Anna Politkovskaya was born in New York on 30 August 1958, the daughter of two Ukrainian diplomats, Soviet officials at the United Nations. In 1980 she graduated in journalism from Moscow University, with a dissertation on the poetess Marina Cvetaeva.
In 1982 she got a job with Izvestia, where she stayed until 1993. From 1994 to 1999 she contributed to various free radio and television stations. In 1998 she went to Chechenya for the first time as a correspondent of the Obšcaja Gazeta to interview the newly elected Chechen President, Aslan Mashkadov. In mid 1999 she moved to the Novaja Gazeta, the newspaper that published her hard-hitting investigations and damming reports on Chechenya, Daghestan and Ingushetsia, openly criticizing the Russian president Putin and the local politicians, "puppets" of Moscow.
She travelled frequently to Chechenya to document the massacres and denounce Russian policy, supporting the families of the civilian victims, visiting hospitals and refugee camps, interviewing both Russian soldiers and Chechen civilians. She also took part in the negotiations during the Chechen guerrillas’ siege of the Dubrovka theatre in Moscow, which ended with Putin’s special forces storming the theatre and killing both the rebels and numerous innocent victims.
In September 2004 Anna Politkovskaya felt ill while travelling by plane to Beslan, where Chechen guerrillas had attacked a school and taken numerous children hostage. When she collapsed, the aircraft was forced to go back and it is thought probable that Anna had been poisoned.
In December 2005, during a Reporters without Borders conference in Vienna on freedom of the press, she stated: "Sometimes, people pay for voicing their opinions out loud with their lives". She said that she considered herself "someone who describes what happens to those who cannot see the events " and she denounced Putin’s attempts to intimidate the press and limit freedom of speech. She knew her reports and her counter-information work were putting her life at risk but she refused to be gagged.
On 7 October 2006 she was assassinated in the lift of her Moscow apartment block with four shots, one of which to the head.
Two days later, Novaja Gazeta published the preparatory notes to the article she had been working on, a detailed investigation into episodes of torture committed by the Chechen security forces linked to the Prime Minister Ramsan Kadyrov. Her funeral, celebrated in a hard-to-reach suburb on the outskirts of Moscow, was attended by a huge crowd of mourners, but not a single representative of the Russian government.