Cathy Young on the Life and Death of a Russian Freedom Fighter


Valeriya Novodvorskaya
Dmitry Rozhkov

Valeria Novodvorskaya, the firebrand Russian activist and writer who died in Moscow on July 12 at the age of 64, was practically unknown abroad and had a somewhat scandalous notoriety at home. Enemies derided her, often in crudely misogynist terms, as a demented Russia-hating hag; even many allies viewed her as something of an embarrassment, a ridiculous old woman prone to saying things that made the already marginalized liberal opposition look crazy. In death, she was quickly and almost literally canonized by the same opposition. Many said that they were only now beginning to understand what a great soul had lived in their midst, and was now gone. "The things we whispered, she said loudly," wrote former tycoon and political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky. "The things we were willing to tolerate, she was not."

There is a certain symbolism, points out Cathy Young, in the fact that Valeria Novodvorskaya died just as the Putin regime was being fully exposed as the gangster state that she had always said it was.