It was her reporting from Chechnya that made Politkovskaya's national and international reputation. For seven years she refused to give up reporting on the war despite numerous acts of intimidation and violence. Politkovskaya was arrested by Russian military forces in Chechnya and subjected to a mock execution. She was poisoned while flying from Moscow via Rostov-on-Don to help resolve the 2004 Beslan school hostage crisis, and had to turn back, requiring careful medical treatment in Moscow to restore her health.
Her post-1999 articles about conditions in Chechnya were turned into books several times; Russian readers' main access to her investigations and publications was through Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper known for its often-critical investigative coverage of Russian political and social affairs. From 2000 onwards, she received numerous international awards for her work. In 2004, she published Putin's Russia, a personal account of Russia for a Western readership.
On 7 October 2006, she was murdered in the elevator of her block of flats, an assassination that attracted international attention. In June 2014, five men were sentenced to prison for the murder, but it is still unclear who ordered or paid for the contract killing.
Politkovskaya was born Anna Mazepa in New York City in 1958, the daughter of Stepan F. Mazepa from Kostobobriv (Kostobobrov), Ukraine. Some sources say that her birth name was actually Hanna Mazeppa. Other sources state that she was born in Chernihiv (Chernigov) region of Ukraine. Her parents, Soviet diplomats at the United Nations, were Ukrainian. Politkovskaya spent most of her childhood in Moscow; she graduated from Moscow State University's school of journalism in 1980. While there, she defended a thesis about the poetry of Marina Tsvetaeva and married fellow student Alexander Politkovsky. They had two children, Vera and Ilya. At first Alexander was better known, joining TV journalist Vladislav Listyev as one of the hosts on the late-night TV programme Vzglyad. Apart from her childhood years, Politkovskaya spent no more than a few weeks outside Russia at any one time, even when her life came under threat. She was a U.S. citizen and had a U.S. passport, although she never relinquished her Russian citizenship.