home Commentary, Crime, Current Affairs, Europe, Obituary In memory of Anastasia Baburova and Stanislav Markelov

In memory of Anastasia Baburova and Stanislav Markelov

This is a special edition of this column.

Anastasia Babyrova. picture ⓒ Novaya Gazeta (www.novayagazeta.ru)
Anastasia Baburova. ⓒ Novaya Gazeta (www.novayagazeta.ru)

Yesterday, in broad daylight, in the center of Moscow, a human rights lawyer and a journalist were gunned down. Lawyer Stanislav Markelov was most famous for representing the family of Elza Kungaeva, a young Chechen woman killed by a Russian officer, in a case that polarized the Russian Federation. Anastasia Baburova was a young journalist for Novaya Gazeta – a publication that is still mourning the death of another journalist, Anna Politkovskaya.

This week, some across Russia are celebrating this tragedy. Comments on Baburova’s Live Journal site have been shut off, but before they were, news of neo-Nazis gloating over her death had spread far and wide. Others are merely wagging their finger at “poor Nastya” for having “kept bad company” – meaning, of course, that she should have known better than to hang out with the hated Markelov.

It looks as though “the enemy of the people” may be a phrase that we will have to start using in earnest again.

One of the most telling responses to Baburova’s death in particular, in my opinion, came from a young woman who identified as a journalist and said “if only she stuck to writing about [Eurovision winner] Dima Bilan…” It wasn’t a joke; it was said in earnest. Young women and men in the former Soviet Union are encouraged not to be too clever nowadays – if you want to write, stick to writing for the tabloids. Anything more profound can get you killed.

Another telling response from some members of the Russian public is blaming the entire thing on money. “She was after money, there had to have been money involved, journalists are bought and sold…” When I was offered a writing gig in Ukraine a few years back, I demurred. Later, when a relative asked me why I had turned the job down, I said, “remember [murdered journalist] Georgiy Gongadze? I have a big mouth, and don’t want to end up like him.”

“But Gongadze was killed because he got greedy! Don’t you know that? I thought everyone knew that,” was the response.

I understand where this sentiment comes from. When popular journalist Vladislav Listyev was shot dead in the grim year of 1995, even American journalists wondered as to whether or not the murder was financially motivated, either due to Listyev’s wrangling with the advertising industry, or else for something that was just plain dirty.

I have to ask – who wasn’t dirty in the year 1995 in Moscow?

In the year 2008, in the meantime, many Russians have claimed that their country is “getting up from its knees.” I can identify with that statement. I like the idea of a stronger, better, more prosperous Russia. I hate the russophobia that means that we, or anyone like us, are only acceptable in the role of the West’s sex-slaves and hired help. But now that Baburova and Markelov lie dead, a new sentiment is being born – “the wrong sort of person has ‘gotten up from their knees’ in Russia,” and I think there is something to it.

The beauty of downtown Moscow, where Stanislav and Anastasia were shot, is being paid for in blood. There isn’t anything shockingly new here – three hundred years ago, St. Petersburg was practically built upon a foundation of dead serfs. Yet I like to think that we live in times that are a little bit more enlightened that those of Peter the Great’s.

Growing prosperity means nothing when journalists and lawyers are murdered like this.

The most bitter irony of it all is the people who celebrate the deaths of Anastasia and Stanislav have no clue than when it’s their turn – and their turn will surely come, if we don’t watch out as the “brown-shirting” of Russia continues – there will be no lawyers or journalists left to sound the alarm.

The only solace we can take from what happened yesterday is that the voices of Russian outrage are stronger. Far too many have died. The most oft-repeated sentiment I have read and heard today is more akin to a demand – a demand that the terrorizing of the Russian media and the greater public be stopped.

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Natalia Antonova

Natalia is a writer and journalist. She's the associate editor of openDemocracy Russia and the co-founder of the Anti-Nihilist Institute.

13 thoughts on “In memory of Anastasia Baburova and Stanislav Markelov

  1. This is very sad. I’m really sorry to read of these murders, Natalia. Is any effort being made to find the killers?

  2. That’s what they’re saying. That an effort is being made. What that actually means will be interesting to find out.

  3. That’s an atrocious human rights violation Natalia. I’m so sorry to hear of it. It’s a terrible state of affairs when journalists have to be self-censoring because of the political climate. Maybe RSF can investigate.

  4. Pingback: STEINBUCH - In memoriam Anastasia Baburova, 30.11.1983 – 19.1.2009
  5. Terrible. It remembers on jin and yang. And Anna, Anastasia and Natalia are the white point in the black field. Spreading. Spreading to the victory. And we are supporting you.

  6. A splendid piece, albeit on a terribly tragic event. I couldn’t agree more with you that, while a revival in Russia’s fortunes is certainly laudable, the way in which those fortunes are being revived is not one that any thinking individual would be glad to see. Thank you for doing your part to ensure that Baburova and Markelov’s deaths were not for nothing.

  7. Well done, Natalia. The US/Western press sure didn’t pick up on the significance of the killings. There is an organization called I think Journalists Without Borders you might want to contact. I’m glad you have retained a sense of outrage that such things could happen in Russia these days.I’m afraid I’m not surprized. As a Russian friend once said as she stamped on the ground, “Our Russia is fertilized by our own blood.” Kind of intense, but Russians are an intense people. Not trying to be cool and detatched like Americans.
    Change your name if you go travelling there. The FSB reads.

  8. Condolences on the loss of your friend and colleague. Some find support in these forums of some comfort and their strength to go on against adversity bolstered. If there are staff of Novaya Gazeta or any other independent press facing violence and repression reading this, I hope that this is the case with this post. Without the independent press, no society can be truly free. Millions of us around the world stand with you in spirit. This is much easier for us than to face the consequences that you are facing but nonetheless, we support you and admire you. You are the front line. You defend true freedom in an endless battle. Military battles always have an end in site but the war for truth is everlasting and so we salute your diligence. I hope your battle will one day be only of words and not violence.

  9. Dear Anastasia Baburova,

    My heart is with you! We share the same brave heart that yearns and calls fourth a voice of freedom and dignity for all. For peace and prosperity is our common humanity.

    Our world is insignificant when viewing our place amidst the billions of stars that fill the heavens. But also insignificant are the few cracked and insane individuals who attempt to wield their power from behind bullets of fear. They live like leeches’ feeding on the blood of others for their blood has drawn cold, like death itself. Fear not Anastasia, you are home among the bright and beautiful stars that infuse our world with the light of love and hope.

    We are in the billions who carry your heart Anastasia, and we must not forget the brightness of each unique star. Your message and action has touched millions because of your desire to challenge the weak and desperate status quo of those lost and lingering souls of darkness.

    A scant few may wish to shroud the world with a poorly conceived, false and limited ideology in vain hope of controlling billions of bright stars, but they are insignificant. We are here, free, strong and abundant. We care for the unique life that exists here on Mother Earth given to us all to share. And for this we salute you Anastasia.

    Rest with joy knowing that the dark souls do not belong here. It is not their home. You know this by how you have lived. So now I thank you personally for standing-up to shout and to expose the faceless spirits for what they really are—darkness, unworthy of your bright light in your soul.

    Your actions have told the faceless to leave Russia alone. They many not have her. She belongs to our common humanity for she has brought and brings much beauty and glory toward the betterment of our common Mother—Earth.

    Mother Russia knows from depths of her heart, what it means to suffer for a cause. The cause of freedom, truth and justice has defined her throughout the ages. Mother Russia carries the voice of billions upon billions of bright stars like your self who recognize the most precious gift in the universe—life and love.

    I carry your heart Anastasia; I carry it in my heart for all of us.

  10. Sadly this is all to common.
    I certainly hope that the mentality of the larger percent of population in Russia will change.

    And also, hopefully a larger percent of the global population’s mentality will also achieve a new mentality

  11. Another tragedy for truth and those brave enough to tell it. It is sickening and shocking to hear of the nazi fascists who are celebrating. America is following this same road with Obama, and at a very fast pace. I fear that it won’t be long and you will see these stories with names of American journalists (although at present most of our journalists are already fascists and LOVE Obama).

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