A couple of years ago, at a memorial service for the great Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya put together by PEN, I had the honor of interviewing onstage one of Politkovskaya’s friends, the human-rights activist Natalia Estemirova. Politkovskaya, who was murdered at her home in Moscow in 2006 (as Michael Specter and Keith Gessen have written in The New Yorker), did her best and bravest work in Chechnya for the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, one of the few remaining outlets with the audacity to continue publishing the truth about Russia in the Age of Putin. In Chechnya, one of her closest friends and sources of information was Natalia.
Natalia was one of those remarkable people whom reporters depend on in every ominous corner of the world: the human-rights activists who know so much, and who give completely of themselves, with little thought to their security. They are the ones who reap no glory or profit; they are the ones for whom the violence and corruption is not a “story” but the center of their lives. Natalia did her work for Memorial, a human-rights group that began during the Gorbachev years. It started out intending to unearth the buried facts of the Stalin era. Now it concentrates largely on the present tense.
This morning, according to news reports, Natalia was kidnapped near her home in Chechnya. She was thrown into a van and disappeared. Now she has been found dead, with two bullet wounds in her head, in the neighboring region of Ingushetia.
It is a horrible event, and yet it is just the latest of many outrages against Russians devoted to truth-telling. Each time, the reaction is the same: the howls of anger, the dramatic funeral, the icy indifference of the Russian government, and a prolonged investigation and a trial scripted by Dostoyevsky.
Below is my interview with Natalia.
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Russian activist Natalya Estemirova found dead >>>
The prize-winning Russian human rights activist Natalya Estemirova was found dead in Ingushetia on Wednesday after being abducted earlier in the neighbouring region of Chechnya, it has been reported. (telegraph.co.uk)
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Die russische Menschenrechtsaktivistin Natalja Estemirowa ist in Tschetschenien entführt und ermordet worden. Sie kämpfte seit Jahren gegen staatliche Willkür in der Region. (sueddeutsche.de)