The September issue of GQ carries an interesting article by Scott Anderson on the September 1999 apartment bombings in Moscow that left hundreds dead and led to Vladimir Putin’s rise to power. The piece profiles former Russian FSB officer Mikhail Trepashkin and collects evidence suggesting that the bombings were perpetrated by the FSB rather than by Chechen terrorists.
It’s the kind of intriguing investigative piece that most publications would feature prominently, but GQ buried it. I bought the issue last week to read Anderson’s article. First I spent several minutes trying to find the issue’s table of contents (I gave up), and then the article itself, afraid I’d blown $4.50 on the wrong issue of the magazine. If you’re similarly interested, here is a time saver: the article begins at page 246 of the September issue.
My interest in Anderson’s article had been piqued by Kim Zigfeld’s Pajamas Media column “Did Condé Nast Kill the Story of the Year to Appease Putin?” As Zigfeld notes, GQ hasn’t just buried Anderson’s article in the September issue. It has kept the article off its site and out of GQ’s Russian edition. (With the assistance of its readers, Gawker prepared and posted a Russian translation of the article online.)
Zigfeld credits NPR with solving the riddle of GQ’s bizarre treatment of Anderson’s article. The publisher does not want to do anything more to offend Vladimir Putin. The NPR reporter comments: “Conde Nast sought, against technology, logic and the thrust of its own article, to show deference in the presence of power.”
I wanted to read the GQ article myself before recommending it. Having read the GQ article, I recommend both Zigfeld’s excellent column, which capably summarizes Anderson’s disturbing article, and Anderson’s article itself.
UPDATE: A few commenters note the similarity of the allegations made in Anderson’s article to our own Truthers and attribute the GQ article to the liberal critique of Putin’s Russia. One cites a post expressing strong disagreement with Anderson’s piece and the thrust of the NPR report here and elsewhere. I don’t believe that liberals are alone in being troubled by Putin’s thugocracy. Indeed, the Obama administration appears to be remarkably untroubled by it at all.
I find it hard to believe that the FSB would have pulled off the 1999 bombings. I also find the epidemic of political murders including those of Alexander Litvinenko and, most recently, Natalya Estemirova almost unbelievable. Interested readers will have to make the effort to sort these things out for themselves.
Incidentally, I meant to note that Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Russian Service also covered this story in “Controversial decision by US publisher sparks debate on free speech, censorship” and in “Author of censored Putin article: US publisher was ‘worried'” (interviewing Anderson).
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