Anna Politkovskaya, A Small Corner of Hell

Information and Questions for Reading

The introduction of this book gives a nice description of Anna Politkovskaya and of the importance of her work as a journalist. What it doesn't tell you is about her death (assassination) in 2006, though I won't go into details here because the information is pretty easy to find.

Questions for Reading A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya:

1. What do you know about the history of Chechnya? What has caught in your memory from news reports? What kinds of knowledge have you come upon as we've been reading this semester?

2. The introduction (pp. 10 and following) talks about the Chechen character as "a mountain people." How does that resonate with the other mountain vs valley contrasts (cultural and religious) we have read about?

3. What is the position of the Russian outsider in Chechnya? How do the local people react to Politkovskaya, who becomes something of a character in her own reporting?

4. What is the position of a Russian insider in Chechnya, such as the ones who live in the capital city of Grozny?

5. How does journalism (reportage) differ from fiction? Where do you see narrative nuggets that could very well lead to a new fictional work, if picked up by a writer?

6. The book's introduction gives us a narrative of post-Soviet change, rather than focusing on Muslim culture in the Caucasus. Have we learned enough to "read against" that approach, and to tie the introduction and the following chapters together with other points of view?

7. As you read these episodes, how would you describe what is actually going on in the war in Chechnya, according to Politkovskaya? How des her interpretation explain her persistence in doing that dangerous work?