Three years after the terrorist attack: emotions, memory and politics in Beslan
(University of Oslo)
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines the long term consequences of the terrorist attack on School no. 1 in Beslan, Russia, focusing on the social conflicts that emerged in the aftermath of the tragedy, and the formation of political activist groups and their quest for truth and justice.
Paper long abstract:
On September 1 2004 a group of (mainly) Chechen and Ingush terrorists seized School no. 1 in the small town of Beslan in the Russian republic of North Ossetia-Alanya. More than 1200 schoolchildren, teachers and parents were kept as hostages in the hot, crowded gym for three days. When a bomb exploded in the gym on September 3, Russian special forces stormed the building. Over 330 people, including 186 children, were killed during the siege. In the paper, which is based on a three month long fieldwork in Beslan, I discuss the long term consequences of the terrorist attack. Naturally, individuals were affected psychologically and physically, but the community as a whole was affected as well. As one former hostage put it: "Instead of becoming like a big family, which indeed we should have become after something like this, people grew further apart from each other and became more hostile and evil.". Using the meaning and works of words as an analytical tool, I examine the social life of grief and anger among former hostages and non-hostages in Beslan. I will also devout some time to discuss the reputation and motivation of the political groups (Mothers of Beslan, Voice of Beslan) that were formed in the aftermath of the tragedy. These groups openly criticise the government and demand objective investigation of the terrorist act. This is quite unique in Putin's Russia, where open political protest is becoming an increasingly rare phenomenon.