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Hostages Rada Novikova, Oleg Klenin, and Oleg Golub tell about the events
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, 27 2003

From Russian Journal


The Fortieth Day

On December 6th, 2002, the Fortieth Day was observed within the theater. Several dozen people listened to the recollections of three participants in the events. Now, a year after Nord-Ost, RJ is publishing a transcript of this event.

Grigory Zaslavsky (the master of ceremonies): Before anything Ihave to say that this is not a performance. There is a performance called Rwanda 1994. In 1994there was genocide in Rwanda. Afterwards there appeared this performance which travels to various festivals where people sit for three or four hours and tell how someone killed their father, mother, six brothers and six sisters, and these are real people whose relatives were killed. At the beginning you begin to wipe your tears, but later you get this feeling of awkwardness, because you understand that this person has lost all his loved ones and he is traveling from festival to festival and getting money for telling about everyone about it. There are also people who go from one talk show to another and tell about how their relatives died in Chechnya. It is important to stress that this is not a performance. We are simply remembering how it was, and in no way should we talk about the tragedy in which 129or more people died. Here we will simply tell stories with happy endings. It is a one-time event, a conversation in which three people participate, three people in three different situations. Rada Novikova is a graduate of VGIK who was filming Central Station in the gay club at Dubrovka and found herself in the building during the events. Oleg Klenin is an assistant director, and Oleg Golub an actor, both from the musical Nord-Ost. I will start with this question: how did they find out what was going on?

Oleg Klenin: We have microphones and radios throughout the entire auditorium, and we know every part of the show to the very second. Just as soon as there is any sort of a slow-down in the tempo, or a wrong sound or something like that, right away we run to check that everything is okay. We would do this even subconsciously. So all of a sudden the music stopped. My first thought was that the microphones had cut out, so we jumped up and ran over there. We saw some people we took for supporting actors in the foyer, who had assault rifles and were wearing bulletproof vests and masks. I thought that this was rather strange. About a month ago we had this charity event, and on the second floor we placed this plastic cube for collecting donations. They would collect about 35rubles a day (about$1.35 ed.) for developing the Russian musical, and Iwas in charge of this cube. Long ago the director instructed me how cash was a serious matter, that it all had to be accounted for, and that the tax police would definitely come one day and ask where those 35rubles were and so forth. I thought that maybe it could be the tax police, because they are always showing on TV how the OMON (SWAT type police ed.) would fly into a bank in the middle of the day and confiscate documents. So my first reaction was: Weve got to print out the receipts, demand records, and write up everything. Suddenly we hear through our radios that shooting has started, and Idecide that our security was arresting some criminal right there in the auditorium. I start to think how wrong this is, right in the middle of the act, why, people could get terribly scared, and so we were getting ready to go out there and sort things out with the police when Ihear someone saying: Are there any Georgian citizens in the hall? Azerbaijanis? Women to the left, everyone down on the floor! It was then clear that it was not our Soviet police, so we figured that it had to be some criminal gangs lashing out at each other right in the middle of the show. We did not know that it was a terrorist attack until somewhere around 9:25 p.m. We knew that we could not turn on the lights and go out into the foyer, but that we had to call someone right away. It was useless calling the police, the reaction of 02 (the Russian police emergency number ed.) was such that Icannot even repeat it, they were absolutely screwed up and they told us that we were not the first to call. When we figured out just who these people were, the project manager called our commercial director who had once met Yeltsin at the show 42nd Street. He said: Dima, Chechen terrorists have captured us! He replied: Well now!


Grigory Zaslavsky: Oleg, did you get the feeling that this was serious right away and it stayed that way, or did it pass after awhile?

Oleg Klenin: Speaking frankly, it still has not passed. For me as a person who sits in an office and has never seen anything like this, only seen it on TV, it all seemed like some kind of a movie, a wide screen movie. I have military training and Iwas an officer. They taught us to shoot, and Iserved 11years. They explained what and how, and Iperceived war to be something where the enemy is apparent, there he is coming towards you, but war right here, in the middle of my work, Inever could have imagined this. I could never imagine any source of aggression in the theater. We were sitting together in our office alongside our familiar computers, and so we were not afraid.

Grigory Zaslavsky: A question for Oleg Golub. You have perhaps rewound everything in your mind. Were there any omens of what was to happen?

Oleg Golub: Yes, there was a sign. People are living beings, and at daily performances there are better or worse days depending how well you do. On that day Ihad this feeling that Ihave never had before. Just before the curtain went up for the second half, Ifelt as if my legs were all rubbery. I did not want to go out onto the stage. I had neither strength, nor vigor, and absolutely no energy, and Imade a mistake in a number where Ihad never messed up before, and the thought came to me that it was just this one time and that no one would notice. Later, the main character appears, and our dialogue takes place, and from the right side of the stage there appeared a man in a mask. My first thought was that it was the OMON and that they had come to ask us to quit the premises, that there was a bomb in the auditorium, even though nothing of the sort had every happened before in my experience. He gets up on stage, and it seemed to be that he was a little unsure of himself, but then he shoots a burst of gunfire into the ceiling. Then the situation changed dramatically. They almost shot two of our boys at that moment, since they were in military uniforms and not all the gunmen knew they were actors. They hated people in military uniform. A gunman ordered me onto the stage, searched me, and drove me forward so that Icould show him what was behind the wings of the stage. They were well organized and right then they started to carry in bags, which they said had explosives inside. We understood what was happening when Barayev came out and started to talk and say that the war had been going on in Chechnya for ten years already and they did not know how to stop it. He warned us right away that every night they would shoot 50people. When you hear threats like this, that they are going to toss the heads of hostages out onto the square, if you are sitting at home in from of the TV you take this for allegory, as conditional, but when you understand that it could touch you personally, then it becomes an absolutely realistic prospect.

Grigory Zaslavsky: Rada how did you figure out what was going on, and how did you end up in this building?

Rada Novikova: Iwas shooting a film for my graduate degree at the gay club Central Station, which is in the DK building. I had a lot of people, 30or so, plus my film group, plus the club administrators. I finished filming at about 9at night and Isent my operator, a two-meter tall girl with a solid build, to the club door to film the last scenes. She returned ten minutes later and calmly stated: I cant film over there there are terrorists. I said: What terrorists? I dont know, theres shooting and running, in short, Icant film these scenes. I went to find out what was going on, and Isaw that the guards were sitting and looking at the monitors some people in masks running about and shooting, and the guards said: What are you filming in there? Nowhere is cinema, real cinema. At first we did not understand anything the terrorists and the capture it sounded so banal, that what was going on could really be an act of terrorism. We tried to understand what was up, and Icalled my parents to explain where we were, and little by little they understood that we were under the stage of Nord-Ost, in the basement. We talked for so long that my telephone card ran out, so then we pulled out this beat-up, old stereo and made an antenna out of a cable and got some kind of a radio station. We heard one of the announcers say: Perhaps its an advertisement for Nord-Ost to bring more people to the musical. We were all shaking. We did not know if they could hear us or not, or if the terrorists would come into our spot. No one understood a thing, and no one knew anything about us, so we were afraid to come out because they might shoot us by accident. So we sat there like this for six hours. Later the club administrator called the owner of the club to tell him, and they sent in a platter of food. Just as we grabbed the sandwiches the OMON burst in.

Grigory Zaslavsky: A question for Oleg Klenin. Oleg, where did you hide?

Oleg Klenin: Our office is on the first floor. Alongside us is the receipts office, so there is a steel door. The bandits did not try to break in, but we did not know if would could leave, otherwise we would have left earlier. It was like some kind of a farce. We heard what was all happening, how they were running and shouting. The FSB, with whom we were in contact, told us to sit on the floor, turn out the lights, and to not go anywhere. On the second morning some person started to beat on the door, cursing. Later it turned out to be our security guard, a blessed old man, just a funny and harmless dandelion. When the people with the assault rifles came running in, he locked himself in the bathroom. He had absolutely no sense of time, and in the dark bathroom it seemed that several hours had passed and that his shift was over.

Oleg Golub: He later told me that he went out, walked past the auditorium, and not knowing anything he pushed aside a blind and saw that everyone was sitting, someone was walking around, so he went to the service entrance to get his coat. He walked calmly, went over to the hat rack, got dressed, and left.

Oleg Klenin: Then he was grabbed by the FSB. They could not understand who was this fellow who was walking around, wandering around. The FSB told us how he got out, so that meant that the first floor was not being watched. Our senses at this time were heightened and we could hear the terrorists moving furniture around, building some kind of barricades, which we reported to the FSB.

Oleg Golub: We had another fairy tale story with the actor Andrey Gusev. After the gas, when we were all knocked out, Iwas also lying there, but the gas had less effect on me, they say because Iam a nervous type, that my nervous system is very active. I remember the moment when the shooting had stopped, and Andrey was trying to wake me up, but Itold him: Quit it, Im waiting for our boys to show up. And Andrey Iam putting this in his words he tried to wake up Andrey Bogdanov, but without success. Gusev got up and silently stepped across the stage, he took his boots off so that they did not thud, and he went behind the wings where the barricades were, and where our own people or the terrorists could have shot him. And right there the gas got to him and he fell over. Later it turned out that the Alpha boys almost shot him.

Grigory Zaslavsky: Did you count how many gunmen there were altogether?

Oleg Golub: Ithought about it, but Iabandoned the idea. Perhaps forty or fifty, no more.

Grigory Zaslavsky: Was the FSB interested in those who were hidden in the office staying in place as long as possible, since you were such important informers?

Oleg Klenin: Not really. We did not report anything especially important. When the guard left they told us right away to try to leave, and that they would cover us.

Oleg Golub: We were very afraid that the snipers would start shooting at the terrorists, because they told us that for every dead gunman they would shoot ten people.

Oleg Klenin: The orchestra director called me on the house phone. They went to their room from the orchestra pit and could leave through the service entrance. They were not successful, however. In a little room by the stage was our prop hustler, Larisa. The room was a meter by two, and the terrorists were walking right by the door, never knowing that she was there. She had only a half glass of water for three days, and she could not move around because the floor squeaked. Fortunately she waited it out; otherwise she could have set off a grenade that was set up on a tripwire right by her door.

A question from the auditorium: Did the terrorists ever say how they would select people to be taken out and shot?

Oleg Golub: They never said, but we were certain that they would start with us. First, because it would resonant more shooting actors. Second, because we were in prop uniforms, and stood out very much from the background.

Grigory Zaslavsky: Did they beat people or not? Did they mock you or not?

Oleg Golub: They did not mock us. Did they beat people, perhaps Iam putting this crudely, but they beat people for a reason. When there are 800900people in an auditorium, no one needs to stick out, to stand out this summons aggression right away. Do not provoke. They tell a person five times in Russian: Dont go there or Sit down! and he keeps going, he gets a rifle butt and pisses off the terrorists. If someone were to run off, we sat and knew that there was no way to get away, so this affects everyone else right away, because they could shoot someone.

Grigory Zaslavsky: Is it true that there was a person who very much wanted to go to the show, but at the last minute they told him that there were no seats left?

Oleg Klenin: This is a very common situation. We try to observe definite discipline, and our administrator is very strict, while people come in with various identification papers and she tries to be honest. We patiently explain to people who try to get in that they cannot, that we have this arrangement. Once eight guests came to me and Ibought tickets for them with my discount, and suddenly during the intermission four of them left. This is nonsense, almost no one ever leaves, and these were my guests, and Iam shamed before my colleagues. But these four saved themselves. And there were also people who tried to get in at the beginning, but we could not let them in. In general the day was very strange. There were many guests. I had tickets set aside for Khvorostovsky, he was supposed to come, but he did not make it, the lucky dog. And it was the first day during the entire run of the musical that so many actors for some reason could not make it in. We had to get five or six replacements from the second troupe this was the first time that it was such an unofficial show.

Oleg Golub: There were some funny stories. One time we were sitting there, it was a tense situation, silence all around, and then suddenly from somewhere in the fifth or sixth row a man loudly sneezed! And the first rows all jumped. After this there was a burst of laughter: the whole auditorium laughed and there was such a drop in the tension. The terrorists were laughing, the hostages, everyone. While on the balcony they told me there was this episode as if out of a song. A hostage was sitting there, a young fellow, and next to him was this first-year gunman. About 2021years old. They are sitting next to each other and conversing like friends. The gunman asked: Well, were do you work? Somewhere. And how much do you make? This or that much. Nah, Id never work for that kind of money. And here they were sitting there like chums and talking as if they had simply come to the show and met each other there.

Grigory Zaslavsky: Rada, when the OMON arrived, did they say to you: Here, you are free?

Rada Novikova: We just waited and waited for someone to finally come and release us, and it was always on our tongues, we were always saying: Well, where are they? Where are they? When, when, when? And then they brought us food and everyone was diving into the sandwiches and no one was noticing anything. Suddenly a man runs into the hallway where we were sitting and says: Everyone down! OMON! I do not know who it was, but the whole time they said OMON. OMON ran in with assault rifles, and it was complete chaos. Everyone raised their hands and put them on their head.

Grigory Zaslavsky: When was this?

Rada Novikova: It was about 12or about 1oclock at night. Everyone raised their hands, and because it was such an absolutely unreal situation, some laughed and some cried. One girl just sat in the corner, she trembled the entire time, and when it all was over she cried. I looked at her and to me it all seemed very strange, for Iwas also worrying on the inside, but Icould not show my emotions so openly. They started to lead us out, and my girlfriend said: Take the rucksack. I said: I dont need it. She grabs this rucksack for me and puts it in my arms and Idid not understand that Ihad to take it all with me, that there were documents in there. They led us through a labyrinth every which way: at first down one corridor, then another, then we went downstairs, then we went upstairs, then once again we went downstairs, then once again upstairs. And while we were all going along single file, there were all these people with automatic weapons standing there and others who were escorting us, and they had this bewildered look, because they did not know who we were and what we were, half of us were still in theatrical clothing and makeup. They dragged us out into the street and stood us there, backs to the wall, and started to frisk us. Naturally, we had to leave the camera behind, and the apparatus and all the film we had shot.

Grigory Zaslavsky: Why naturally? Why could you not bring the camera?

Rada Novikova: Because we knew that in such a critical situation the OMON would not understand what it was, what sort of apparatus. It was an aggregation: a camera, some kind of strange carry straps, and a tripod that looked like some kind of explosive device, and the film cans that all looked like mines. That is, it all looked so suspicious that they would have exposed the film and broken the camera right off.

And then, when they crammed 15of us into one vehicle, and the other 15into another, while we were driving away Iwas literally sitting on someones head, and we all sat so tight in there, and yet we were all so happy. It was not hysteria, not tears of happiness, but simply a real joy like two or three year-olds have when they see the Christmas tree for the first time. It was that kind of happiness in our eyes. They took us to the MVD(Interior ministry ed.) where they closed the door behind us and said that there was no exit from there until we made a statement. They kept us there, Ido not know, Iwas there until 4 in the morning, because as the director Iwas responsible for all these people, and the administrator of the club in turn for his people. So he and Iwere in the same boat, because we sat there until 4 in the morning giving statements, telling about everything that went on. Unfortunately, there was a person in my group who had a Chechen surname, and Isaw his unhappy face when he turned to me and said: Rada, dont leave me! I saw how they were leading him up to another floor with his arm twisted behind his back, and Iknew that Icould not leave him. I ran after him (it was a school being used as a headquarters), and Ifound him and said: Listen, Ijust gave a statement, Iam an absolutely honest person, this is one of my actors and Ihave known him for six years. He has no relationship to any conspiracy or terrorist attack. Let him go, please. When we left, he simply cried on my shoulder like a baby because he was so awfully frightened. The situation in general was terrible.

Oleg Golub: We had an actor taken away, Marat Abrakhimov, after the hostages were freed they took him away to the prosecutors office, like a gunman.

Oleg Klenin: He has Mid-eastern features.

Oleg Golub: Yes, he is the only one of the actors who was not in the hospital at all. First to the prosecutor, and then when everything was cleared up, they released him. But his loved ones called the prosecutors office and asked: Where is Abrakhimov? And they told them: Abrakhimov? He was shot. He is a terrorist.

Rada Novikova: Iwould like to comment some more with regards to friend or foe. It was not enough that for two weeks they would not give us our equipment back, but when we got it, the film looked like it had been stomped on the floor and the lenses were used to play football. The tripod disappeared, as did the case and filters. No one knows why anyone would want these, but everything that they thought might be valuable disappeared.

Grigory Zaslavsky: When they released you, where did you go at four in the morning? You left. Alive. Healthy.

Rada Novikova: Ileft and the director of the school studio called and said: Rada! Youre alive? Where are you? Isaid: Yes, excuse me, Tatiana Ivanovna, but the camera is still there. What camera? You're alive? Yes, Im alive and everythings fine. Then she changed to a businesslike tone and said: NTV just called, they want to invite you to their broadcast at 6 in the morning. It was 4 in the morning. I walked down the highway, caught a ride and went to the nearest friend Iknew, at the very least to get some tea to drink. When Igot there Icollapsed with a temperature of 40(104 degrees F ed.) and, naturally, never went anywhere. Around evening Iput myself back together, sometime around 9at night, and phoned and phoned and phoned.

Oleg Klenin: We also left in the morning. At six. We left single file. We ran do the vehicles that were standing there and they took us to the hospital. They questioned us for three hours. One would start, and then another person would come who would ask the very same questions, he was obviously double-checking something. He asked: Now, and what is your surname? We said what it was, and he said: Ah-ha, understood. Later he said that they would check us out another time, so we could go. So we left and headed for the nearest television right away. They told us: Now dont loiter here, hit the road. We went down to the first floor, and you could not be there, it was some kind of FSB headquarters, they kicked us out, but we managed to make it to some TV set in order to find out what was going on in the country. Then suddenly we see the same person who was asking us questions on the TV, he is sitting in the same office we had just left and saying that they had held talks with the terrorists and were able to get seven people released. This was all about us. He said that it was unclear why we had been released, and that were going to investigate us thoroughly. And this news correspondent asks: How are they? Whats with them? And the prosecutor says: We are providing them now with psychological assistance.

Grigory Zaslavsky: A question for Oleg Golub. How did you get out? You were in good condition, more or less.

Oleg Golub: Iwaited for our boys to come. I was lying there. A door opens behind me and Ihear someone is coming in. I figured out that he was one of ours from the choice swear words he was using, because the gunmen did not swear at all. I thought: Our guys are here! and Idecided: Ill wait a bit.

Grigory Zaslavsky: Why were you lying, and not sitting?

Oleg Golub: Because when the shooting started everyone jumped below the seats. From the very first day it was clear, after the first shots, who was a Russian and who was a foreigner. What does a foreigner do? When there is a gunshot the foreigner is like gone with the wind. They are down under the seats right away and you cannot even see them. But a Russian: Is someone shooting? It is like that. Since the second day the Russians had gotten trained as well, and you could not tell them apart. Like flies, everyone hid under the seats. True, there was not much room, and you could not stretch out to your full height. Youhad to lie on one side because here on the right was already the rear of another person, and there at your feet was the head of whoever was sitting to your left. You lie there and think what part of your body would you miss the least. And Iwas lying there in such a state that my nose was in my elbow because we could see and smell the gas.

Grigory Zaslavsky: So it had a color nonetheless?

Oleg Golub: It had a smell and it had a color. It was visible. I heard cursing and afterwards Iheard someone say: What are the soldiers doing here? I was thinking: Thats it, these are our boys. And Igot up. I was conscious, but Iwas in a strange state. I got up and they were looking at me Iwas in my stage uniform. Right away Isaid: Im am actor in the show. They showed me some fellow in a gray suit, they gave him a shake and asked me: Is this a gunman? I tried to focus my eyes and Isaid: No. And that was all. Then they took him gently and led him out. So here the fate of this man was in our hands, but what if someone had said: Yes what would have happened then?

They also grabbed me gently and led me out. I again tried to focus: The courtyard! I know it! They went into the gay club. Our cafeteria used to be there, and Iyelled: Cafeteria! The door was open and Iwalked in. Everything was different inside. I sat down. They sat us down and we waited, probably for the ambulance teams to join the party. We sat there. A new place, yes? And Itried to look around and Isaw that apparently the OMON had been here, or someone, because there was a table and food there. And then Ithought: The OMON had been sitting here and waiting. And Isee these pictures on the wall and focused in and Ithought that the OMON must have had fun here. For some reason Igot this idea because Iwas imagining how the OMON had been laughing and pointing at the pictures. Later they led us down some corridor, an iron tourniquet, we went through it, then upstairs and somehow we got lost and ended up by our service entrance, and there was already an ambulance there, so we went right into the ambulance and to the hospital. They took me to the hospital right across the road. I was in the hospital and looking at Nord-Ost through the window. While they were still de-mining the building, we were right there in that hospital.

Grigory Zaslavsky: They did not inject you with anything right away?

Oleg Golub: No, they did not give me a shot, and Ithink that none of us who were in the hospital got a shot.

Oleg Klenin: Some, they say, got three doses.

Grigory Zaslavsky: Here it is interesting, when Vasilev came to me on my radio show Iasked him: They say that the hostages for a very long time had dreams about destruction and various battles, and cannonades and so forth. What kind of dreams did you have? He told how he woke up, how he came to after this anesthesia. They were slapping him across the cheeks, this was already in the hospital, and they were saying: Vasilev is your name! Vasilev is your name! and he decided that he must be spy who had become some sort of Islamic prisoner and was being interrogated.

Oleg Golub: We were in one hospital and the head physician there was named Kiknadze. A stout little Georgian, and he talked with an accent: Vaseelev, Vaseelev. And Georgy Gennadyvich decided that these were Chechens and he said: Im not going to tell you anything!


Grigory Zaslavsky: Did you have any kind of dreams after what happened to you? When the hostage rescue was going on?

Oleg Golub: A couple of times Iwas dreaming. Gunmen. They were still alive. There was some kind of a situation and Iwas supposed to return, but we had to leave, otherwise they would come. But it was just a dream.

Oleg Klenin: Idid not dream of this after the gas, but Iknow this dream: Iam always looking in the auditorium to see if there were any empty seats. It is always very alarming. And then the show starts, the third call, and Ilook into the auditorium and it is completely empty. Can you imagine? Our show is starting and no one is in the hall. Every theater person knows what Iam talking about. You put on some kind of a show, you call your friends, and at five to seven there is nobody. And here is that feeling horror! And it is combined with what we are all right now worrying about in our troupe. We are starting practice again and sewing costumes that were ruined, and remodeling the theater. We have such a fear that we will put on the premier, and our friends and relatives, mothers and fathers all come, there is noise, shouts, television crews, but later it all quiets down and no one shows up. An empty auditorium. This is the most terrible of theatrical dreams.

Grigory Zaslavsky: Iwish to finish with one story. Why it is very important to talk about everything today. When Rada went to the offices of the Moscow prosecutor, to ask about her things, and where she could go to file a claim, they told her that they were never there, that there was no information whatsoever that those 45people had been in there. It reminded me of a scene from 100 Years of Loneliness, this story where one of these Bedouins gets involved in a bloody demonstration where everyone is shot and taken out of the city and he is still alive. He gets away and returns to the city, but everything is scrubbed clean and it turns out that nothing had happened. And here it is as if these 45people never were there, and had no one to file a claim against.

A question from the auditorium: Excuse me. May Iask one question? You said that this gas had a color and a smell. What was its color and smell? What did it remind you of?

Oleg Golub: This is the question that they ask our actors most frequently. It was not really a color; it was more of a haze. When the smell came to me, Ido not know how to describe it. You know what the smoke was similar to? When they use stage smoke, and afterwards they fan it away and then in the auditorium there remains this little bit of fogginess.

A question from the auditorium: Did you hear the reaction of the gunmen when they released the gas?

Oleg Golub: How could we not hear it? We heard it. Theywere startled. They ran around. Someone put on a gasmask, though the doctors say that these respirators do not help, that you have to have special gasmasks. The Chechen women put on their masks, those black clothes. They ran about the foyer, and they periodically ran up and scared us. They were running around and shooting and we are all sitting there, and they run up and say: We just shot a cop. An asshole. He walks over and drinks a beer in front of the building, what cheek. We put him down. But this was just a tactic to scare us hostages.

A question from the auditorium: Were you not sorry when you found out that they had killed all these young girls and young boys?

Oleg Golub: Young boys! Wellsaid! Withunderstanding! Whatcan Itell you? That it would have been better if they had put us down?

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