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Monument to the victims of thegas
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, 23 2003

The Moscow city government has erected a monument near the same building on Dubrovka where one year ago terrorists seized hostages. Initially they wanted to put up some sort of theatrical monument, with seagulls, but relatives of the victims grew indignant and said that in this case the monument would not be in memory of the terror victims, but to the musical.

The city thought it over and decided that cranes (the monument allegorically depicts cranes) are not the same as seagulls. Aseagull would have been a theatrical character, whereas a crane is more of a war symbol, because of the song by Mark Bernes: “At times Ithink soldiers, who never returned from bloody battlefields, do not lay under our native land, but have changed into white cranes.” Such associations around.

On the monument it states that it is dedicated to victims of terrorism. Thatis, not to those specific individuals who died a year ago at Dubrovka, but to victims in general. Andnot to those victims who were killed specifically by terrorists, but to victims of terrorism in general.

This is war. Waris when victims have no names, and are counted in the tens and hundreds and thousands. Therelatives of these victims have been asking for a plaque for a long time, and a plaque was eventually installed, but not on the monument, but on a corner wall of the theater. Acouple of years from now they will tear town the theater for its obvious inconsistency with our city, which is so safe from fire, and then what will happen to the plaque?

When the relatives asked for a plaque, that meant that people still hoped that we were at peace, and not at war, and that, should we perish, we could still be called by name and not counted in the hundreds. Butno, these are soldiers, who never returned from bloody battlefields.

Had it been up to me, Iwould have made a monument of their portraits. Withnames. Ahundred people men, women, and children. Whenthey negotiate with terrorists, they try to call the hostages by their names. Itis thought that in so doing that terrorists will start treating them not as instruments in a politico-economic struggle, but as people. Men, women and children. Withnames.

When the president gave the order to storm the theater (it was the president who gave this order, yes?), what did he imagine the number five hundred, or faces? Men, women and children. Withnames. Ifhe imagined faces, and ordered the assault, then why do we choose such a cruel man for the presidency? Iunderstand that one cannot negotiate with terrorists. Iunderstand that it is a matter of national security. ButI could not order an assault if Iam imagining faces. Men, women and children.

But if the president imagined the number five hundred, then let him see faces instead. After all, no one blames the president for the deaths of these people. ButI would love it if he did blame himself, since good people have a sense of guilt. Ido not know if Iam a good person, but Ido feel a sense of guilt as far as these lost people go. Andyou, dear reader: if you do not feel guilt, then why are you reading this column?

And let the mayor will see these faces. After all, no one blames the mayor for the deaths of these people. Butthe mayor, if he is a good man, he certainly knows that he made a couple of mistakes during those hectic three days in the emergency headquarters. Noone, except the mayor, will ever know about these mistakes, and only for him alone are these faces. Men, women and children.

And even let the director of the FSB see the faces of these people. Lethim dream about them for the rest of his life. Letthem be the first to meet him when he goes to that other world, those men, women and children. Maybe over there they will forgive him. Mostlikely, they will forgive him. Hewill tell them that their deaths were a national security issue, and they will forgivehim.

And one more thing: during those three days at Dubrovka, if Iremember correctly, five people died at the hands of terrorists. Strictly speaking, if, on the memorial that was opened today, it is written that it is dedicated to “victims of terrorism,” it refers to five people.

All the rest men, women and children, with names did not die at the hands of the terrorists, but from thegas.

Well, that is what they should put on the monument: to the victims of thegas.


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