Politkovskaya Day: Grigory Pasko on Anna Politkovskaya

A Word about Anna Grigory Pasko, journalist In Italy, they’ve put up a memorial plaque in honor of Anna. In Russia, there are no plaques and I doubt there will be any under today’s power: we all remember with what unconcealed irritation Putin had spoken about her. But for us journalists, there already is a monument to our colleague – it is in our hearts.


(Photo: AP)

For a year now I have not said or written anything about Anna. For a variety of reasons. One of them is that she and I knew each other well. We used to run into one another at conferences in Moscow, and at «Novaya gazeta», where I worked as an observer for a year. But most often, we would meet far beyond the borders of Russia at various book festivals. We’d sit in airport waiting rooms together, we’d fly on the same flights… Once, at my request, she told me about how on one of the Moscow streets unknown persons in large SUVs had tried to box in her little Lada from two sides. They didn’t know that it wasn’t Anna behind the wheel, but her daughter. Nothing happened to Anna that time, but her daughter had been horribly frightened by the whole experience. Then there were the threats by her house, the poisoning on the airplane she was taking to Beslan, and finally… the murder. The seventh of October will never again be Putin’s birthday – it will be the day Anna died. The finality of her death marks an end for Putin, too. The end of his relations with journalists and the mass media. The end of freedom of speech. And of democracy as a whole. I have had the privilege of hearing Anna speak before a foreign audience on numerous occasions. And what a speaker she was! I recall a book festival in Edinburgh, and the hundreds of people crammed into a tiny room to hear her speak. She spoke about her new book, about Russia and Chechnya, about Putin’s policies and about him personally… She spoke courageously, openly, vividly, and convincingly. She was “well-armed” with the facts. I sat and listened to her. Just about everything Anna was speaking about was already known to me. But I listened with the same rapt attention as everybody else in the room. And afterwards I told her: “Anya, how well you spoke!”. She smiled: “No, how well you all listened!” It was obvious that Anna did not like Putin. And when Putin spoke about Anna, it was obvious that the feeling was mutual. (Indeed, I get the impression that the president of Russia doesn’t like smart and beautiful women in general.) I am convinced that under today’s power, Anna’s murder will not be solved precisely because the power is not very interested in this happening. Well, maybe they’ll name – and even convict – those whom they will have designated the actual triggermen. That’s for the West, so it would stop pestering Russia once and for all about all this. As far as the Putinite power is concerned, it has already named the principal culprit who supposedly ordered the killing: as could only have been expected, Berezovsky became him. (One gets the impression that in the reams of indictments that are no doubt already prepared against this person, it is already written that he had a hand in the crucifixion of Christ…) I have noticed that after Anna’s murder, many journalists seem to have become more cautious about what they write. I’m not talking about the pro-state journalists from the mass media that serve the power: these were “lower than the grass, quieter than the water” before, too. But after Anna’s murder, the message came loud and clear that from now on, there is no need to throw journalists in jail – they can simply be killed. As comrade Stalin used to say – “no person – no problem”. Our challenge is to do everything to keep Anna alive: in our memory, and in our work. We have to continue what she started, and do it with the same irreproachable honesty that she always brought to whatever she did. May you never be forgotten, Anna!