By Sebastian Smith
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Additional resources for Allah’s Mountains: The Battle for Chechnya, New Edition
Or, had he in fact prevented the secret services from carrying out another massacre? The question was never satisfactorily answered. As so often in Russia, the truth could well lie in unexplored corners. Maybe Dagestanis or even Basayev were behind some of the bombs. The first bomb attack did not target civilian apartments within Russia proper, but military housing in Dagestan. This quite plausibly could have been the work of Dagestani or Chechen guerrillas. After all, they were fighting with Russian forces in that very region.
Chechens had a phrase – ‘every 50 years they try and crush us, but we’ll fight to the end’ – that was repeated so often it became a cliche. But it was eerily true. Every 50 years. What about the rest of the North Caucasus? Although there were no other armed, separatist revolts, small Moslem nations such as the Adygei and Avars had much in common with the Chechens historically and politically. The same genocidal deportations were carried out by Stalin against the Ingush, Karachai and Balkars. These peoples’ stories were virtually unknown both in Russia and abroad, and I wanted to compare their modern fates.
Almost overnight, the weariness and apathy afflicting Russian society was replaced by open racism and war fever. Yet the police could produce no credible Chechen suspect and none came forward to claim responsibility. No one, in fact, attempted to extract gain – not publicly, that is. No demands were made and there were no threats of new bombs. Basayev, never shy about claiming terrorist attacks, including the Beslan school hostage-taking of 2004, denied involvement. In addition, the official investigation was perfunctory, with almost no time taken to comb the ruins for clues, or perform other basic detective work.