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Vengeance in Sochi

Published: January 15, 2014 (Issue # 1793)


Russia’s Islamist insurgents may attack the Sochi Winter Olympics with drones.

These will not be like the drones used by the Americans, armed with Hellfire missiles. Rather they will be jerry-rigged unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, of the sort easily available online for a few thousand dollars. Such remote-controlled UAVs are probably unstoppable at low altitudes and will not need much armament to cause mayhem.

The Chechens, in particular, have already proved innovative in pioneering new methods for inducing terror. In fact, they are credited with the first, and so far the only, instance of nuclear terrorism. In November 1995, Chechen rebels buried a dirty bomb — cesium 137 wrapped around dynamite — in Moscow’s Izmailovo Park. The media was alerted and the unearthing of the bomb was televised live, possibly spreading as much fear as if it had actually exploded. A UAV carrying a similar device would not have to explode either to cause pandemonium at the Winter Games.

In 2004, the president of Chechnya was assassinated by a bomb blast while attending a Victory Day ceremony celebrating the Soviet defeat of the Nazis in World War II. The explosive device had apparently been built into the reviewing stand long before the event, possibly when the stadium was undergoing repairs. This, too, was inventive compared to the usual suicide bomber armed with dynamite, shrapnel and the readiness to die.

Two bombings of that sort in Volgograd in late December — one in the main train station, the other on a municipal bus — nevertheless sent ripples of fear across Russia. The number of people attending New Year’s Eve festivities in Moscow was down by 50 percent. About 50,000 people turned out and were watched over by 5,000 police.

The history of relations between Russia and the peoples of the North Caucasus, especially Chechnya, is long and tangled. Some historians date the initial clash between Russia and Chechnya to the time of Peter the Great at the beginning of the 18th century, while others date the conflict to the period of Catherine the Great at the end of that century. In any case, the grievances are many and the memories long, with the victims always having longer memories than the victors.

Among all the traumas and atrocities, one stands out. In early 1944, on Josef Stalin’s direct orders, the entire Chechen and Ingush nations — every man, woman and child were rounded up, packed into cattle cars and exiled to Kazakhstan. Those unfit to travel were herded into buildings that were then set on fire or were machine-gunned. Something like a quarter or a third of those exiled died en route or in the first harsh years. Some have termed this attempted genocide.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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