The Chechen War was supposed to be over in 1996 after the first Yeltsin campaign, but in the summer of 1999, the new Putin government decided, in their own words, to 'do the job properly'. Before all the bodies of those who had died in the first campaign had been located or identified, many more thousands would be slaughtered in another round of fighting.
The first account to be written by a Russian woman, A Dirty War is an edgy and intense study of a conflict that shows no sign of being resolved. Exasperated by the Russian government's attempt to manipulate media coverage of the war, journalist Anna Politkovskaya undertook to go to Chechnya, to make regular reports and keep events in the public eye.
In a series of despatches from July 1999 to January 2001 she vividly describes the atrocities and abuses of war, whether it be the corruption endemic in post-Communist Russia, in particular the government and the military, or the spurious arguments and abominable behaviour of the Chechen authorities. In these courageous reports, Politkovskaya excoriates male stupidity and brutality on both sides of the conflict and interviews the civilians whose homes and communities have been laid waste, leaving them nowhere to live, and nothing and no one to believe in.
A special correspondent for the Russian newspaper Novaya gazeta, Politkovskaya received the 2000 Golden Pen Award by the Russian Union of Journalists for her coverage of the Russian military campaign in Chechnya. She braved arrest and interrogation by the Russian military this past February, sparking international protests, and this October she was forced to flee Russia after receiving credible death threats from the Russian military; she remains in exile. All of which places importance and credibility on her savage indictment of the current situation in the Muslim province of the former U.S.S.R., Chechnya. The present book, clearly translated by John Crowfoot (who also did The KGB's Literary Archives,among other titles), collects articles she wrote about the Second Chechen War (begun after the conflict had supposedly ended during the Yeltsin regime) from 1999 to 2001. Her on-sceners recount atrocities on both sides evenhandedly, and are passionately pro human rights, even when interviewing sordidly cynical Russian generals more preoccupied with the size of their apartments than the death and suffering brought upon the Chechen rebels. She reports that monumental corruption diverted humanitarian relief from the starving locals to greedy businessmen and the Russian military. Mothers of dead soldiers are reportedly bilked for cash by military representatives when seeking information on the locations of their sons' bodies. The many black-and-white photos of dead Chechens will surely disturb readers. Meanwhile, the usual killing goes on, at an estimated 15 to 20 deaths a day, according to the Chechen side.