Contrasting Russian Perspectives on Beslan, 10 Years Later

01 October 2014

In a monthly Operational Environment Watch commentary, EFD Fellow Anna Borshchevskaya looks back at the Beslan siege, and compares two contrasting Russian views of the event – the public view and that of the Russian authorities.


1 September 2014 marked the tenth anniversary of a tragic event that shocked Russia and the North Caucasus—a terrorist seizure of an elementary school in the town of Beslan in North Ossetia. The terrorists took hostage over 1,000 people, primarily children, and held them in the school gymnasium. After several days of a stand-off between the terrorists and the Russian authorities, Russian security forces entered the school building and opened fire. A blaze of fire engulfed the school gymnasium shortly after that. In the end, over 300 people, primarily children, died. Many know this event as the Beslan siege, or the Beslan massacre. To this day, Russian citizens have more questions than answers about what really happened.

The accompanying excerpts present two different Russian perspectives looking back ten years later at the horrific days of the siege. The first is a long first-hand account, published in Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Russia Service, by Russian military correspondent Vladimir Voronov, who was in Beslan during the siege. “My very first impression back then - full managerial chaos,” he writes. And yet, he observes, “the soot from the burnt school had not yet settled, and everything was already clear to the prosecutors.” He writes that many key questions about Beslan still remain unanswered.

Since this tragedy occurred, other Kremlin-sponsored media have been less critical of the rescue operation, emphasizing instead the courage and determination of security personnel to rescue survivors. For instance, an article published in state-owned RIA Novosti presents the official Kremlin viewpoint, which is shorter than the former, clear, and raises no questions, from the Kremlin’s perspective, about the event: “On September 1, 2004 in the town of Beslan, North Ossetia-Alania, a terrorist group of more than 30 people (among whom were women), led by Rasul Khachbarov (also known as The Colonel), carried out the seizure of the building of secondary school №1.”

Together, on this sad anniversary, these excerpts illustrate the differences between the official, somewhat antiseptic Kremlin account of the Beslan massacre, and that of a still traumatized public view.


This article originally appeared here.