A DIRTY WAR: A Russian Reporter In Chechnya
A special correspondent for the Russian newspaper Novaya gazeta, Politkovskaya received the 2000 Golden Pen Award by the Russian Union of Journalists for her coverage of the Russian military campaign in Chechnya. She braved arrest and interrogation by the Russian military this past February, sparking international protests, and this October she was forced to flee Russia after receiving credible death threats from the Russian military; she remains in exile. All of which places importance and credibility on her savage indictment of the current situation in the Muslim province of the former U.S.S.R., Chechnya. The present book, clearly translated by John Crowfoot (who also did The KGB's Literary Archives, among other titles), collects articles she wrote about the Second Chechen War (begun after the conflict had supposedly ended during the Yeltsin regime) from 1999 to 2001. Her on-sceners recount atrocities on both sides evenhandedly, and are passionately pro human rights, even when interviewing sordidly cynical Russian generals more preoccupied with the size of their apartments than the death and suffering brought upon the Chechen rebels. She reports that monumental corruption diverted humanitarian relief from the starving locals to greedy businessmen and the Russian military. Mothers of dead soldiers are reportedly bilked for cash by military representatives when seeking information on the locations of their sons' bodies. The many black-and-white photos of dead Chechens will surely disturb readers. Meanwhile, the usual killing goes on, at an estimated 15 to 20 deaths a day, according to the Chechen side. (Nov. 12)
Forecast:Russia has recently begun recasting the Chechen conflict as part of the "war on terrorism," particularly given speculation of Chechen ties to al Qaeda and the bombings of a shopping mall and several apartment buildings in Russia. Politkovskaya's indictments may take on a different cast in that light, but the book's close reporting of the war's effects on everyday people are directly analogous to Afghanistan. Readers looking for accounts of war's impact on soldiers and civilians alike will find this book deeply disturbing; Politkovskaya will be able to further contextualize during a six-city tour this month.
Release date: 11/01/2004