Political Geography 28 (2009) 4–15
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Placing blame: Making sense of Beslan
´ ´ Gearoid O Tuathail
School of Public & International Affairs, Virginia Tech, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA
a b s t r a c t
Keywords: Terrorism Russia North Ossetia Geopolitics Indiscriminate geographies Violence
The aftermaths of terrorist spectacles are intensely consequential moments in the making of geopolitical meaning. This paper develops a critical geopolitical account of the ways in which key actors involved in the terrorist incident at School Number 1 in Beslan North Ossetia constructed its meaning and justiﬁed their actions. The event is examined from three perspectives: the terrorist’s Beslan, the Kremlin’s Beslan and the contested meaning of Beslan among Ossetians and others in the North Caucasus. Multiple sources are utilized in the construction of the account: an English language archive of Russian reporting on the event, accounts of the siege, statements by key protagonists, elite interviews in North Ossetia, and the results of a survey question in North Ossetia and the North Caucasus on Beslan. The paper examines the construction of blame by the various actors and relates it to indiscriminate geographies, sweeping acts of abstraction whose homogenizing effects make (counter)terrorist violence possible. Ó 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
On 1 September 2004 a group of terrorists surrounded a community of children, parents and teachers celebrating the ﬁrst day of the new school year in Beslan, a southern Russian town in the republic of North Ossetia, and took them hostage. Responding ofﬁcials put the number held at a few hundred, downplaying the reality that 1127 people were captive. For 3 days, the hostages were held in the cramped conditions of School Number 1 (Fig. 1). At least 30 hostages and 3 terrorists died the ﬁrst day. On the second day, former...