Friday, April 13, 2007

Anna Politkovskaya--a dissenting view

Anna Politkovskaya was the reporter murdered by the Russian government over her coverage of Chechnya. Although her Chechnya reporting is no doubt very good, her book "Putin's Russia" reveals another side of her.In Putin's Russia Politkovskaya makes very clear that she's a partisan of Yeltsin and that her opinion is that Russia started having major problems only when Putin took office. She talks about the hardships facing people in the post-Soviet years under Yeltsin, but portrays Yeltsin himself as a promoter of democracy and of capitalism, and Putin as a bad authoritarian who doesn't like capitalism. Sure, Putin's bad, but to overlook the wholesale destruction of Russian society overseen by Yeltsin, his links to the United States, the transfer of state wealth to the mafia and oligarchs, the rise in fact of the mafia as a major force in Russian society, and the manifest incompetance of the Yeltsin regime is pretty damn manipulative. At first I thought, Ok, she lived through Soviet life, surely this is just a reaction to that experience, but in time it proved to go deeper than that: praising business women for success as basically corrupt new capitalists, condemning people who wanted to take back sold off state industries to public control. Yeltsin becomes the champion of democracy.

Interestingly enough, she writes about life before the '98 economic crash as having included a new middle class. She writes that it "wasn't ideal" but that it existed. This middle class was mostly made up of the mafia and of people who were allied in crony ridden and corruption ridden business schemes. Sure, it "wasn't ideal", but then criminality driven upward mobility never is. Ah, but for the days of the pre-'98 middle class.

In denying the continuity of corruption between Yeltsin's time and Putin's time she denies the facts.

To sum up: Politkovskaya; good on Chechnya, but not a martyr for the left.

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