Moscow Theater Siege

Russia: War as a Way of Life

A Russian woman mourns the victims of the Nord-Ost hostage crisis.
A Moscow woman prays for the victims of the Moscow theater hostage debacle during a national day of mourning, Oct. 28, 2002 (Photo: AFP).  

A terrorist act occurred. No, it did not go as the terrorists had wished. Well, we also were hoping for a different outcome: Who said there’s such a thing as an acceptable casualty rate? We’ve been forced to think about the consequences. It’s painful that we hadn’t gotten around to it on our own, and when we did, it was too late.

We could go on analyzing the details of the Nord-Ost storming for a long time. That is not the point. There are no winners in any war. There are only those who have survived it and those who haven’t. We should be talking about this openly. And every time we do, we should ask for forgiveness, as the president did.
It is more honorable than raising toasts to victory, as officers of the special forces did upon invading Moscow’s bars over the weekend. It is more honorable than lying, the way officials do in trying to pin the blame on each other for the casualties. Instead of saying “Forgive us,” they now assure us that they won’t make the same mistakes again. What does this mean? That they will act in a more coordinated manner the next time they storm a building? That next time they will do a better job saving people?

Is there any way of making sure there’s no one to rescue? Yes, there is. To do so, we have to unite. The president was speaking about the very same thing in his address. The question is, on what basis should we unite? The generals crave revenge at our cost. But we have a different profession—which is to live and live worthily at that. And also to raise children. Generals are preparing for the battles of the past as always. But a war, any war now, no longer amounts to military tactical operations and striking the flank. It is terror, hiding in wait right next door, which is the strongest weapon of mass destruction.

There is no rear. There are only penal battalions, on both sides of the front line. There is no front line either, though.

One can, of course, argue about truth, the national idea, and justice. But there is only one truth in war—it is when you bury someone. And there is only one idea—a worthy life for your compatriots. And there is only one kind of justice that knows no borders or nationalities. It’s called peace. And that is what one should be talking about. Even from a position of strength, which has been proved by paying the price of many victims, mourned and not yet mourned. Let it be so, if that is the only problem. They will pay for it, and not only that. After all, there is world terrorism out there, which we have now confronted, as the president assures us. Is there? Yes, there is. And let [Senator] Mikhail Margelov, [Member of Parliament] Dmitri Rogozin, and [Chief of the Russian General Staff] Anatoli Kvashin be stubbornly stuck on that, saying the same thing over and over again. We will have to take it for granted and draw different conclusions. We have become a target not because someone’s hirelings are operating in Chechnya. These hirelings are operating there because Russia has been fighting such a disgraceful and cruel war in Chechnya for so long. And the longer Russia fights it, the more desirable, distinct, and closer the target is.

The war’s epicenter is no longer in Grozny. It’s at [the theater on] Dubrovka. It’s in our every apartment.