Russia after Beslan

By Boykewich, Stephen | The Virginia Quarterly Review, Winter 2005 | Go to article overview

Russia after Beslan


Boykewich, Stephen, The Virginia Quarterly Review


Introduction

American coverage of the monstrous hostage-taking at Beslan's School No. 1 in the Russian republic of North Ossetia and the ensuing controversy over President Vladimir Putin's consolidation of power in ostensible response to the terrorist threat was hampered by many factors, not the least of which has been our election-season anxiety about the health of our own democracy. The superficial correspondences arc everywhere: between what many consider to be Putin's reckless and unwinnable war of choice in Chechnya and President Bush's reckless war of choice and thus-far-unwinnable peace in Iraq; between Putin's claims that his war is a vital part of the fight against international terrorism, while it has in fact spurred radical Islamism and been the occasion for a wave of horrific terrorist acts, and Bush's identical claims about the war in Iraq, while jihadists from throughout the Arab world pour over Iraqi borders and the death toll mounts more steeply every month; between Putin's use of undemocratic and arguably anticonstitutional measures in the name of making Russia safer and the Bush administration's use of the same while obvious and easily implemented antiterrorist measures have yet to be taken; the list goes on.

But attention to the superficial correspondences in the absence of a clear understanding of Russia's political structure and recent history only further obscures the already complex constellation of issues surrounding the attack. Interpreting antidemocratic moves on Putin's part as deviations from the standards of American liberal democracy is misguided, if not meaningless. The Yeltsin era brought certain aspects of Russian society closer to the American experience than they ever had been. But it was also radically destabilizing, after seven decades of Communist dictatorship, and left many Russians yearning for precisely the stability that Putin represents-so successfully that his popularity remains high after four years of terrorist attacks that have left nearly 1,000 dead.

Unfortunately, the hurricane of opinion-mongering in the op-ed pages of major American newspapers and the live feeds from cable news shows cut off a careful consideration of some very basic questions-What precisely happened in Beslan? How is it related to Chechnya? By what standards do we judge Putin's response?-almost before it could begin. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National security Advisor to President Carter, authored an editorial comparing Putin to Mussolini. An editorial in the Wall Street Journal quoted Lenin on the true nature of dictatorship as though it were quoting Putin. Cautiously critical remarks from secretary of State Colin Powell and President Bush in the weeks following the attack ("I've got a good relation with Vladimir. . . . Vladimir's going to have to make some hard choices," Bush said in the first presidential debate) led to intimations of "the new cold war." The initial volley of anti-Kremlin editorials led to a return volley attacking them for their naivete and stridency-frequently in terms just as naive and tones just as strident. Add to this the traditional limitations of American coverage of Russia in the post-Soviet era-lack of clear, sharp story focus, lack of column inches, lack of public interest-and the nonspecialist observer in America has been left with few places to turn.

During the rancorous first presidential debate in late September, there was one point of absolute accord between George W. Bush and John Kerry: the gravest threat that faces the United States today is the threat of nuclear terrorism. The terrorists who seized the Dubrovka Theater in Moscow in 2002-an attack organized by the same man who has claimed responsibility for the attack in Beslan-"reportedly considered seizing [Russia's] Kurchatov Institute instead-a site with enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) for dozens of nuclear weapons."1 Significantly, only hours after terrorists seized School No.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Russia after Beslan
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.