Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Hostage Situations

Over the past week I finished reading two books about Chechen terrorist incidents. (I had more time because of the Labor Day holiday.) The first book I read was 57 Hours: A Survivor's Account of the Moscow Hostage Drama by Vesselin Nedkov and Paul Wilson and the second was Beslan: The Tragedy of School No. 1 by Timothy Philips.

57 Hours is a telling of Vesselin Nedkov's first hand account of the hostage event that happened in October 2002 in Moscow. Some 850 hostages were taken by ~40 Chechen terrorists during a performance of the family musical Nord-Ost at the Dubrovka Theater. Vesselin, a Hungarian, wrote this book soon after the event took place. His recollection and those of others were combined to create a relatively accurate timeline of the event. The descriptions of the atmosphere in the theater and the mindset of the hostages was first class. Relatively little background information about the terrorists themselves is contained in the book and even less coverage is given to the Russian response. Most likely this because little is known; no trial occurred; no public investigation was conducted. Perhaps a later book would provide more information, but at this point this is the only book I have found on this event.

The Tragedy of School No 1. is the first book I've read about this event. The author, Timothy Philips, is a BBC translator and was involved in the production of a documentary about the incident. For the most part the book's chapter alternate between background information and a narrative of the event. I found this back-and-forth thing annoying. Some of the background information was very interesting (I didn't know too much about the North Ossetia/Ingushetia divide), but an equal amount seemed only moderately relevant. The narration follows multiple hostage's recollections (from numerous interviews presumably) and is very good, frequently very disturbing. I'm hoping some other books that are out there contain more details about the negotiations and the storming of the building.

Russian Special Forces outside Moscow theater (October 24th, 2002)

TV grab from interview of Chechen leader Movsar Barayev inside Moscow theater (October 25th, 2002)

September 3rd, 2004: Russian special forces help evacuate hostages from School No. 1, Beslan

While searching for other books about the Beslan school incident I came across this children's book (recommended for ages 8 and up). I think I'll pass on this!

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