A classic extract from Anna Politkovskaya, a decade after the Russian journalist's assassination

An extract from an interview with Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, published in Index on Censorship magazine in 2005, the year before she was murdered for her work. On the 10th anniversary of death, it has been included within a special report on her legacy in Index on Censorship's latest issue 

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Vladimir Putin has said that Russia will not allow foreigners to finance our civil society, but now we have no domestic investors to do it, which is a tragedy. If we continue like this, 100 years years from now there will be no civil society in Russia.

Tragically, our most active democrats are on the Left. I cannot bring myself to vote Communist because the distance between their progressive and repressive instincts is too short, but Putin’s regime is a great recruiting ground for the Left, particularly among the young.

The media will share the fate of the rest of the country. My newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, will do all it can to stay open, but there are no grounds for optimism. Two years ago, we had points of contact with Putin; now there are none. He said, “We will fight our enemies” so it’s either him or us. “Us” meaning the “voice of protest”.

The Union of Writers consists of people who show they are writers by chumming up to the Kremlin. As an organisation that receives perks from the government it is an absolute non-starter, a relic of the USSR. If Russia develops democratically, there will be no Writers’ Union in the future, just a professional trade union for writers. Traditionally, we have needed film directors, artists and writers to tell people what a great country they live in. But that has nothing to do with writing or intellectual endeavour, or with the effort to depict life as it is.

I love my country but I don’t want it to have a “Special Way”. I want it to be just like other countries where there is democracy and the police protect people from criminals instead of oppressing them. I want us to be like everyone else. People who talk about a “Special Way” usually want to oppress somebody.

I hope there will be no registration system in the future (the system under which the USSR controlled its citizens by registering them in a particular place). In a country the size of Russia you can’t hope to keep track of everyone. Registration is just a system for extorting bribes and without it a person becomes a nobody: no education, no medical help, no pension. It has brought us so much suffering that if we develop into a democracy I cannot imagine it surviving.

Index on Censorship has an in-depth report on Anna Politkovskaya's legacy in its latest issue https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2016/09/does-anonymity-need-to-be-defended-autumn-magazine-2016/

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