike in this respect. And they have to be solved, of course, but not with the help of the Nazis.

I fear that in Russia it will soon be impossible to remain a decent person. My great-grandfather Sikorski, as is well-known, had escaped to America and turned into a famous [aircraft] designer there, lived a long life. And another great-grandfather stayed in Russia and was shot; his wife, my great-grandmother, was sent to the camps, and their eight children became orphans and didn't know the truth about their father for the next 60 years.

The scariest thing is that it's impossible to know who will be the next they'll come for. Today, they are coming for Georgians, then they'll come for Azeris, then for Jews... And then who? They won't stop, that's the problem. [...]

knyaje: [...] I hope it won't come to this. You know, I think that sooner or later, when the Nazis step over the line, Russia would awaken and chase them back to where they belong... [...] Their existence in such numbers is caused by the general demise of culture, and not because of Putin and his regime. And Orthodox Christianity wouldn't hurt here, and I wouldn't mind if the kids have some basic truths beaten into their heads at school, like refusal of violence that threatens the humankind in general... [...]

arcady_cz: God willing, everything will turn out fine and your hopes will come true. Unfortunately, I'd love to but I can't share [your optimism]. I have an extremely pessimistic view on what's going on in Russia now and on what awaits it. The recent events, unfortunately, confirm these fears, not refute them.

knyaje: Let's hope, this is the only thing left to do for now...

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