Shamil Basaev has achieved the goal of his Beslan operation, concluded Sanobar Shermatova in an October 15 article for the weekly Moskovskie novosti. “After Beslan the peoples of the Caucasus have not united in a fight against terror, but on the contrary have once again turned out to be on the brink of new hostilities between themselves,” she wrote.
One telling indicator, according to Shermatova, is that neither Ingushetian President Murat Zyazikov nor North Ossetian Aleksandr Dzasokhov showed up in Chechnya earlier this month for the inauguration of Alu Alkhanov. Both of them had to take into account mounting anti-Chechen public opinion within their own regions.
Also telling is the failure of the Ingush and North Ossetia governments to cooperate closely with each other. After the Beslan tragedy, wrote Shermatova, Zyazikov called on Dzasokhov to sign a joint statement warning against the dangers of inter-ethnic conflict. The latter declined. Similarly, “the Ingush legislature, taking notice of the rise in anti-Ingush feelings in the neighboring republic, appealed to their Ossetian colleagues to join in opposing those thirsting for bloodshed. But the Ossetian deputies responded with silence.”
Shermatova noted that the North Ossetia authorities are now trying to exploit the situation by demanding repeal of a 1991 federal law on the “rehabilitation of repressed peoples,” on the basis of which the Ingush have pressed their claims to ancestral territories which are now within the boundaries of North Ossetia. The parliament of North Ossetia has already appealed to Putin to agree that the law is obsolete. According to Shermatova, if Putin gives in to this demand, Ingush refugees will lose whatever remaining hopes they have had of returning to the homelands from which their families were expelled by Stalin, and thus the conflict between the two peoples will be still further enflamed.
According to an October 12 article on the Utro.ru website, the words “I shall take revenge!” have been written in large red letters on one of the surviving walls of the shattered Beslan school.
Correspondent Fred Weir of the Christian Science Monitor wrote in an October 14 story from Beslan that “a vengeful point of view is not hard to find, especially among the small knots of young men hovering on Beslan’s street corners. ‘I’m ready to kill them, to finish this threat forever,’ says Marat, a teenager who says he lost his little sister in the siege. But one of his two friends, who gives his name as Oleg, interjects: ‘No, that’s not good. We don’t want war.'”
Like Ingushetia and Chechnya, North Ossetia is awash with privately owned weapons. In a report published on October 13 by the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting, a North Ossetian bus driver told local journalists Murat Gabarayev and Aleta Gapbayeva that “in our village there are weapons in practically every house. It’s impossible now to live peacefully without it, you just can’t rely on the police force and other security structures. There are different sorts of people working in them and many of them, we know, would sell their own mother for money. Bandits armed to the teeth wander through our forests and we have to be ready to fight them if need be. That’s why I keep a gun I bought a couple of years ago – quite legally by the way. Besides that my family has other weapons but I won’t say anything else about them.”
One of many signs of heightening inter-ethnic tensions in the wake of the Beslan atrocity is the disappearance of Chechen and Ingush students from institutions of higher education in North Ossetia. According to an October 18 article by German Petelin in Novye izvestia, about 300 such students hastily fled Vladikavkaz, the North Ossetian capital, immediately after the terrorists seized the Beslan school. Some who did not react quickly enough were beaten in their own dormitories by Ossetians—including their own fellow students.
Six weeks later, not one of these Chechen or Ingush students has returned. Petelin concluded that at least some of them are in effect being deprived of the chance for education and chased into the highlands—to become recruits for the separatist guerrillas.