On July 8, 44 year-old-mother Dawn Sturgess passed away in Salisbury, England, after authorities believe she accidentally came in contact with Novichok, a deadly nerve agent manufactured in Russia over 25 years ago.
This chemical was the same substance used in the attempted murders of Russian defector Sergei Skripal and his daughter in March.
Throughout Russia’s history, the country has been no stranger to the type of political murder attempted on the Skripals. At 3:30 p.m. Monday, July 16, in the Hall of Philosophy, Russia and KGB scholar Amy Knight will speak about the various instances of political murder under the Putin regime, which is the subject of her latest book Orders to Kill: The Putin Regime and Political Murder.
Knight has been dubbed “the West’s foremost scholar” of the KGB by The New York Times. She first received a doctorate degree in Russian politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1977. From there, she worked at the Library of Congress as a Soviet/Russian affairs analyst for 18 years, writing about Kremlinology, Russian policy and other fields of Russian studies.
She has authored six books throughout her career that spans more than four decades, offering in-depth perspectives into Russia’s historical and contemporary state. Knight has also written more than 25 scholarly articles and contributed to publications like the New York Times Book Review and The Daily Beast.
“I’ll be talking about the suspicious deaths of important political figures and journalists who happen to also be enemies of Mr. Putin,” Knight said.
She details many of these “suspicious deaths” in her book, including the 2006 poisoning of former KGB officer and Alexander Litvinenko, a friend of Putin.
Knight stressed the importance of the political murders and that “we don’t forget this is happening in Russia.”
“It’s forced quite a few democrats in Russia, political activists and journalists to flee the country. If we want Russia to develop into a democracy, we can’t have a leadership that either perpetuates these crimes themselves or allows them to happen.”
-Amy Knight, Author, Orders to Kill: The Putin Regime and Political Murder
Chautauquans are exploring a number of cultural misunderstandings that U.S. citizens have in regard to Russia during Week Four, themed “Russia and the West.” Knight thinks one cultural misunderstanding is Russia’s history with a democratic government.
“When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Russia had very little experience with democratic government of any kind,” Knight said. “We initially expected, when (Boris) Yeltsin came to power, that this would just be a complete transformation in Russia, and all of a sudden Russia would become a democracy. That really hasn’t happened.”
Russia’s current leadership has halted the country’s progress toward a more democratic future. The country is “one of the key players” on the world stage and should be taken seriously by the U.S., according to Knight.
Knight is excited for her lecture at the Institution. In particular, she is looking forward to engaging in dialogue with Chautauquans after her presentation.
“That’s a rewarding experience for me,” Knight said, “because the people who attend Chautauqua and go to these different events tend to be well-informed (and) inquisitive people with open minds.”