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Russia Has Forgotten Beslan

Published: September 3, 2014 (Issue # 1827)




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With theongoing flood ofnews out ofUkraine, Russia has almost completely forgotten about theNorth Caucasus. The10-year commemoration ofthe Beslan hostage crisis might serve as asad reminder.

Ten years ago, onSept. 1, 2004, during thefirst bell celebration marking thebeginning ofthe school year, agang ofarmed militants burst intothe schoolyard ofSchool No. 1 inBeslan, North Ossetia.

They herded more than 1,000 people including theelderly andchildren ofall ages intothe school building andannounced that they would hold them hostage until Russia withdrew its troops fromChechnya.

Two days later, onSept. 3, Russian Special Forces stormed thebuilding. Inthe ensuing battle, some ofthe militants homemade bombs exploded, ablaze broke out andgovernment troops unleashed gunfire toward thebuilding.

Theresult: 334 people died andmore than 700 were wounded, atleast two ofwhom were later added tothe list offatalities.

Inthe initial weeks after thetragedy, many wondered how adetachment ofmilitants who, according toofficial propaganda, should have been holed up inthe Chechen mountains waiting tobe crushed byRussian troops sauntered intoa neighboring region, seized aschool inbroad daylight andfor two days held more than 1,000 hostages, afourth ofwhom died during thesubsequent rescue operation.

Thefederal authorities gave aparadoxical response. No senior siloviki or public officials atthe federal or local levels lost their jobs, but theRussian people lost their right todirectly elect governors.

Apparently, theKremlin felt that elections were atleast as dangerous as terrorists. Ten years after Beslan, theauthorities reinstated theright toelect governors, though not quite tothe extent it existed prior tothe fall of2004.

Inevery other way andin every other place except thecity itself, Beslan has been forgotten. Ofcourse, officials will pay acourtesy call tothe school this year.

Andas he has done each previous year, North Ossetian head Taimuraz Mamsurov, who has two children who spent three terrifying days among theBeslan school hostages, will escort federal officials tothe memorial cemetery andthe schoolyard monument where they will lay wreaths ofmourning.

Only God knows what thoughts will run through their heads during those minutes ofsilence, but as forthe rest ofthe country, it has forgotten Beslan.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Jan. 30 through Wednesday, Feb. 4



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of Repulsion at 7 p.m. and Rosemarys Baby at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy The Tenant, the cult comedy The Fearless Vampire Killers and Cul-de-sac among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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