|ANNA POLITKOVSKAYA: THE NATION’S
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Boris Kaimakov)
Anna Politkovskaya was banned from Russian television – but,
paradoxically, everyone knew her face.
She wrote mainly for the Novaya Gazeta broadsheet but, just as
paradoxically, remained a household name even for those who read nothing
but glossy magazines. Faces of popular television stars enter our homes
every day but still remain alien to our hearts and minds. Anna’s face
reflected a brain and a personality far out of the ordinary. It takes many
generations to produce such intellect-imbued features as hers.
It took satanic hatred to send three bullets through the head of that
woman. No use to rage against the murderer – the man is beyond good and
Anna’s death shook the whole world but not the people who use the
tragedy as a chance to appear once again on TV and show they are “in”.
They do not mean to demonstrate their political stances – they have
none. All they say is:
“Yes, it’s a pity, though I personally did not share her views, I
always wanted to tell her that her writing harmed the country. But I was
not her enemy, her enemies were in Chechnya, in the fishing mafia, in the
government, in the military, in the terrorists’ gangs. With so many
enemies, how did she manage to survive so long?”
That is a good question. Anna lived on the razor’s edge. She never made
do with streaks of information leaking from the corridors of power. She
based her sensational reports on her own investigations. A brave
journalist, she fully realized the danger, unlike certain
reporters-cum-parliament-members who bark at people they are set on in
those corridors of power.
Politkovskaya relied on her own conscience and convictions to judge who
was a scoundrel and who the righteous. She might have been wrong at times,
but with the scarcity of the righteous nowadays, her mistakes were not
Anna knew the dangers of her position, and lived in fear, as every normal
person would in her circumstances, yet her civic courage overcame it. And
don’t believe those who explain her courage with the money she allegedly
received for her involvement in human rights activities. Let’s leave it
to those who in their rancor see nothing but mercenary motivations. But
then, an honest professional of the writing guild has a quality that
outweighs all fears.
Sick and hunted-down, the poet Osip Mandelstam lived in the Soviet Union
of the 1930s, where the song, “I don’t know another country to breathe
so freely as mine,” was officially supposed to epitomize the public
mind. Yet he wrote a brave invective against Stalin, starting: “Our
country’s soil is slipping from our feet.” Was it sheer desire to
smear his country? Nothing of the kind! It was a conviction born of a
penetrating mind that could not keep it inside. Wrathful words thunder far
and wide as the people of genuine talent – those termed “the
nation’s conscience” – acquire the valor given by the truth they
know, the valor that made Galileo exclaim to the Inquisition: “And yet
The murder of Anna Politkovskaya blatantly challenged Russian authorities.
In Anna’s position, I would have been certain those authorities would
never put me under legal persecution. Although a vulnerable creature of
flesh and blood, as a political writer belonging to the most radical
opposition I would have relied on my country’s rulers to protect me. The
powers-that-be need such writers, and are pragmatically aware of their
benefit. Anna was for a long time the leader of the part of civil society
that fiercely and scathingly criticizes the regime. Russia is presently
referred to as “sovereign democratic state” – but democratic,
nevertheless. It largely owes that reputation to Anna. The rulers might
have turned a deaf ear to her fiery accusations, yet they knew full well
those accusations had been made.
Today’s Russia has a constellation of brilliant women political
journalists. Everyone in the media, and all politically minded people –
all whose intellectual interests go beyond inane TV shows – can mention
a dozen names that make the glory of the Russian press. It is the duty we
all share not to allow those women fall victim to someone’s violent
ambitions and dirty avarice.
Russian intellectuals have a formidable job ahead restoring their
nation’s links with the Caucasus. Anna was the first to attempt building
a bridge between Russia and Chechnya, and that bridge will be an essential
part of the road to travel on the noble cause.
Anna Politkovskaya was the conscience of a nation intoxicated with
chauvinism. I firmly believe a street will be named after her some day in
Grozny, the Chechen capital, and Chechens will come to bow to her grave.