In the second half of Igort’s The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks, Igort turns his attention to the more recent Chechen and Ukrainian conflicts as well as the murder of Anna Politkovskaya. Politkovskaya was a renowned journalist famous for speaking out against the second Chechen war, exposing human rights violations, and for criticizing Vladimir Putin. Ultimately, after years of death threats, Politkovskaya was murdered in her apartment elevator. The Russian Notebooks section of this collection focuses on interviews with friends of Politkovskaya as well as looking at some of the atrocities, abuses, and practices of torture that the Russian government failed to censor because of Politkovskaya’s integrity.
The important thing here, in my estimation, is that Igort never criticizes the innocent populations. Too often, as citizens of the Western world, we see our neighbors in the East as being nothing like us. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I’m hesitant to delve too far into politics here, but, suffice to say, both sides were guilty of a multitude of war crimes. War drastically altered the minds of young soldiers on both sides, affecting daily life for millions of innocent citizens. Chechen separatists carried out attacks on Russian civilians (some of which may have involved Russian support to garner support for the war), and torture and murder at the hands of Russian soldiers in Chechnya was not uncommon. The information that Igort provides from interviews that detail these crimes is horrific and unsettling, raising many questions about the transparency of the Russian government.
It’s difficult to speak about things in such recent memory with many details still fuzzy and with both sides still pointing fingers. The most revealing aspect of this collection is Igort’s discussion of, as the title suggests, life and death under Soviet Rule. Regardless of the politics involved, The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks is a deeply unsettling work that tries to cast a light on things that many would like to censor. The humanity in this collection (and the ways in which it is so recklessly abused) when so little is known outside of the involved nations is what makes it such an important work.