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Russia: American Writers Honor Politkovskaya's Memory

  • Nikola Krastev --> Flowers outside Politkovskaya's home in Moscow after her killing (epa) NEW YORK, December 7, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The horrors of the conflict in Chechnya are known in the West largely because of the work of Anna Politkovskaya, the Russian journalist slain outside her Moscow home on October 8.

Politkovskaya's work was widely translated into English, and she was a frequent speaker at U.S. universities. On December 6, her American friends and admirers gathered in New York, the city where Politkovskaya was born, to remember her work.

Katrina van den Heuvel is the editor and publisher of the liberal U.S. magazine "The Nation." She was also an acquaintance of Politkovskaya, the 43rd journalist to be killed in Russia since 1993.
"Anna felt the need to establish a connection to those who are suffering
regardless of their actions and circumstances. She wanted them to be
seen and heard."

"Her manner, often quiet, often shy, belied her brave and fearless work as a journalist enraged by the injustice and corruption," van den Heuvel recalled.

"She's best-known for her fearless, courageous reporting on the abuses and crimes of Chechnya. What's forgotten is that Anna Politkovskaya started out covering orphanages and the plight of the old," she continued. "And she was -- as a close Russian friend, the head of the Russian Union of Journalists [Igor Yakovenko] wrote me just hours after learning of her murder, 'a woman who protected victims and those who suffered.' She saved literally many people in Grozny, she wrote as her soul and feeling of justice showed her, and she had nothing in common with the so-called political interest."

'Surprised To Still Be Alive'

Musa Klebnikov, the widow of Paul Klebnikov, the American editor of the Russian edition of "Forbes" magazine who was gunned down in Moscow in 2004, also knew Politkovskaya. She said Politkovskaya was a woman who understood the perilous nature of her work but refused to give it up.

"When I met Anna last year, she was surprised by her own longevity," Klebnikov said. "She said, 'Given what I do, it is in fact a miracle that I am alive today." She knew the risk, but didn't stop. Anna felt the need to establish a connection to those who are suffering regardless of their actions and circumstances. She wanted them to be seen and heard. This was her great humanistic impulse."

Kati Marton is a member of the board of directors for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) , a nonprofit U.S. institution monitoring acts of violence against journalists around the world. She said Politkovskaya typified the extraordinary bravery of journalists who put their lives at risk on a near-daily basis.

"For us at CPJ, Anna's murder was a death in the family," Marton said. "I've had the privilege of knowing a handful of journalists who were fired by Anna's kind of courage, men and women who accept that every time they leave their homes, they face the prospect of assassination. They kiss their children good-bye in the morning knowing that they may not see them again in the evening."

Celebrated Abroad, Vilified At Home

David Remnick, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and editor of the "The New Yorker" magazine, noted that her celebrated reputation in the West was a distinct contrast from her reputation at home in Russia.

"It was one of the great ironies, not unexpected under the circumstances, that she would receive all her awards that I can think of in the West, particularly in the United States," he said. "So, she had this bifurcated life of coming to the Waldorf-Astoria, whatever hotel ballroom in New York, or Paris, or London, to receive accolades for her bravery, for her prose, and her passion. And then she would return home to be vilified by her government."
Remembering Anna Politkovskaya

Anna Politkovskaya at RFE/RL in July 2006 (RFE/RL)

A BRAVE VOICE SILENCED. Prominent Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya was killed on October 7 in her Moscow apartment building. An outspoken critic of the Kremlin, she was best-known for her reporting on the conflict in Chechnya. Former Soviet President Gorbachev called her slaying "a true political homicide, a vendetta."

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