Heidi Hoogerbeets, a graduate student at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute, traveled to Moscow last week to participate in memorial events for the courageous Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Heidi’s vivid dispatch from Moscow is a reminder that Politkovskaya’s work and human rights advocacy remains alive in Russian journalistic and political life.
Anna Politkovskaya’s Memory Cannot Be Extinguished
MOSCOW, Russia, October 7, 2007 — One year ago today, Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead in a contract-style killing near the elevator of her Moscow apartment. Today, Muscovites had the opportunity to pay homage to this dynamic Russian journalist, who felt a moral duty to illuminate the truth behind the Russian government’s agenda in the Chechen war.
Though Politkovskaya’s death had profound international resonance, there has been relatively little reaction inside Putin’s Russia. Nonetheless, a handful of Russian citizens continue to campaign against impunity and to fight the crackdown on press freedom that has plagued Russia. Their determination echoed throughout the day’s events commemorating the first anniversary of her death.
Approximately 2,000 people gathered under a gray sky at Pushkin Square for a dissident rally in Politkovskaya’s honor. An excessive amount of Police lined the square. The rally was peaceful, and no problems were reported.
Apart from those who attended the rally, was a smaller crowd of Muscovites who preferred to separate Politkovskaya’s death from Kremlin politics. Human rights activists and the journalist’s family ardently expressed that speeches could present a platform to politicians who would exploit the opportunity to advance their own agendas.
Through the collective effort of local human rights activists and journalists, an outdoor photo exhibition in Politkovskaya’s memory was held between 11am and 5pm on Bolotnaya Square. The exhibition featured works by outstanding photographers from England and Russia, who captured images of Beslan and Chechnya, places that were close to Politkovskaya’s heart.
The personalities depicted in the exhibition are the heroic citizens of the North Caucasus who experienced the tragedy of war. The photographers captured children’s faces revealing childhoods lost, their eyes showing a maturity beyond their years, and families devastated by war. Additionally, Novaya Gazeta and Amnesty International contributed pictures of Politkovskaya.
The organizing committee included representatives from the human rights center “Memorial,” the “Civil Assistance Committee,” “Glasnost Defense Foundation,” “DEMOS” Center, “Coalition for Democratic Alternative Civil Service” (an anti-war organization), and Novaya Gazeta, where Politkovskaya worked.