What You Need To Know About Russia

(AP Photo)
We are a little bit late to this, but I wanted to direct you to the New Yorker's fantastic piece on Anna Politkovskaya and the new Russia, which has seen 13 journalists murdered since Vladimir Putin took office in 1999. "Nearly all the deaths took place in strange circumstances," writes Michael Specter, and perhaps none was more tragic than that of Politkovskaya, whose story here gets the full treatment it deserves. Here's a bit:
In the West, Politkovskaya's honesty brought her a measure of fame and a string of awards, bestowed at ceremonies in hotel ballrooms from New York to Stockholm. At home, she had none of that. Her excoriations of Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, insured isolation, harassment, and, many predicted, death. "I am a pariah,'' she wrote in an essay last year. "That is the result of my journalism through the years of the Second Chechen War, and of publishing books abroad about life in Russia.'' Despite the fact that Politkovskaya was articulate, attractive, and accomplished, she was barred from appearing on television, which is the only way the vast majority of Russians get news. To the degree that a living woman could be airbrushed out of post-Soviet history, she had been.
Politkovskaya's death was tragic but not unexpected: She faced constant threats, and a woman who looked similar to Politkovskaya had been shot dead outside Politkovskaya's apartment. Specter's story, which also gets into the mysterious circumstances around the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, the Russian state's use of its energy resources for political purposes, and the disastrous consequences of Russian journalists' decision to abandon their ethics to save their country, is a spectacular piece of journalism. I can't recommend it highly enough.

And in case that's not enough for you, check out Beth Knobel's dispatch on being a foreign correspondent in Russia – she notes Putin's gradual freezing out of all but a small group of reporters and the fact that "[a]ll of Russia's national television channels now take their orders from the Kremlin." And here's Knobel's piece on the murder of Politkovskaya.