Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

October 8, 2006

Putin's Shame: A Journalist's Murder and The Triumph of a KGB Thugocracy

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 10:20 am

Any time a courageous dissident journalist is murdered for trying to tell the truth all our freedoms die a little. Yesterday they died a lot. Nothing in a long time has struck me as viscerally as as the murder yesterday October 7 of Ana Politkovskaya, leading investigative critic of KGB thug Vladimir Putin.

I have a feeling that the entire history of the past 20 years, indeed entire post-1945 trajectory of world history will have to be re evaluated from the point of view of this repulsive crime and what it represents. And don’t tell me there’s no proof Putin didn’t order it himself. Whether or not he gave the order, does anyone doubt it serves his purposes in terrorizing all opposition to the KGB-style dictatorship he’s now installed.

According to the Times she was killed as she was preparing a report for Monday’ s papers “about torturers in the government of Ramzan A. Kadyrov, the pro-Krelim premier of Chechnya [a story] that included evidence and pictures.”

But there’s a bigger story here: the tragic failure, for which Western politicians and “shock treatment” free market economists bear much repsonsibility, to manage the transition of the former Soviet Union from police state to something more benign. Now after more than a half century of risking the nuclear annihilation of the human species to “win” the Cold War, it could be argued that things are not much better off than after the the fall of the Wall, and–for the average citizen of Russia–in some ways worse.

I used to mock the theories of Anatoly Golitsyn the Svengali of the CIA’s mole-addled guru, James Angleton, who portrayed perestoika, glasnost, and the “collapse” of the Soviet Union as a devious KGB plot to fool the West into giving the apparatchiks breathing room to re create their police state rule. It’s obivously paranoid to believe that it could all have been deliberate, as Golitsyn belived, but it’s not unrealistic to see the results as not much different than if it had been a preconceived plot. The KGB (or its equivalent) now rules Russia openly the way it once did clandestinely.

Let us hope that the death of Ana Politkovskaya will not mark the triumph of these malign forces, but rather a signal for a tidal wave of outrage that may be the last chance to prevent the people of that acccursed land from hurtling straight back into irretrievable darkness again.



  1. I appreciate your passion about this story, esp. in light of your work on Fritz Gerlich in Explaining Hitler. The story of this murder is absolutely chilling.

    That said, I think your passion got the better of you if you’re implying that it would be better if the Soviet Union had survived. The very fact that there IS a press to investigate the atrocities in Chechnya should be an indication of how different the current period is (while, of course, reminding us of how precarious the survival of the press is), and what (potential) freedoms exist now that were conceptually impossible under Soviet rule.

    I think nothing would please Putin more than a restoration of the Soviet Union, and he’s doing his best to re-establish totalitarianism in Russia while also trying to put the former Soviet satellites back under Kremlin control (and record oil revenues are helping him accomplish this; we’ll see how he fares when prices drop under $40/barrel for an extended stretch), but Pandora’s box is already open.

    Yo Gil, i think we agree more than not–nothing in my post implies we’d be better off with the former Soviet Union, but Putin’s heading there. It’s not my idea of a free press when 12 dissident journalists–according to the Committee for the Protection of Jounralists–have been murdered in Putin ‘s Russia.


    Comment by Gil Roth — October 8, 2006 @ 2:42 pm | Reply

  2. I hear ya! I think I was being over-sensitive to your language. (lousy ambiguities!) Speaking of which, note that I didn’t call it a “free press,” just “the press.” Russia’s got a ways to go, and the Kremlin’s adamantly trying to choke off that “free” part.

    Not to portray them as having ANY equivalence to a truth-seeking journalists, but the oligarchs have also been put in Putin’s hammerlock. Khodorovsky’s imprisonment and subsequent face-slashing set an example of what happens when they dissent from the Kremlin.

    Obviously, they’re venal scumbags, but when the rich are subject to police violence and judicial railroading, you know you’re making a sharp turn back into The Old Days.

    Anyway, keep up the great work. I’ll get to The Shakespeare Wars right after I wrap up Little, Big (and before getting started on that new Pynchon, I hope).

    Comment by Gil Roth — October 10, 2006 @ 4:40 pm | Reply

  3. Note: The Russian police seized her computer, her story, and all her notes. There will be no story.

    Comment by jimmy — October 10, 2006 @ 5:27 pm | Reply

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