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Democracy on Deadline

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Took a day off from the web, but not a day off. I got up at 4:30 in the morning to go to Washington DC with Garry Kasparov to attend a memorial service for Anna Politkovskaya, the journalist recently assassinated at her home in Moscow. I'm not pretending this is remotely related to chess, and I won't make a habit of this, but I do wish to publicize this horrible killing. After this latest display of brutality and anarchy, I, like all of Garry's friends and family, am more concerned than ever about his safety. We will never know who ordered the murder, and pointing fingers is almost besides the point, which is that the environment is becoming increasingly lethal and this trend is likely to continue as the "does Putin stay or go?" crisis gets worse in the coming months.

At the memorial they played a clip from the documentary "Democracy on Deadline" featuring Politkovskaya. It would have been inspiring and emotional under any circumstances, but knowing she had been killed for this work nine days earlier was crushing. The documentary will air on PBS in the US next month. See it if you can.


So does Garry get the point yet? The lack of international outrage over Khodorkovsky should show that Russia's just getting a pass. I don't think his life is worth it. I'm genuinely worried about the guy.

I was horrified when I read last week of the assaination of Anna Politkovskaya. Putin seems to be consolidating his dictatorship.

I too am very worried about Garry, especially when we see that being famous - as Anna Politkovskaya was - doesn't keep you safe.

I'm glad Garry has a friend like you, Mig. Going with him to the memorial service was a mitvah.

Sad but true:

Kasparov's world profile is much higher than that of Anna Politkovskaya, Paul Khlebnikov or any of the other victims of Russian-style democracy. Whereas his threat to Putin is lower than that of Kasianov of Khodorkovsky. Because of that he is probably relatively safe. Nonetherless, please express my deepest gratitude to Garry for doing what he can to help our homeland in this difficult time.

Mig - Thanks for this item.

John - Yes, it's worrisome to friends and fans alike. But it's important work, too. Changing the world isn't for the feint of heart.

Reading the closing lines of last Monday's WSJ piece took me back to when I saw Archbishop Desmond Tutu speak on the Caltech campus two decades ago. The tireless work of speaking out in the west helped undermine apartheid, and it is needed here, too.

Will do, thanks. It was nice to be in room full of people, over 100 guests at the National Endowment for Democracy headquarters, who were outraged and like-minded. Garry was one of nine speakers.


There will be many more gatherings for her all over the world in the coming weeks and months, some as far away as December.

The safety issue isn't much about profile or Putin anymore, it's beyond that. There are so many dueling groups with obscure motives and so little value on human life that anything can happen to anyone. E.g. regarding Politkovskaya some blame Putin, others blame Kadyrov, some blame those who want the world to blame Putin or Kadyrov, or those who might want to send a message to Putin, or to create a crisis so he'll be forced to stay in power, etc. Too many plots and subplots to ever decipher. I'm just not convinced that his fame matters that much anymore. These are no longer rational times and there are too many parties active now.

Definitely related to chess - ask him when we can celebrate his comeback - how many more years does he want to lose ??

Heh. Garry was invited to play in a big blitz tournament in Moscow after (during?) the Tal Memorial next month. (17 rounds!?) But as he put it, it's a lose-lose situation. If he does poorly it's embarrassing and if he wins the state-controlled media will have a field day saying how he's still a chessplayers, should stick to chess, is abandoning politics, etc. They did that for a six-game exhibition in Zurich, imagine if he were facing Svidler and Moro in Moscow. Each time he touches a chess piece in anger it sets back his political work.

Heh. The NED is a CIA front. They wish to install a U.S. puppet regime in Russia. Is that better than Putin? No.

Is Putin bad for Russia? By most indicators, he's quite decent. Not perfect, not spectacular, but decent.

CIA front! Puppet regime! Thanks for the Cold War flashbacks. It's not as if the NED hides its activities. They aren't nearly the semi-covert group they were when they were spawned in the 80's to do publicly what the CIA was doing on the sly. They support democracy and they also sometimes take sides. Most of their programs are excellent and NGO. As for Russia, it's not as if this US administration could behave any more favorably toward Putin. Bush just got finished defending him on O'Reilly just moments ago. The US couldn't install a puppet show in Russia, let alone a regime.

Decent? Certainly not by the usual definitions of that word. That 1% of the population has become wealthy and another 10% have done well doesn't counterbalance the vast majority whose lot has worsened, and that despite record energy income. There is little news from outside the Garden Ring.


We your readership and fans would be impressed + amused if Gary Kasparov became president of Russia, with you as a high-level official. With NED support this is a real possibility.

As for whether Gary's policies would be good for Russians, judging by NED successes elsewhere: probably not. But they'd certainly be good for America.

Riiiight. And what policies are those? Free and fair elections and media not controlled by the government? Last I saw that was all that was on the Kasparov agenda.

Hmm I dont know where this Putin being quite decent comes from. I guess its all part of the russian is ungovernable you need a strong man theory. As far as I can see he is a repressive ruthless dictator who cares nothing fro freedonm or democratic values. Its a toss up whether he is any better than the drunkard who "ran" Russian before and who gave away much of Russian industry to his cronies cousins and in laws (at least chelsea fans are happy.)

For Garry the critical point may arrive at the end of 2007 begining of 2008 when Putin's stance reagarding his continuation in power may become clear. Generally speaking people dont get assassinated until they have put in quite a few years of persistent irritation value and ignored several serious warnings. The exception is where someone is threatening a big specific deal.

Anyway I looking forwrd to Garry,s new chess books

Keres escaped execution in the 1940's because his worldwide popularity was too great; and Stalin had total control as to whether he was executed or not.
Garry may not be so lucky, as Putin does not have control over all those that want him dead.

I thought Yeltsin was the guy who played a big part in toppling communism. He must have been losing his marbles to have installed Putin when he retired.

Unfortunately, America under the supine Clinton lost a real opportunity to help cement in democracy in Russia in the 1990's.

Anna was assassinated because of Chechnia investigations she did. She published materials abour police tortures and killings, about armed forces doing dirty business there. She was in process of preparind a new big article on Chechnia authorities supported by Kremlin. And one of facts she got was a video recording made from cell phone proving that the Chechnia President Kadirov participated in at least one kidnapping of Chechnia civilians. Kidnapping is a usual practice there, and most of those kidnapped disappear forever.

From the NYTimes

[Re the Politkovskaya funeral in Moscow.] Kommersant reported that more than 2,000 people came to pay their respects. Joining Ms. Politkovskaya’s family and close friends were fellow journalists, social activists, foreign ambassadors, and many others who had come to bid farewell, Izvestia wrote.


Mr. Putin first treated the event, which was given significant air time on even his state-controlled news, with a three-day silence, as other world leaders expressed condolences.

The Kremlin’s silence seemed to scream. When at last he spoke, having been prodded at a news conference in Germany, Russia’s president used the occasion to insult her. “The level of her influence on political life in Russia was utterly insignificant,” he said....

Masha Gessen, another Moscow writer who has maintained her criticism of the Kremlin, reacted with anger. “The murder has exposed him, with unprecedented clarity, as a callous, cruel and cynical man,” she wrote in The Moscow Times.

Meanwhile, Mr. Putin’s main proxy in Chechnya and a frequent subject of Ms. Politkovskaya’s writing, the Chechen prime minister, Ramzan A. Kadyrov, proclaimed his innocence in a manner perhaps never before heard from a premier’s lips. He could not have killed her, he effectively said, because the record would show that he had never killed a woman before.

“I did not kill women and I never kill them,” he said on national television.

"America under the supine Clinton.."

Not that Chris B is a serial fellator of received opinions, but see...there are Politkovskayas everywhere. Stash the hand-wringing and just look up a bio of Danny Casolaro. Of course, his murder took place under the lupine Reagan, not the vulpine Bush pere et fils.


It's good that you acknowledge that other elements are more likely to have been besides Politkovskaya's murder. Sadly, it is unclear what is to stop similar elements from gathering and acting in the US...it's more a matter of will than prevention. What is Garry doing to antagonize Russia's other/criminal elements? Not much for now, which is why I think he is fairly safe.

Putin is decent...but autocratic. SH, Andy and Chris B, all of you are right. It's hard to call Putin a dictator, it would probably have to be a bit more totalitarian and force-ruled for it to be the case. Certainly, many Russians after the tough 90s would rather have economic improvement than full democracy.

This reminds me of an older case of a murdered journalist in Kalmykia where Kirsan's "involvement" was suspected?

Too bad this appears to be a "professional risk" in Russia...

I do not consider the GK bulletins off topic to this blog. Please continue to keep us informed of his activities.

Idealism is dead.

NikonMike: Google 'Curse of Kirsan' - a book that has some words about it.

Mig: back to chess, quickly....KRamnik - Radjabov anyone?


We miss GK at the chess board, but his country needs him more then we do. Leaving chess when he did was the best move he ever made.


Thanks for bringing this up. I generally think that people are too afraid of being "politically incorrect" and this leads to a lack of political discussions.

It hurts me to see what has happened in Russia. Kasparov said that assests have been privatized while expenses have been handed over to the people, this is so true.

It makes me sick to watch a guy like Roman Abromowitz, throwing away the peoples money on football players (Chelski) and incredible luxury. The so-called privatization that happened under Yeltsin has been called the biggest robbery of all time. The countrys huge natural resources was handed over to a handfull of people, Yeltsin can never be forgiven for allowing this to happen.

Sad thing is that there have been precious little talk about this in the western media, instead the media have been blinded by the glamour and luxury of the oligarcs and fails to see them as the criminals that they really are.

Where is Gary actually living these days? Is he still living in Russia? If so, what percentage of the time?

He lives in Moscow and travels a lot within Russia and of course abroad for business. Been spending more time than usual in New York lately for business and personal reasons.

I think a living Kasparov is better than a martyr. I hope he's careful. There's a huge difference between strategy on the board versus strategy in real life. Chessland is a world of perfect information... everything can be seen. Life however, is more like poker. Much is hidden, and lies abound.

I think a living Kasparov is better than a martyr. I hope he's careful. There's a huge difference between strategy on the board versus strategy in real life. Chessland is a world of perfect information... everything can be seen. Life however, is more like poker. Much is hidden, and lies abound.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on October 16, 2006 10:46 PM.

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