11 November 2004

New Zealand Tomb of the Unknown Warrior is dedicated at the National War Memorial, Wellington.

New Zealand Tomb of the Unknown Warrior

Coordinates: 41°17′55.78″S 174°46′37.99″E / 41.2988278°S 174.7772194°E / -41.2988278; 174.7772194

The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in June 2012

The New Zealand Tomb of the Unknown Warrior is at the National War Memorial in Buckle Street, Wellington.

On 6 November 2004, the remains of an unknown New Zealand soldier were exhumed from the (CWGC) Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, and laid to rest in the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Wellington, New Zealand. He represents over 18,000 members of New Zealand forces who lost their lives during the First World War. A special headstone marks his original resting place in Plot 14, Row A, Grave 27.


On 6 November 2004 the remains, in a copper coffin sealed and placed in a rimu coffin brought from New Zealand, were handed over from the care of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to a New Zealand delegation during a ceremony at Longueval, Somme, France. New Zealand Defence Force chief, Air Marshal Bruce Ferguson, who had the task of repatriating the Warrior's remains, said of the occasion "I told him [the Warrior] we're taking him home and that those who are taking him home are soldiers, sailors and airmen, past and present. I asked the Warrior to be the guardian of all military personnel who had died on active service. I then promised that we, the people of New Zealand, will be his guardian for ever".

The Warrior arrived in New Zealand on 10 November 2004. While he lay in state in the Parliament Buildings an estimated 10,000 people paid their respects. The Warrior was laid to rest on the 86th Armistice Day, 11 November 2004, after a service at St Paul's Anglican Cathedral and a 2.85 km slow march procession through the streets of Wellington, lined by about 100,000 people. The Tomb was sealed with a bronze mantel at 3:59pm, bearing the words:

The Warrior is one of more than 1500 New Zealanders killed on the Somme. Most of them, 1272, remained unidentified and are buried in unmarked graves or remembered on memorial walls. The remains are thought to include an almost complete skeleton, and other belongings that established beyond doubt the Warrior's nationality.


The Warrior was awarded:

The Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association also awarded its Badge in Gold, the first time it has been awarded posthumously. Immediate Past National President David Cox, a World War II veteran, made the presentation:

Each RNZRSA District President placed soil and other items into the Tomb to acknowledge the service personnel from their districts who had given their lives to the nation, including soil from the farm of Charles Upham. Soil from Caterpillar Valley Cemetery was provided by the Ambassador from France, Jean-Michel Marlaud.

External links

27 October 2004

The Boston Red Sox defeat the St. Louis Cardinals to win their first World Series in 86 years.

2004 World Series

2004 World Series
Team (Wins) Manager(s) Season
Boston Red Sox (4) Terry Francona 98–64, .605, 3 GB
St. Louis Cardinals (0) Tony La Russa 105–57, .648, 13 GA
DatesOctober 23–27
MVPManny Ramírez (Boston)
UmpiresEd Montague (crew chief), Dale Scott, Brian Gorman, Chuck Meriwether, Gerry Davis, Charlie Reliford
Hall of FamersRed Sox: Pedro Martínez
Cardinals: Tony La Russa (manager)
ALCSBoston Red Sox defeated New York Yankees, 4–3
NLCSSt. Louis Cardinals defeated Houston Astros, 4–3
TelevisionFox (United States)
MLB International (International)
TV announcersJoe Buck and Tim McCarver (Fox)
Dave O'Brien and Rick Sutcliffe (MLB International)
WEEI (Red Sox)
KMOX (Cardinals)
Radio announcersJon Miller and Joe Morgan
Joe Castiglione and Jerry Trupiano (Red Sox)
Mike Shannon and Wayne Hagin (Cardinals)
← 2003 World Series 2005 →

The 2004 World Series was the championship series of Major League Baseball's (MLB) 2004 season. The 100th edition of the World Series, it was a best-of-seven playoff between the American League (AL) champion Boston Red Sox and the National League (NL) champion St. Louis Cardinals;[1] the Red Sox swept the Cardinals in four games. The series was played from October 23 to 27, 2004, at Fenway Park and Busch Memorial Stadium, broadcast on Fox, and watched by an average of just under 25.5 million viewers. The Red Sox's World Series championship was their first since 1918.

The Cardinals earned their berth into the playoffs by winning the NL Central division title, and had the best win–loss record in the NL. The Red Sox won the AL wild card to earn theirs. The Cardinals reached the World Series by defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in the best-of-five NL Division Series and the Houston Astros in the best-of-seven NL Championship Series. The Red Sox defeated the Anaheim Angels in the AL Division Series. After trailing three games to none to the New York Yankees in the AL Championship Series, the Red Sox came back to win the series, advancing to their first World Series since 1986. The Cardinals made their first appearance in the World Series since 1987. With the New England Patriots winning Super Bowl XXXVIII, the World Series victory made Boston the first city to have Super Bowl and World Series championship teams in the same year (2004) since Pittsburgh in 1979.[2] The Red Sox became the third straight wild card team to win the World Series; the Anaheim Angels won in 2002 and the Florida Marlins won in 2003.[3]

The Red Sox had home-field advantage in the World Series by nature of the AL winning the 2004 All-Star Game. In game one, Mark Bellhorn helped the Red Sox win with a home run, while starter Curt Schilling led the team to a game two victory by pitching six innings and allowing just one run. The Red Sox won the first two games despite committing four errors in each. The Red Sox won game three, aided by seven shutout innings by Pedro Martínez. A home run by Johnny Damon in the first inning helped to win game four for the Red Sox to secure the series. The Cardinals did not lead in any of the games in the series. Manny Ramírez was named the series' Most Valuable Player. The Red Sox and Cardinals faced each other again in the 2013 World Series, which the Red Sox also won, this time 4 games to 2.

Route to the series

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox had lost in the previous season's American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees. The loss was mainly blamed on the decision by then-manager Grady Little to keep starting pitcher Pedro Martínez in the game in the 8th inning of Game 7, and Little was fired two weeks later.[4]

The Red Sox hired Terry Francona as their manager during the 2003–04 off-season.

During the off-season, the Red Sox hired Terry Francona as their new manager.[5] They also signed Keith Foulke as their closer[6] and traded for Curt Schilling as a starting pitcher.[7] The Red Sox played two particularly notable games against the Yankees during the regular season. A game on July 1, in which they came back from a 3-run deficit to force extra innings, is best remembered for an incident in the 12th inning, when Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter made a catch on the run before hurling himself head-first into the stands. The Yankees won the game in the next inning to take an 8-game lead in the American League East.[8] In the 3rd inning of a game on July 24, Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo hit Yankees batter Alex Rodriguez with one of his pitches. As Rodriguez walked towards first base, he began shouting profanities at Arroyo. Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek positioned himself between the two players. After a brief argument, Varitek pushed his glove into Rodriguez' face, causing a bench-clearing brawl.[9] The Red Sox eventually won the game thanks to a home run by Bill Mueller in the 9th inning.[10] On July 31, the Red Sox traded shortstop Nomar Garciaparra to the Chicago Cubs after he had spent eight years with the team. They acquired shortstop Orlando Cabrera and first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz in this trade.[11] They won the wild card to earn a place in the post-season for the second year in a row.[12]

In the divisional round of the playoffs, the Red Sox faced the Anaheim Angels in a best-of-five series. They won Game 1 largely thanks to a 7-run 4th inning, and went on to sweep the series. In the 7th inning of Game 3, with the Red Sox leading by 4, Vladimir Guerrero tied the game for the Angels with a grand slam. However, David Ortiz won the series with a game winning home run in the 10th.[13] In the American League Championship Series, the Red Sox lost the first three games against the New York Yankees, including a 19-8 drubbing in Game 3, and were trailing 4-3 in Game 4 when they began the 9th inning. Kevin Millar was walked by Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.[14] Dave Roberts then came into the game to pinch run for Millar and stole second base. Mueller then singled to enable him to tie the game. Another game winning home run by Ortiz won the game 6-4 for the Red Sox in the 12th inning.[15] Ortiz' single in the 14th inning of Game 5 scored the winning run for the Red Sox, in what was, then, the longest post-season game in baseball history.[16] Despite having a dislocated ankle tendon, Schilling started Game 6 for the Red Sox.[17] He pitched for seven innings, and allowed just one run, during which time his sock became soaked in blood.[17] In the eighth inning, Yankees third baseman Rodriguez slapped a ball out of pitcher Arroyo's hand, allowing the Yankees to score a run. However, after a discussion the umpires called Rodriguez out for interference and canceled the run. Fans then threw debris onto the field in protest and the game was stopped for ten minutes.[18][19] The Red Sox won the game 4-2 and became the first baseball team to ever force a Game 7 after having been down 3 games to none.[18] A 10–3 win in Game 7 brought the Red Sox to the World Series for the first time in 18 years.[20]

St. Louis Cardinals

Baseball batter in a red hat, white top and white pants, standing on baseball field for the Cardinals.
Albert Pujols, seen here in 2007, hit 46 home runs, then a career-high.

Having failed to make the playoffs the season before, and with their division rivals (the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros) expected to be strong, the Cardinals were generally expected to finish 3rd in the National League Central.[21][22] However, strong offensive seasons from Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, and Jim Edmonds—during which they each hit more than 30 home runs and 100 runs batted in (RBI)—helped them to lead the league in runs scored.[23] They also allowed the fewest runs of any team in the league.[24] Four of their starters recorded at least 15 wins and closer Jason Isringhausen recorded a league-best 47 saves.[23][25] They added outfielder Larry Walker in August and finished the regular season with the best win–loss record in the league.[26]

The Cardinals faced the Los Angeles Dodgers in the divisional round of the playoffs. Five home runs in Game 1 and no runs allowed by the bullpen in Game 2 helped the Cardinals to win the first two games.[27] A complete game by Dodgers pitcher José Lima enabled the Dodgers to force a Game 4, during which a home run by Pujols won the series for the Cardinals.[28] In the National League Championship Series, the Cardinals faced the Astros and won the first two games in St. Louis. However, the Astros tied the series in the next two games in Houston, before a combined one-hitter by Astros pitchers Brandon Backe and Brad Lidge gave them the series lead.[29] An RBI single by Jeff Bagwell in the 9th inning of Game 6 tied the game and forced extra innings. In the 12th, Edmonds won the game for the Cardinals with a walk-off home run.[30] Trailing in the sixth inning of Game 7, a game-tying RBI double by Albert Pujols followed by a Scott Rolen two-run home run and then an RBI single by Larry Walker in the 8th inning helped the Cardinals to a 5–2 win and their first World Series berth in 17 years.[31]

By reaching the World Series with the Cardinals, Tony La Russa became the sixth manager to win pennants in both leagues.[32] This was after La Russa had managed the Oakland Athletics to three straight pennants between 1988 and 1990 and winning the 1989 World Series.[32] He would attempt to join Sparky Anderson as the only men to have managed teams to World Series championships in both leagues.[33] He wore #10 in tribute to Anderson (who wore 10 while manager of the Cincinnati Reds) and to indicate he was trying to win the team's 10th championship.[34][35]

Series build up

The series was heavily discussed and analyzed by the American media prior to it beginning. The Star-News of Wilmington, North Carolina, compared the Red Sox and Cardinals position by position and concluded that the Cardinals were stronger in eight positions, the Red Sox in four and both teams even in one. They predicted that the Cardinals would win the series in seven games.[36] Andrew Haskett of E-Sports.com gave high praise to the two teams' starting pitchers but also said that the Cardinals "took a serious blow" when Chris Carpenter was forced out of the series due to an injury to his arm. He also pointed out the ability of both teams to hit home runs, especially in the case of the Red Sox's David Ortiz and the Cardinals' Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds. While he praised the Red Sox defense, he called the Cardinals "one of the best defensive teams to ever walk onto a baseball field". Ultimately he concluded that the series would be close and that the Red Sox would win it.[37]

John Donovan of Sports Illustrated praised both teams for how unexpected their reaching the World Series was, saying that they were "not supposed to be here". He also called the series a "blast from the past" because both teams were very old franchises and had twice previously met in the World Series.[38] In a breakdown of how the two teams matched up, he concluded that the edge was with the Red Sox in pitching and the Cardinals in defense and batting. Ultimately he concluded that Schilling and Martinez would be the "key to [the] Series" and that the Red Sox would win in six games.[39] Jim Molony of MLB.com, said he expected the series to play out very differently from the last time the two teams met in the World Series in 1967. This was because both team offenses had been some of the best in the league during the season, while pitching had been very dominant in 1967.[40]

Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe said that "Bally's in Las Vegas set the Red Sox as 8–5 favorites to win the Series" and that there was "some sentiment in St. Louis that the NL champions have been disrespected". but also that Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein "Did not want to dis[respect] the Cardinals".[41] Shaughnessy also quoted Schilling as having said: "There's a lot of good players in that [visitors] clubhouse over there. This isn't the time for us to be thinking about history. If we get three wins and 26 outs into the fourth win, I'm pretty sure it will hit us."[41] Before the series began, Shaughnessy wrote a piece saying that although the Red Sox had beaten the Yankees, the series needed to be won, as it was the only way the Curse of the Bambino, which he had publicized based on the book of the same title in 1990,[42] would end,[43][44] and demeaning chants of "1918!" would no longer echo at Yankee Stadium.[45] During the series, he wrote a piece about how much people in New England were thinking about loved ones who had spent their entire lives rooting for the Red Sox, hoping that one day, they would see their Red Sox win a World Series.[46][47]

Both teams had lost in their previous World Series appearances in seven games. The Red Sox lost to the New York Mets in 1986, while the Cardinals lost in 1987 to the Minnesota Twins. The Cardinals and Red Sox had not won the World Series since 1982 and 1918 respectively. When the two teams had previously played each other in the 1946 and 1967 World Series, the Cardinals won both series in seven games.[48][49] Having won the All-Star Game, the AL had been awarded home-field advantage, which meant the Red Sox had the advantage at Fenway Park in four of the seven games in the series.[50]


AL Boston Red Sox (4) beat NL St. Louis Cardinals (0)

Game Date Score Location Time Attendance 
1 October 23 St. Louis Cardinals – 9, Boston Red Sox – 11 Fenway Park 4:00 35,035[51] 
2 October 24 St. Louis Cardinals – 2, Boston Red Sox – 6 Fenway Park 3:20 35,001[52] 
3 October 26 Boston Red Sox – 4, St. Louis Cardinals – 1 Busch Stadium (II) 2:58 52,015[53] 
4 October 27 Boston Red Sox – 3, St. Louis Cardinals – 0 Busch Stadium (II) 3:14 52,037[54]


Game 1

Saturday, October 23, 2004 8:05 pm (EDT) at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
St. Louis 0 1 1 3 0 2 0 2 0 9 11 1
Boston 4 0 3 0 0 0 2 2 X 11 13 4
WP: Keith Foulke (1–0)   LP: Julián Tavárez (0–1)
Home runs:
STL: Larry Walker (1)
BOS: David Ortiz (1), Mark Bellhorn (1)
Attendance: 35,035

Local band Dropkick Murphys performed "Tessie", and a moment of silence was observed to remember local student Victoria Snelgrove, who had been accidentally killed by police two days earlier as Sox fans had celebrated winning the American League pennant.[55][56] Steven Tyler, the lead singer of Aerosmith, another local band, performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" and Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski threw the ceremonial first pitch.[56]

Down the right field line, into the corner it is fair! And a three-run home run, Ortiz has done it again!

Joe Buck of Fox Sports, calling the fifth home run of the postseason by David Ortiz in Game 1.[57]

Tim Wakefield made his first start of the 2004 postseason for the Red Sox, becoming the first knuckleball pitcher to make a World Series start since 1948, while Woody Williams, who had won his previous two starts in the post-season, was the Cardinals' starting pitcher.[58] In the bottom of the first inning, Williams gave up a lead-off double to Johnny Damon, and then hit Orlando Cabrera in the shoulder with one of his pitches. After Manny Ramírez flied out, Ortiz hit a three-run home run in his first-ever World Series at bat. Kevin Millar then scored by virtue of a single by Bill Mueller to put the Red Sox up 4–0.[58][59]

The Cardinals scored one run in both the second and third innings on a sacrifice fly by Mike Matheny to score Jim Edmonds and a home run to right field by Walker, respectively. However, in the bottom of the third, the Red Sox scored three runs after seven consecutive batters reached base, giving them a five-run lead. Dan Haren came in from the Cardinals' bullpen to replace Williams during the inning.[60]

In the top of the fourth inning, Bronson Arroyo was brought in to replace Wakefield after he had walked four batters. Those walks, combined with a throwing error by Millar and a passed ball by Doug Mirabelli, allowed the Cardinals to reduce the lead to two runs. In the sixth inning, So Taguchi reached first on an infield hit and was allowed to advance to second when Arroyo threw the ball into the stands. Doubles by Édgar Rentería and Walker tied the game at seven. In the bottom of the seventh inning, Ramírez singled with two men on base, and a poor throw by Edmonds allowed Mark Bellhorn to score. Ortiz then hit a line drive that appeared to skip off the lip of the infield and hit Cardinals' second baseman Tony Womack with "considerable force".[61] Womack immediately grabbed his clavicle as a second Red Sox run scored. He was attended to once play had ended and replaced by Marlon Anderson. A precautionary X-ray revealed that there was no damage.[60][61]

In the top of the eighth inning, with one out and two men on base, Red Sox closer Keith Foulke came in to pitch. Rentería singled towards Ramírez in left field, who unintentionally kicked the ball away, allowing Jason Marquis to score. Walker also hit the ball towards Ramírez in the next at bat. Ramírez slid in an attempt to try to catch the ball, but tripped and deflected the ball for his second error in two plays, and the fourth Red Sox error in the game. Roger Cedeño scored on the play to tie the game at nine.[60][62] In the bottom of the eighth inning, however, Jason Varitek reached on an error, and Bellhorn then hit a home run off the right field foul pole, also known as Pesky's Pole, for his third home run in as many games to give the Red Sox a two-run lead.[56][63] In the ninth inning, Foulke struck out Cedeño to win the game for the Red Sox 11–9.[58][60]

With a total of 20 runs, it was the highest scoring opening game of a World Series ever.[64] With four RBI, Ortiz also tied a franchise record for RBI in a World Series game.[56][65] Walker, making his World Series debut in Game 1, collected four hits in five at bats with a home run and two doubles.[66] His four-hit outing tied a Cardinals World Series record, becoming the seventh overall and first to do so since Lou Brock in 1967, also against Boston.[67]

Game 2

Sunday, October 24, 2004 8:10 pm (EDT) at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
St. Louis 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 5 0
Boston 2 0 0 2 0 2 0 0 X 6 8 4
WP: Curt Schilling (1–0)   LP: Matt Morris (0–1)
Attendance: 35,001

Boston native James Taylor performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" before Game 2 and singer Donna Summer, also a Boston native, performed "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch. The ceremonial first pitch was thrown by the surviving three members of the famous Red Sox quartet that had faced the Cardinals in 1946: Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky (Ted Williams had died two years earlier).[68]

Boston pitcher, in black hat, navy blue top and grey pants, delivering a practice pitch for the Red Sox the day before a game. Nearly empty bleachers are visible behind him.
Schilling, seen here in 2007, started and won Game 2 for the Red Sox.

Despite having a torn tendon in his right ankle, similar to Game 6 of the ALCS against the Yankees, Schilling started Game 2 for the Red Sox.[64] Schilling had four stitches in the ankle the day before, causing him "considerable discomfort".[69] He was not sure on the morning of Game 2 if he would be able to play, but after one of the stitches was removed, he was treated with antibiotics and was able to pitch.[69] Morris started for the Cardinals on three days' rest (one day fewer than is orthodox rest for a starting pitcher).[70]

In the first inning, Albert Pujols doubled with two out, and Scott Rolen hit a line drive towards Mueller, who caught it to end the inning.[69] Morris walked Ramírez and Ortiz in the bottom of the inning. Varitek then tripled to center field to give the Red Sox a 2–0 lead.[71]

In the fourth inning, Pujols doubled again and was able to score on an error by Mueller. The Red Sox also scored in the bottom of the inning when Bellhorn doubled to center with two runners on base, to give them a three-run lead. Cal Eldred came in to relieve Morris in the fifth inning, after he had walked the leadoff hitter, having already given up four runs in the previous four innings. Mueller committed his World Series record-tying third error of the game, in the sixth inning;[72] however, the Cardinals failed to capitalize. In the bottom of the inning, Trot Nixon led off with a single to center, and two more singles by Johnny Damon and Orlando Cabrera enabled two more runs to score to make it 6–1.[71]

After six innings of allowing no earned runs – which gave him a total of 13 innings against the Yankees and Cardinals with only one earned run allowed on a torn ankle tendon – Schilling made way for Alan Embree, who pitched a scoreless seventh. Mike Timlin replaced Embree in the eighth, in which a sacrifice fly by Scott Rolen reduced the Red Sox lead to four. Keith Foulke then came in to strike out Jim Edmonds to end the inning and also pitched the ninth to end the game. For the second game in a row, the Red Sox won despite committing four fielding errors.[71]

With the win, Schilling became only the fifth pitcher to ever win a World Series game with a team from both leagues, having previously done it with National League teams, the Philadelphia Phillies in 1993, and the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001.[69] He later donated the bloody sock he wore during the game to the Baseball Hall of Fame museum.[64][73] Much of the blame for the Cardinals' losses in the first two games was directed at the fact that Rolen, Edmonds and Reggie Sanders, three of the Cardinals' best batters, had combined for one hit in 22 at-bats.[74][75][76]

Game 3

Tuesday, October 26, 2004 7:30 pm (CDT) at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Boston 1 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 4 9 0
St. Louis 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 4 0
WP: Pedro Martínez (1–0)   LP: Jeff Suppan (0–1)
Home runs:
BOS: Manny Ramírez (1)
STL: Larry Walker (2)
Attendance: 52,015

Seattle Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martínez was presented with the 2004 Roberto Clemente Award, having announced his retirement one month before.[77] The ceremonial first pitch was thrown by arguably the Cardinals' best-ever position player, Stan Musial, and caught by arguably their best-ever pitcher, Bob Gibson. "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America" were sung by country music singer Martina McBride and singer–songwriter Amy Grant respectively. During the game, a sign for the fast-food restaurant Taco Bell that measured 12 by 12 feet (3.7 m × 3.7 m) and read "Free Taco Here", was hung approximately 420 feet (130 m) from home plate, over the left-center field bullpen. Taco Bell promised that, if the sign was hit by a home run ball, they would give a free "Crunchy Beef Taco" to everyone in the United States.[78][79]

Once again, the Red Sox took the lead in the first inning when Ramírez hit a home run off former Red Sox pitcher Jeff Suppan. Pedro Martínez was the starting pitcher for the Red Sox, and in the bottom of the first inning, he allowed the Cardinals to load the bases with one out. Edmonds then hit a fly ball towards Ramírez in left field, who caught it on the run and threw to catcher Jason Varitek at home plate. Varitek tagged out Walker, who was attempting to score from third, ending the inning.[80]

In the bottom of the third inning, the Cardinals had two runners on base with no one out. Walker hit a ground ball towards first base, and Cardinals third base coach José Oquendo signalled to Suppan on third to run to home plate. However, halfway towards home, Suppan "suddenly stopped".[80] Édgar Rentería, who had been running from second base towards third, was forced to return to second when he saw Suppan had stopped. After stepping on first base, David Ortiz began moving toward Suppan, who had turned back toward third, Ortiz threw to third baseman Mueller, who tagged Suppan out. After the next batter, Albert Pujols, grounded to Mueller, the inning ended.[80]

Trot Nixon extended the Red Sox lead to two in the top of the fourth, hitting a single to right field that scored Mueller, who had started the rally with a two-out double to left-center. Johnny Damon then led off the Red Sox's fifth inning with a double to right. Singles by Orlando Cabrera and Ramírez, to right and left respectively, scored Damon to make it 3–0. With two out, Mueller singled along the first base line, enabling Cabrera to score the Red Sox's fourth run. Suppan was replaced by Al Reyes, which meant none of the Cardinals three starting pitchers had finished five innings during the series.[80]

Mike Timlin relieved Martinez in the bottom of the eighth inning. He finished with six strikeouts, three hits allowed and retired the last 14 batters he faced. The Cardinals avoided a shutout when Walker hit a home run to center field off Foulke in the ninth inning, but Foulke retired the other three batters he faced in the inning to secure the win for the Red Sox 4–1.[80][81]

On the same day the Red Sox won Game 3, The Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy wrote that, as this win brought the Red Sox on the verge of winning a World Series, he wondered how many people in New England were thinking about loved ones who had spent their entire lives rooting for the Red Sox and hoping that one day, they would see the Red Sox win a World Series.[46][47]

Game 4

Wednesday, October 27, 2004 7:25 pm (CDT) at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Boston 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 9 0
St. Louis 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 0
WP: Derek Lowe (1–0)   LP: Jason Marquis (0–1)   Sv: Keith Foulke (1)
Home runs:
BOS: Johnny Damon (1)
STL: None
Attendance: 52,037
Batter in black hat red top and white pants, batting during spring training for the Red Sox.
Ramírez, seen here during spring training in 2007, was named the series MVP.

Country music singer Gretchen Wilson, a life-long Cardinals fan, performed "The Star-Spangled Banner".[82] Barry Bonds and Manny Ramírez received the Hank Aaron Award for the National and American Leagues, respectively.[83] Former Cardinals players Lou Brock and Red Schoendienst threw out ceremonial first pitches along with Rashima Manning, from the Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Clubs of America.[82] A lunar eclipse was visible during the game – the first lunar eclipse to take place during a World Series game.[84][85] The game was also played on the eighteenth anniversary of Game 7 of the 1986 World Series, which the Red Sox had lost at Shea Stadium to the New York Mets, despite taking a 3–0 lead into the sixth inning.

Damon hit a home run to right field in the first at-bat of the game on a 2-1 count to give the Red Sox the lead in the first inning for the fourth straight game;[84] it proved to be the game-winning run. Ramírez singled in the third inning to give him a hit in 17 consecutive postseason games.[85] Doubles to right by David Ortiz and to center by Trot Nixon, who narrowly missed a grand slam after swinging on a 3-0 count, scored two more runs for the Red Sox to give them a three-run lead.[84][86] Cardinals starter Jason Marquis went six innings and allowed just the three runs. Marquis was the only Cardinal pitcher who went past five innings.

Back to Foulke, Red Sox fans have longed to hear it: The Boston Red Sox are World Champions!

Joe Buck, calling the final play of Game 4.[46]

Swing and a ground ball stabbed by Foulke! He has it, he underhands to first – and the Boston Red Sox are the World Champions! For the first time in 86 years, the Red Sox have won baseball's world championship! Can you believe it?

Joe Castiglione calling the final play of Game 4 for WEEI in Boston.[87]

In the top of the eighth, Mueller led off with a single to right and Nixon followed with his third double of the game. Jason Isringhausen came in to pitch for the Cardinals with the bases loaded and nobody out, and was able the finish the inning without allowing a run to score.[86] Kevin Millar pinch hit for the Red Sox starting pitcher Derek Lowe during this inning. It was the third straight game in which the Red Sox starting pitcher had not allowed an earned run.[86]

Red Sox closer Foulke came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth. Pujols led off the inning by hitting a single through Foulke's legs and into center field. After Foulke induced Rolen into a fly out and struck out Edmonds, Pujols took second base, but no stolen base due to fielder's indifference.[46] Édgar Rentería then hit a ground ball that bounced back to Foulke on the mound. Foulke threw it underhand to Doug Mientkiewicz at first base to end the game, and the Red Sox drought.[88]

The series win was the Red Sox's first title in 86 years. They were also the fourth team to win a World Series without trailing in any of the games in the series,[64] and the seventh to win it having previously been three outs away from elimination. With the win, pitcher Lowe became the first pitcher to ever win three series-clinching games in a single postseason having also won Game 3 of the ALDS against the Angels and Game 7 of the ALCS against the Yankees.[89] Although the series was won in St. Louis, 3,000 Red Sox fans were present at the game, and many stayed after the final out to celebrate with the team, including going on the field when the team came back out of their dugout with the World Series trophy.[88][90] Ramírez, who was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the series, said afterwards "I don't believe in curses, I believe you make your own destination. [sic]"[84] Kevin Millar said that it was important to finish off the Cardinals in four and not let it go to a fifth game given the team's history.[46]

The Cardinals offense struggled to find spark in the final three games. Pujols, Rolen, and Edmonds, the normally fearsome 3-4-5 hitters for the Cardinals, were six-for-45 with one RBI. The club batted .190 with a .562 OPS overall. Walker was one of very few exceptions, batting .357 with a 1.366 OPS. His two home runs accounted for the only two home runs hit by the entire Cardinals team.[91] In the 2004 postseason, Walker scored 21 percent (14 of 68) of Cardinal runs.[67]

Composite line score

2004 World Series (4–0): Boston Red Sox (A.L.) beat St. Louis Cardinals (N.L.).

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Boston Red Sox 8 0 5 3 2 2 2 2 0 24 39 8
St. Louis Cardinals 0 1 1 4 0 2 0 3 1 12 24 1
Total attendance: 174,088   Average attendance: 43,522
Winning player's share: $223,619.79   Losing player's share: $163,378.53[92]


The series was broadcast by Fox, and the announcers were Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. Jeanne Zelasko covered the pre-game build up to all four games and the presentation of the World Series trophy.[46][57] An average of 23.1 million people watched Game 1. This was the highest television ratings for the opening game of a World Series in five years and had the highest average number of viewers since 1996. It was also the highest rated broadcast on any network in the past ten months.[93] The ratings for the first two games were also the highest average since 1996,[94] and the average for the first three games was the highest since 1999.[95] Game 3 had the highest average number of viewers with 24.4 million, since 1996 when 28.7 million watched the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees. It was also the Fox network's highest rating for a Game 3 of a World Series ever.[96] Game 4 posted an 18.2 national rating giving the series an overall average of 15.8. This was the highest average in five years, and the average number of viewers of 25.4 million was the highest since 1995.[97]

In terms of local radio, Joe Castiglione and Jerry Trupiano called the series for WEEI in Boston while Mike Shannon and Wayne Hagin announced for KMOX in St. Louis.

Game Rating Share Audience (in millions)
1[98] 13.7 25 23.17
2[98] 15.9 24 25.46
3[99] 15.7 24 24.42
4[99] 18.2 28 28.84
Average 15.8 25.25 25.47


With the win coming eight months after the New England Patriots victory in Super Bowl XXXVIII, the event made Boston the first city to have a Super Bowl and World Series winner in the same year since Pittsburgh in 1979.[2] A number of players from both teams won awards for their performances during the season. Manny Ramírez won the Hank Aaron Award and, along with Albert Pujols, a Silver Slugger Award, while Gold Glove awards were won by Mike Matheny, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds.[100] The American sports magazine Sports Illustrated honored the Red Sox with their Sportsman of the Year award a month later, making them the first professional team to ever win the award. For pitcher Curt Schilling, it was the second time he had won the award, having shared it with then-Arizona Diamondbacks teammate Randy Johnson in 2001.[101]

This World Series win by the Red Sox continued a history of Boston teams beating St. Louis teams to win championships.[102] Previously, in Super Bowl XXXVI, the New England Patriots had upset the St. Louis Rams' "Greatest Show on Turf" to win their first Super Bowl and herald a dynasty led by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, the Boston Bruins had swept the St. Louis Blues in the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals (with Game 4 being remembered for Bobby Orr's Cup-winning overtime goal that sent him flying), and the Boston Celtics – when Bill Russell was still just a rookie – had beaten the St. Louis Hawks to win their first NBA championship in 1957.[102] With championship showdowns between teams from Boston and St. Louis seen in Major League Baseball, the NFL, NBA and NHL, it is the only showdown between teams from two specific locations, that has been seen in each of these four leagues.[102][103]

Red Sox

The Red Sox's win in the World Series ended the "Curse of the Bambino", which supposedly had afflicted the team ever since the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1919.[104][105] Pitcher Derek Lowe and other players said that the team would no longer hear "1918!" at Yankee Stadium ever again.[45][106][107] Kevin Millar said to all Red Sox fans: "We wanted to do it so bad for the city of Boston. To win a World Series with this on our chests, it hasn't been done since 1918. So rip up those '1918!' posters right now."[46][103][107] Members of previous Red Sox teams who had fallen short immediately acclaimed the 2004 team, including Pesky – who had been the shortstop responsible for a fatal checking error that had allowed the Cardinals' Enos Slaughter to complete his "Mad Dash" to score the winning run in Game 7 at the old Sportsman's Park in 1946. Pesky watched the game from the visiting clubhouse and was immediately embraced by Millar, Wakefield, Schilling and others as a living representative of those previous teams as he joined the celebrations.

It also added to the recent success of Boston-area teams, following the Patriots wins in Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII. With the Patriots having won Super Bowl XXXVIII the previous February, the Red Sox winning the World Series marked the first time since 1979 that the same city had a Super Bowl and World Series winner in the same year – the last city to accomplish the feat had been Pittsburgh, when the Steelers and Pirates had won Super Bowl XIII and the World Series respectively.[2] The city would go on to record a decade of sports success from 2001 to 2011 with seven championships in the four major North American sports leagues (MLB, the NFL, the NBA and the NHL), including one in each league after the Patriots won two more Super Bowls, the Celtics won the 2008 NBA championship and the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011. Following the Bruins winning the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy ranked all seven championships and chose the Red Sox' 2004 World Series win as the greatest Boston sports championship during the ten-year span.[108]

Red Sox Manager Terry Francona became the third manager in four years to win a World Series in his first year as manager, following Bob Brenly of the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks and Jack McKeon of the 2003 Florida Marlins.[64]

Massachusetts US Senator, Boston resident and future Secretary of State John Kerry, who had been named Democratic presidential nominee in Boston that summer, wore a Red Sox cap the day after the series ended.[109] He also said that the Red Sox had "[come] back against all odds and showed America what heart is".[109] His Republican opponent, incumbent President George W. Bush,[110] made a phone call from the White House to congratulate the team's owner John W. Henry, president Larry Lucchino and manager Terry Francona.[109] The team also visited Bush at the White House the following March, where he gave a speech honoring their presence, in which he asked "what took [them] so long?"[111] A future Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, at the time Massachusetts Governor, ceremonially helped remove the Reverse Curve road sign on Storrow Drive that had been famously spray-painted to read "Reverse the Curse" as a further marking of the end of the Curse.[112]

On a more poignant note, Pedro Martínez told reporters that he wanted to "share this with the people of Montreal that are not going to have a team anymore. My heart and my ring is with them, too."[113] Martinez played for the Montreal Expos when they had the best record in baseball in 1994, but had his World Series hopes ended by the strike.[113] Major League Baseball announced that the Expos would be moved to Washington a month before.

The day after the Red Sox win, the Boston Globe more than doubled its daily press run, from 500,000 to 1.2 million copies, with the headline, "YES!!!" right across the front page.[85][114]

Group of men on a raised platform. One holds a sign that reads "JETER is playing GOLF today" and "THIS IS BETTER!"
Ramírez at the victory parade, with a sign that one of the spectators handed him.

The Red Sox held their World Series victory parade on the following Saturday, October 30. The team was transported around on 17 duck boats equipped with loudspeakers so the players could talk to the spectators. Due to large interest in the parade, it was lengthened by officials the day before to include the Charles River, so that fans could watch from the Boston and Cambridge river banks. The parade did not however, include a staged rally. The parade began at 10 a.m. local time at Fenway Park, turned east onto Boylston Street, then west onto Tremont Street and Storrow Drive before entering the river. One of the lanes on Massachusetts Avenue had to be closed to accommodate members of the media filming the parade as it passed under the Harvard Bridge.[115] Ramírez was handed a sign by one of the spectators part of the way through the parade, which read, "Jeter is playing golf today. This is better!"[116] He held on to this sign for the rest of the parade, in a similar way to what Tug McGraw said after the Philadelphia Phillies won the 1980 World Series.[116][117][118] Over three million people were estimated to have attended the parade, making it the largest gathering ever in the city of Boston.[119]

Group of about thirty men wearing suits in front of a white building
The Boston Red Sox were honored at the White House by President George W. Bush following their 2004 World Series victory.

The Red Sox were presented with their World Series rings on April 11, 2005, at a ceremony before the team's first home game of the 2005 season. Former Red Sox players Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, and Carl Yastrzemski were all present, as were the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops Orchestra. During the ceremony, five red pennants were first unfurled at the top of the Green Monster, showing the years of each of the Red Sox' previous World Series wins. A much larger banner was unfurled that covered the entire wall and read "2004 World Series Champions". James Taylor, himself a Boston native and a Red Sox fan, performed "America the Beautiful", and 19 members of the United States Army and Marine Corps who had fought in the Iraq War walked onto the field. Moments of silence were held to honor the deaths of Pope John Paul II, who had died nine days earlier, and former Red Sox relief pitcher, Dick Radatz. The rings were handed out by the team's owner, John W. Henry. Former Red Sox players Lowe and Dave Roberts, who had joined the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres respectively during the off-season, were also present to collect their rings.[120] The ceremony, which lasted around an hour, ended with stars from other Boston sports teams, including the Celtics' Bill Russell, the Bruins' Bobby Orr and the Patriots' Tedy Bruschi and Richard Seymour, throwing ceremonial first pitches.[121] The presence of Bruschi and Seymour made evident the recent success of Boston-area teams.[2] The day after the Red Sox won the Series, Shaughnessy and the rest of the news media said of the Red Sox home opener: "The team in the third-base dugout? The New York Yankees, Sweet."[85] In a sign of respect, the Red Sox rivals came to the top step of the visitors dugout and gave the Red Sox a standing ovation.[122] The Fenway Park crowd burst into cheers when Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera was introduced, breaking from the tradition of fans booing opposing players, due to him having blown save opportunities in Games 4 and 5 of the 2004 ALCS. Rivera was a good sport about it and laughed while waving his arms in mock appreciation of the fans.[123]

All right...Forget about ending the curse and having 86 years of baggage erased in one fell swoop. If you don't get emotional watching a group of guys celebrating and hugging when you feel like you know them, when you suffered all the same highs and lows, when you spent the last seven months with them...I mean, why even follow sports at all? (Translation: It's getting a little dusty in here.)

Bill Simmons' entry in his Game 4 running diary at 8:42 PM Pacific Time, 1 minute after the final out[124]

The following August, Simon & Schuster published Faithful, a book which collected e-mails about the Red Sox between American writers and Red Sox fans Stephen King and Stewart O'Nan during the 2004 season.[125] In March 2005, Houghton Mifflin Company published Reversing the Curse, a book by Shaughnessy, author of the bestselling The Curse of the Bambino, chronicling the 2004 Red Sox season. ESPN's Bill Simmons published Now I Can Die In Peace, a collection of his columns with updated annotations and notes, including columns for each of the last four games of the ALCS and each World Series game – with Game 4 being a running diary.[126] The Farrelly Brothers altered the ending of their 2005 film Fever Pitch – which includes appearances by Damon, Nixon and Varitek – to coincide with the actual end of the series. They and their crew, plus stars Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon, flew to St. Louis and Barrymore and Fallon attended Game 4 in character, complete with the two of them running onto the field at Busch Stadium and kissing once the final out was made.[127][128]

On May 28, 2014, the team reunited at Fenway Park as the Red Sox celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the historic championship as they hosted the Atlanta Braves. Ramirez threw out the first pitch to Varitek but was cut off by Damon in a reversal of Ramirez once cutting off Damon's throw from center field during a game.[129]


The loss by the Cardinals in the series meant Tony La Russa failed to join Sparky Anderson as managers of World Series championship teams in both leagues. He would however achieve this in 2006.

On the Cardinals' side, the media expressed disappointment at the team's failure to win a game in the Series after recording the team's best regular season in over 60 years.[104][130] Many reporters believed that the Cardinals had not played up to their usual standard, and much of the blame was directed at Rolen, Edmonds and Reggie Sanders, three of the Cardinals' best hitters, who had combined for one hit in 39 at bats in the series.[104][131][132]

It also marked the last time that Busch Memorial Stadium would host a World Series.[133] The Cardinals moved to the new Busch Stadium in their championship season of 2006,[133] which was their first since 1982.

2005 season and beyond

Both the Red Sox and Cardinals made the playoffs the following season. The Red Sox lost to the eventual champions the Chicago White Sox, in the American League Division Series. The Cardinals, in a repeat meeting of the previous season's National League Championship Series, lost to the Houston Astros.[134] However, the city of Boston would see more success when the New England Patriots won Super Bowl XXXIX, three months after the Red Sox won the World Series, giving the greater Boston area its third championship in 12 months, making it the first time since 1980 that any city had two Super Bowl winners and a World Series winner in a period of the same length.[2]

Both teams also won one of the next three World Series in successive years; the Cardinals, as noted above, in 2006, beating the Detroit Tigers in five games, becoming the first team since the New York Yankees in 1923, to win a World Series championship in their first season in a new stadium (which the Yankees themselves would also do in 2009).[133] Tony La Russa would achieve the distinction that he could not achieve in 2004 of managing World Series winners in both leagues.[34][35] He would continue to wear number 10 to pay tribute to Sparky Anderson afterwards.[35]

The Red Sox won the World Series the following year, sweeping the Colorado Rockies in four games.[49] Tom Werner, chairman of the Red Sox, and team president Larry Lucchino said that the 2004 championship was "for the parents and grandparents who had suffered through the Curse of the Bambino", while 2007 was "for children, grandchildren, and for Red Sox Nation".[135]

Both teams would meet again in the 2013 World Series, with the Red Sox winning the championship in six games. It was the first time Boston clinched the World Series at its home field, Fenway Park, since 1918.[136] Boston would win an additional title in 2018 when they defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 4 games to 1.

Twelve years after this World Series, the Chicago Cubs would end their own championship drought at 108 years, defeating the Cleveland Indians in seven games. In doing this, Theo Epstein is now credited with helping to end two of the most famous curses in all of professional sports.[137] Coincidentally, the losing manager in that year's World Series was Terry Francona, who had managed the Red Sox to both the 2004 and 2007 championships.[138]

See also



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External links

3 September 2004

Beslan school siege results in over 330 fatalities, including 186 children.

Beslan school siege

Beslan school siege
Part of the Second Chechen War
Beslan school no 1 victim photos.jpg
Photos of the victims on the walls of the former SNO in Beslan
LocationBeslan, North Ossetia-Alania (Russia)
Coordinates43°11′03″N 44°32′27″E / 43.184104°N 44.540854°E / 43.184104; 44.540854Coordinates: 43°11′03″N 44°32′27″E / 43.184104°N 44.540854°E / 43.184104; 44.540854
Date1 September 2004
~09:30 – 3 September 2004 ~17:00 (UTC+3)
TargetSchool Number One (SNO)
Attack type
Mass murder, hostage taking, terrorist attack, bombing, school shooting, shootout
WeaponsFirearms, explosives
Deaths334 (excluding terrorists)[1]
Approximately 783[2]
PerpetratorsRiyad-us Saliheen
No. of participants

The Beslan school siege (also referred to as the Beslan school hostage crisis or Beslan massacre)[3][4][5] started on 1 September 2004, lasted three days, involved the illegal imprisonment of over 1,100 people as hostages (including 777 children),[6] and ended with the deaths of at least 334 people. The crisis began when a group of armed Islamic militants, mostly Ingush and Chechen, occupied School Number One (SNO) in the town of Beslan, North Ossetia (an autonomous republic in the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation) on 1 September 2004. The hostage-takers were the Riyad-us Saliheen, sent by the Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, who demanded recognition of the independence of Chechnya, and Russian withdrawal from Chechnya. On the third day of the standoff, Russian security forces stormed the building with the use of tanks, incendiary rockets and other heavy weapons.[7] As of December 2006, 334 people (excluding terrorists) were killed,[1] including 186 children.[8]

The event led to security and political repercussions in Russia; most notably, it contributed to a series of federal government reforms consolidating power in the Kremlin and strengthening of the powers of the President of Russia.[9] As of 2016, aspects of the crisis in relation to the militants continue to be contentious: questions remain regarding how many terrorists were involved, the nature of their preparations and whether a section of the group had escaped. Questions about the Russian government's management of the crisis have also persisted, including allegations of disinformation and censorship in news media, whether the journalists who were present at Beslan were allowed to freely report on the crisis,[10] the nature and content of negotiations with the terrorists, allocation of responsibility for the eventual outcome, and perceptions that excessive force was used.[7][11][12][13][14]

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in a 2017 ruling criticized Russia for not taking sufficient precautions before the event, and for using excessive lethal force when concluding the siege which violated the "right to life".[15]


North Ossetia–Alania on a map of Russia

School No. 1 was one of seven schools in Beslan, a town of around 35,000 people in the republic of North Ossetia–Alania, in Russia's Caucasus. The school, located next to the district police station, had around 60 teachers and more than 800 students.[16] Its gymnasium, where most of the hostages were held for 52 hours, was a recent addition, measuring 10 metres wide and 25 metres long.[17] There were reports that men disguised as repairmen had concealed weapons and explosives in the school sometime during July 2004, something the authorities later denied. However, several witnesses have since testified they were made to help their captors remove the weapons from the caches hidden in the school.[18][19] There were also claims that a "sniper's nest" on the sports hall roof had been set up in advance.[20]

Course of the crisis

Day one

North Ossetia on a map of North Caucasus

The attack on the school took place in 2004 on 1 September—the traditional start of the Russian school year, referred to as "First Bell" or Knowledge Day.[21] On this day, the children, accompanied by their parents and other relatives, attend ceremonies hosted by their school.[22] Because of the Knowledge Day festivities, the number of people in the schools was considerably higher than on a normal school day. Early in the morning, a group of several dozen heavily armed Islamic-nationalist guerrillas left a forest encampment located in the vicinity of the village of Psedakh in the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia, east of North Ossetia and west of war-torn Chechnya. The terrorists wore green military camouflage and black balaclava masks, and in some cases were also wearing explosive belts and explosive underwear. On the way to Beslan, on a country road near the North Ossetian village of Khurikau, they captured an Ingush police officer, Major Sultan Gurazhev.[23] Gurazhev was left in the vehicle after the terrorists reached Beslan and ran towards the schoolyard;[24] he went to the district police department to inform them of his ordeal and the actions of the militants, adding that his duty handgun and badge had been taken.[25]

At 09:11 local time, the terrorists arrived at Beslan in a GAZelle police van and a GAZ-66 military truck. Many witnesses and independent experts claim that there were, in fact, two groups of attackers, and that the first group was already at the school when the second group arrived by truck.[26] At first, some at the school mistook the guerrillas for Russian special forces practicing a security drill.[27] However, the attackers soon began shooting in the air and forcing everybody from the school grounds into the building. During the initial chaos, up to 50 people managed to flee and alert authorities to the situation.[28] A number of people also managed to hide in the boiler room.[17] After an exchange of gunfire against the police and an armed local civilian, in which reportedly one attacker was killed and two were wounded, the militants seized the school building.[29] Reports of the death toll from this shoot-out ranged from two to eight people, while more than a dozen people were injured.

The attackers took approximately 1,100 hostages.[7][30] The number of hostages was initially downplayed by the government to 200–400, and then for an unknown reason announced to be exactly 354.[10] In 2005, their number was put at 1,128.[11] The militants herded their captives into the school's gym and confiscated all their mobile phones under threat of death,[31] and ordered everyone to speak in Russian and only when spoken to. When a father named Ruslan Betrozov stood to calm people and repeat the rules in the local language, Ossetic, a gunman approached him, asked Betrozov if he was done, and then shot him in the head. Another father named Vadim Bolloyev, who refused to kneel, was also shot by a captor and then bled to death.[32] Their bodies were dragged from the sports hall, leaving a trail of blood later visible in the video made by the hostage-takers.

After gathering the hostages in the gym, the attackers singled out 15–20 of whom they thought were the strongest adults among the male teachers, school employees, and fathers, and took them into a corridor next to the cafeteria on the second floor, where a deadly blast soon took place. An explosive belt on one of the female bombers detonated, killing another female bomber (it was also claimed the second woman died from a bullet wound[33]) and several of the selected hostages, as well as mortally injuring one male hostage-taker. According to the version presented by the surviving hostage-taker, the blast was actually triggered by the "Polkovnik" (the group leader); he set off the bomb by remote control to kill those who openly disagreed about the child hostages and intimidate other possible dissenters.[34] The hostages from this group who were still alive were then ordered to lie down and shot with an automatic rifle by another gunman; all but one of them were killed.[35][36][37][38][39] Karen Mdinaradze, the Alania football team's cameraman, survived the explosion as well as the shooting; when discovered to be still alive, he was allowed to return to the sports hall, where he lost consciousness.[32][40] The militants then forced other hostages to throw the bodies out of the building and to wash the blood off the floor.[41] One of these hostages, Aslan Kudzayev, escaped by jumping out the window; the authorities briefly detained him as a suspected hostage-taker.[32]

Beginning of the siege

Overhead map of school showing initial positions of Russian forces

A security cordon was soon established around the school, consisting of the Russian police (militsiya), Internal Troops, and Russian Army forces; Spetsnaz, including the elite Alpha and Vympel units of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB); and the OMON special units of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD). A line of three apartment buildings facing the school gym was evacuated and taken over by the special forces. The perimeter they made was within 225 metres (738 ft) of the school, inside the range of the militants' grenade launchers.[42] No fire-fighting equipment was in position and, despite the previous experiences of the 2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis, there were few ambulances ready.[17] The chaos was worsened by the presence of Ossetian volunteer militiamen (opolchentsy) and armed civilians among the crowds of relatives who had gathered at the scene;[43] there were perhaps as many as 5,000 of them.[17]

The attackers mined the gym and the rest of the building with improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and surrounded it with tripwires. In a further bid to deter rescue attempts, they threatened to kill 50 hostages for every one of their own members killed by the police, and to kill 20 hostages for every gunman injured.[17] They also threatened to blow up the school if government forces attacked. To avoid being overwhelmed by gas attack like their comrades in the 2002 Moscow hostage crisis, insurgents quickly smashed the school's windows. The captors prevented hostages from eating and drinking (calling this a "hunger strike", which they said they joined too) until North Ossetia's President Alexander Dzasokhov would arrive to negotiate with them.[41] However, the FSB set up their own crisis headquarters from which Dzasokhov was excluded, and threatened to arrest him if he tried to go to the school.[7][44]

The Russian government announced that it would not use force to rescue the hostages, and negotiations towards a peaceful resolution took place on the first and second days, at first led by Leonid Roshal, a pediatrician whom the hostage-takers had reportedly asked for by name (Roshal had helped negotiate the release of children in the 2002 Moscow siege, but also had given advice to the Russian security services as they prepared to storm the theatre, for which he received the Hero of Russia award). However, a witness statement in the court indicated that the Russian negotiators confused Roshal with Vladimir Rushailo, a Russian security official.[45] According to Savelyev's report, the official ("civilian") headquarters was looking for a peaceful resolution of the situation at the same time when the secret ("heavy") headquarters set up by the FSB was preparing the assault. Savelyev wrote that in many ways the "heavies" restricted the actions of the "civilians", in particular in their attempts to negotiate with the militants.[46]

At Russia's request, a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council was convened on the evening of 1 September, at which the council members demanded "the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages of the terrorist attack."[47] U.S. President George W. Bush made a statement offering "support in any form" to Russia.[48]

Day two

On September 2, 2004, negotiations between Roshal and the hostage-takers proved unsuccessful, and they refused to allow food, water, or medicine to be taken in for the hostages, or for the dead bodies to be removed from the front of the school.[32] At noon, FSB First Deputy Director, Colonel General Vladimir Pronichev showed Dzasokhov a decree signed by Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov appointing North Ossetian FSB chief Major General Valery Andreyev as head of the operational headquarters.[49] In April 2005, however, a Moscow News journalist received photocopies of the interview protocols of Dzasokhov and Andreyev by investigators, revealing that two headquarters had been formed in Beslan: a formal one, upon which was laid all responsibility, and a secret one ("heavies"), which made the real decisions, and at which Andreyev had never been in charge.[50]

The Russian government downplayed the numbers, repeatedly stating there were only 354 hostages; this reportedly angered the hostage-takers who further mistreated their captives.[51][52] Several officials also said there appeared to be only 15 to 20 militants in the school.[16] The crisis was met with a near-total silence from then-President of Russia Vladimir Putin and the rest of Russia's political leaders.[53] Only on the second day did Putin make his first public comment on the siege during a meeting in Moscow with King Abdullah II of Jordan: "Our main task, of course, is to save the lives and health of those who became hostages. All actions by our forces involved in rescuing the hostages will be dedicated exclusively to this task."[54] It was the only public statement by Putin about the crisis until one day after its bloody end.[53] In protest, several people at the scene raised signs reading: "Putin! Release our children! Meet their demands!" and "Putin! There are at least 800 hostages!" The locals also said they would not allow any storming or "poisoning of their children" (an allusion to the Moscow hostage crisis chemical agent).[25]

Hundreds of hostages packed into the school gym with wired explosives attached to the basketball hoop (a frame from the Aushev tape)

In the afternoon, the gunmen allowed Ruslan Aushev, respected ex-President of Ingushetia and retired Soviet Army general, to enter the school building and agreed to release 11 nursing women and all 15 babies personally to him.[38][55] The women's older children were left behind and one mother refused to leave, so Aushev carried out her child instead.[35] The rebels gave Aushev a video tape made in the school and a note with demands from their purported leader, Shamil Basayev, who was not himself present in Beslan. The existence of the note was kept secret by the Russian authorities, while the tape was declared as being empty (which was later proved incorrect). It was falsely announced that the hostage-takers made no demands.[7] In the note, Basayev demanded recognition of a "formal independence for Chechnya" in the frame of the Commonwealth of Independent States. He also said that although the Chechen separatists "had played no part" in the Russian apartment bombings of 1999, they would now publicly take responsibility for them if needed.[7] Some Russian officials and state-controlled media later attacked Aushev for entering the school, accusing him of colluding with the hostage-takers.[56]

The lack of food and water took its toll on the young children, many of whom were forced to stand for long periods in the hot, tightly packed gym. Many children took off their clothing because of the sweltering heat within the gymnasium, which led to rumours of sexual impropriety, though the hostages later explained it was merely due to the stifling heat and being denied any water. Many children fainted, and parents feared they would die. Some hostages drank their own urine. Occasionally, the militants (many of whom took off their masks) took out some of the unconscious children and poured water on their heads before returning them to the sports hall. Later in the day, some adults also started to faint from fatigue and thirst. Because of the conditions in the gym, when the explosion and gun battle began on the third day, many of the surviving children were so fatigued that they were barely able to flee from the carnage.[31][57]

At around 15:30, two grenades were detonated approximately ten minutes apart by the militants at security forces outside the school,[58] setting a police car on fire and injuring one officer,[59] but Russian forces did not return fire. As the day and night wore on, the combination of stress and sleep deprivation—and possibly drug withdrawal[60]—made the hostage-takers increasingly hysterical and unpredictable. The crying of the children irritated them, and on several occasions crying children and their mothers were threatened with being shot if they would not stop crying.[27] Russian authorities claimed that the hostage-takers had "listened to German heavy metal group Rammstein on personal stereos during the siege to keep themselves edgy and fired up" (Rammstein had previously come under fire following the Columbine High School massacre, and again in 2007 after the Jokela High School shooting).[61]

Overnight, a police officer was injured by shots fired from the school. Talks were broken off, resuming the next day.[54]

Day three

Early on the third day, Ruslan Aushev, Alexander Dzasokhov, Taymuraz Mansurov (North Ossetia's Parliament Chairman), and First Deputy Chairman Izrail Totoonti together made contact with President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Aslan Maskhadov.[44] Totoonti said that both Maskhadov and his Western-based emissary Akhmed Zakayev declared they were ready to fly to Beslan to negotiate with the militants, which was later confirmed by Zakayev.[62] Totoonti said that Maskhadov's sole demand was his unhindered passage to the school; however, the assault began one hour after the agreement on his arrival was made.[63][64] He also mentioned that journalists from Al Jazeera television offered for three days to participate in the negotiations and enter the school even as hostages, "but their services were not needed by anyone."[65]

Russian presidential advisor and former police general, an ethnic Chechen Aslambek Aslakhanov, was also said to be close to breakthrough in the secret negotiations. By the time he left Moscow on the second day, Aslakhanov had accumulated the names of more than 700 well-known Russian figures who were volunteering to enter the school as hostages in exchange for the release of children. Aslakhanov said the hostage-takers agreed to allow him to enter the school the next day at 15:00. However, the storming had begun two hours before.[66]

The first explosions and the fire in the gymnasium

Rough plan of the situation
Masked hostage-taker standing on a dead man's switch during the second day of the crisis (a frame from the Aushev tape)

Around 13:00 on 3 September 2004, it was agreed to allow four Ministry of Emergency Situations medical workers in two ambulances to remove 20 bodies from the school grounds, as well as to bring the corpse of the killed terrorist to the school. However, at 13:03, when the paramedics approached the school, an explosion was heard from the gymnasium. The hostage-takers then opened fire on them, killing two.[41] The other two took cover behind their vehicle.

The second, "strange-sounding", explosion was heard 22 seconds later.[17] At 13:05 the fire on the roof of the sports hall started and soon the burning rafters and roofing fell onto the hostages below, many of them injured but still living.[46] Eventually, the entire roof collapsed, turning the room into an inferno. The flames reportedly killed some 160 people (more than half of all hostage fatalities).[20]

There are several conflicting versions regarding the source and nature of the explosions:

  • According to the December 2005 report by Stanislav Kesayev, deputy speaker of North Ossetian parliament, some witnesses said a federal forces sniper shot a militant whose foot was on a dead man's switch detonator, triggering the first blast.[34][67] The captured hostage-taker, Nur-Pashi Kulayev, has testified to this, while a local policewoman and hostage named Fatima Dudiyeva said she was shot in the hand "from outside" just before the explosion.[11][67][68] and said there were three blasts: two small explosions at 13:03, followed by the big one at 13:29.[69]
  • According to State Duma member Yuri Savelyev, a weapons and explosives expert, the exchange of gunfire was not begun by explosions within the school building but by two shots fired from outside the school[70] and that most of the home-made explosive devices installed by the rebels did not explode at all. He says the first shot was fired most likely from an RPO-A Shmel infantry rocket located at the roof of nearby five-story House No. 37 in School Lane and aimed at the gymnasium's attic, while the second one fired from an RPG-27 grenade launcher located at the House No. 41 on the same street, destroying a fragment of the gym wall (empty shells and launchers supporting this theory were found at roofs of these houses and alternative weapons mentioned in the report were RPG-26 or RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenades).[19][71][72] Savelyev, a dissenting member of the federal Torshin commission (see below), said these explosions killed many of the hostages and that dozens more died in the resulting fire.[73] Yuri Ivanov, another parliamentary investigator, further contended that the grenades were fired on the direct orders of President Putin.[74] Several witnesses during the trial of Kulayev previously testified that the initial explosions were caused by projectiles fired from outside.[75]
  • In the final report, Alexander Torshin, head of the Russian parliamentary commission which concluded its work in December 2006, said the militants had started the battle by intentionally detonating bombs among the hostages, to the surprise of Russian negotiators and commanders. That statement went beyond previous government accounts, which have typically said the bombs exploded in an unexplained accident.[76] Torshin's 2006 report says the hostage taking was planned as a suicide attack from the beginning and that no storming of the building was prepared in advance.[75] According to the testimonies by Nur-Pashi Kulayev and several former hostages and negotiators, the hostage-takers (including their leaders) blamed the government for the ensuing explosions.[11]

Storming by Russian forces

Part of the sports hall wall was demolished by the explosions, allowing some hostages to escape.[17] Local militia opened fire, and the militants returned fire. A number of people were killed in the crossfire.[77] Russian officials say militants shot hostages as they ran, and the military fired back.[67] The government asserts that once the shooting started, troops had no choice but to storm the building. However, some accounts from the town's residents have contradicted that official version of events.[78]

Police Lieutenant Colonel Elbrus Nogayev, whose wife and daughter died in the school, said, "I heard a command saying, 'Stop shooting! Stop shooting!' while other troops' radios said, 'Attack!'"[42] As the fighting began, an oil company president and negotiator Mikhail Gutseriyev (an ethnic Ingush) phoned the hostage-takers; he heard "You tricked us!" in answer. Five hours later, Gutseriyev and his interlocutor reportedly had their last conversation, during which the man said, "The blame is yours and the Kremlin's."[66]

According to Torshin, the order to start the operation was given by the head of the North Ossetian FSB Valery Andreyev.[79] However, statements by both Andreyev and the Dzasokhov indicated that it was FSB deputy directors Vladimir Pronichev and Vladimir Anisimov who were actually in charge of the Beslan operation.[64] General Andreyev also told North Ossetia's Supreme Court that the decision to use heavy weapons during the assault was made by the head of the FSB's Special Operations Center, Colonel General .[80]

A chaotic battle broke out as the special forces fought to enter the school. The forces included the assault groups of the FSB and the associated troops of the Russian Army and the Russian Interior Ministry, supported by a number of T-72 tanks from Russia's 58th Army (commandeered by Tikhonov from the military on 2 September), BTR-80 wheeled armoured personnel carriers and armed helicopters, including at least one Mi-24 attack helicopter.[81] Many local civilians also joined in the chaotic battle, having brought along their own weapons – at least one of the armed volunteers is known to have been killed. Alleged crime figure Aslan Gagiyev claimed to be among them. At the same time, regular conscripted soldiers reportedly fled the scene as the fighting began. Civilian witnesses claimed that the local police also had panicked, even firing in the wrong direction.[82][83]

At least three but as many as nine powerful Shmel rockets were fired at the school from the positions of the special forces (three[11] or nine[84] empty disposable tubes were later found on the rooftops of nearby apartment blocks). The use of the Shmel rockets, classified in Russia as flamethrowers and in the West as thermobaric weapons, was initially denied, but later admitted by the government.[13][85] A report by an aide to the military prosecutor of the North Ossetian garrison stated that RPG-26 rocket-propelled grenades were used as well.[86] The rebels also used grenade launchers, firing at the Russian positions in the apartment buildings.[17]

According to military prosecutor, a BTR armoured vehicle drove close to the school and opened fire from its 14.5×114mm KPV heavy machine gun at the windows on the second floor.[11] Eyewitnesses (among them Totoonti[65] and Kesayev[75]) and journalists saw two T-72 tanks advance on the school that afternoon, at least one of which fired its 125 mm main gun several times.[11] During the later trial, tank commander Viktor Kindeyev testified to having fired "one blank shot and six antipersonnel-high explosive shells" on orders from the FSB.[87] The use of tanks and armoured personnel carriers was eventually admitted to by Lieutenant General Viktor Sobolev, commander of the 58th Army.[81] Another witness cited in the Kesayev report claims that he had jumped onto the turret of a tank in an attempt to prevent it from firing on the school.[75] Scores of hostages were moved by the militants from the burning sports hall into the other parts of the school, in particular the cafeteria, where they were forced to stand at windows. Many of them were shot by troops outside as they were used as human shields, according to the survivors (such as Kudzeyeva,[88] Kusrayeva[89] and Naldikoyeva[42]). Savelyev estimated that 106 to 110 hostages died after being moved to the cafeteria.[90]

By 15:00, two hours after the assault began, Russian troops claimed control of most of the school. However, fighting was still continuing on the grounds as evening fell, including resistance from a group of militants holding out in the school's basement.[91] During the battle, a group of some 13 militants broke through the military cordon and took refuge nearby. Several of them were believed to have entered a nearby two-story building, which was destroyed by tanks and flamethrowers around 21:00, according to the Ossetian committee's findings (Kesayev Report).[92] Another group of militants appeared to head back over the railway, chased by helicopters into the town.[17]

Firefighters, who were called by Andreyev two hours after the fire started,[5] were not prepared to battle the blaze that raged in the gymnasium. One fire truck crew arrived after two hours at their own initiative but with only 200 litres of water and unable to connect to the nearby hydrants.[11][93] The first water came at 15:28, nearly two and a half hours after the start of the fire;[46] the second fire engine arrived at 15:43.[11] Few ambulances were available to transport the hundreds of injured victims, who were mostly driven to hospital in private cars.[42] One suspected militant was lynched on the scene by a mob of civilians, an event filmed by the Sky News crew,[94] while an unarmed militant was captured alive by the OMON troops while trying to hide under their truck (he was later identified as Nur-Pashi Kulayev). Some of the dead insurgents appeared to be mutilated by the commandos.[11]

Sporadic explosions and gunfire continued at night despite reports that all resistance by militants had been suppressed,[95] until some 12 hours after the first explosions.[96] Early the next day Putin ordered the borders of North Ossetia closed while some hostage-takers were apparently still pursued.[95]


A Beslan mother at the cemetery for the siege victims in 2006

After the conclusion of the crisis, many of the injured died in the only hospital in Beslan, which was highly unprepared to cope with the casualties, before the patients were sent to better-equipped facilities in Vladikavkaz.[97] There was an inadequate supply of hospital beds, medication, and neurosurgery equipment.[98] Relatives were not allowed to visit hospitals where the wounded were treated, and doctors were not allowed to use their mobile phones.[99][100]

The day after the storming, bulldozers gathered the debris of the building, including the body parts of the victims, and removed it to a garbage dump.[7][11] The first of the many funerals were conducted on 4 September, the day after the final assault, with more following soon after, including mass burials of 120 people.[101] The local cemetery was too small and had to be expanded to an adjacent plot of land to accommodate the dead. Three days after the siege, 180 people were still missing.[102] Many survivors remained severely traumatized and at least one female former hostage committed suicide after returning home.[103]

Russian President Vladimir Putin reappeared publicly during a hurried trip to the Beslan hospital in the early hours of 4 September to see several of the wounded victims in his only visit to Beslan.[104] He was later criticised for not meeting the families of victims.[95] After returning to Moscow, he ordered a two-day period of national mourning on 6 – 7 September 2004. In his televised speech Putin says "We showed ourselves to be weak. And the weak get beaten."[41] On the second day of mourning, an estimated 135,000 people joined a government-organised rally against terrorism on the Red Square in Moscow.[105] An estimated 40,000 people gathered in Saint Petersburg's Palace Square.[106]

Increased security measures were introduced to Russian cities after the crisis. More than 10,000 people without proper documents were detained by Moscow police in a "terrorist hunt". Colonel Magomed Tolboyev, a cosmonaut and Hero of the Russian Federation, was attacked and brutally beaten by Moscow police patrol because of his Chechen-sounding name.[107][108] The Russian public appeared to be generally supportive of increased security measures. A 16 September 2004 Levada-Center opinion poll found 58% of Russians supporting stricter counter-terrorism laws and the death penalty for terrorism, while 33% would support banning all Chechens from entering Russian cities.[109][110]

Long-term effects

In the wake of Beslan, the government proceeded to toughen laws on terrorism and expand the powers of law enforcement agencies.[9]

In addition, Vladimir Putin signed a law which replaced the direct election of the heads of the federal subjects of Russia with a system whereby they are proposed by the President of Russia and approved or disapproved by the elected legislative bodies of the federal subjects.[111] The election system for the Russian parliament was also repeatedly amended, eliminating the election of State Duma members by single-mandate districts.[112] The Kremlin consolidated its control over the Russian media and increasingly attacked the non-governmental organizations (especially those foreign-founded).[113]

The raid on Beslan had more to do with the Ingush involved than the Chechens, but was highly symbolic for both nations. The Ossetes and Ingush had (and have) a conflict over ownership of the Prigorodny District, which hit high points during the 1944 Stalinist purges, and the ethnic cleansing of Ingush by Ossetes (the Ossetes getting assistance from the Russian military) in 1992–1993. At the time of the raid, there were still over 40,000 Ingush refugees in tent camps in Ingushetia and Chechnya.[114] The Beslan school itself had been used against the Ingush, as in 1992 the gym was used as a pen to round up Ingush during the ethnic cleansing by the Ossetes. For the Chechens, the motive was revenge for the destruction of their homes and, indeed families: Beslan was one of the sites from which federal air raids were launched at Chechnya.[115][116]

Once it was broadcast that there were large numbers of children killed by a group that included Chechens, the Chechens were struck with a large amount of shame. One spokesman for the Chechen independence cause stated, "Such a bigger blow could not be dealt upon us... People around the world will think that Chechens are monsters if they could attack children".[117]


By 7 September 2004, Russian officials stated that 334 people had died, including 156 children; at that point 200 people remained missing or unidentified.[118] The Torshin report stated that ultimately no bodies remained unidentified.[119] It was stated by the locals that over 200 of those killed were found with burns, and 100 or more of them were burned alive.[11][42] In 2005, two hostages died due to injuries sustained in the incident, as did a hostage in August 2006. 33-year-old librarian Yelena Avdonina succumbed to a hematoma on 8 December 2006. At that time the Washington Post stated that the death toll was 334, excluding terrorists.[1] The City of Beslan has a death toll of 335 stated on its website.[120] The death toll includes 186 children.[8]

Category of fatality Number of fatalities
Children aged 1 to 17 186
Parents, friends and other guests 111
Teachers and school staff 17
FSB employees 10
Civilian rescuers 6
Employees of MoES 2
Employees of MoIA 1
Total 333

Russia's Minister of Health and Social Reform Mikhail Zurabov said the total number of people who were injured in the crisis exceeded 1,200.[121] The exact number of people who received ambulatory assistance immediately after the crisis is not known, but is estimated to be around 700 (753 according to the UN[6]). Moscow-based military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer concluded on 7 September 2004 that 90% of the surviving hostages had sustained injuries. At least 437 people, including 221 children, were hospitalized; 197 children were taken to the Children's Republican Clinical Hospital in the North Ossetian capital of Vladikavkaz, and 30 were in cardiopulmonary resuscitation units in critical condition. Another 150 people were transferred to the Vladikavkaz Emergency Hospital. Sixty-two people, including 12 children, were treated in two local hospitals in Beslan, while 6 children with severe injuries were flown to Moscow for specialist treatment.[122] The majority of the children were treated for burns, gunshot injuries, shrapnel wounds, and mutilation caused by explosions.[123] Some had to have limbs amputated and eyes removed and many children were permanently disabled. One month after the attack, 240 people (160 of them children) were still being treated in hospitals in Vladikavkaz and in Beslan.[122][124] Surviving children and parents have received psychological treatment at Vladikavkaz Rehabilitation Centre.[125]

One of the hostages, a physical education teacher called Yanis Kanidis (a Caucasus Greek, originally from Georgia) who was killed in the siege saved the lives of many children. One of the new schools built in Beslan was subsequently named in his honour.

The operation also became the bloodiest in the history of the Russian anti-terrorist special forces. Ten members of the special forces died;[126] the eleventh casualty was initially thought to be Vyacheslav Bocharov who proved to be heavily wounded in the face but alive when he regained consciousness and managed to write down his name.[127]

The fatalities included all three commanders of the assault groups: Colonel Oleg Ilyin and Lieutenant Colonel Dmitry Razumovsky of Vympel, and Major Alexander Perov of Alpha.[128] At least 30 commandos suffered serious wounds.[129]

Identity of hostage-takers, motives, and responsibility

Monument in Moscow Oblast


Initially, the identity and origin of the attackers were not clear. It was widely assumed from day two that they were separatists from nearby Chechnya, even as Putin's presidential Chechen aide Aslambek Aslakhanov denied it, saying "they were not Chechens. When I started talking with them in Chechen, they had answered: 'We do not understand, speak Russian.'"[130] Freed hostages said that the hostage-takers spoke Russian with accents typical of Caucasians.[17]

Even though in the past Putin had rarely hesitated to blame the Chechen separatists for acts of terrorism, this time he avoided linking the attack with the Second Chechen War. Instead, he blamed the crisis on the "direct intervention of international terrorism", ignoring the nationalist roots of the crisis.[131] The Russian government sources initially claimed that nine of the militants in Beslan were Arabs and one was a black African (called "a negro" by Andreyev),[2][132] though only two Arabs were identified later.[41] Independent analysts such as that of the Moscow political commentator Andrei Piontkovsky said Putin at this moment tried to minimize the number and scale of Chechen terrorist attacks, rather than to exaggerate them as he did in the past.[23] Putin appeared to connect the events to the US-led "War on Terrorism",[77] but at the same time accused the West of indulging terrorists.[133]

On 17 September 2004, radical Chechen guerilla commander Shamil Basayev, at this time operating autonomously from the rest of the North Caucasian rebel movement, issued a statement claiming responsibility for the Beslan school siege,[134] which was strikingly similar to the Chechen raid on Budyonnovsk in 1995 and the Moscow theatre crisis in 2002, incidents in which hundreds of Russian civilians were held hostage by the Chechen rebels led by Basayev. Basayev said his Riyad-us Saliheen "brigade of martyrs" had carried out the attack and also claimed responsibility for a series of terrorist bombings in Russia in the weeks before Beslan crisis. He said that he originally planned to seize at least one school in either Moscow or Saint Petersburg, but lack of funds forced him to pick North Ossetia, "the Russian garrison in the North Caucasus". Basayev blamed the Russian authorities for "a terrible tragedy" in Beslan.[135] Basayev claimed that he had miscalculated the Kremlin's determination to end the crisis by all means possible.[9] He said he was "cruelly mistaken" and that he was "not delighted by what happened there", but also added to be "planning more Beslan-type operations in the future because we are forced to do so."[136] However, it was the last major act of terrorism in Russia until 2009, as Basayev was soon persuaded to give up indiscriminate attacks by the new rebel leader Abdul-Halim Sadulayev,[137] who made Basayev his second-in-command but banned hostage taking, kidnapping for ransom, and operations specifically targeting civilians.[138]

The Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov immediately denied that his forces were involved in the siege, calling it "a blasphemy" for which "there is no justification". Maskhadov described the perpetrators of Beslan as "madmen" driven out of their senses by Russian acts of brutality.[139] He condemned the action and all attacks against civilians via a statement issued by his envoy Akhmed Zakayev in London, blamed it on what he called a radical local group,[140] and agreed to the North Ossetian proposition to act as a negotiator. Later, he also called on western governments to initiate peace talks between Russia and Chechnya and added to "categorically refute all accusations by the Russian government that President Maskhadov had any involvement in the Beslan event."[141] Putin responded that he would not negotiate with "child-killers",[106] comparing the calls for negotiations with the appeasement of Hitler,[133] and put a $10 million bounty on Maskhadov (the same amount as put for Basayev).[142] Maskhadov was killed by Russian commandos in Chechnya on 8 March 2005,[143] and buried at an undisclosed location.[144]

Shortly after the crisis, official Russian sources stated that the attackers were part of a supposed international group led by Basayev that included a number of Arabs with connections to al-Qaeda, and claimed they picked up phone calls in Arabic from the Beslan school to Saudi Arabia and another undisclosed Middle Eastern country.[145]

Two English/Algerians were initially named as being among the identified rebels who actively participated in the attack: Osman Larussi and Yacine Benalia. Another UK citizen named Kamel Rabat Bouralha, arrested while trying to leave Russia immediately following the attack, was suspected to be a key organizer. All three were linked to the Finsbury Park Mosque of north London.[146] The allegations of al-Qaeda involvement were not repeated since then by the Russian government.[20] Larussi and Benalia are not named in the Torshin report and were never identified by Russian authorities as suspects in the Beslan attack.[147]

The following people were named by the Russian government as planners and financiers of the attack:

  • Shamil Basayev – Chechen rebel leader who took ultimate responsibility for the attack. He died in Ingushetia in July 2006 in disputed circumstances.
  • Kamel Rabat Bouralha – British-Algerian suspected of organizing the attack, who was reportedly detained in Chechnya in September 2004.
  • Abu Omar al-SaifSaudi national and accused financer,[148] killed in Dagestan in December 2005.
  • Abu Zaid Al-KuwaitiKuwaiti and accused organizer, who died in Ingushetia in February 2005.

In November 2004, 28-year-old Akhmed Merzhoyev and 16-year-old Marina Korigova of Sagopshi, Ingushetia, were arrested by the Russian authorities in connection with Beslan. Merzhoyev was charged with providing food and equipment to the hostage-takers, and Korigova with having possession of a phone that Tsechoyev had phoned multiple times.[149] Korigova was released when her defence attorney showed that she was given the phone by an acquaintance after the crisis.[150]

Motives and demands

Russian negotiators say the Beslan militants never explicitly stated their demands, although they did have notes handwritten by one of the hostages on a school notebook, in which they spelled out demands of full Russian troop withdrawal from Chechnya and recognition of Chechen independence.

The hostage-takers were reported to have made the following demands on 1 September 11:00–11:30 in letter sent along with a hostage ER doctor:[151]

  • Recognition of the independence of Chechnya at the UN and withdrawal of Russian troops
  • Presence of the following people at the school: Aleksander Dzasokhov (president of North Ossetia), Murat Zyazikov (president of Ingushetia), Ruslan Aushev (former president of Ingushetia), Leonid Roshal (a paediatrician). Alternatively, instead of Roshal and Aushev, the hostage-takers might have named Vladimir Rushailo and Alu Alkhanov (pro-Moscow President of Chechnya).[45]

Dzasokhov and Zyazikov did not come to Beslan (Dzasokhov later claimed that he was forcibly stopped by "a very high-ranking general from the Interior Ministry [who] said, 'I have received orders to arrest you if you try to go'").[44] The stated reason why Zyazikov did not arrive was that he has been "sick".[66] Aushev, Zyazikov's predecessor at the post of Ingushetia's president (he was forced to resign by Putin in 2002), entered the school and secured the release of 26 hostages.

Aslakhanov said that the hostage-takers also demanded the release of some 28 to 30 suspects detained in the crackdown following the rebel raids in Ingushetia earlier in June.[16][20]

Later, Basayev said they also demanded a letter of resignation from President Putin[135]


According to the official version of events, 32 militants participated directly in the seizure, one of whom was taken alive while the rest were killed on spot. The number and identity of hostage-takers remains a controversial topic, fuelled by the often contradictory government statements and official documents. The 3–4 September government statements said total of 26–27 militants were killed during the siege.[95] At least four militants, including two women, died prior to the Russian storming of the school.

Many of the surviving hostages and eyewitnesses claim there were many more captors, some of whom may have escaped. It was also initially claimed that three hostage-takers were captured alive, including their leader Vladimir Khodov and a female militant.[152] Witness testimonies during the Kulayev trial involved the reported presence of a number of apparently Slavic-, unaccented Russian-, and "perfect" Ossetian-speaking individuals among the hostage-takers who were not seen among the bodies of the militants killed during the assault by Russian security forces; witnesses also said they were not seen by the day of the crisis at all.[86] The unknown men (and a woman, according to one testimony) included a man with red beard who was reportedly issuing orders to the kidnappers' leaders, and whom the hostages were forbidden to look at. He was possibly the militant known only as "Fantomas", an ethnic Russian who served as a bodyguard to Shamil Basayev.[20][86][153]

  • The Kesayev Report (2005) estimated that about 50 rebel fighters took part in the siege, based on witness accounts and the number of weapons left at the scene.[75]
  • The Savelyev Report (September 2006) said there were from 58 to 76 hostage-takers, of which many managed to escape by slipping past the cordon around the school.[75]
  • The Torshin Report (December 2006) determined that 34 militants were involved, of which 32 entered the school and 31 died there, and says the two accomplices remain at large (one being Yunus Matsiyev, a bodyguard of Basayev).[75]

According to Basayev, "Thirty-three mujahideen took part in Nord-West. Two of them were women. We prepared four [women] but I sent two of them to Moscow on August 24. They then boarded the two airplanes that blew up. In the group there were 12 Chechen men, two Chechen women, nine Ingush, three Russians, two Arabs, two Ossetians, one Tartar, one Kabardinian and one Guran. The Gurans are a people who live near Lake Baikal who are practically russified."[154]

Basayev further said an FSB agent (Khodov) had been sent undercover to the rebels to persuade them to carry out an attack on a target in North Ossetia's capital, Vladikavkaz, and that the group was allowed to enter the region with ease because the FSB planned to capture them at their destination in Vladikavkaz. He also claimed that an unnamed hostage-taker had survived the siege and managed to escape.[13]


On 6 September 2004, the names and identities of seven of the assailants became known, after forensic work over the weekend and interviews with surviving hostages and a captured assailant. The forensic tests also established that 21 of the hostage-takers took heroin,[155] Methamphetamine as well as morphine in a normally lethal amount;[156][157] the investigation cited the use of drugs as a reason for the militants' ability to continue fighting despite being badly wounded and presumably in great pain. In November 2004, Russian officials announced that 27 of the 32 hostage-takers had been identified. However, in September 2005, the lead prosecutor against Nur-Pashi Kulayev stated that only 22 of the 32 bodies of the captors had been identified,[158] leading to further confusion over which identities have been confirmed.

Most of the suspects, aged 20–35, were identified as Ingush or residents of Ingushetia (some of them Chechen refugees). At least five of the suspected hostage-takers were declared dead by Russian authorities before the seizure, while eight were known to have been previously arrested and then released, in some cases shortly before the Beslan attack.


The male hostage-takers were tentatively identified by the Russian government as:

  • Ruslan Tagirovich Khuchbarov[note 1] (32), nicknamed "Polkovnik" (Russian for "Colonel") – An ethnic Ingush and native of Galashki, Ingushetia. Reputed group leader, disputed identity, possibly escaped and at large.[20] Basayev identified him as "Col. Orstkhoyev".[20][135] Reportedly referred to by the other militants also as "Ali", he led the negotiations on behalf of the hostage-takers. Initially reported to be Ali Taziyev, an Ingush policeman-turned-rebel who was declared legally dead in 2000;[159][160][161] but this was later refuted by the Russian prosecutors.[162] During the negotiations, "Ali" had claimed his family was killed by the Russians in Chechnya.[163] Investigators thought him to be Akhmed Yevloyev ("Magas"), an Ingush rebel leader also known as Ali Taziyev, but those reports were also declared incorrect later. "Magas" was captured by the FSB in 2010.[164]
  • Vladimir Anatolievich Khodov[note 2] (28), nicknamed "Abdullah" – An ethnic Ossetian-Ukrainian from the village of Elkhotovo in Kirovsky District of North Ossetia, Khodov was former pupil of the Beslan SNO and one of the reputed leaders of the hostage-takers. Some of the survivors described him as the most frightening and aggressive of all the militants.[163] Khodov converted to Islam while in prison for rape. He was officially wanted for a series of bomb attacks in Vladikavkaz, yet he lived openly in his hometown for over a month before the attack.[90] Basayev claimed that Khodov was a FSB double agent code-named "Putnik" ("Traveller"), sent to infiltrate the rebel movement.[165]
  • Iznaur Kodzoyev – An Ingush from Kantyshevo, Ingushetia, and father of five children.[166] His cousin claimed he saw him in their home village on the second day of the siege.[154] In August 2005 the Russian forces in Igushetia killed a man identified as Iznaur Kodzoyev, who they said was one of hostage-takers, despite the fact that his body was identified among these killed in Beslan. Kodzoyev had been also previously announced by the Russians to be killed months before the Beslan crisis.[167]
  • Khizir-Ali Akhmedov (30) – Native of Bilto-Yurt, Chechnya.[121]
  • Rustam Atayev (25) – An ethnic Chechen native to Psedkah, Ingushetia. His 12-year-old younger brother and two other boys were murdered in 2002 in Grozny by unidentified men in camouflage.[168][169]
  • Rizvan Vakhitovich Barchashvili (26) – Native of Nesterovskaya, a Cossack village in Ingushetia. Had changed his name to Aldzbekov. His body was identified by DNA testing.[170]
  • Usman Magomedovich Aushev (33) – An Ingush from Ekazhevo, Ingushetia.[171][172]
  • Adam Magomed-Khasanovich Iliyev (20) – An Ingush from Malgobek, Ingushetia. Iliyev was arrested a year before for illegal arms possession and then released.[171][172]
  • Ibragim Magomedovich Dzortov (28) – An Ingush from Nazran, Ingushetia.[171][172]
  • Ilnur Gainullin (23) – An ethnic Tatar and medical school graduate "from a good family" in Moscow.[26]
  • Aslangirey Beksultanovich Gatagazhev (29) – An Ingush from Sagopshi, Ingushetia.[171][172]
  • Sultan Kamurzoyev (27) – A Chechen from Kazakhstan.[121] Other sources say he's from Nazran, Ingushetia, and that he was arrested as a rebel fighter in Chechnya in 2000.[172]
  • Magomed[note 3] Khochubarov (21) – An Ingush from Nazran. Native of Surkhakhi, Ingushetia, Khochubarov had a conviction for the illegal possession of weapons.[121][172]
  • Khan-Pashi Kulayev (31) – A Chechen from Engenoi. He had lost his hand in Russian captivity from an untreated wound. Kulayev was the older brother of Nur-Pashi and a former bodyguard of Basayev. He was released from Russian prison before the attack.[173]
  • Nur-Pashi Kulayev (24) – A Chechen from Engenoi recruited to help his brother Han-Pashi despite (as he maintained) being admitted into pro-Moscow Chechen militia forces of Ramzan Kadyrov ("Kadyrovtsy"). Captured in Beslan and sentenced to life in prison.
  • Adam Kushtov (17) – An ethnic Ingush who as a child had fled North Ossetia during the ethnic cleansing in 1992.[174]
  • Abdul-Azim Labazanov (31) – A Chechen born in internal exile in Kazakhstan. He has initially fought on the Russian side in the First Chechen War before defecting to the group of Dokka Umarov.[121]
  • Arsen Merzhoyev (25) – A native of Engenoi, Chechnya.[175]
  • Adam Akhmedovich Poshev (22) – An Ingush from Malgobek, Ingushetia.[171][172]
  • Mayrbek Said-Aliyevich Shaybekhanov[note 4] (25) – A Chechen from Engenoi who lived in Psedakh, Ingushetia. He was arrested in Ingushetia and then released shortly before the school attack.[171][172][176][177]
  • Islam Said-Aliyevich Shaybekhanov (20) – A Chechen from Engenoi who lived in Psedakh, Ingushetia.[172][178]
  • Buran Tetradze (31) – Allegedly an ethnic Georgian and native of Rustavi, Georgia. His identity/existence was refuted by Georgia's security minister.[174]
  • Issa Torshkhoyev[note 5] (26) – An Ingush native of Malgobek, Ingushetia. He was wanted since the shootout in 2003 when his home was raided by the police. His family asserted that his interest in joining the Chechen militant movement was incited when Torshkhoyev witnessed five of his close friends being killed by Russian security forces during the same raid. His father, who was brought in to identify his body, reportedly claimed that the body was not that of his son.[171][174][179]
  • Issa Zhumaldinovich Tarshkhoyev (23) – An Ingush from Malgobek, Ingushetia. He was arrested for armed robbery in 1999 but later released.[162][171]
  • Bei-Alla Bashirovich[note 6] Tsechoyev (31) – An Ingush, had a prior conviction for possessing illegal firearms.
  • Musa Isayevich Tsechoyev (35) – An Ingush. Native of Sagopshi, Ingushetia, he owned the truck that drove the insurgents to the school.
  • Timur Magomedovich Tsokiyev[note 7] (31) – An Ingush from Sagopshi, Ingushetia.[171][172]
  • Aslan Akhmedovich Yaryzhev (22) – An Ingush from Malgobek, Ingushetia.[171][172]

In April 2005, the identity of the shahidka female militants was revealed:[180]

  • Roza Nagayeva (30) – A Chechen woman from the village of Kirov-Yurt in Chechnya's Vedensky District and sister of Amnat Nagayeva, who was suspected of being the suicide bomber who blew up one of the two Russian airliners brought down on 24 August 2004. Roza Nagayeva was previously named as having bombed the Rizhskaya metro station in Moscow on 31 August 2004.[64]
  • Mairam[note 8] Taburova (27) – A Chechen woman from the village of Mair-Tub in Chechnya's Shalinsky District.[64][171]

Earlier reports named Yacine Benalia (35) – A British-Algerian who had reportedly been killed earlier,[181] and Osman Larussi (35) – A British-Algerian, who had reportedly been killed already.[181] They are not listed in the Torshin Report.[citation needed]

Official investigations and trials

Kulayev's interrogation and trial

A collage depicting School Number One, photos of killed hostages and the Tree of Grief monument

The captured suspect, 24-year-old Nur-Pashi Kulayev, born in Chechnya, was identified by former hostages as one of the hostage-takers. The state-controlled Channel One showed fragments of Kulayev's interrogation in which he said his group was led by a Chechnya-born man nicknamed Polkovnik and by the North Ossetia native Vladimir Khodov. According to Kulayev, Polkovnik shot another militant and detonated two female suicide bombers because they objected to capturing children.[182]

In May 2005, Kulayev was a defendant in a court in the republic of North Ossetia. He was charged with murder, terrorism, kidnapping, and other crimes and pleaded guilty on seven of the counts;[183] many former hostages denounced the trial as a "smoke screen" and "farce".[56] Some of the relatives of the victims, who used the trial in their attempts to accuse the authorities, even called for a pardon for Kulayev so he could speak freely about what happened.[67] The director of the FSB, Nikolai Patrushev, was summoned to give evidence, but he did not attend the trial.[20] Ten days later, on 26 May 2006, Nur-Pashi Kulayev was sentenced to life imprisonment.[184] Kulayev later disappeared in the Russian prison system.[185] Following questions about whether Kulayev had been killed or died in prison, Russian government officials said in 2007 that he was alive and awaiting the start of his sentence.[186][clarification needed]

Investigation by federal prosecutors

Family members of the victims of the attacks have accused the security forces of incompetence, and have demanded that authorities be held accountable. Putin personally promised to the Mothers of Beslan group to hold an "objective investigation". On 26 December 2005, Russian prosecutors investigating the siege on the school declared that authorities had made no mistakes whatsoever.[187]

Torshin's parliamentary commission

At a press conference with foreign journalists on 6 September 2004, Vladimir Putin rejected the prospect of an open public inquiry, but cautiously agreed with an idea of a parliamentary investigation led by the State Duma, dominated by the pro-Kremlin parties.[188][189]

In November 2004, the Interfax news agency reported Alexander Torshin, head of the parliamentary commission, as saying that there was evidence of involvement by "a foreign intelligence agency" (he declined to say which).[190] On 22 December 2006, the Russian parliamentary commission ended their investigation into the incident. Their report concluded that the number of gunmen who stormed the school was 32 and laid much of the blame on the North Ossetian police, stating that there was a severe shortcoming in security measures, but also criticizing authorities for under-reporting the number of hostages involved.[191] In addition, the commission said the attack on the school was premeditated by Chechen rebel leadership, including the moderate leader Aslan Maskhadov. In another controversial move, the commission claimed that the shoot-out that ended the siege was instigated by the hostage-takers, not security forces.[192] About the "grounded" decision to use flamethowers, Torshin said that "international law does not prohibit using them against terrorists."[193] Ella Kesayeva, an activist who leads a Beslan support group, suggested that the report was meant as a signal that Putin and his circle were no longer interested in having a discussion about the crisis.[76]

On 28 August 2006, Duma member Yuri Savelyev, a member of the federal parliamentary inquiry panel, publicized his own report which he said proves that Russian forces deliberately stormed the school using maximum force. According to Savelyev, a weapons and explosives expert, special forces fired rocket-propelled grenades without warning as a prelude to an armed assault, ignoring apparently ongoing negotiations. In February 2007, two members of the commission (Savelyev and Yuri Ivanov) denounced the investigation as a cover-up, and the Kremlin's official version of events as fabricated. They refused to sign off on the Torshin's report.[74]

Trials of the local police officials

Three local policemen of the Pravoberezhny District ROVD (district militsiya unit) were the only officials put on trial over the massacre. They were charged with negligence in failing to stop gunmen seizing the school.[194] On 30 May 2007, the Pravoberezhny Court's judge granted an amnesty to them. In response, a group of dozens of local women rioted and ransacked the courtroom by smashing windows, overturning furniture, and tearing down a Russian flag. Victims' groups said the trial had been a whitewash designed to protect their superiors from blame.[195] The victims of the siege said they would appeal against the court judgement.[196]

In June 2007, a court in Kabardino-Balkaria charged two Malgobeksky District ROVD police officials, Mukhazhir Yevloyev and Akhmed Kotiyev, with negligence, accusing them of failing to prevent the attackers from setting up their training and staging camp in Ingushetia. The two pleaded innocent,[197] and were acquitted in October 2007. The verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court of Ingushetia in March 2008. The victims said they would appeal the decision to the European Court for Human Rights.[198]

Criticism of the Russian government

Allegations of incompetence and rights violations

The handling of the siege by Vladimir Putin's administration was criticized by a number of observers and grassroots organizations, amongst them Mothers of Beslan and Voice of Beslan.[199] Soon after the crisis, the independent MP Vladimir Ryzhkov blamed "the top leadership" of Russia.[200] Initially, the European Union also criticized the response.[201]

Critics, including Beslan residents who survived the attack and relatives of the victims, focused on allegations that the storming of the school was ruthless. They cite the use of heavy weapons, such as tanks and Shmel rocket flamethrowers.[81][202][203] Their usage was officially confirmed.[204] The Shmel is a type of thermobaric weapon, described by a source associated with the US military as "just about the most vicious weapon you can imagine – igniting the air, sucking the oxygen out of an enclosed area and creating a massive pressure wave crushing anything unfortunate enough to have lived through the conflagration."[11] Pavel Felgenhauer has gone further and accused the government of also firing rockets from an Mi-24 attack helicopter,[205] a claim that the authorities deny.[81] Some human rights activists claim that at least 80% of the hostages were killed by indiscriminate Russian fire.[7] According to Felgenhauer, "It was not a hostage rescue operation... but an army operation aimed at wiping out the terrorists."[81] David Satter of the Hudson Institute said the incident "presents a chilling portrait of the Russian leadership and its total disregard for human life".[90]

The provincial government and police were criticised by the locals for having allowed the attack to take place, especially since police roadblocks on the way to Beslan were removed shortly before the attack.[206] Many blamed rampant corruption that allowed the attackers to bribe their way through the checkpoints; in fact, this was even what they had openly boasted to their hostages.[67][207][208] Others say the militants took the back roads used by smugglers in collusion with the police.[209] Yulia Latynina alleged that Major Gurazhev was captured after he approached the militants' truck to demand a bribe for what he thought was an oil-smuggling operation.[210] It was also alleged the federal police knew of the time and place of the planned attack; according to internal police documents obtained by Novaya Gazeta, the Moscow MVD knew about the hostage taking four hours in advance, having learned this from a militant captured in Chechnya.[7][211] According to Basayev, the road to Beslan was cleared of roadblocks because the FSB planned to ambush the group later, believing the rebels' aim was to seize the parliament of North Ossetia in Vladikavkaz.

Critics also charged that the authorities did not organize the siege properly, including failing to keep the scene secure from entry by civilians,[212] while the emergency services were not prepared during the 52 hours of the crisis.[5] The Russian government has been also heavily criticized by many of the local people who, days and even months after the siege, did not know whether their children were alive or dead, as the hospitals were isolated from the outside world.[clarification needed] Two months after the crisis, human remains and identity documents were found by a local driver, Muran Katsanov,[11] in the garbage landfill at the outskirts of Beslan; the discovery prompted further outrage.[213][214]

In addition, there were serious accusations that federal officials had not earnestly tried to negotiate with the hostage-takers (including the alleged threat from Moscow to arrest President Dzasokhov if he came to negotiate) and deliberately provided incorrect and inconsistent reports of the situation to the media.

Independent reports

The report by Yuri Savelyev, a dissenting parliamentary investigator and one of Russia's leading rocket scientists, placed the responsibility for the final massacre on actions of the Russian forces and the highest-placed officials in the federal government.[215] Savelyev's 2006 report, devoting 280 pages to determining responsibility for the initial blast, concludes that the authorities decided to storm the school building, but wanted to create the impression they were acting in response to actions taken by the terrorists.[75][note 9] Savelyev, the only expert on the physics of combustion on the commission, accused Torshin of "deliberate falsification".[90]

A separate public inquiry by the North Ossetian parliament (headed by Kesayev) concluded on 29 November 2005 that both local and federal law enforcement mishandled the situation.[78]

European Court complaint

On 26 June 2007, 89 relatives of victims lodged a joint complaint against Russia with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The applicants say their rights were violated both during the hostage-taking and the trials that followed.[197][216] The case was brought by over 400 Russians.[217]

In an April 2017 judgement that supported the prosecutors, the court deemed that Russia's failure to act on "sufficient" evidence about a likely attack on a North Ossetia school had violated the "right to life" guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. The court stated the error was made worse by the Russian use of "indiscriminate force."[218] Result were published in April 2017, and found that Russian actions in using tank cannons, flame-throwers and grenade launchers "contributed to the casualties among the hostages", and had "not been compatible with the requirement under Article 2 that lethal force be used 'no more than [is] absolutely necessary." The report also said that "The authorities had been in possession of sufficiently specific information of a planned terrorist attack in the area, linked to an educational institution," "nevertheless, not enough had been done to disrupt the terrorists meeting and preparing," or to warn schools or the public.[217][219]

The ECHR court in Strasbourg ordered Russia to pay €2.9m in damages and €88,000 in legal costs. The Court's findings were rejected by the Russian Government.[217][220] Although obligated to accept the ruling because it is a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Kremlin called the ruling "unacceptable."[218]

Alleged threats, disinformation and suppression of information

Russian television reporting and false information

In opposition to the coverage on foreign television news channels (such as CNN and the BBC), the crisis was not broadcast live by the three major state-owned Russian television networks.[112] The two main state-owned broadcasters, Channel One and Rossiya, did not interrupt their regular programming following the school seizure.[200] After explosions and gunfire started on the third day, NTV Russia shifted away from the scenes of mayhem to broadcast a World War II soap opera.[53] According to the Ekho Moskvy ("Echo of Moscow") radio station, 92% of the people polled said that Russian TV channels concealed parts of information.[99]

Russian state-controlled television only reported official information about the number of hostages during the course of the crisis. The figure of 354 people was persistently given, initially reported by Lev Dzugayev (the press secretary of Dzasokhov)[note 10][221] and Valery Andreyev (the chief of the republican FSB). It was later claimed that Dzugayev only disseminated information given to him by "Russian presidential staff who were located in Beslan from September 1".[64] Torshin laid the blame squarely at Andreyev, for whom he reserved special scorn.[222]

The deliberately false figure had grave consequences for the treatment of the hostages by their angered captors (the hostage-takers were reported saying, "Maybe we should kill enough of you to get down to that number") and contributed to the declaration of a "hunger strike".[42][191] One inquiry has suggested that it may have prompted the militants to kill the group of male hostages shot on the first day.[222] The government disinformation also sparked incidents of violence by the local residents, aware of the real numbers, against the members of Russian and foreign media.[99]

On 8 September 2004, several leading Russian and international human rights organizations – including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Memorial, and Moscow Helsinki Group – issued a joint statement in which they pointed out the responsibility that Russian authorities bore in disseminating false information:

"We are also seriously concerned with the fact that authorities concealed the true scale of the crisis by, inter alia, misinforming Russian society about the number of hostages. We call on Russian authorities to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances of the Beslan events which should include an examination of how authorities informed the whole society and the families of the hostages. We call on making the results of such an investigation public."[99]

The Moscow daily tabloid Moskovskij Komsomolets ran a rubric headlined "Chronicle of Lies", detailing various initial reports put out by government officials about the hostage taking, which later turned out to be false.[106]

Incidents involving Russian and foreign journalists

The late Novaya Gazeta journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who had negotiated during the 2002 Moscow siege, was twice prevented by the authorities from boarding a flight. When she eventually succeeded, she fell into a coma after being poisoned aboard an aeroplane bound to Rostov-on-Don.[99][223] American journalist Larisa Alexandrovna of The Raw Story has suggested that Politkovskaya might have been later murdered in Moscow because she had discovered evidence of the Russian government's complicity in Beslan.[224]

According to the report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), several correspondents were detained or otherwise harassed after arriving in Beslan (including Russians Anna Gorbatova and Oksana Semyonova from Novye Izvestia, Madina Shavlokhova from Moskovskij Komsomolets, Elena Milashina from Novaya Gazeta, and Simon Ostrovskiy from The Moscow Times). Several foreign journalists were also briefly detained, including a group of journalists from the Polish Gazeta Wyborcza, French Libération, and British The Guardian. Many foreign journalists were exposed to pressure from the security forces and materials were confiscated from TV crews ZDF and ARD (Germany), AP Television News (USA), and Rustavi 2 (Georgia). The crew of Rustavi 2 was arrested; the Georgian Minister of Health said that the correspondent Nana Lezhava, who had been kept for five days in the Russian pre-trial detention centers, had been poisoned with dangerous psychotropic drugs (like Politkovskaya, Lezhava had passed out after being given a cup of tea). The crew from another Georgian TV channel, Mze, was expelled from Beslan.[99]

Raf Shakirov, chief editor of the Russia's leading newspaper, Izvestia, was forced to resign after criticism by the major shareholders of both style and content of the issue of 4 September 2004.[225] In contrast to the less emotional coverage by other Russian newspapers, Izvestia had featured large pictures of dead or injured hostages. It also expressed doubts about the government's version of events.[226]

Secret video materials

The video tape made by the hostage-takers and given to Ruslan Aushev on the second day was declared by the officials as being "blank".[227] Aushev himself did not watch the tape before he handed it to government agents. A fragment of tape shot by the hostage-takers was shown on Russian NTV television several days after the crisis.[228] (See the video.) Another fragment of a tape shot by the hostage-takers was acquired by media and publicised in January 2005.[35][207] (See the video – unavailable in Russia.)

In July 2007, the Mothers of Beslan asked the FSB to declassify video and audio archives on Beslan, saying there should be no secrets in the investigation.[229] They did not receive any official answer to this request.[230] However, the Mothers received an anonymous video, which they disclosed saying it might prove that the Russian security forces started the massacre by firing rocket-propelled grenades on the besieged building.[231] The film had been kept secret by the authorities for nearly three years before being officially released by the Mothers on 4 September 2007.[232][233] The graphic film apparently shows the prosecutors and military experts surveying the unexploded shrapnel-based bombs of the militants and structural damage in the school in Beslan shortly after the massacre. Footage shows a large hole in the wall of the sports hall, with a man saying, "The hole in the wall is not from this [kind of] explosion. Apparently someone fired [there]," adding that many victims bear no sign of shrapnel wounds. In another scene filmed next morning, a uniformed investigator points out that most of the IEDs in the school actually did not go off, and then points out a hole in the floor which he calls a "puncture of an explosive character".[234]

Conspiracy theories

Several hostage-takers, including one of the leaders, Vladimir Khodov, had been previously involved in terrorist activities, but released from government custody prior to the attack despite their high profiles. According to a publication in Novaya Gazeta, "the so-called Beslan terrorists were agents of our own special forces – UBOP [Center for Countering Extremism] and FSB."[235] According to FSB defector Alexander Litvinenko, the Russian secret services must have been aware of the plot beforehand, and therefore they themselves must have organised the attack as a false flag operation. He said that the previously arrested terrorists only would have been freed if they were of use to the FSB, and that even in the case that they were freed without being turned into FSB assets, they would be under a strict surveillance regime that would not have allowed them to carry out the Beslan attack unnoticed.[236] According to Mothers of Beslan and , the hostage taking might have been an "inside job", citing the fact that the militants had planted weapons in the school prior to the incident.[237] In September 2007, Taimuraz Chedzhemov, the lawyer representing the Mothers of Beslan, who was seeking to prosecute Russian officials over the massacre, said he had withdrawn from the case because of an anonymous death threat to his family. He said he believed the death threat was linked to a decision by the group he represented to name senior officials involved in the chaotic rescue operation whom they want put on trial.[238]

Government response

In general, the criticism was rejected by the Russian government. President Vladimir Putin specifically dismissed the foreign criticism as Cold War mentality and said that the West wants to "pull the strings so that Russia won't raise its head."[112]

The Russian government defended the use of tanks and other heavy weaponry, arguing that it was used only after surviving hostages escaped from the school. However, this contradicts the eyewitness accounts, including by the reporters and former hostages.[239] According to the survivors and other witnesses, many hostages were seriously wounded and could not possibly escape by themselves, while others were kept by the militants as human shields and moved through the building.[59]

Deputy Prosecutor General of Russia Nikolai Shepel, acting as deputy prosecutor at the trial of Kulayev, found no fault with the security forces in handling the siege, "According to the conclusions of the investigation, the expert commission did not find any violations that could be responsible for the harmful consequences."[30][240] Shepel acknowledged that commandos fired flamethrowers, but said this could not have sparked the fire that caused most of the deaths;[85] he also said that the troops did not use napalm during the attack.[13]

To address doubts, Putin launched a Duma parliamentary investigation led by Alexander Torshin,[241] resulting in the report which criticised the federal government only indirectly[242] and instead put blame for "a whole number of blunders and shortcomings" on local authorities.[243] The findings of the federal and the North Ossetian commissions differed widely in many main aspects.[75] Deputy Prosecutor General Vladimir Kolesnikov, sent by Putin in September 2005 to investigate the circumstances, concluded on 30 September that "the actions of the military personnel were justified, and there are no grounds to open a criminal investigation."[244]

In 2005, previously unreleased documents by the national commission in Moscow were made available to Der Spiegel. According to the paper, "instead of calling for self-criticism in the wake of the disaster, the commission recommended the Russian government to crack down harder."[2]

Dismissals and trials

Three local top officials resigned the aftermath of the tragedy:[note 11][245]

  • North Ossetian Interior Minister Kazbek Dzantiyev resigned shortly after the crisis, saying that after what happened in Beslan, he "[didn't] have the right to occupy this post as an officer and a man."[95][246]
  • Valery Andreyev, the chief of the Ossetia's FSB, also submitted his resignation soon after. However, he was later elevated to the prestigious position of Deputy Rector of FSB Academy.[49][247]
  • Alexander Dzasokhov, the head of North Ossetia, resigned his post on 31 May 2005, after a series of demonstrations against him in Beslan and public pressure from Mothers of Beslan on Putin to have him dismissed.[106][248]

Five Ossetian and Ingush police officers were tried in the local courts; all of them were subsequently amnestied or acquitted in 2007. As of December 2009, none of the Russian federal officials suffered consequences in connection with the Beslan events.

Other incidents and controversies

Escalation of the Ingush-Ossetian hostility

Nur-Pashi Kulayev claimed that attacking a school and targeting mothers and young children was not merely coincidental, but was deliberately designed for maximum outrage with the purpose of igniting a wider war in the Caucasus. According to Kulayev, the attackers hoped that the mostly Orthodox Ossetians would attack their mostly Muslim Ingush and Chechen neighbours to seek revenge, encouraging ethnic and religious hatred and strife throughout the North Caucasus.[249] North Ossetia and Ingushetia had previously been involved in a brief but bloody conflict in 1992 over disputed land in the North Ossetian Prigorodny District, leaving up to 1,000 dead and some 40,000 to 60,000 displaced persons, mostly Ingush.[41] Indeed, shortly after the Beslan massacre, 3,000 people demonstrated in Vladikavkaz calling for revenge against the ethnic Ingush.[41]

The expected backlash against neighbouring nations failed to materialise on a massive scale. In one noted incident, a group of ethnic Ossetian soldiers led by a Russian officer detained two Chechen Spetsnaz soldiers and executed one of them.[250] In July 2007, the office of the presidential envoy for the Southern Federal District Dmitry Kozak announced that a North Ossetian armed group engaged in abductions as retaliation for the Beslan school hostage-taking.[41][102][251] FSB Lieutenant Colonel Alikhan Kalimatov, sent from Moscow to investigate these cases, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in September 2007.[252]

Grabovoy affair and the charges against Beslan activists

In September 2005, the self-proclaimed faith healer and miracle-maker Grigory Grabovoy promised he could resurrect the murdered children. Grabovoy was arrested and indicted of fraud in April 2006, amidst the accusations that he was being used by the government as a tool to discredit the Mothers of Beslan.[253]

In January 2008, the Voice of Beslan group, which in the previous year had been court-ordered to disband, was charged by Russian prosecutors with "extremism" for their appeals in 2005 to the European Parliament to help establish an international investigation.[203][254][255] This was soon followed with other charges, some of them relating to the 2007 court incident. As of February 2008, the group was charged in total of four different criminal cases.[256]


Russian Patriarch Alexius II's plans to build an Orthodox church as part of the Beslan monument have caused a serious conflict between the Orthodox Church and the leadership of the Russian Muslims in 2007.[257] Beslan victims organizations also spoke against the project and many in Beslan want the ruins of the school to be preserved, opposing the government plan of its demolition to begin with.[258]

International response

The attack at Beslan was met with international abhorrence and universal condemnation. Countries and charities around the world donated to funds set up to assist the families and children that were involved in the Beslan crisis.

At the end of 2004, the had raised over $1.2 million with a goal of $10 million.[259] The Israeli government offered help in rehabilitating freed hostages, and during Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov's visit to China in November 2005, the Chinese Health Ministry announced that they were sending doctors to Beslan, and offered free medical care to any of the victims who still needed treatment.[260] The then mayor of Croatia's capital Zagreb, Vlasta Pavić, offered free vacations to the Adriatic Sea to the Beslan children.[261]

On 1 September 2005, UNICEF marked the first anniversary of the Beslan school tragedy by calling on all adults to shield children from war and conflict.[262]

Maria Sharapova and many other female Russian tennis players wore black ribbons during the 2004 US Open in memory of the tragedy.

In August 2005, two new schools were built in Beslan, paid for by the Moscow government.[263]

Media portrayal

  • The Unit episode "In Loco Parentis" portrays a hostage situation in a Virginia school perpetrated by Chechen terrorists. The Beslan massacre is referenced.
  • Us/Them - ("Wij/Zij") is a production by BRONKS Theatre for a Young Audience first performed in 2015, written and directed by Carly Wijs, which presents a physical storytelling of the crisis from the point of view of two of the students.
Video Games
  • In Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege (2015), the biography of a Russian Spetsnaz operator named "Kapkan" (Russian: (капкан) for Trap) describes him as a survivor of the Beslan Siege.

See also


  1. ^ Also spelled Khochubarov
  2. ^ Not to be confused with the head of the Beslan administration in 2004, also named Vladimir Khodov.
  3. ^ Also spelled Magomet
  4. ^ Also spelled Mairbek Shebikhanov
  5. ^ Also spelled Isa Torshkhoev
  6. ^ Also spelled Bay Ala
  7. ^ Also spelled Tsokiev
  8. ^ Also spelled Maryam
  9. ^ These allegations are discussed in more detail elsewhere in this article.
  10. ^ After the crisis, Dzugayev was promoted and a made minister for culture and mass communications of the republic.
  11. ^ President Zyazikov of Ingushetia was forced to resign in 2008 but for unrelated reasons: the death of oppositionist journalist Magomed Yevloyev, who was shot in police detention.


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Further reading

  • Beslan: Shattered Innocence by Lynn Milburn Lansford (ISBN 1419639951)
  • Beslan: The Tragedy of School Number 1 by Timothy Phillips (ISBN 1862079277) - Read online
  • John B. Dunlop. The 2002 Dubrovka and 2004 Beslan Hostage Crises: A Critique of Russian Counter-Terrorism / Donald N. Jensen. — Columbia University Press, 2006. — 166 p. — ISBN 9783838256085. — ISBN 3838256085.
  • The Beslan School Siege and Separatist Terrorism by (preview available)
  • Terror at Beslan: A Russian Tragedy with Lessons for America's Schools by John Giduck (ISBN 978-0976775300)
  • The Beslan Massacre: Myths & Facts by Alexander Burakov (ISBN 978-1500400965)
  • Adam Dolnik. The siege of Beslan's School No. 1 // Countering Terrorism and Insurgency in the 21st Century: International Perspectives / James J. F. Forest; Praeger Security International. — Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007. — Т. 3. — 646 p. — ISBN 9780275990374. — ISBN 0275990370. — ISBN 0275990346. — ISBN 9780275990343.

External links


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