Synopses & Reviews
Anna Politkovskaya, one of Russia's most fearless journalists, was gunned down in a contract killing in Moscow in the fall of 2006. Just before her death, Politkovskaya completed this searing, intimate record of life in Russia from the parliamentary elections of December 2003 to the grim summer of 2005, when the nation was still reeling from the horrors of the Beslan school siege. In A Russian Diary, Politkovskaya dares to tell the truth about the devastation of Russia under Vladimir Putin a truth all the more urgent since her tragic death.
Writing with unflinching clarity, Politkovskaya depicts a society strangled by cynicism and corruption. As the Russian elections draw near, Politkovskaya describes how Putin neutralizes or jails his opponents, muzzles the press, shamelessly lies to the public and then secures a sham landslide that plunges the populace into mass depression. In Moscow, oligarchs blow thousands of rubles on nights of partying while Russian soldiers freeze to death. Terrorist attacks become almost commonplace events. Basic freedoms dwindle daily.
And then, in September 2004, armed terrorists take more than twelve hundred hostages in the Beslan school, and a different kind of madness descends.
In prose incandescent with outrage, Politkovskaya captures both the horror and the absurdity of life in Putin's Russia: She fearlessly interviews a deranged Chechen warlord in his fortified lair. She records the numb grief of a mother who lost a child in the Beslan siege and yet clings to the delusion that her son will return home someday. The staggering ostentation of the new rich, the glimmer of hope that comes with the organization of the Party of Soldiers' Mothers, the mounting police brutality, the fathomless public apathy all are woven into Politkovskaya's devastating portrait of Russia today.
"If anybody thinks they can take comfort from the 'optimistic' forecast, let them do so," Politkovskaya writes. "It is certainly the easier way, but it is also a death sentence for our grandchildren."
A Russian Diary is testament to Politkovskaya's ferocious refusal to take the easier way and the terrible price she paid for it. It is a brilliant, uncompromising exposé of a deteriorating society by one of the world's bravest writers.
"One cannot read these journals without the awful knowledge that their author, Politkovskaya (1958-2006), paid for them with her life, shot in the head in front of her Moscow apartment on October 7 (President Vladimir Putin's birthday). Internationally known as one of the few Russian journalists fearless enough to report Russian news independent of Kremlin spin, she was a relentless and vociferous critic of Putin, reporting on his abuses in the Chechen war and his attempts to retract Russia's fledgling democratic freedoms. Covering December, 2003 to August, 2005, Politkovskaya records with dismal and sardonic exactitude the encroaching power of the State, dismantling private businesses, shuttering media outlets and squeezing more money out of its citizens, practically plunging the country into Communist-era conditions. Both the farcical policies and individual crimes of the government are documented and scrutinized: instituting life sentences for suicide bombers, as well as the attempted cover up of an 18-year-old Private beat to death by his superiors. Rounding out the bleak scene are opposition parties that prove fractious, disorganized, craven and predictably willing to sacrifice principle for power. Politkovskaya suffers nobly-and eloquently-in this semi-daily account, yet one must wonder how similarly she would have suffered amidst the capitalist excesses of the West. A rare and intelligent memoir-if an entirely depressing one-this will give readers a detailed look into Russia's everyday march towards totalitarianism." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[Politkovskaya's] insightful black humor will come as a relief to readers of the weighty tomes that have charted the Putin years." New York Times
"[A] chilling reminder of the importance of the freedoms Westerners sometimes take for granted, and of the extraordinary bravery of people who openly defy tyrants." Providence Journal
"[A]t once personal and yet disarmingly detached as it details the day-to-day atrocities that persist in the New Russia." Rocky Mountain News
"Anna Politkovskaya defined the human conscience. Her relentless pursuit of the truth in the face of danger and darkness testifies to her distinguished place in journalismand humanity. This book deserves to be widely read." Christiane Amanpour, chief international correspondent, CNN
"Like all great investigative reporters, Anna Politkovskaya brought forward human truths that rewrote the official story. We will continue to read her, and learn from her, for years." Salman Rushdie
"Suppression of freedom of speech, of expression, reaches its savage ultimate in the murder of a writer. Anna Politkovskaya refused to lie, in her work; her murder is a ghastly act, and an attack on world literature." Nadine Gordimer
About the Author
Anna Politkovskaya was a special correspondent for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and the recipient of many honours for her writing.