Countering Foundational Myths and Cultural Beliefs: The Reportage of Anna Politkovskaya
Novak, Susan S.
University of Kansas
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Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who reported for Novaya Gazeta about the Second Chechen War and the Chechen civilians who suffered as a result, was assassinated at her Moscow apartment building on October 7, 2006. While the Western world mourned the death of this reporter and publicist who was deemed "the conscience of Russian journalism," the majority of Russians ignored the news and even expressed delight at her death; to them, she was considered more a Westerner than one of their own, and her factual but impassioned reporting seemed to irritate rather than inform. The polyvalence of her message can be explained in part through a close textual analysis of her stories, which shows that her writing countered numerous foundational Russian myths and ideas that undergird the culture. Much of what she wrote attacked the "Russian Idea" of exceptionalism, leadership, and heroism, and she compared the country's new leader, Vladimir Putin, and the Russian army troops with the Nazis against whom the Soviet people fought during the Great Patriotic War (WWII). References in her reportage from 1999 to 2006 unraveled the very fabric of popular beliefs to which the Russians were clinging in the aftermath of the economic crisis following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. This analysis shows that, in her desire to inform her fellow countrymen about the abuses and thereby constrain their responses to one of action against the government, she countered important foundational myths that instead led the Russians to retreat into their own ethnic identity and ignore her messages. The international community, however, not feeling its identity threatened, accepted her messages, although its members did not act to prevent the abuses from continuing.
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