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Campaigning for Justice in Dark Times:Politkovskaya's Network and the Lapin Case

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posted on 2023-01-18, 15:47 authored by Danielle Jackman
This thesis is a study of the Russian journalist and human rights campaigner, Anna Politkovskaya. As a reporter in Chechnya, she chronicled a litany of abuses committed by Russian forces and their local collaborators during the invasion of 1999 and the ensuing subjugation of the region. She also became a loud advocate of criminal accountability for the perpetrators of abuses. Her frequent appeals to Western opinion and her collaboration with Western NGOs earned her vilification in the Kremlin-aligned media as a traitor to her country. In the West, she was widely celebrated as a solitary voice of defiance against the Putin regime. The thesis is intended to serve as a corrective to both the anathemas and the hagiography that surrounds Politkovskaya’s name. Employing over 100 interviews with civic activists in Russia and abroad, it illuminates the social context to Politkovskaya’s activism by demonstrating that her crusade was sustained by a network of activists, which stretched from the war zones of Chechnya to prominent intellectuals and NGOs in the West. The thesis revolves around a detailed analysis of the Lapin case (2001-2005), which resulted in the first conviction of a Russian police officer for the torture and disappearance of a Chechen civilian. It shows how this case was both provoked and driven by the publicity, investigations and international pressure brought to bear by Politkovskaya’s network. On a broader level, this thesis is a contribution to the burgeoning field of scholarship on transnational human rights networks. Much of this scholarship is dominated by celebratory accounts of the contribution of these networks to successful norm diffusion and democratic transitions. This thesis explores an issue that has received less attention: the impact of transnational networks under the increasingly repressive conditions of an entrenched authoritarian regime.

Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Legal Studies, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora.


Center or Department

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. Department of Politics, Philosophy and Legal Studies.

Thesis type

  • Ph. D.

Awarding institution

La Trobe University

Year Awarded


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