Voices from Russia

Monday, 15 September 2014

15 September 2014. As Seen by Vitaly Podvitsky. The Littlest Angels… Forgive Us… We Have Nothing to Say. 2014

00 Vitaly Podvitsky. The Little Angels. 2014

The Littlest Angels… Forgive Us… We Have Nothing to Say

Vitaly Podvitsky



There’s nothing to say…

Вечная память



Thursday, 11 September 2014

11 September 2014. Stop and Remember… the Dead of 9/11… the Dead of Beslan… Lest We Forget…

00.0b 9.11 Remembered. World Trade Center. 12.09.12


00.0e 9.11 Remembered. World Trade Center. 12.09.12


00.0g 9.11 Remembered. World Trade Center. 12.09.12


00 In Honour of Beslan. jfkpaint. 2008


00.01g 04.09.12 From Moscow to Beslan


01 Alan Kornaev and Zaurbek Dzanagov. The Tree of Grief. 2005

The Tree of Grief

Alan Kornaev and Zaurbek Dzanagov



Stop, pause, and remember the dead… if you’re a believer, light a candle and pray for the dead… if you’re a secular, stop, pause, and reflect on what this all means for us. We all stand mute before the Mystery of Death. It’s the one common thread in all of our lives… have a care and REMEMBER…


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Ashes of Beslan


On 1 September, friends and strangers wrote on social networks, “They think we’ve forgotten! They want us to forget!” Of course, it isn’t that the authorities necessarily want anyone to forget the Beslan hostage crisis of 2004, it’s just that they’d prefer that people focus on a certain narrative of the tragedy that occurred at the local school there, one that doesn’t involve any mention of possible mistakes made by the officials in charge. Islamic militants took over 1,100 people hostage at the school during celebrations commemorating the start of a new school year. On the third day of the hostage crisis, security forces stormed the school… 186 children never made it out alive. Including security officers and rescuers who perished at the scene, the total number of victims stands at 334.

Legal proceedings surrounding this act of terrorism and its aftermath have outraged many… including survivors and relatives of the victims. The courts were careful to shield the security forces from responsibility. Yet, there was a consensus that the authorities botched the rescue operation… although no one was punished. The security apparatus is enormous and, as such, it isn’t a monolith. I can’t abide blanket condemnations of all security forces members… because I know that many of them risk life and limb and see the worst of what the world has to offer, and they remain humane. However, few of us can look at the outcome of the Beslan hostage crisis and hold back tears… and anger.

The problem here is also one of lack of transparency… and general public mistrust. Whilst a culture of secrecy is an important aspect of any security organisation… the biggest challenge is the promotion of at least some form of a culture of accountability. I’m not saying that this will somehow help people get over Beslan… some wounds won’t heal in our lifetime, nor should they. Nevertheless, ultimately, it’d help the country move on from the Soviet (and Imperial) notion that the importance of a human life should pale in comparison to the grandeur and majesty of the state. A Russian saying goes, “The ashes of Klaas beat on in my heart”. It’s taken from a translated book on Till Eulenspiegel and references the execution of Till’s father. Well, I guess you can say that, for many people, “The bones of the children of Beslan beat on in our hearts”.

Tracing my own professional and personal trajectory so far, I can tell you that Beslan played a crucial role in bringing me to Russia. I was a college student in the USA in 2004, and in the aftermath of what happened, I saw far too many Western attempts to justify or excuse the actions of the terrorists. You see, 9/11 was an attack of radical Islamists… and moral nihilists. However, the Beslan terrorists were “just fighting for their freedom, man”. The idea was, if only Russia would only give up a good chunk of the North Caucasus… then, all problems would find a solution, and candy and teddy bears would rain from the sky!

The notion that a state ruled by a group of radical fundamentalists… who have no problem murdering fellow Muslims, as we just saw with the killing of venerated Sufi leader Sayid Afandi Chirkeisky… would then be formed right next to Russia is somehow seen as not all that bad. Of course, even this scenario is an optimistic one… what would probably happen is years of growing chaos, violence, turmoil, public executions, an out-of-control arms trade, and so on. This Western narrative of Beslan made me, an aspiring journalist born in the Soviet Ukraine, seriously consider my possible future place in the Western media. All the same, there was something else too, something deeper… my horror at the tragedy was profound and unrelenting and ultimately alienating. The tragedy dislodged something inside of me… some trapdoor that opened up on inner doubts about my entire life’s purpose. I realised that I wasn’t treating the bad news from Russia as mere reports from a distant land… this was personal. For better or for worse, the needle on my inner compass started its slow progress toward Russia.

In Kitaigorod, a historic Moscow neighbourhood, a monument commemorating the victims of Beslan had many Muscovites, regardless of political affiliation, crying foul. It’s a work by Zurab Tsereteli, favourite sculptor of former Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, and it’s characteristically bombastic… if sculpture can be bombastic. Yet, I find something appropriate in the banality of the monument, after all… perhaps, it’s the banality of the dead-eyed toys it features. There’s the same kind of horrific banality in the accounts of the survivors. One minute, you’re at a celebration, surrounded by families and small children. The next minute, you’re in hell… and when you think it can’t get any worse, it gets worse. What possible good can come of Beslan, in the end? None, for the people who lost loved ones. For the country as a whole, perhaps, it’s allowed a new kind of national soul-searching. Maybe, in a hundred years, historians will refer to it as a kind of breaking-point. Maybe not.

3 September 2012

Natalia Antonova



Tuesday, 4 September 2012

4 September 2012. VOR Presents… From Moscow to Beslan: Russia Remembers the Victims of Terrorist Attacks

In Russia, 3 September is Anti-Terrorism Memorial Day of Solidarity. In Moscow, Beslan, and many other cities, people remembered the victims of terrorist acts. This day of reflection was an outgrowth of the tragic events in Beslan in 2004. At that terrible siege, the Chechen militants killed more than 300 people, amongst them were 186 children. In Moscow, ceremonies occurred at 12 locations, including the Pushkinskaya Metro station, Domodedovo Airport, and the Dubrovka Theatre. In Beslan, people held a three-day vigil memorial… the same length as the length of time the terrorists held hostages in School Nr 1. For the first time, the Divine Liturgy was served in the school gym (see the image above).


On 2 September, Archbishop Zosima Ostapenko of Vladikavkaz and Makhachkala served Hierarchical Divine Liturgy in the gym of School Nr 1 in Beslan.


The public organisation “Mothers of Beslan” asked the ruling bishop to serve liturgy at the gym on the eighth anniversary of the terrorist act.


Local Beslan people, former hostages, relatives of those killed in the action, and outsiders prayed together at the site of the tragedy.


Hundreds of people brought flowers and toys, and lit candles at the gym at Beslan School Nr 1, to honour the teachers and students who were victims of one of the worst terrorist attacks of the century.


The events marking the eighth anniversary of the Beslan tragedy were the first held in the memorial complex built around the site of the attack. A containment wall, an ellipse symbolising a commemorative wreath, now surrounds the ruins of the school.


Terrorists took hostages in School Nr 1 in Beslan (North Ossetia) in the morning of 1 September 2004, during ceremonies marking the beginning of the new academic year. For two-and-a-half days, the terrorists held more than 1,100 hostages (mostly children, their parents, and school faculty) in the building under the harshest conditions, denying people even the most minimal natural necessities. During the ensuing assault, most of the hostages were released, but 334 people were killed, 186 of them children.


A monument in St Petersburg dedicated to the children who died in the terrorist action of 1 September 2004 in Beslan.


A woman places a lit candle during the memorial event marking the anniversary of the Beslan tragedy.


3 September 2012

Voice of Russia World Service


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