Politkovskaya, Anna 1958–2006

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Politkovskaya, Anna 1958–2006

(Anna Mazepa, Anna Stepanovna Politkovskaya)


Born Anna Mazepa, August 30, 1958, in New York, NY; assassinated October 7, 2006, in Moscow, Russia; children: one son, one daughter. Education: Graduated from Moscow State University, 1980.


Journalist. Izvestiya, Moscow, Russia, reporter, for ten years; Obshchaya Gazeta, Moscow, Russia, reporter, beginning 1999; Novaya gazeta, Moscow, Russia, reporter.


Golden Pen Award, Russian Union of Journalists, 2000, for coverage of second Chechen War; Artem Borovik Award, Overseas Press Club, 2001; Most Courageous Defense of Freedom of Expression Award, Index on Censorship, 2002; Courage in Journalism Award, International Women's Media Foundation, 2002; Olof Palme Prize (joint winner), 2004, for human rights work; UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, 2007, for showing "incredible courage and stubbornness in chronicling events in Chechnya after the whole world had given up on that conflict."


A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya, translated and edited by John Crowfoot, introduction by Thomas de Waal, Harvill Press (London, England), 2001.

Vtoraia chechenskaia, Zakharov (Moscow, Russia), 2002.

A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2003.

Tchétchénie, Le déshonneur russe, Buchet-Chastel (Paris, France), 2003.

Putin's Russia, Harvill Press (London, England), 2004, published as Putin's Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy, Metropolitan Books (New York, NY), 2005, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2007.

A Russian Diary: A Journalist's Final Account of Life, Corruption, and Death in Putin's Russia, Random House (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to periodicals, including the Guardian.


Dissident Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya gained worldwide attention for her courageous efforts in reporting on the second Chechen war, a brutal conflict between Russia and Chechnya, a breakaway, majority-Muslim province in the Caucasus that has fought two wars with Russia since 1990. For several years Politkovskaya reported on the suffering of the Chechen civilians and the atrocities committed by the Russian military for the liberal, independent newspaper Novaya gazeta. She did so despite deep resistance from the Russian government: she was threatened numerous times, and in February 2001 she was detained on a military base for several days. Politkovskaya was assassinated by a gunman near her apartment in Moscow, Russia, on October 7, 2006.

Politkovskaya was born in New York City, the daughter of a Soviet Ukranian couple who were serving as diplomats to the United Nations. She was educated back in the Soviet Union, ultimately studying journalism at Moscow State University, one of the most sought-after departments for higher education in the country. She was a member of an elite family, and her parents had excellent connections, which enabled her to read books not generally available within the Soviet Union, and to write her graduation dissertation on Marina Tsvetayeva, a poet and emigrée whose work was banned.

Politkovskaya's privileged existence continued after graduation. She worked briefly for a daily newspaper, and she then earned a position for an in-house paper at the state-run airline, which allowed her to travel freely around the country on a whim. Later she worked for a number of independent newspapers that arose with the advent of perestroika. However, it was the conflict in Chechnya that altered Politkovskaya's daily existence and her outlook, as she became a dedicated reporter of the strife in that region. That dedication first resulted in the end of her marriage, when her husband decided in 1999 that he could no longer deal with the long separations and with his concern for Politkovskaya's safety in war zones. Ultimately, it cost the journalist her life, as her reputation built from her reporting of that conflict, as well as her outspoken beliefs and willingness to participate in negotiations and attempts toward peace beyond simple reportage.

In late 2001, in Grozny, the Chechen capital, Politkovskaya met with the head of a commission that had been created to investigate the conduct of the Russian military in the conflict. An hour later the man and his entire commission were killed and their report was destroyed in a helicopter crash as they were on their way back to Moscow to present their findings to Russia's president, Vladimir Putin. As Politkovskaya could deduce from the location of the crash, the official Russian story that the helicopter had been shot down by Chechen militants could not possibly be true. She wrote an article saying that the Russian military itself must have shot down the helicopter. After this story appeared, Politkovskaya received serious threats from within the Russian defense ministry that forced her to flee to Vienna, Austria.

During her time in exile, Politkovskaya traveled throughout Europe and the United States promoting her first book, A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya, a collection of thirty-eight of her articles about the conflict. Translator John Crowfoot and fellow journalist Thomas de Waal provided a preface and an introduction, respectively, to explain the history of the conflict in Chechnya before the period that Politkovskaya's reporting covers. The reporting itself, reviewers noted, is excellent. "She wants to make the brutality of the war real, to bring the dirt, stench and blood into the lives of Novaya gazeta readers in Moscow and elsewhere," Graeme P. Herd wrote in Europe-Asia Studies. The result is a "harrowing, utterly compelling piece of reportage," said Observer reviewer John Sweeney.

In October 2002 Politkovskaya was in Los Angeles to accept an award for her reporting when she was called back to Russia. Chechen terrorists had taken several hundred people hostage in a Moscow theater, and they were requesting that Politkovskaya, one of the only Russians that they trusted, come to negotiate. Politkovskaya assented, and she spent a good deal of time talking to one of the hostage-takers, but she had little success. She convinced him to allow her to bring water and juice into the theater for the hostages to drink, but that was all. Hours later, Russian forces stormed the theater, and all of the terrorists and many of the hostages were killed.

Politkovskaya continued to travel to Chechnya and report on the war there until her untimely death at the age of forty-eight. However, she is remembered for her bravery, her willingness to take action, and her clear, intelligent reporting. Putin's Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy, which first appeared in 2004, blends "acute observation with caustic commentary," noted a Global Agenda critic. Though she admits in the book to having no great skills for political analysis, she also admitted to her disgust with Putin's government and a frustration at the way the country was being run. Because of her involvement in Chechnya and her role as a reporter through some of the most historic events in recent Russian history, Politkovskaya is able to share her vision of the nation with readers in what New Internationalist reviewer Fred Weir called a "devastating critique of the militaristic, authoritarian and neo-imperialist revival that has swept Russia under the rule of the former KGB colonel." Harry Willems, in a review for the Library Journal, remarked that "her main point, ultimately, is that in Russia, all outrages stem from Putin's retreat from democracy." Frank Caso, reviewing the work in Booklist, commented that the author "has built an excellent case for her premise," but the critic also questioned whether anyone with any power will listen to Politkovskaya.

Politkovskaya's final book, A Russian Diary: A Journalist's Final Account of Life, Corruption, and Death in Putin's Russia, was published after her death. Ironically, Putin himself noted that her murder would bring far more attention to her cause than her actual publications did. Covering the period from December 2003 to August 2005, Politkovskaya's work, according to Andrew Meier in the New York Times Book Review, "gives us a near-stenographic record of her country's descent: the emergence of a petrostate fueled by rising oil prices, as well as a willingness to sacrifice civil liberties along with, when necessary, its own citizens. She has left us, at her best, a C-Span reel of the dismemberment of the Russian body politic." Although it is a diary, the entries look outward, serving as Politkovskaya's view on the tragedies and politicking around her. Meier commented on the lack of self-revelation in the book: "Politkovskaya has no interest in retailing heroism. Oddly, for a journalist who never feared writing in the first person, she recedes here—even when she had a starring role in the events she is describing." She also pulls no punches, stating clearly that while Putin bears responsibility for many of the poor conditions in Russia, the people are equally, if not more, to blame for not rising up and doing something about the situation. Olga Bonfiglio, in a review for America, remarked: "A Russian Diary is imbued with an edgy and tense tone, yet Politkovskaya does not come off as shrill because her passion for truth is so forthright."



Newsmakers, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2007.


America, October 8, 2007, Olga Bonfiglio, "Slain for Telling the Awful Truth," p. 26.

American Journalism Review, February 1, 2007, "Iron Curtain Redux: The Assassination of a Prominent Investigative Reporter Underscores the Increasingly Repressive Climate for Journalists in Vladimir Putin's Russia," p. 50.

Booklist, December 15, 2005, Frank Caso, review of Putin's Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy, p. 15.

CNW Group, October 5, 2007, "Eighteen Coffins Line Paris Human Rights Plaza in Homage to Slain Russian Journalists on First Anniversary of Politkovskaya Murder."

Europe-Asia Studies, March, 2002, Graeme P. Herd, review of A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya, pp. 329-331.

Foreign Affairs, May 1, 2006, review of Putin's Russia, p. 167.

Global Agenda, October 9, 2006, "A Suspicious Death in Russia"; October 4, 2007, "A Silent Voice: Anna Politkovskaya One Year Later."

Guardian (London, England), July 14, 2001, David Hearst, review of A Dirty War, p. 9; February 22, 2002, "War Reporter Falls Victim to Russian Smear Campaign," p. 15.

Hollywood Reporter, October 10, 2006, "Politkovskaya Coverage Muted in Russian Press: Journo's Death Sparks Int'l Outcry," p. 28.

Houston Chronicle, October 13, 2006, "Slain Russian Reporter's Last Article Printed: The Unfinished Column with Tape Transcripts Offers New Allegations of Tortured Chechens," p. 15.

Independent Women's Media Forum, October 24, 2002, "Russian Journalist Anna Politkovskaya to Help in Hostage Negotiations in Moscow."

Interpress Service, September 4, 2007, Kester Kenn Klomegah, "Russia: Activists Question Arrests in Politkovskaya Case."

Knight Ridder/Tribune, October 10, 2006, "Anna Politkovskaya's Anti-cynicism"; October 13, 2006, "Anna Politkovskaya: Slain for Professionalism."

Library Journal, September 15, 2001, Marcia L. Sprules, review of A Dirty War, p. 98; November 15, 2005, Harry Willems, review of Putin's Russia, p. 81.

Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2002, David Shaw, "Turbulent Times Create a Minefield for Reporters," p. E16.

Maclean's, January 14, 2002, "Chechnya's Dirty War: Russian Journalist Anna Politkovskaya Bears Witness to the Region's Horrors," p. 16.

Media Report to Women, spring, 2002, "Canada, Russia, Zimbabwe Journalists to Receive IWMF Courage Awards," p. 9.

New Internationalist, November, 2006, Fred Weir, "Murder in Moscow: The Death of a Courageous Woman," p. 22.

New Statesman, October 25, 2004, Mary De Jevsky, "Voice of Reason," review of Putin's Russia, p. 51; October 16, 2006, "More than a Mere Journalist," p. 5; April 16, 2007, Tim Whewell, "Counting the Cost," review of A Russian Diary: A Journalist's Final Account of Life, Corruption, and Death in Putin's Russia, p. 56.

Newsweek International, May 27, 2002, Christian Caryl, "Dispatches from Hell," p. 24; March 19, 2007, "Russia: Killer Question."

New York Times, December 15, 2001, Celestine Bohlen, "In Chechnya, Truth Is a Dangerous Goal," pp. 5, E17; October 10, 2006, Steven Lee Myers, "Kremlin Breaks Silence over Journalist's Killing," p. 14, and "Another Killing in Moscow," p. 24; October 11, 2006, Steven Lee Myers, "In a Risky Place to Gather News, a Very Familiar Story," p. 4; October 15, 2006, C.J. Chivers, "A Journalist's Revelations, in Life and in Death," p. 4; May 31, 2007, C.J. Chivers, "Colleagues Honor Slain Russian Journalist with a Book and Demand Justice," p. 10; August 28, 2007, C.J. Chivers, "Russia Arrests 10 in Killing of Writer and Putin Critic," p. 10; September 16, 2007, C.J. Chivers, "Chechen Former Official Is Held in Reporter's Death," p. 12; October 8, 2007, C.J. Chivers, "Russian Journalist's Killer Is Known, Editor Says," p. 3.

New York Times Book Review, July 1, 2007, Andrew Meier, "A Death in Moscow," p. L7.

Observer (London, England), July 22, 2001, John Sweeney, review of A Dirty War, p. 15.

PR Newswire, October 12, 2006, "Russian Prosecutor Can't Be Trusted to Investigate Politkovskaya Murder, Says Robert Amsterdam."

Publishers Weekly, November 5, 2001, review of A Dirty War, p. 56.

Russian Life, July 1, 2006, Paul E. Richardson, review of Putin's Russia, p. 61; May 1, 2007, "Posthumous Award," p. 10.

Sarmatian Review, January, 2007, "Politkovskaia Murder, or the Concert of Nations," p. 1254.

Sojourners Magazine, January, 2007, Swanee Hunt, "Russian Roulette: The Murder of Journalist Anna Politkovskaya Ripples Worldwide," p. 8.

Time International, April 28, 2003, "Disquiet on the Chechen Front," p. 67; October 23, 2006, "Nature Weeps as a Heroine Is Buried," p. 34.

Times (London, England), March 24, 2002, Michael Binyon, "Brave Voice of Russia's Accuser: A Tribute to a Russian Journalist's Exposé of the Chechen War."

Times Literary Supplement, October 19, 2001, Abraham Brumberg, review of A Dirty War, p. 26.

U.S. News & World Report, October 23, 2006, "Crime and No Punishment," p. 45.

Weekly Standard, October 23, 2006, Anders Slund, "Putin Gets Away with Murder; It's Time to Confront the Russian Leader."


Committee to Protect Journalists Web site,http://www.cpj.org/ (November 13, 2001), "See No Evil: An Interview with Anna Politkovskaya."

Digital Freedom Network,http://dfn.org/ (December 3, 2001), Siobhan Dowd, "Silenced Voice: Anna Politkovskaya."



Economist, October 14, 2006, "Anna Politkovskaya," p. 91.

Los Angeles Times, October 8, 2006, p. 9.

New York Times, October 13, 2006, p. A3.

Time International, November 13, 2006, "Anna Politkovskaya," p. 113.

Times (London, England), October 9, 2006, p. 57.

Washington Post, October 8, 2006, p. 20.


BBC News Web site,http://news.bbc.co.uk/ (October 7, 2006), "Anna Politkovskaya."

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Politkovskaya, Anna 1958–2006