Russia Has Forgotten Beslan
Published: September 3, 2014 (Issue # 1827)
With theáongoing flood ofánews out ofáUkraine, Russia has almost completely forgotten about theáNorth Caucasus. Theá10-year commemoration ofáthe Beslan hostage crisis might serve as aásad reminder.
Ten years ago, onáSept. 1, 2004, during theáôfirst bellö celebration marking theábeginning ofáthe school year, aágang ofáarmed militants burst intoáthe schoolyard ofáSchool No. 1 ináBeslan, North Ossetia.
They herded more than 1,000 peopleáŚ including theáelderly andáchildren ofáall agesáŚ intoáthe school building andáannounced that they would hold them hostage until Russia withdrew its troops fromáChechnya.
Two days later, onáSept. 3, Russian Special Forces stormed theábuilding. Ináthe ensuing battle, some ofáthe militantsĺ homemade bombs exploded, aáblaze broke out andágovernment troops unleashed gunfire toward theábuilding.
Theáresult: 334 people died andámore than 700 were wounded, atáleast two ofáwhom were later added toáthe list ofáfatalities.
Ináthe initial weeks after theátragedy, many wondered how aádetachment ofámilitantsáŚ who, according toáofficial propaganda, should have been holed up ináthe Chechen mountains waiting toábe crushed byáRussian troopsáŚ sauntered intoáa neighboring region, seized aáschool inábroad daylight andáfor two days held more than 1,000 hostages, aáfourth ofáwhom died during theásubsequent rescue operation.
Theáfederal authorities gave aáparadoxical response. No senior siloviki or public officials atáthe federal or local levels lost their jobs, but theáRussian people lost their right toádirectly elect governors.
Apparently, theáKremlin felt that elections were atáleast as dangerous as terrorists. Ten years after Beslan, theáauthorities reinstated theáright toáelect governors, though not quite toáthe extent it existed prior toáthe fall ofá2004.
Ináevery other way andáin every other place except theácity itself, Beslan has been forgotten. Ofácourse, officials will pay aácourtesy call toáthe school this year.
Andáas he has done each previous year, North Ossetian head Taimuraz Mamsurov, who has two children who spent three terrifying days among theáBeslan school hostages, will escort federal officials toáthe memorial cemetery andáthe schoolyard monument where they will lay wreaths ofámourning.
Only God knows what thoughts will run through their heads during those minutes ofásilence, but as foráthe rest ofáthe country, it has forgotten Beslan.
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