Politkovskaya Day: Scott Simon

In honor of Anna Politkovskaya, who was brutally murdered one year ago today, we are posting the following excerpt of Scott Simon’s foreword from her posthumous collection of writings, “A Russian Diary: A Journalist’s Account of Life, Corruption, and Death in Putin’s Russia.

Foreword By Scott Simon Anna Politkovskaya could have left Russia – remember that as you read these journals. She was born in 1958 in New York, where her Ukrainian parents were Soviet diplomats at the United Nations. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow considered her a citizen. She was entitled to an American passport. With all of the resourcefulness that Anna Politkovskaya had relied on to survive in Chechnya and Ingushetia, she might have pulled s scarf over short, soft gray hair, doffed the simple oval glasses by which she was so easily identified, left her apartment building by a back door, met a friend to guide her, and gone to the U.S. embassy. Or visited her sister, Elena Kudimova, in London (Russian officials were glad to see her go, knowing that next to nothing she said or wrote outside of Russia would ever be heard or read there), and just stayed. She could have flown to Berlin or New York to accept one more award for heroism. She could have gone to a conference on the Caucasus in Paris or Vienna, told stirring stories of her indisputable courage to astounded students at Columbia, Stanford, or Iowa State, signed up with a think tank in Washington or Cambridge, and never have to go back to Moscow. Anna Politkovskaya could have lived in Manhattan, Palo Alto, or Santa Monica, with a car service waiting downstairs to whisk her away to expound on Russia’s corruptions and treacheries from the safe confines of a television studio or college campus. She would have risked leaving her other, who was battling cancer, and twenty-six-year-old daughter and first grandchild. But she would be alive – surely what they would have preferred. Family and friends had urged her to leave Russian soldiers, police, oligarchs, criminal gangs and the highest-ranking Russian politicians had explicitly threatened her life. When she grew violently ill after sipping a cup of tea on a flight into Beslan to negotiate during the school hostage crisis in 2004, she saw it was an attempt to silence her there and then. Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB man who became a critic of Vladimir Putin, told her to leave Russia. But Anna told David Hearst of Britain’s Guardian newspaper in 2002, “The more I think about it, the more I would be betraying these people if I walked away. The only thing to do is to take this to the bitter end, so that no one can say that when things became difficult, I ran away.” Those words would sound sanctimonious from almost anyone else.