September 1, 2014 marks the 10th anniversary of one of the most horrible crimes committed against humanity in the 21st century. In 2004, a group of terrorists seized a school in Beslan – a little town in the south of Russia – and forced more than 1,100 people, mostly children, into the school gym.
For two-and-a-half days, the hostages were kept in a sweltering heat, deprived of the most basic necessities, surrounded by explosives and constantly harassed by the terrorists.
On September 3, the terrorists set off the charges, killing hundreds. When survivors began escaping, the terrorists unleashed a wave of gunfire at them, killing dozens more. The rescuers stormed the barricaded building, risking their own lives to save people.
All told, 334 lives were lost as a result of the attack; 186 of them were children. But the worst part is that the nightmare didn’t end then.
Beslan became a pawn in top-level political games that followed those cursed days. Former hostages were taken hostage once again, this time by politicians and the mass media. The rescuers who sacrificed their lives to save children were blamed for the massacre, while the terrorists were portrayed as “freedom fighters.” The Beslan events were buried under a gigantic layer of pseudo-scientific lies, rumors, and conspiracy theories.
In 2005, a group of Russian analysts, journalists, and Special Forces officers began their own investigation of the Beslan events. Given the unprecedented amount of informational litter surrounding Beslan, every single piece of information that could be gathered was considered, verified, and cross-referenced. After years of analyzing an enormous amount of data, visiting Beslan numerous times and questioning witnesses, members of the group were able to reconstruct the chain of events (partly available for viewing in English at http://beslan.livejournal.com), establish the facts, and dispel virtually all Beslan myths.
The group’s dedicated work led to creation of a forum-based website dedicated to the facts and myths of Beslan. It was also a major contributor to an extensive series of articles in a regional newspaper “North Caucasus”; became a key driver in writing a Russian Wikipedia article about the attack, which, in 2011, was voted “Article of the Year” by the editors; and was used for two limited print books, which were distributed in Russia (see photos from an artistic exhibition that "Reyndar.org" contributors helped organizing to get some feel and see proof of these books being published). Our intention to publish a book oriented toward the Western reader is driven by the same incentive – we are seeking to communicate the facts because this is my obligation to the heroes and to the victims.
The book that the project is supposed to fund contains information that is not secret; however, it is not widely known, especially, to the West. One of the key issues, preventing good flow of information, is a language barrier. Not all materials related to Beslan were translated into English. Many – never will be. There are simply not enough interested parties in doing that and not enough demand. Second, the largest portion of information is typically communicated through the media. In the case of Beslan, Western media has often presented a very distorted picture.
This book should provide answers to most of the questions you may have about the Beslan hostage crisis. It doesn’t focus much on gruesome details beyond what’s necessary because, to understand the tragedy, one needs to have a cool head. If you do seek to fire yourself up into a bitter-sweet state of righteous wrath, perhaps this isn’t the book you’d want to read and hence not a project you’d want to support. There are plenty of resources on Beslan aimed just at stirring up emotions and turning off the mind’s critical approach. This book isn’t one of them. Rather, it is a meticulous, honest, and well-weighted analysis of facts supported by photographs and references to sources.
It stands at approximately 90,000 words as of today and includes a historic overview of North Caucasus, a region where Beslan is located; factors that made Beslan possible; a detailed discussion of events that took place during the crisis and a discussion of myths that circulated around Beslan. But the "meat" of the book, of course, are the facts and explanations backed by hard evidence, logic and science.
A typical excerpt from the book looks something like this:
In the gym, the IEDs were placed so that in the event of an explosion, they would cover the maximum possible area, thus minimizing the chances of anyone surviving the blasts. Two large boxes with IEDs made of “MON-90,” a directional antipersonnel landmine with a TNT equivalent of 6.2 kilograms each (13.6 lbs) were placed on chairs. The terrorists also hung IEDs made from 2-liter plastic bottles in each of the basketball hoops, attaching them to the rims with duct-tape. An IED made from “OZM-72”, a bounding-type, anti-personnel landmine with a 500 g (1.1 lb) TNT charge, with the casing and lifting charge removed, was hung off the backboard next to the weight room. Another three “OZM-72” mines were placed in different parts of the gym. A cord was strung between the basketball hoops and used to hang additional IEDs. In total, 14 IEDs with an aggregate TNT equivalent of 65 kg (143 lbs) were placed in the gym. These were connected into a single chain consisting of four distinct segments, which could be exploded either individually or simultaneously.
Below are some draft illustrations and exhibits from the book. As the draft is in the final stage of being finalized, total number of exhibits is not yet determined but estimated to be around 25-30:
How Can You Help
At this point, the book is fully written after two years of work; however, it still requires a specialist’s touch to be presented properly to the reader (editing, design, layout, etc.). So, obviously, financial help will be greatly appreciated. However, if the pledge amounts listed on the right hand side are too steep, spreading information about this project will be of no less help.
Thank you for your interest in this topic. We sincerely hope that no one will ever have to experience another Beslan.
Risks and challenges
Although the description of the project often says "we", the actual writing part was done solely by me. The reason I said "we" a lot is because knowledge and technical expertise of my teammates was truly irreplaceable for the book.
Beslan has been my life for the past four years and I'm determined to publish this book no matter what. I already have the editors lined up, the budget figured out, the photographers who agreed to provide exclusive materials set on price, so I think I covered all bases that were within my reach. The publishing process is still somewhat obscure to me but I'll leave that part to the professionals and expect to have a good quality product in the end.
Assuming full funding of the project, the timeframe of the publishing process is estimated at roughly four months, though it’s certainly possible that delays may occur. In such cases, an update will be posted on the project page. Please feel free to ask me any questions about the book or the project that you may have.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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