Yuri Felshtinsky. Letter to the Editor on NATIONAL REVIEW
[NATIONAL REVIEW never replied to this letter, never commented on it and never published it]
Attention: Rich Lowry, Editor
215 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10016
September 20, 2016
Dear Mr. Lowry:
This letter is intended to point out a recent blatant factual error in one of your recent publications and to draw your attention to a larger, related, issue with respect to one of your contributing authors.
On August 15, 2016, David Satter in his article "The Bloody Czar" (Vol. LXVIII, no. 14) implied that I am no longer living by stating as follows: “By 2007, when I testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the [September 1999 Russian apartment] bombings, I was the only person publicly accusing the regime of responsibility who had not been killed.” I apologize for being so pedantic -- it probably stems from my professional attachment to details -- but there is a “minor” omission in Mr. Satter's statement: I am still alive. Moreover, I have been for a long time, and remain to this day, one of the most recognized public voices on the topic discussed in Mr. Satter’s article.
Indeed, your respected magazine in December 2007 (Vol. LIX, no. 22), soon after Mr. Satter's testimony, published an article about me titled “Conspiracies So Immense... The Spooky Condition of Today's Russia -- And Yesterday's, Too” by Andrew Stuttaford. Obviously, this is in direct contradiction to Mr. Satter’s sentiment, as I was alive then and I am still alive as I write this. In fact, Mr. Satter’s public misrepresentation points to a larger pattern in his work that dates back more than 10 years and evidences Mr. Satter’s deliberate unwillingness to give proper credit where the credit is due.
With regard to the topic at hand – namely, Russian regime’s responsibility for the death of hundreds of civilians, I co-authored a book titled BLOWING UP RUSSIA with Alexander Litvinenko, Lieutenant Colonel of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), who defected from Russia to London on November 1, 2000, and was assassinated by poisoning with Polonium-210 exactly six years later, on November 1, 2006. Following its initial publication (as detailed below), and after Litvinenko's death, the book was published in 20 languages, including English, which is native to Mr. Satter.
In August 2001, BLOWING UP RUSSIA was published in its near entirety in a special issue of the major Moscow opposition newspaper NOVAYA GAZETA, where the famous journalist and member of the Russian Parliament Yuri Schekochikhin (killed on July 3, 2003) was Deputy Editor-In-Chief and where the famous Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya (killed on October 7, 2006, on Putin's birthday) was a staff writer. The circulation of this publication was approximately 100,000 copies. The issue was for sale all over Russia and was sold out in several hours. David Satter must have read it because in his book, DARKNESS AT DAWN (about the September 1999 explosions), which was published in 2003 in the United States, he mentions this issue of NOVAYA GAZETA once, without even giving the proper attribution to the original authors -- Alexander Litvinenko and Yuri Felshtinsky -- as if this were just another “minor” article about the September 1999 events.
As the subsequent events showed, the publication amounted to substantially more than a “minor” article. Following the article’s publication, the Kremlin became silent as there appeared to be nothing to contradict our research. As Alexander Prokhanov, an ultra-nationalist Russian novelist and editor-in-chief of the orthodox communist newspaper Zavtra (Tomorrow), put it: “NOVAYA GAZETA has fired a gun shell at the Kremlin, and that shell has killed everybody in the Kremlin.”
By March 5, 2002, which was the day of Stalin’s death 49 years earlier, now a major holiday for all free-thinking Russians, a French TV team had made the documentary BLOWING UP RUSSIA, which was based on Litvinenko’s and my book. By that time, the book itself had been published in New York in both Russian and English. On March 5, 2002, we organized a presentation of that documentary in London with many Russian and foreign journalists in attendance, all of whom had a chance to take a copy of the documentary and the book as mementos.
Just over a month later, on April 19, 2002, Mr. Satter published for the first time the results of his “sensational” report: “The Shadow of Ryazan: Who Was Behind the Strange Russian Apartment Bombings in September 1999?”. Incredibly, everything – and I repeat, everything – written there was lifted both from Litvinenko’s and my publication in NOVAYA GAZETA from August 2001, and from the English edition of BLOWING UP RUSSIA (which was already available by March 2002). Needless to say, prior to August 2001 publication in Novaya Gazeta, Mr. Satter never publicly mentioned his research regarding the "Ryazan episode" about the September 1999 explosions. Indeed, none of Mr. Satter’s publications, including but not limited to, his articles in WASHINGTON TIMES of October 29, 1999 (“Anatomy of a Massacre”) and of November 29, 1999 (“Were the Recent Bombings in Russia Done by Chechen Terrorists or the Yeltsin Regime?”), suggested that Mr. Satter was coming to the conclusion that the September 1999 explosions were organized by the FSB, which is the theme of our research.
Subsequent to that, Mr. Satter continued benefitting from our research when he published his book DARKNESS AT DAWN in 2003 – again, with no acknowledgment. Furthermore, he recently published another book, THE LESS YOU KNOW, THE BETTER YOU SLEEP: RUSSIA'S ROAD TO TERROR AND DICTATORSHIP UNDER YELTSIN AND PUTIN. Again, a portion of this new book is about the September 1999 explosions, which took place in Russia and the events that followed. Continuing with his original pattern, he never mentions Litvinenko or me as the authors of BLOWING UP RUSSIA and he never mentions our book as a source. After reading Mr. Satter's publications for many years, my attitude has evolved from mere surprise to disbelief that a person desiring public recognition in a respected field can be so intellectually unscrupulous.
There is a Hollywood movie which I love: WAG THE DOG (1997). One of the main characters (played by Dustin Hoffman) says at the end of the film (shortly before he is killed by the government): “I want the credit!” Sorry, David: We want the credit.
Neither Litvinenko nor I were ever mentioned by Mr. Satter even a single time as the authors of BLOWING UP RUSSIA, a major book about the events of September 1999 in Russia, notable for the fact that everyone who participated in its writing, publication, and promotion has been killed or died under mysterious circumstances – namely: Alexander Litvinenko; Yuri Schekochikhin; Vladimir Golovliev (2002) and Sergey Yushenkov (2003) (both members of the Russian State Duma); Badri Patarkatsishvili (2008) and Boris Berezovsky (2013) (both of whom were financing my and Litvinenko's project from the beginning until the end (i.e., 2000-2006)). All of these people are dead now – except me.
Aside from any potential legal and/or ethical issues, or even glossing over the problem of plagiarism, authors need the credit for the work we do and for the risks we take. All we are asking for is the credit where the credit is due – especially when it comes to the publications of purported experts in a given field. It seems that a respectable publication such as NATIONAL REVIEW should demand no less from its contributing authors. In view of the foregoing, I would think that publishing my letter might be appropriate in order to provide me with an opportunity to correct factual inaccuracies in Mr. Satter’s work and to encourage a more thorough presentation of the existing body of research on the topics of public interest, which Mr. Satter purports to highlight in his work.
Many thanks, in advance, for your attention to this matter.
Ph. D. (History)
Doctor of History of the Russian Academy of Sciences