The latest victim of “modern Russia”

Hey, guys. Me again! Not much news from other parts of the world here, so when I saw this I knew it had to be put up for discussion. Raj

Chechen war reporter found dead

Anna Politkovskaya, a prominent Russian journalist known as a fierce critic of the Kremlin’s actions in Chechnya, has been found dead in Moscow. The 48-year-old mother of two was found shot dead in a lift at her apartment block in the capital. A pistol and four bullets were found near her body, the Interfax news agency said, quoting unnamed police sources. She fell seriously ill with food poisoning in 2004 which some believed to be an attempt on her life. The award-winning journalist fell sick while on her way to report on the Beslan school siege. A murder investigation is now underway.

Call me cynical, but I have a feeling that her killers won’t be found (or some random thugs will be fingered). Although I doubt her death was “ordered” as part of a government conspiracy, it seems to me that the ever-increasing authoritarianism in Russia is leading to people like this being murdered just because they challenge the State. This cannot go on, because unchecked it will just lead eventually to another Police-state – just a capitalist rather than Communist one.

The Discussion: 28 Comments

She was almost unnoticed in today’s Russian media. So it’s not a matter of challlenging the State.

October 8, 2006 @ 4:53 am | Comment

it will just lead eventually to another Police-state – just a capitalist rather than Communist one.

Perhaps it was this possibility, and similarity, that Bush mistook for a ‘soul’ when he looked Putin in the eye?

October 8, 2006 @ 6:51 am | Comment

Capitalist police state–so basically China?

October 8, 2006 @ 7:04 am | Comment

(Sigh), alright, I dunno if you (Raj), or anyone else in our community were hoping that I would be provoked to comment on this.

But in any case, here I go:

1. I’ve known about Anna Politkovskaya for some years, and in some ways I have a lot of respect for her courage.

2. Actually, Raj, I think you’re mistaken in assuming that her death was not ordered by the Russian government. I think it probably WAS ordered by the some high-up powers very close to the Kremlin.

3. And yet, this still has very little to do with Russia’s future political development. Because it is nothing new at all.

4. What IS new in Russia, is the fact that this kind of news gets out at all. If Russia were still a Communist dictatorship, no one would have heard any kind of story like this – because in Communist times, journalists like Politkovskaya would have been sent to prison or killed long before they ever even BEGAN to tell any stories which offended the government. Back when Russia was still a Communist dictatorship, Politkovskaya never would have even BEGUN to say or write anything which offended the government.

5. Now, let me say one more politically incorrect thing: Even though I do not agree with the Kremlin’s (and their intelligence agencies) methods of murdering journalists like Politkovskaya, still, I want to say one thing in their partial defense: She really was a sympathiser with the Chechen terrorists, a sympathiser with the enemies of Russia. And a lot of her work was truly hostile to the rightful security interests of Russia.

Now let me clarify that, by saying (and I have no way to prove this, but let me just say it): Many so-called “Human Rights” activists in Russia, don’t really give a shit about Human Rights or about anything other than themselves and their own personal ambitions.

I know this from personal experience. Many so-called “Human Rights” advocates in Russia (and the former USSR) are just venal, vain opportunists who made carreers out of conning Westerners into thinking that they are idealists.

I know this from personal, bitter experience.

And so, on the one hand, yes I DO disagree with the methods that the KGB (now called FSB) used, in killing this woman without a trial. And yes I am almost 100 percent sure that her murder was ordered by the Kremlin.

But on the other hand, I also understand why the Kremlin is so ruthless toward so-called “Human Rights” activists who really don’t give a damn about anything other than their own ambitions. I have met and dealt with such people in person, and I hate them ALL THE MORE because THEY have done so much to discredit the cause of liberalisation in Russia. They, and the stupid FUCKING AMERICAN PLUTOCRATS who have supported them in such cynical ways.

In sum:

1. I am sorry that she was murdered, and yes I say it was a crime.

2. I believe it was ordered by the Kremlin.

3. But I do understand why the Kremlin is so paranoid and so ruthless toward so many so-called “Human Rights” activists, including the likes of this lady, who – dare I suggest – might not have been quite as “idealistic” as you might think.

October 8, 2006 @ 11:23 am | Comment

Wow Ivan, hypocrytical much?

October 8, 2006 @ 11:29 am | Comment

Dana,

Since I’m not Russian, and in fact I grew up in America during the Cold War and was indoctrinated to think of Russia as “the Enemy”, tell me, how the fuck is anything in my above comment “hypocritical?”

What, WHAT is the inconsistency with what I say in my above comment about Russia, and anything else I have ever said I believed in, in all my life?

I believe in the Rule of Law. Thus, in my above comment, I said it was a crime for the Kremlin to order this woman’s murder.

So, tell me, “Dana”, WHERE do you find any hypocrisy in my above comment, in which I said I believed the Kremlin committed a crime in ordering this woman’s murder?

If you’re implying any kind of contrast with my attitude to Communist China, then let me repeat:
The difference between today’s Russia, versus Communist China, is the fact that this woman ever had ANY freedom to criticise the government and to live for as long as she did.

Russia’s government sucks. (So does America’s, about equally at this point.) China’s Communist Party is even far worse, because stories like this one don’t even BEGIN to be told in China as much as they do in Russia.

And, although “Igor” said that she was “ALMOST unnoticed in Russia’s media” (and I do believe what he said), the key word is “Almost.” In contrast to Communist China, where she never even would have had the chance to BEGIN reporting like she did in Russia.

Russia’s government sucks, because it’s still crawling out of 70 years of Communism. China’s government sucks even worse, because it’s still
Communist. Russia’s new democracy still has limited civil liberites, and it has very little rule of law; while China’s Communist dictatorship has even less civil liberty than Russia, and it has NO rule of law.

So, Dana, tell me, where is my hypocrisy?

Oh and if you assume that I’m Russian, let me repeat what I said above: I’m American, and I grew up during the Cold War when I was taught to think of Russia as the ultimate enemy.

So, Dana, tell me, WHERE is my hypocrisy in my above comment?

October 8, 2006 @ 11:54 am | Comment

I’m only going to address one point here, and that’s that we DO hear about similar cases in China these days – and it’s very different than it used to be. Now you have activists’ relatives speaking to media on their behalf, internet campaigns for their release, etc.. which does not make the arrests and detentions any more defensible.

I’m not going to make any judgments on whose got the biggest tyranny here, but I thought I’d point that out.

October 8, 2006 @ 12:29 pm | Comment

Lisa, for the most part I agree with your above comment.

As I said, Russia’s government sucks, and China’s is
even worse.

Yes I agree that there are SOME interstitial zones of marginal progress in China. Thank God.

But I maintain, that Russia’s development of civil liberty will remain far ahead of China’s, unless and until China ends the Communist dictatorship like Russia had the good sense to do.

Russia’s government sucks, because Russia has been recovering from Communism for the past 15 years. China’s government sucks even worse, because China’s government is still a Communist dictatorship.

At any rate, Lisa, good point and I agree 95 percent with what you said.

October 8, 2006 @ 2:55 pm | Comment

Likewise, Ivan. I don’t know if I’m as optimistic as you are about Russia, but then, I don’t know a fraction as much as you do about Russia. Neither country seems to have had much luck with governments in recent history, that’s for sure. I hope that Russia isn’t substituting one autocracy for another. Frankly, I can see China doing the same kind of thing. When you consider how fragmented the CCP’s authority is in many ways, I don’t even know if I’d call it a “dictatorship” these days. It’s an authoritarian system where power is often arbitrary and rules change depending on who has the power to enforce them.

I just watched a Chinese film called UNKNOWN PLEASURES by Jia Zhangke. He’s all about portraying China in transition, and his view is, well, pretty bleak. But one of the things that impresses me about China and that gives me hope is the quality and clear-headedness of the top-rank artists there. Their work is extremely critical without being polemical. It presents what is, and asks us to form our own conclusions. Granted, these films aren’t being seen by the masses in all probability, but they are being seen.

You gotta have hope, because without it, where does that leave you?

October 8, 2006 @ 3:20 pm | Comment

Ivan

This is an honest question. Despite the self centreness of all these so call human rights activist, how can you understand the taking of a human life? We are all hypocritical to some extend … so the Russian( I am not saying that they are the ones..) or any one is understandable to rid of rid of us..

October 8, 2006 @ 4:19 pm | Comment

I’ve read some of Politkovskaya’s stuff before, and while I’m not terribly familiar with Russia’s domestic politics, the impression I got was that she can be given to hyperbole (i.e. that Putin is a Stalinist, that Russia’s democracy is no democracy, etc.) Anyway, to conclude from her murder that Russia is as authoritarian as China (or a “police state”) is hugely unwarranted.

That said, I’m going to echo Dana’s accusation, if not of hypocrisy, then at least of less moral clarity and critical vigor than you apply to China’s human rights abuses, Ivan. You condemn her murder, yes, but then you qualify that with:

[quote]Now, let me say one more politically incorrect thing: Even though I do not agree with the Kremlin’s (and their intelligence agencies) methods of murdering journalists like Politkovskaya, still, I want to say one thing in their partial defense: She really was a sympathiser with the Chechen terrorists, a sympathiser with the enemies of Russia. And a lot of her work was truly hostile to the rightful security interests of Russia.[/quote]

And this:

[quote]I know this from personal experience. Many so-called “Human Rights” advocates in Russia (and the former USSR) are just venal, vain opportunists who made carreers out of conning Westerners into thinking that they are idealists. [/quote]

You could be right on both accounts. I don’t know enough about her nor about Russian human rights activists in general. But I do know that your comments echo some of the rhetoric I’ve heard used in smear campaigns by mainlanders against Tibetan/Mongolia/Uighur independence activists and high-profile Chinese dissidents like Bei Dao and Yu Jie – that they are in cahoots with the terrorists, or that they’re threats to national security, or that they’re just opportunistic, attention-craving divas pandering to the West, etc etc.

Understand I’m not looking to pick a fight with you, and that I’m trying to keep the peace. But those two comments struck a false note with me, and while I disagree you on many fronts, I do admire your moral clarity and your passionate, critical stance on China and its government (not least of which because, I admit, I often fall short of such clarity myself) so I wish you’d explain your comments.

October 8, 2006 @ 5:06 pm | Comment

In my understanding, “hypocrisy” is the pretension to qualities which one does not possess, or the putting forward of a false appearance of virtue or religion. So for a charge of “hypocrisy” against Ivan to stick, Dana and Nausicaa, you have to demonstrate that you know for a fact something about Ivanโ€™s life experience, belief, feelings, moral and virtual. I very much doubt if any of you will even have a clue. On this base, I therefore donโ€™t really think that there is a case for Ivan to answer.

October 8, 2006 @ 5:34 pm | Comment

By the way, Nausicaa, don’t you think that you are being very dishonest when you attempt to compare Ivan’s comments about Anna Politkovskaya’s murder with CCP’s campaign against Chinese dissidents and national minorities? Ivan expressed an opinion based on his experience, but he didn’t instigate violence against those so-called human rights activists in Russia. The CCP oppressed, detained, imprisoned and murdered those whom she sees as a threat to her governance. If you can’t see the difference between the two, then it really says a lot about your own “moral clarity”. Don’t you think?

October 8, 2006 @ 5:49 pm | Comment

Fat Cat, I’m not comparing his comments with the CCP’s crackdown on dissidents, but with comments I often see mainland netizens make against those dissidents. And no, I don’t know anything about Ivan and his experiences, so I can only base my opinion on his posts.

October 8, 2006 @ 6:03 pm | Comment

1. Ditto what Fat Cat said in my defense, thank you, Fat Cat for saying it so eloquently.

2. However, Nausicaa – whom I do respect highly (because, as she knows, I think of her as a twin of the Divine Rita Moreno :-)….ANYway, yes Nausicaa I do respect you highly and your comment deserves an answer. Here it is:

FIRST, let me reiterate what I said above, that
a. I do believe that this journalist was murdered, and I also said,
b. Actually I DO think it was probably ordered by the KGB/FSB, I believe it was done by Russia’s secret police, under orders from the Kremlin, and
c. I said very clearly, that I call it a crime.

Now, let’s pause for a moment.

I said that I consider this murder to be a crime. So, where is there any lack of moral clarity in what I said there?

OK? Now let’s go on:

Nausicaa, you said (with some good reasons) that my remarks resembled (ah, that’s the key word, “resembled”, but HOW and WHY?) some smears against the PRC’s perceived enemies.

OK, but does that mean any kind of lack of moral clarity? AND, does it mean that my criticism of Politkovskaya is IDENTICAL to the PRC’s criticisms of their perceived enemies? No. Nausicaa, you’re too smart to think so. But I don’t blame you for asking for clarifcation.

And here’s another question for you: WHY should anyone assume, why should anyone posit any direct equivalence between what Russia’s government does and what China’s does? Why? Why should we compare what Russia does to China? Why not compare Russia’s government’s crimes to OTHER countries? I mean, very simply, most countries are not China.
So, why should China’s behaviour be held up as a standard against which to measure Russia’s?
This thread was about Russia, NOT about China.

I’m just pointing that out, for clarity. This
thread is not about China. It’s about Russia. Thus, China’s HORRIBLE lack of any rule of law, has no direct relation to Russia’s very feeble rule of law. They are separate issues.

OK? Now let’s go on:

As for the suggestion that I lack my typical level of “moral clarity” regarding this murder in Russia, please look again at what I said. I called it Murder. I made no excuses for it.

All I said, was that perhaps this woman,this murdered victim, was not any kind of real “idealist.” And I mentioned that I do understand why the Kremlin is so hostile to so many so-called “Human Rights activists” who really don’t give a damn about anything other than their own personal power and prestige.

Does that mean that I agree with this murder that was (probably) ordered by the Kremlin? No. That’s not what I said. I only said that I understand why the Kremlin is so hostile to so many so-called “Human Rights” activists who are not real idealists, they’re just opportunists.

Does that mean that I agree with the Kremlin murdering them? No. All I indicated was that I do understand why the Kremlin hates them and considers them to be enemies of Russia.

And again, please let’s be clear, that what Russia does has NOTHING to do with what China does. They are entirely separate issues. Russia’s government is horrible in its own way, and China’s government is horrible in its different
way. Both of them are horrible (and so is the US government today), but they are different governments with different problems.

That said, I still stand by what I say, whenever I say that Russia’s government, today, is LESS horrible than China’s, because Russia is now growing out of it’s Communist past, but China is still stuck in a Communist dictatorship. Russia’s government suck, and China’s sucks even worse.

Oh and while I’m at it, let me tell you one more thing. I will not tell any details on the internet, but I will tell you that I came very close to, well, to being seriously harmed by Putin’s government.

I am not Russian, and I am not a great lover of Putin’s government. Putin’s government almost killed me.

And that is all the more reason why I have credibility when I say that I do understand the fears and the paranoia of Putin’s government. I do not agree with it. It almost killed me, literally. But I do understand where they’re coming from.

Anyway, Nausicaa, it’s always a treat to engage with your brilliant mind. And of course I’ll always think of you as Rita Moreno and of me as the Muppet “Animal”. WO-MAN! WO-MAN! MY KINDA WOMAN! ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

October 8, 2006 @ 6:07 pm | Comment

So you reckon mainland netizens’ comments are genuine public opinion rather than CCP propaganda? Or are you now accusing Ivan of spreading propaganda for the Russian government? Just curious.

October 8, 2006 @ 6:12 pm | Comment

Sorry, my posting crossed with Ivan’s. The question is addressed to nausicaa.

October 8, 2006 @ 6:20 pm | Comment

But, Fat Cat asked a very good question.

As I said in my above comment, I just barely escaped being MURDERED by Putin’s government.

And thus, Fat Cat asked a good question. Does anyone here think that I’m a propagandist for Putin’s government? If so, then let me say once again, that Putin’s government tried to murder me.

I say, Putin’s government is still corrupted by the long legacy of Communism, and it is even MORE corrupted by a thousand years of Russian history. Russia, today, is not a real democracy, and it will not be one for a long time.

And yet, Russia is a LOT farther on the road to democracy and civil liberty than China is. Because at least, Russia threw the Communist Party into the shit where it belongs, but China is still 100 percent controlled by the shit of the Communist Party and all of its barbarian superstitions.

October 8, 2006 @ 7:14 pm | Comment

To Fat Cat – I was not accusing Ivan of being a propagandist. But his comments did raise question marks with me, and I was not just going to let it go.

And Ivan, thank you for your answer. You’re right. I gave you less credit than you deserved. And not being familiar with the situation in Russia nor with the activist in question, I cannot argue with your criticisms of her and human rights activists like her with any authority. But I admit I was surprised, frankly, to read those comments from *you*, because as I said, they were at odds with the general tone of your posts.

Now let *me* clarify. I did not say nor am I insinuating that you are tacitly condoning the KGB’s (supposed) murder of Politkovskaya. But I did find your view of her to be cynical, and as I said, reminiscent of common mainland views on dissidents which are all too frequently negative and distorted. But, because I respect you, I will give you the benefit of the doubt and believe you when you say you know what you are talking about on this subject. (Furthermore, if it’s true what you’ve said about being nearly murdered by Putin’s government, I will apologize for any (inadvertent) insult my response may have caused you.)

As for using the actions of the CCP as some kind of barometer with which to measure the actions of the Kremlin – yes, there isn’t any true equivalency. But, since China is the country under scrutiny here at TPD…well, I’m afraid we’re all prone to such comparisons at some point. I think all of us agree, though, that any such comparison will usually be favourable towards Russia.

And that’s all I’ll say on this subject. Now go and be nice in the dumplings thread, and wax lyrical about pelmenis. ๐Ÿ˜‰

October 8, 2006 @ 7:33 pm | Comment

Nevermind. You just told the old potato joke.

October 8, 2006 @ 7:41 pm | Comment

Nausicaa,

Thanks for that, although I do want to emphasise that yes I was almost killed, so thank you for not taking it lightly. And please never do. Escaping from murder is a very sensitive issue with me, so, I will trust you always to treat that trauma that I went through, very delicately. Everyone is welcome to bash me and fight with me, but please remember that my trauma of barely escaping murder is a “no-go” zone.

That said, all I have to say to you, Nausicaa, is:

WO-MAN! WO-MAN! MY KINDA WOMAN!

๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ (insert insane, playful, friendly emoticons here….)

October 8, 2006 @ 8:22 pm | Comment

Even though I do not agree with the Kremlin’s (and their intelligence agencies) methods of murdering journalists like Politkovskaya, still, I want to say one thing in their partial defense: She really was a sympathiser with the Chechen terrorists, a sympathiser with the enemies of Russia. And a lot of her work was truly hostile to the rightful security interests of Russia.

Politkovskaya sympathised with the plight of the Chechen people, but I have not seen or read anything to suggest that she was a sympathiser or apologist for Chechen terrorists. In her book Putin’s Russia, which is about the impact of crime and corruption on ordinary Russians, she writes movingly about an impoverished nuclear submarine captain in Kamchatka. She clearly admires his sense of loyalty and duty to Russia, which she writes is being exploited by the government:

On the table in his kitchen he has placed what our Motherland pays in return for irreproachably loyal service. Dikiy has just brought a captain’s monthly rations home from the submarine in one of the fleet’s bed sheets. The rations consist of two packets of shelled peas, tow kilograms of buckwheat and rice in paper bags, two tins of the very cheapest tinned peas, two tins of Pacific herring and a bottle of vegetable oil.

October 8, 2006 @ 10:48 pm | Comment

I’m not going to go back and read all these posts carefully so if I mistate/misread, feel free to slap me for being lazy.

But I would say that there is some equivalence in rhetoric and also that there is some equivalence in the genuine fears of the rulers that such statements reflects. Keep in mind that a lot of China’s current rulers are greatly influenced by the chaos of the CR. To some extent at least, many of them justify crackdowns on dissidents because they fear a repeat of that kind of chaos and horrific violence.

To my mind this is an increasingly hollow rationalization, but on the other hand, given the strains and inequalities in modern Chinese society (87,000 demonstrations, anyone?), I’m not willing to entirely discount it.

I also don’t think that what the current regime is doing is either right or the best way to achieve a “harmonious society,” but that’s another discussion.

October 9, 2006 @ 3:06 am | Comment

The dissolution of the Soviet Union is the biggest tragedy of the 21st century. This is not said by me, it is by Russia’s own President Putin. Since the dissolution of the USSR, Russia’s land size, economy, international influence, military, people’s living standards have all declined greatly. Many people in Russia today are calling for the old days of the USSR, and 90% of Russians today surveyed said that Gorbachov was the biggest traitor to their nation. I respect the Russian people very much and I always love Russian culture. But today’s Russia’s state makes me very sad. It is a broken Russia.

October 9, 2006 @ 9:20 am | Comment

Pigsun, we all know you’re the quintessential propogandist. There are now four key markets that all the companies in the world want to enter; they’re called the “BRIC’s” – Brazil, Russia, India and China. Russia would never be on that magic list had it not been for the opening of its markets to capitalism and showing it wasn’t caught in the past, as it was throughout the 20th century.

Everything you say pigsun, always, is a lie. I say that to very few people here. I won’t even say it to Math becuase I think (hope) he’s being more a clown than a polemicist. But you, pigsun, are malignant, picking up the standard CCP talking points about the tragedy of Russia, which every thinking person in the world knows is a myth, a lie. You know it, too, which is why I say you are malignant.

October 9, 2006 @ 2:15 pm | Comment

The UK Guardian today has an obituary of Politkovskaya.

If one word sums up the life and work of Anna Politkovskaya, Russia’s foremost investigative reporter assassinated at the age of 48, it is bravery.

October 9, 2006 @ 8:25 pm | Comment

Ivan

I empathise with your near death experience from the likes of the Russian oligarch. As a Chinese I abhor the injustices in China, they are reasonably well publicised for us to know all is not well. I do not know enough about Russia to comment but I was in Ukraine once about 3 years ago. I understand they are much worse off than Russian who at least has oil. Although I am not sure whether the oil wealth is trickle down to the general population. Richard, what pigsun says about feelings of some of the poor in Russia is reflected by what the Ukrainians are telling me. It’s population growth is negative ie decreasing because of net exodus from the country. Their workers from what I know were paid Soviet salaries without Soviet welfare protection etc etc. So the departure away from Communism to capitalism have not been well organised. I am well aware if it can ever be well orgianised but what I am aware that only very few( the oligarch and mafia elemnets amongst them ) are enjoying the fruits of capitalism. So while pigsun could be malignant but there are elements of truth in some of what he says. I would not be too quick to say the Chinese or the Russian system is better for the well being of its’ populations

October 10, 2006 @ 12:35 am | Comment

pigsun and David,

The Soviet Union would have become an unmanageable muslim majority basketcase of a nation within decades had it survived to this day. The Soviet Union, and the Russian Empire before it, was viable so long as it was dominated by a Russian majority. With the inevitable changing demographics, the political system had to either evolve to a truth definition of the word ‘union’, or the breakup would have been inevitable.

Ivan,

Is life in Russia under Putin’s autocrats preferable to life in China under the so-called Chinese Communist Party? I would think it would be a tough call for the average zhou or gyorgi on the street.

I am willing to concede to your position that Russia may be better. I base this on the fact that Russia has a lot of oil and natural resources to support its relatively small population and the fact that overall, it is an educated, industrialized society while China, despite all its economic growth, is still a nation of peasants.

However, any reference to the so-called ‘Communist’ nature of China’s government over of Russia’s is ludicrous. A lot of things could be used to describe the CCP’s rule: facist, authoritarian, nationalist…yes, but communist in the true sense of the word is not one of them. You constantly state that it is the communists leadership of China and not the nation itself or its culture that you are against.

Yet, I do recall you previously pontificating about the superiority of the Russian soul rooted in Orthodox Christianity over the cesspool of a godless traditional Chinese culture. So, which one is it? If all of your animosity is truly directed at the ‘Communist’ nature of the CPP’s rule over China, shouldn’t all this anger have been tempered by the ruthless laissez-faire capitalist nature of its actual policies?

October 10, 2006 @ 5:12 am | Comment

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