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Beslan: The Tragedy of School No. 1

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Beslan: The Tragedy of School No. 1.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Tim Phillips(Author)

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9:04 a.m., 1 September, 2004: a boy is standing with his classmates in the playground of School No 1 in Beslan, in the Russian republic of North Ossetia. Looking around, he notices an oddly dressed man in combat fatigues and a mask. He feels he ought to tell his mother, but is reluctant to fall out of line...By the time the siege ended two days later, at least 330 parents and children would be killed in the massive explosions that tore through the gymnasium or caught in the crossfire of a three hour gun battle between the Russian forces and the terrorists. Tim Phillips book tells the human story of the siege - of the terrible toll that thirst, hunger and sleeplessness took on the hostages, of the bravery of those who dealt with the terrorists, such as the elderly headmistress of the school and the doctor who tried to relieve the suffering of the young children. Phillips also looks at the authorities' response to the siege and finds it severely wanting. He has spent time in Beslan researching the book, talking to those involved and those affected, listening to the conspiracy theories, and trying to set the events of September 2004 in their wider context of centuries of conflict and enmity in the Caucasus.

"His work is a fit memorial to the dead... Timothy Phillips's book provides the victim's story." -- Literary Review"In this compelling account, BBC translator Timothy Phillips interviews the survivors. Perceptive and emotional" -- Esquire"Inevitably, this is a difficult and emotional read: events are examined in vivid detail." -- Waterstone's Books Quarterly"It is the frankness of the participants that makes this such an important work." -- Guardian"the first written narrative of the tragedy...an investigation of the town and its culture." -- Sunday Times

2.2 (9660)
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Book details

  • PDF | 224 pages
  • Tim Phillips(Author)
  • Granta Books; 1 edition (7 May 2007)
  • English
  • 3
  • Society, Politics & Philosophy

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Review Text

  • By Jackdoor on 11 May 2007

    Timothy Phillips has succeeded in writing a book which makes a complex geographic, ethnic and political history both comprehensible and readable. While the focus of the book is the tragedy of the Beslan siege and the deep national and ethnic undercurrents that shaped those fateful three days of captivity, he successfully engages the reader with the ordinary people of the region that he meets on his journey. In many ways, they become the symbols of the real life of hardship, poverty and disenfranchisement, which is the legacy of post Soviet Russia. It becomes an allergory for the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the economic fall out that befell the region as an economic infrastructure, bloated by bureaucracy, inefficiency and straddled by years of corruption, finally disintegrated in days. This story is about the people who face a new world after collapse of "Soviet stability", but equally, a longer history of pre 1917 Russia.The Regional rivalry, mixed with ethic conflict and fuelled by generations of distrust, is the mood music which Tim Phillips skillfully lays out as a precursor to the tragedy of Beslan. And the tragic siege itself ? An account built upon careful research takes the reader through a myriad of conspiracy and incompetence on the part of the Russian security forces. Failure to co ordinate a central strategy during the seige is a key theme, but the unseen hand of Moscow is never far under the surface of an unfolding nightmare. Ultimately, the sense of paranoia and despair, draw the reader closer to the central actors of the book. The parents and teachers. The negotiator and regional bureaucrats, the complicit role of a President, thousands of miles from the scene, but directing local officials. The closing chapters of the book draw home the full horror of the Chechan terrorist plot. Explosives wired to the roofs, suicide bombers and random murder, is exposed in all it's utter futility.This book should make us all think about the value and sanctity of life. It should touch just a little of our soul. If not, then we will have learnt nothing from this marvelous book by Tim Phillips.

  • By S. Dawson on 22 June 2007

    A compelling read. Detailing the history of tension between the Ingushens, Chechen and North Ossetian people, and taking a look at what was going on inside the gym with the terrorists and the hostages. Unlike some books about terrorists sieges this does not point fingers or take sides, there are no conclusions from the author only the facts and opinions on of the people this crisis effected. Timothy Phillips deals with this story in a very sensitive and moving way, worth reading.

  • By Guest on 3 September 2016

    Written by someone who obviously has a reasonable understanding of the region this book is not just a book to shock or horrify but instead helps us to understand the brutal history of the area and it's people.

  • By Rev Rev on 28 February 2008

    This book is an interesting read about what happened at the siege of Beslan's school No. 1 but in the end I found it lacking. The book is broken into chapters, but they are not exactly in chronological order. The first chapter will address a part of the Siege while the next will go into the background of Chechnya or Russia and maybe tell the author's own adventures while over there and what kind of impact they had on him, the next chapter will again relate to Beslan and the one after again to the historical context, and so on and so forth.I have to say that the author committed a few errors in his historical prose and I can't say he was 'unbiased' in presenting the plight of the Chechens. The author does talk about the various deportations of the Chechen and Ingush people as well as a variety of other ethnicities throughout the Soviet Union, what I noticed was missing was the fact that none of the other ethnicities turned to terrorism against innocent civilians, worse women and children, aside from the Chechens, why leave that out? The accounts from the parents and others who were trapped in the school were all quite interesting.Some stories that are stuck in my mind are when the first police units arrived they had blanks for bullets, the police "armourer" had gone to the city and had taken the key to their arsenal with him. At one point when a negotiator asked the terrorists if they would allow food and water to be brought in for the children the response was that the children "had announced their own hunger strike in sympathy with the terrorists' aims." More than once the author points out the media's incorrect guesstimates when it came to how many hostages were bieng held in the School. The exact number of 354 was pronounced when the reality was that it only covered perhaps a quarter of those trapped in the school. This under counting, according to the author and some of those trapped inside the school, seemed to enrage the terrorists. When the siege began on the first day children and adults were still allowed to get water from a tap and go to the bathroom, by the second day this was rescinded as the terrorists awaited expected "VIPs" whom they demanded to see so that they could discuss their demands. Chaos and panic were evident throughout, a village less than a mile from Beslan was receiving calls where the callers claimed they had seen the local school attacked by terrorists. When the local police went to investigate it turned out that the attackers were special forces practicing for the storming of School No. 1.What I wasn't too interested in seeing, yet saw a lot of, were wild claims with little to back them up aside from rumors and hearsay, this could be seen in regards to the Russian president, Putin, and a variety of other 'characters' in this situation who apparently owe their jobs to him, the terrorists and why they would grow aggravated, and a variety of other incidents which one can only guess at when wondering what the cause or causes might have been. I, personally, would have preferred to simply hear the outcome and not the author's ideas about how or why the outcome was come to. Without all the facts being available for scrutiny it is very hard to understand what the truth is and to separate it from the chaos of the events in question which inevitably lead to such rumors. While it might be OK for the author to present what he's heard in terms of rumors and innuendos it would be a benefit if he were to specifically state which can be proven to be true and which are simply allegations. There is also a recounting of the Nord Ost siege, which took place in Moscow a few years before Beslan, which in my opinion leaves a lot out of what happened and easily puts all the blame on Russian officials and special forces. For a more balanced view of that incident and others, including Beslan, I would recommend "Terror at Beslan" by John Giduck. Giduck's book has an abundant number of interviews with Special Forces and others who helped to rescue as many children as they could, some moving into the field of fire to distract the terrorists from the children when they were running out of the school after the two initial explosions. In this book hardly any of that is covered, if it is the author questions the accounts from the special forces side. It would have been preferable if the author actually interviewed not only survivors and locals but also some of the special forces that participated in this operation. When it comes to their side of the events all one has in this book is speculation. When I saw the following words "...the mighty Russian bear had fallen" in regards to uncensored footage being shown of this event I couldn't help myself but to think, is this what the world thought of the US on 9/11? Doubtful. A lot of blame is leveled against government forces and administration but nowhere did I find a recounting of the massive number of civilians who came out to the school armed with their own weapons and shooting indiscriminately at the terrorists throughout the siege. Yes, mistakes were made on all sides, this was a chaotic situation but that doesn't make it alright to pile all the blame on any one body. While it did take time for Alpha and other special forces to finally be able to rescue those trapped throughout the school this was because they were searching the school one classroom at a time and not running through it screaming 'Marco!' All in all I'd have to caution those reading this, if you do read it get Giduck's book as well to see the other side.


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