Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


????? ??? ????? ?????? ?? captors
September 3, 2004 1:19 AM   Subscribe

Possibly 1,000 Hostages taken at Russian School. Earlier reports were 350, but an anonymous report claims total is much larger. So far more than one dozen hostages have been killed.
posted by Keyser Soze (65 comments total)

 
By all means, ignore all the published reports from reputable sources and believe the single anonymous rumor.
posted by fleener at 1:24 AM on September 3, 2004


By all means, trust completely the official russian report.
posted by Keyser Soze at 1:27 AM on September 3, 2004


The tv news I'm watching as we speak is saying 1500! Btw, the contradictory information apparently comes from some of the released hostages.
posted by Onanist at 1:35 AM on September 3, 2004


I think we should take a moment to try and understand where the captors are coming from here... over a Coca-Cola and chips perhaps. This is nothing a little chat can't fix. An analysis of their upbringings and childhood experiences might also be helpful. No need to overreact and erase them from the earth. These are reasonable people ya know.
posted by Witty at 1:47 AM on September 3, 2004


Yahoo Link
posted by Keyser Soze at 2:04 AM on September 3, 2004


By all means, trust completely the official russian report.

In Soviet Russia, officials report you! *Ducks*

Humor aside, I doubt this will end well, seeing that the Russian military may cause more casualties than the captors!
posted by Aikido at 2:20 AM on September 3, 2004


The school roof has collapsed and there is gunfire.

Those poor children.
posted by malpractice at 2:42 AM on September 3, 2004


Reuters and BBC say major gun battle.... what malpractice said.
posted by mattr at 3:27 AM on September 3, 2004


several militants who escaped the school were in a local residence surrounded by troops.

Hostage exchange.
posted by stbalbach at 4:31 AM on September 3, 2004


Flipping between various news channels this morning I saw Senator Charles Grassley on Fox News saying this was Russia's own fault for not joining with us in the War on Terrorism. What a wonderful man.
posted by Tenuki at 4:34 AM on September 3, 2004


Apparently the hostage takers opened the doors so some of the hostages could leave, and the other hostages got confused and rushed out the doors so the terrorists opened fire. So other hostage takers in other parts of the building thought that the authorities were attacking, so they set off the bombs.

What an almighty fuck up. Still, nice to see that the American news media is finally interested now that it's all over and most of the people involved have died. Uhh, I mean 'now that the terrorists have been apprehended'.
posted by tapeguy at 4:38 AM on September 3, 2004


What.
The.
Fuck.
????? ??? ????? ?????? ?? captors?
posted by Pretty_Generic at 4:44 AM on September 3, 2004


As for where the captors were coming from, this report might help.
posted by talos at 5:18 AM on September 3, 2004


Still, nice to see that the American news media is finally interested now that it's all over and most of the people involved have died. Uhh, I mean 'now that the terrorists have been apprehended'.

Oh would you give it a rest already. If you have the internet at your disposal with hundreds of news sources available, why must you bitch about "American news media"? Stop pretending like that really matters to you. What the fuck does the American news media have to do with this? Can you stay focused on the RUSSIAN aspect of this story for a little while? God... I'm starting to think Miguel actually had a point. Shouldn't you be watching the BBC anyway?
p.s. I saw reports of this on the ole' TV here in Virginia (U.S.A.) within hours of its beginning.
posted by Witty at 5:25 AM on September 3, 2004


nice to see that the American news media is finally interested now that it's all over and most of the people involved have died


This has been going on for days. And I have seen it on the news here in Massachusetts every day since it started. So, if you missed it, don't go incriminating everyone else, or the news media. They have been reporting it, maybe you just didn't watch?

ditto Witty's comment
posted by a3matrix at 5:48 AM on September 3, 2004


FWIW, the only place I saw this covered in any detail was Fox News.
posted by jpoulos at 6:22 AM on September 3, 2004


So we're watching the morning news, with video of the hostages leaving the school. Does anyone know why so many of them are half-dressed or naked?
posted by sugarfish at 6:46 AM on September 3, 2004


Clothes blown off in explosions.

Also the conditions inside the school were described as stiflingly hot with no access to water or toilets.
posted by erebora at 6:53 AM on September 3, 2004


I tell you, the Russians don't mess around. Frankly, I'm amazed that they went in there, guns blazing, so soon. Especially after what happened the last time this kind of thing happened in Russia.

God, the world is such a mess. It makes me so sad.
posted by aacheson at 8:01 AM on September 3, 2004


Russia is the absolute last place where anarchy should take place. Whether or not you think the Russians "mess around", it's becoming obvious to me that they're barely holding it all together. If I lived in Europe, I'd be very worried about my big neighbor to the East.

Funny, you take away the one, big, common enemy and things go to hell in a handbasket.
posted by tommasz at 8:41 AM on September 3, 2004


Still, nice to see that the American news media is finally interested now that it's all over

You withhold condemnation of the lunatics who took hundreds of children hostage, but you're experiencing much pants-wetting because of a US Media which has, in fact, been giving this plenty of coverage. Fascinating. And Typical. And Pitiful.
posted by dhoyt at 8:55 AM on September 3, 2004


aacheson (or anyone else): speaking of the Dubrovka tragedy, I have a vague recollection of a mysterious young woman who walked right into the theater, past all the outside security, and then was later killed by the terrorists. Anyone else remember this? Who was she? (or, should I take this to Ask.Me?)
posted by vacapinta at 9:03 AM on September 3, 2004


If I lived in Europe, I'd be very worried about my big neighbor to the East.

How come?
posted by the cuban at 9:22 AM on September 3, 2004


aacheson, from what I read, they heard/saw that the terrorists had started executing people, that's why they strormed the building.

This is definitely a new low in international terrorism. Despite lots of talk about it, there have actually been very few cases of terror directed against schools (not counting home-grown school shooters and the DC Sniper).
posted by cell divide at 9:31 AM on September 3, 2004


Things got awful this morning. Reports are saying as many as 150 are dead now.

Anyone not see this coming?

Still sucks for the hostages and the parents who've had to watch the Russians hamhand another hostage crisis.
posted by fenriq at 9:46 AM on September 3, 2004


Yesterday they let 12 women choose one kid to leave with them. Can you imagine? How would you chose which of your children to leave behind and which to save? I think I'd kill myself. I weep for humanity, I really do.

I can't say "I saw this coming." But there is SO MUCH hatred and terrorism and killing and brutality and horrible things happening in this world right now, I'm horrified but not shocked by anything that's happening. I feel like bad people have free reign in the world right now. I feel like, "what can go wrong, will go wrong." Am I wrong to feel this way?
posted by aacheson at 10:20 AM on September 3, 2004


I think we should take a moment to try and understand where the captors are coming from here... over a Coca-Cola and chips perhaps. This is nothing a little chat can't fix. An analysis of their upbringings and childhood experiences might also be helpful. No need to overreact and erase them from the earth. These are reasonable people ya know.

Nah, I think we should just kill 'em all without pausing to think about their motivations. I mean, it's not like there'll be anyone else left on earth who might turn to terrorist tactics once these guys are gone.

I do think these motherfuckers should be shown no mercy. You're still an ass, Witty -- basically exhorting us not to bother with any strategy more complex and nuanced than "kill." "Kill" is only part of the picture, if an important part.
posted by Epenthesis at 10:37 AM on September 3, 2004


Am I wrong to feel this way?

No, aacheson, you're not wrong. To use a cheesy LOTR analogy, the world is starting to fall into shadow. Bad Things are brewing.

But even in the seeming anarchy/chaos, there's one main (though not exclusive) underlying pattern: radical Islamic terrorism. Now, the Chechens have something of a valid cause against Russia. They've been brutalized as a culture and region for 150+ years. But their methods of protesting what they see as an occupation (or at least oppression) have slipped into a very familiar pattern.

The "Chechen" terrorists in the school are, from the reports I've seen (including a blogger who's been translating the Russian news into English), actually multi-ethnic and half are apparently Arab mercenaries. The group claiming credit for the attack at the school calls Russia "an infidel state". Some of the terrorists at the school have bombs strapped to them in a familiar "glorious martyrdom" style. Our good friends the Saudis continue to fund the Chechen insurgency and provide them material support. Chechen suicide bombers' families get paid tens of thousands of dollars for their relatives' "martyrdom". Their struggle against Russia has started to be (self-)described as jihad. The terrorists who took over the Moscow theatre in 2002 let all the Muslims in the audience go before the killing started in earnest.

You see where I'm going with this: there's a strong common thread between the events in Russia/Chechnya and the events in, say, the US and other Western countries vs. Al Qaeda, or Israel vs. Hamas, or India vs. Punjabi terrorists, or Indonesia and Malaysia and the Phillipines vs. Jemaah Islamiyah. Some of the common elements are actions against civilians instead of troops (like blowing up the two Russian planes nine days ago, or the suicide bomber in Moscow this week, or the school situation), political justification for those tactics ("occupation" of Muslim land), and most importantly religious justification for those tactics (the ideology of jihad, suicide bombing as being a good thing worth celebrating and rewarding, the concept of "infidel" states, where the state must be of a certain religion [part of Dar al-Islam] or else part of the House of War [Dar al-Harb], etc.).

One radical ideology is behind--or at least co-opting and taking advantage of--quite a lot of the discontent on the planet right now. It's the tie that binds such diverse countries as the US, Russia, Israel, India, Turkey, France...something even the UN can't accomplish.
posted by Asparagirl at 11:09 AM on September 3, 2004


The Russian gov't is now estimating the number of hostages as more than 1200.

Killing these individual terrorists won't solve the problem (though it would make lots of people feel better, at least briefly). Because there are more where they came from, and making these people martyrs just adds another grievance to spur them on.

I'm not sure what the right answer is. What is it that makes people stop believing that they need to kill lots and lots of other people for some abstract cause? In the case of the Western world, it seems to be economic stability and comfort. Similarly in the case of Japan.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:15 AM on September 3, 2004


More than 100 reported killed in shootout.

Other sources: Russian lenta.ru report 646 have checked into hospital following raid, including 227 children. 63 reported dead by Health Ministry, including 12 children. Russian gazeta.ru reports 79 dead.

What's more, several sources mention that the battle is not over, with some hostages still being held.

Considering what happened in the Moscow theater, I suspect we'll see the number of casualties rise greatly in the comind days.

Ah, fuck.
posted by Krrrlson at 11:21 AM on September 3, 2004


The "Chechen" terrorists in the school are, from the reports I've seen (including a blogger who's been translating the Russian news into English), actually multi-ethnic and half are apparently Arab mercenaries.

In here: http://www.gazeta.ru/2004/09/03/last132316.shtml (Russian), 10 of the 20 terrorists are described as Turkish and Arabic mercenaries.
posted by Krrrlson at 11:34 AM on September 3, 2004


What is it that makes people stop believing that they need to kill lots and lots of other people for some abstract cause? In the case of the Western world, it seems to be economic stability and comfort.

explain mcveigh.
posted by quonsar at 11:47 AM on September 3, 2004


This been on British tv since about 10 this morning. I can't bring myself to watch it.
posted by ZippityBuddha at 11:47 AM on September 3, 2004


Also, supposedly the attack was unauthorised by President Putin, and was in response to released children being shot at by the terrorists (as said above).

Thanks for that link, Asparagirl.
posted by ZippityBuddha at 11:51 AM on September 3, 2004


Funny, you take away the one, big, common enemy and things go to hell in a handbasket.

That's how it works. One big, bad, evil guy running things with an iron fist keeps any thought of insurgency out most people's heads. Take that away, and all hell breaks loose.

[ahem]
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:53 AM on September 3, 2004


The "Chechen" terrorists in the school are ... actually multi-ethnic and half are apparently Arab mercenaries.

Sure, because these people consider themselves Muslims fighting for Muslim freedom wherever necessary. Their nationality, as such, is less important than the common religious heritage. Consider how many (of the vocal, public) speakers favor a single Islamic political entity.
posted by billsaysthis at 12:00 PM on September 3, 2004


Further tidbits gleaned from web browsing:

- The Saudis have been funding Wahhabi style extremist religious schools in Chechnya since the early 1990's. They've been killing moderate indigenous Sufi Muslims (pacifist mystics, really--i.e. the famous Whirling Dervishes), especially Sufi leaders, and pushing out their ideology in favor of the radical jihadist strain of Islam.

- Chechnya was pretty much autonomous...until 1999 when it invaded Dagestan. Note that the increase in Chechen terrorist activities towards Russia correlates strongly with the gaining influence of Wahhabist Saudi ideology in the area.

- The terrorists apparently didn't even know what city they were in, and had to ask the hostages! They may have picked the school semi-randomly, and reports say they bribed traffic cops asking for a nearby school. Can we say "an outside authority planned this"?

- Some of the terrorists (that is, the ones who didn't blow themselves up in the hallways via bomb belts, and the ones who didn't blow themselves and 100+ hostages up in the gym via explosives) used ambulances and kids to make their escape. The ambulances came close to the school to receive some of the kids, but set off mines. This let the terrorists slip away, using the kids as shields.

- Reuters and the BBC are refusing to refer to the terrorists as terrorists. They have been described, instead, as "an armed gang"; check out this screen grab! Reuters has long history of this in other conflicts, including refusing to apply the T-word to the 9/11 terrorists, and the BBC is just as bad, but this really takes the cake.
posted by Asparagirl at 12:13 PM on September 3, 2004


The CNN footage makes the thing look really chaotic. The reporter said that people from the neighbourhood picked up guns and went in the building with the Russian forces. Some reporters went inside while fighting was going on.

Looks like the area hadn't been blocked off, civilians with guns are walking around next to tanks trying to help out. Maybe some terrorists did walk off. The whole thing sounds really sloppy.
posted by bobo123 at 12:38 PM on September 3, 2004


From the Moscow Times:
"Late Wednesday night, one of the troops called his commanding officer on the radio with a grim request.

"Can we shoot the dogs? They are chewing on the bodies," said the man, who gave only his first name, Oleg. The officer turned down the request, saying that any shooting could alarm the hostage-takers, and they did not want to risk setting off a firefight or put the hostages' lives in danger. The attackers have threatened to kill 50 children for every one of their own killed."
From ITAR-TASS:
"Six hundred and forty-six people, including 227 children, were hospitalized following the terrorist act in Beslan," sources in the Russian Ministry for Civil Defense and Emergencies and the North Ossetian Health Ministry told Itar-Tass...

"The majority of patients have bullet wounds in the back," the sources said.
posted by Asparagirl at 1:24 PM on September 3, 2004


gazeta.ru: A representative of the operative HQ told Interfax that "as of 23:30, the terrorist resistance in the Beslan school has been fully suprressed." According to him, measures are being taken in the city to locate and neutralize three militants who, according to the preliminary information, may have escaped. ITAR-TASS reports there is a search for four terrorists.
posted by Krrrlson at 1:36 PM on September 3, 2004


Why won't Russia let Chechnya go in the first place? They have oil? Haven't most of the other former satellite states spun off already? Even the Ukraine is now a separate country.
posted by amberglow at 1:47 PM on September 3, 2004


I don't think it's as cut-and-dry as you say, Asparagirl. Yes, the Chechen conflict has taken on more attributes of militant islamism in the Middle East, and yes they're being influenced by Saudi support. But the conflict is about nationalism and independence, not a fundamentalist opposition to the West. (In some ways, I think this is similar to the current position of most Iraqis.) The increased violence is the result of growing frustration, years without progress, and the behaviour of the Russian military. The increased interest in Islam is because the Saudis are there, with funded schools, and because such doctrines - like evangelical protestantism in Africa and S. America, - are extremely attractive to the disenfranchised poor. It's not the neoconservative pipedream that "now that they're muslims they kill children."

The Toronto Star:
"Human rights abuses [by the Russian authorities] are the hallmark of the [Chechen] conflict. There are everyday disappearances, torture is ingrained and extensive, as are summary executions. There are new victims every day. People have lost what little hope they had of Russia as their protector. As a result, Denber says, the militants have also grown more ruthless."
The Boston Globe:
"Putin's goal, said Alexander Golts, military observer for the magazine Yezhenedelny Zhurnal, was ''to put Russia in the ranks of those who fight against terrorism . . . to say, 'Look, we are fighting the same enemy but on another front, in Chechnya.' "

''It's the best way to avoid any kind of criticism," Golts said.

Though the Chechen insurgents have received help from foreign fighters and turned more devoutly Islamic in recent years, analysts say the fragmented movement remains more focused on conflict with Russia than on ''jihad" or ''holy war" against America, Israel, or the Western world in general.

''It's still nationalist," said Golts. ''But in a situation where we are continuing this 10-year war with all its brutality, it's more or less natural that this resistance becomes open for all these wild ideas that come from the Middle East, with money, instructors, and adventurers."
posted by Marquis at 1:58 PM on September 3, 2004 [1 favorite]


Reuters and the BBC are refusing to refer to the terrorists as terrorists

The BBCand ITV have been referring to them as terrorists on tv all day
posted by ZippityBuddha at 2:11 PM on September 3, 2004


Roshal said that if the crisis ends in tragedy, a war will break out between the Ingush and North Ossetians in which thousands will die.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:03 PM on September 3, 2004


The increased violence is the result of growing frustration, years without progress, and the behaviour of the Russian military.

Years without progress? But Chechnya has been semi-autonomous, with its own elections, since Yeltsin signed a treaty with them in 1997. The Second Chechen War started, as far as I can see, from Chechnya invading Dagestan and blowing up Moscow apartment buildings. The Russians have been awful to them over the years, so of course there's a nationalist bent to their actions--but the modus operandi of targeting civilians via large-scale acts of terrorism only came in around the same time as the Saudis.

"The BBC..have been referring to them as terrorists on tv"

Not on their website, they ain't: only "hostage-takers" and "separatists" and more "hostage-takers" here, as far as I can see.
posted by Asparagirl at 3:36 PM on September 3, 2004


Oh, and they do get called "rebels" in one backgrounder piece which has a long list of terrorist acts the Chechens have been invovled in since the mid-1990's. One item caught my eye: "Three people were killed when Saudi Arabian security forces stormed a plane which was diverted to Medina after it was hijacked as it flew from Istanbul to Moscow in March 2001." It's one of the least bloody acts in the list, but I thought it noteworthy for obvious reasons.
posted by Asparagirl at 3:42 PM on September 3, 2004


Asparagirl: Chechnya has been semi-autonomous, with its own elections
You did read about the nature of their recent "free" elections, right?

The Second Chechen war has been marked by a lot of terrorism, but that's not really surprising if you see it as an escalation of the First Chechen War, only a few years before.

...the modus operandi of targeting civilians via large-scale acts of terrorism only came in around the same time as the Saudis
Yes. But it's important not to mix up cause and effect. The synchronicty of terrorism and Wahhabist Islam need not mean that one caused the other. You can also understand the situation as one of poverty/frustration, welcoming both more "effective"/extreme miltary strategies (terrorism), and a religion which answered Chechens' alienation (populist islam).

This is why some argue that fighting poverty/ignorance/disenfranchisement is preferred over fighting "Islamism". Even if everyone converts to Christianity, the violence's root causes remain, and the war will continue.
posted by Marquis at 4:05 PM on September 3, 2004


A) The modus operandi of targeting civilians via large-scale acts of terrorism is at least as old as the Crusades.

Here in the US, there have been lots of large-scale anti-civilian actions--Sherman's burning of Atlanta is just one. To suggest that this is somehow a creation of recent pan-Islamist terrorists is to ignore thousands of years of history.

B) You can try to make this all about Islam, but that isn't going to make it go away, because Islam isn't going to go away any more than Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, or any other Great Big Religion is going to.

C) What Marquis said about the post hoc, obter propter hoc fallacy. Terrorism has been on the rise around the world in the past three or four decades, and it isn't all about Islam or Islamists. Hutus v. Tutsis, for example. The IRA, for another example. ETA. The Tamil Tigers. The Shining Path. The Khmer Rouge.

Now, the IRA and ETA generally killed fewer people than most of those other groups, it's true. I would argue that this may be due to the higher standard of living in Northern Ireland and, er, the Basque regions of Sp__n.

But the Khmer Rouge killed way more people than all of the pan-Islamist terrorists of the last ten years combined, yes? So it can't be all about pan-Islamism.

D) Quonsar, I'm not saying that high standards of living equal nobody wanting to be a terrorist--I'm just saying that the lower the standard of living gets, the more people have nothing to lose by being a terrorist. But you make a good point--there will probably always be some terrorism, no matter how well political and economic concerns are addressed, because some people's minds just work that way.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:21 PM on September 3, 2004 [1 favorite]


Also, the Chechens are "rebels". They are also terrorists, of course.

The Tamil Tigers are also referred to as "rebels". They are also terrorists. And Hindus (mostly).
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:23 PM on September 3, 2004


Oh, man, I forgot the Shining Path. Rebels, you know. And terrorists. And not Islamists.

And Aum Shinrikyo (the Gang that Couldn't Gas Straight).

I don't think that large-scale terrorism is a product of Islamist extremism--rather, Islamist extremism has reached a boiling point at a time when large-scale terrorism has been in play from lots of groups with lots of different agendas around the world.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:26 PM on September 3, 2004


This is why some argue that fighting poverty/ignorance/disenfranchisement is preferred over fighting "Islamism". Even if everyone converts to Christianity, the violence's root causes remain, and the war will continue.

I just thought this point beared repeating for those that refuse to accept that some of the terrorists might actually have a specific grievance larger than "I hate your freedom."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:35 PM on September 3, 2004


Why won't Russia let Chechnya go in the first place? They have oil? Haven't most of the other former satellite states spun off already? Even the Ukraine is now a separate country.

Chechnya was never its own country, as Ukraine was before the Soviet Union. (Granted, it was never its own country for very long periods of time, but nonetheless.) It's an ethnic region in the Asian part of Russia, one of many. Very many.

Basically, if Chechnya gets its independence then the rest of the restless ethic regions will also fight Russia for independence, and the Russian military is already incapable of handling only Chechnya. It's a disaster waiting to happen.

Another appalling -- and saddening -- aspect of this story is that the first day of school in Russia ia a holiday, a celebration for the children and teachers. For it to be ruined in such a way, and such unspeakable horror to follow, is the ultimate kill for me. Slaughtering innocent children for independence is beyond low.
posted by somethingotherthan at 8:13 PM on September 3, 2004


But you're not saying that the only countries that got to break away when the USSR collapsed were ones that were independent in the past, are you? Who decided? What were the criteria? How far back, and for how long? Turkmenistan, for instance, with its psycho dictator, was an independent country at one time? How far in the past? and Kazahkstan? Belarus?
posted by amberglow at 8:24 PM on September 3, 2004


by this account, they should have been allowed to break away...they did what other former USSR states did--With the break-up of the USSR, the Chechen Assembly adopted a resolution of sovereignty and elected Jokhar Dudayev president in October 1991 and Dudayev declared Chechnya’s independence. Why didn't Russia accept it from them back then when it accepted the others?
posted by amberglow at 8:31 PM on September 3, 2004


I'm not saying I agree with this line of reasoning, just saying that's what it is.
posted by somethingotherthan at 8:53 PM on September 3, 2004


amberglow: those aren't questions that are easy to answer. The simplest is that the structure of the USSR was reorganized under Stalin into separate federated states, including within it Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and so forth. For political reasons these were promoted abroad as independent nations, because that gave Joe more votes he could control in bodies such as the UN General Assembly. (It's true. The USSR had 3 votes there. Only one in the Security Council, though.) It isn't simply that the now-independent states were once so themselves -- that mainly applies only to the three Baltics. Belarus, and Ukraine, certainly were longstanding parts of the Russian empire from the feudal era onward. Turkmenistan and other 19th-century acquisitions were probably collections of various warlords and satrapies, which were played off one another as part of the Great Game. But these states had advantages the tiny republics didn't.

When the '91 coup took place, Gorbachev was in the process of signing a new treaty of federation with these states which was more like a loose confederation than a federal entity. (It's not like we haven't had the same sorts of, um, arguments over the years.) After the coup collapsed, largely in part due to the bravery of officials at the federated states level such as Boris Yeltsin, it was easy for these officials to seize the opportunity to declare independence. The hollow core of the Kremlin's control mechanisms had been exposed. The Gorbachev-led government continued to insist it existed and had a role, but the military was with Yeltsin and the new generation of leaders.

Russia proper not only saw advantage in allowing the other states to leave, it had little choice to accept it, because of nuclear weapons and other military assets in those regions which were likely to follow local command in the event of a dispute. (Indeed, it took years before the Russian and Ukraine navies agreed on the division of the Black Sea Fleet, which was based wholly within Ukrainian territory at Odesa.)

Compared with Ukraine and Kazakhstan, however, tiny republics within the Russian Federation itself (and there are dozens, many of them created for overt political purposes under the USSR and given over to discontinuous regions occupied by certain ethnic groups) had no such option. They didn't have local military who would stand up for their interests, put simply.

One can make an argument for all such "breakaway" regions to be set free, but the process shouldn't be unilateral, I suspect. (Consider the Los Angeles secession vote. Not only the region wanting out, but the entire city, had to approve.) It's great to think of supporting "freedom fighters" but sometimes it's nothing more than an economic interest. Sometimes, it's appalling, sometimes just vexing.

Ultimately we can, we must, separate the legitimate interests of the Chechen people in more autonomy from the symbolism of complete independence and the horror of terrorist methods used to pursue it. The Chechens deserve good government, period. Russia can't accept further fragmentation, because it would be disastrous. (Yugoslavia, I think, provides an instructive example.) The iron fist of Putin, in the mold of his commie predecessors, speaks to this as a longstanding Russian, Muscovian interest rather than an aspect of totalitarianism. It isn't a question that has easy answers.

My own, up till recently, was that supranational entities such as the European Union both made the rationale for independence weaker (if you are part of a "nation" that is more like a US state, why bother?) and stronger (if the supranational body is the nation, why not divide up the people however they like?), while removing much of the importance of the modern-day philosophy of nationalism -- cultural identity, for one -- from the equation. As a practical answer, I don't have control over Russia, and I don't feel I can tell Russians whether to allow ethnic enclaves to have independence. Greater autonomy and control over their affairs, especially the ones that matter, such as language and schooling, seems something that anyone can support. Importantly, it doesn't require violence to achieve.

So, I support greater autonomy for the Chechens. But you know, I don't think that's achievable for anyone in Russia right now, given the centralized political situation. I don't see why the Chechens are special. I think all Russians deserve more democratic institutions and more local autonomy for the important social questions. Yet I wouldn't support that autonomy being used to implement an Islamic state. And I don't support the methods of the Chechen terrorists -- here, appalling -- any more than I support the methods of the Russian army, which has been brutal and indiscriminate, in the grand Russian tradition.
posted by dhartung at 9:37 PM on September 3, 2004


Quonsar:

Gulf War 1 + a generation of delliberate undermining of quality public education + rapid economic disenfranchisement.

Which means we can expect more to come.
posted by mwhybark at 9:45 PM on September 3, 2004


dhartung's post is interesting because I think it gets the heart of most secession movements-- good government. Russia has been unable to provide good government for the Chechens, and this is the heart of their discontent. As Dhartung also points out, this gives a wedge for those seeking power or money to exploit the situation for their own ends. This makes it incredibly difficult for those on the outside, and the inside, to separate those who yearn for a better life from those who would kill civilians for their own personal ends, and not a better life for their people. It almost creates an impossible situation.
posted by cell divide at 10:59 PM on September 3, 2004


Looking at a map, one might conclude that the breakaway of Chechnya might be more strongly resisted by Russia to keep tight control of access to the Black and Caspian Seas. If other regions bordering Chechnya follow suit, it would be what Russia considers a disaster, I think.
posted by Dick Paris at 11:38 PM on September 3, 2004


well, thanks, but that's just wrong, i think, no matter what the reason.

I've read that the Russians/Putin have been acting much like Pinochet inside Chechnya, which of course invites retaliation. They shouldn't be surprised by this stuff, even tho it's horrific. I don't wish this on anyone but it seems like they didn't get anywhere diplomatically, or in the UN, or anywhere else, so turned to direct action. How much violence and terror and loss will Putin accept? (Especially if he's committing violence against the Chechnyans too?) It seems like more and more Chechnyans are willing to die for independence, and recently they're stepping up their campaign.
posted by amberglow at 7:57 AM on September 4, 2004


Sorry about the cross-post from this thread, but I believe this is worthy and important information.

moscowhelp.org - Donate to the victims of the North Ossetia terror attack

The Foundation is a US 501(c)3 public charity and is managed by a group of volunteer activists in full accordance with applicable US charity laws.
All personal donations will be used solely to help the children who were injured in Beslan or whose parents died as a result of this terror act. ...
The Fund incurs no administrative or other expenses related to personal donations, except for nominal processor's fees to accept credit card payments. All money donated by individuals will be delivered directly to victims’ families.


Please donate. A massive number of children have been orphaned and injured in a low-income, war-torn region. This is a fund which will deliver financial help directly to those victims.
posted by azazello at 7:32 PM on September 4, 2004


Thanks for the extended explanation, Dhartung. You put it better than I ever could.
posted by somethingotherthan at 9:40 PM on September 4, 2004


Eyewitness accounts.

"When the assault started one of the bandits shouted 'I'll save you'. Everybody ran towards him and then he blew himself up, killing many people."

Chilling.

""There was this thin tall man of about 35, a typical Chechen . . . He was the angriest of our captors, he was threatening us all the time and firing into the ceiling . . . my mum asked him to take me to the corridor for a while to take a breath of air. To my surprise he agreed . . . I asked him 'Will you at least let the children go?' He said: 'No - why? Your Russian troops in Chechnya catch children just like you and cut their heads off. I had a daughter, about your age, and they killed her,' he said."
posted by iffley at 2:31 AM on September 7, 2004


Russia Admits It Lied On Crisis

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Mohammed said: "If an Iraqi Muslim carried out an attack like that in Britain, it would be justified because Britain has carried out acts of terrorism in Iraq.
"As long as the Iraqi did not deliberately kill women and children, and they were killed in the crossfire, that would be okay
."
posted by thomcatspike at 11:36 AM on September 7, 2004


There seems to be some evidence that the whilst school was being remoddled over the summer it had some extra features added for this hostage taking.
One may wonder why the Chechen rebels always seem to include female members on these Russian missions.

'It was possible some Chechen women on raids were seeking revenge for being raped by Russian troops. "There has been widespread use of war rape by contract soldiers. The subject is very delicate and hard to get facts on. But when you have Russian contract soldiers looting and raping - and I believe it's the accepted norm - you're going to have things happen later,"
posted by asok at 4:03 AM on September 9, 2004


« Older London's Natural History Museum's subsite on Hair ...   |   Clandestina... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments