Wishing All of the Best to The Moscow Times

By Matt Bivens

Like many Moscow Times alumni, I thoroughly enjoyed Chloe Arnold's look at the paper's 15-year history ("Still Doing It Daily 15 Years On,"

She truly captured the newsroom's spirit and hit some of our high moments: for example, the reporting of Carlotta Gall and Thomas de Waal during the first Chechen war (1994-1996).

No discussion of the paper's coverage of Chechnya would be complete, however, without mention of Yevgenia Borisova. When war broke out anew in 1998, Borisova (among several others in the newsroom) was keen to be dispatched to the combat zone. I was the editor at the time, and I balked at the suggestion. I had covered the first war in Chechnya for the Los Angeles Times; if anything, I expected this reprise to be even more grim and dangerous, and I worried about one of my reporters being injured, kidnapped or worse.

But Borisova, along with other voices I respected in the newsroom, was eloquently insistent: We needed to be there. So was Derk Sauer, the paper's founder and publisher. All of these colleagues believed it our duty to report firsthand on such momentous events. Sauer pledged the resources, Borisova the courage and I reluctantly agreed. She dyed her hair black, donned a head scarf, slipped into Chechnya and soon was riding along with busloads of refugees.

The first war had been a news sensation with hundreds of journalists from all over the world descending on the Caucasus. By contrast, this second act enjoyed far less attention. Borisova was often one of the only reporters on the ground. It was lonely and dangerous work, and she filed some of the first, best and most hair-raising stories. I breathed a sigh of relief every time she returned.

And she was just one of many courageous reporters an editor could be nervous about. I think of Catherine Belton doggedly chasing financial corruption stories and Natalya Shulyakovskaya asking pointed questions about the patriarch's associates.

I suppose there's nothing surprising in this. It's in the short-yet-sweet tradition of The Moscow Times. It's a little paper, but we've always had reporters willing to take risks.

If that sounds too self-satisfied, please consider: We are soberly aware that this is not always a winning bet. Sander Thoenes was a beloved Moscow Times reporter who smiled his way unscathed through the gun battles before the Ostankino television tower in 1993, when Boris Yeltsin and the parliament waged war in the streets. Six years later, while working for the Financial Times, Sander was shot and killed as he covered violence in East Timor. He's someone we will miss as we celebrate the 15th anniversary.

Matt Bivens was the editor of The Moscow Times from 1998 to 2001.