Monument to the victims of the gas
The Moscow city government has erected a monument near the same building on Dubrovka where one year ago terrorists seized hostages. Initially they wanted to put up some sort of theatrical monument, with seagulls, but relatives of the victims grew indignant and said that in this case the monument would not be in memory of the terror victims, but to the musical.
The city thought it over and decided that cranes (the monument allegorically depicts cranes) are not the same as seagulls. A seagull would have been a theatrical character, whereas a crane is more of a war symbol, because of the song by Mark Bernes: At times I think soldiers, who never returned from bloody battlefields, do not lay under our native land, but have changed into white cranes. Such associations around.
On the monument it states that it is dedicated to victims of terrorism. That is, not to those specific individuals who died a year ago at Dubrovka, but to victims in general. And not to those victims who were killed specifically by terrorists, but to victims of terrorism in general.
This is war. War is when victims have no names, and are counted in the tens and hundreds and thousands. The relatives of these victims have been asking for a plaque for a long time, and a plaque was eventually installed, but not on the monument, but on a corner wall of the theater. A couple of years from now they will tear town the theater for its obvious inconsistency with our city, which is so safe from fire, and then what will happen to the plaque?
When the relatives asked for a plaque, that meant that people still hoped that we were at peace, and not at war, and that, should we perish, we could still be called by name and not counted in the hundreds. But no, these are soldiers, who never returned from bloody battlefields.
Had it been up to me, I would have made a monument of their portraits. With names. A hundred people - men, women, and children. When they negotiate with terrorists, they try to call the hostages by their names. It is thought that in so doing that terrorists will start treating them not as instruments in a politico-economic struggle, but as people. Men, women and children. With names.
When the president gave the order to storm the theater (it was the president who gave this order, yes?), what did he imagine - the number five hundred, or faces? Men, women and children. With names. If he imagined faces, and ordered the assault, then why do we choose such a cruel man for the presidency? I understand that one cannot negotiate with terrorists. I understand that it is a matter of national security. But I could not order an assault if I am imagining faces. Men, women and children.
But if the president imagined the number five hundred, then let him see faces instead. After all, no one blames the president for the deaths of these people. But I would love it if he did blame himself, since good people have a sense of guilt. I do not know if I am a good person, but I do feel a sense of guilt as far as these lost people go. And you, dear reader: if you do not feel guilt, then why are you reading this column?
And let the mayor will see these faces. After all, no one blames the mayor for the deaths of these people. But the mayor, if he is a good man, he certainly knows that he made a couple of mistakes during those hectic three days in the emergency headquarters. No one, except the mayor, will ever know about these mistakes, and only for him alone are these faces. Men, women and children.
And even let the director of the FSB see the faces of these people. Let him dream about them for the rest of his life. Let them be the first to meet him when he goes to that other world, those men, women and children. Maybe over there they will forgive him. Most likely, they will forgive him. He will tell them that their deaths were a national security issue, and they will forgive him.
And one more thing: during those three days at Dubrovka, if I remember correctly, five people died at the hands of terrorists. Strictly speaking, if, on the memorial that was opened today, it is written that it is dedicated to victims of terrorism, it refers to five people.
All the rest - men, women and children, with names - did not die at the hands of the terrorists, but from the gas.
Well, that is what they should put on the monument: to the victims of the gas.
Politkovskaya went to the war and never came back
The most surprising thing is that a film about Politkovskaya - a journalist and human rights activist who covered the Chechen conflicts most acute problems, and who in turn was shot to death in the elevator of her apartment building - is even available for rent in Russia. The decision to show such a film, and at a time when society has suddenly awakened from two decades of slumber, might seem imprudent. Especially since Goldovskayas film is not about politics, but about a person for whom conscience and conviction were, in the most literal sense, more important than her own life.
I have no fear, says Anna at the beginning of the film. She is young, dark haired, and not at all like the image familiar to most viewers. She adds: Weve gotten used to this fear.
These words were spoken long before Politkovskayas first trip to Chechnya, during the time when her husband, journalist Alexander Politkovsky, was working at Vzglyad and the programs critical reporting had led to threats against the shows authors and their families. Years later, Anna's investigations of crimes in the Caucasus made the shows trip to the center of Chernobyl look like a childhood summer walk. The whole world religiously believes that this woman really had no fear. Even her arch-enemies, among whom number high-ranking law enforcement officers and the leaders of the patriotic parties, cannot deny that this journalist had uncompromising directness, desperate courage, and unwavering perseverance.
Marina Goldovskayas film breaks the strongly-established image of Anna Politkovskaya: the Iron Lady of journalism who fanatically scoured Chechnyas bloodiest back alleys and with the speed of the printing press stamped out one accusatory article after another. Goldovskaya is not just an experienced documentary filmmaker, but also one of Anna Politkovskayas closest friends and shows the journalist as only a few knew her - a sensitive and romantic woman, a loving mother, and a witty and thoughtful hostess. The most important part of the film is not memories of friends and colleagues, but interviews with the heroine of the film in her cozy kitchen, out in the yard, and in a New York hotel room. Politkovskaya prepares dinner for her family, treats her guests to tea, walks the dog, and, in between, talks about how to force generals to respect themselves, how to keep from being afraid during shelling, and how not to turn away from scenes that that make even seasoned soldiers tremble.
Listening to Politkovskaya as she happily talks about her children or her love life, it is completely impossible to believe that this frail woman could openly fight the leaders of this world, sitting for days in a pit without food and water, continuing her work after an assassination attempt that almost destroyed her liver, kidneys, and endocrine system.
That is why the most shocking facet of this film is an understanding that Anna Politkovskaya, after all, did have fear, just like any other person. But she knew, unlike others, how to conquer this fear, driven as she was by a sense of duty and thirst for justice.
Once again I have to go. Once again to Chechnya... I'm so tired of this... There are so many horrors there, says Politkovskaya, and the viewer knows in advance that she would go there, and go there again and again, because she has long been the last hope for the mothers, the only defender of the war victims. She was a person to whom they could go and tell things that even priests refuse to hear. A perfect epigraph for this film would have been a preface from Akhmatovas Requiem And could you describe it? And I said, I can.
Marina Goldovskaya began filming the movie in the early 1990s. The film was conceived as a look at the development of post-perestroika Russia through the prism of the family life of popular journalist Alexander Politkovsky, but it soon evolved into the life story of his wife, Anna, who rapidly transformed into one of the most powerful figures in the field of world journalism and human rights advocacy. The film was a kind of diary of Anna Politkovskaya - the viewer can now hear her own comments at the most critical moments - from her first missions to Chechnya, to the demands for justice for the Nord-Ost victims.
When asked how she sees her audience today, Marina Goldovskaya replied: I can clearly see younger viewers, mostly just young people. Yes, look, my generation, those who survived the euphoria of those times, and the disappointment. For us it is a nostalgic picture, while for young people it is something to make them think.
December 19th, 2011