Address by President Vladimir Putin
September 4, 2004
Speaking is hard. It is painful.
A terrible tragedy has taken place in
our world. Over these last few days each
and every one of us has suffered greatly
and taken deeply to heart all that was
happening in the Russian town of Beslan.
There, we found ourselves confronting
not just murderers, but people who
turned their weapons against helpless
I would like now, first of all, to
address words of support and condolence
to those people who have lost what we
treasure most in this life – our
children, our loved and dear ones.
I ask that we all remember those who
lost their lives at the hands of
terrorists over these last days.
* * *
Russia has lived through many tragic
events and terrible ordeals over the
course of its history. Today, we live in
a time that follows the collapse of a
vast and great state, a state that,
unfortunately, proved unable to survive
in a rapidly changing world. But despite
all the difficulties, we were able to
preserve the core of what was once the
vast Soviet Union, and we named this new
country the Russian Federation.
We all hoped for change, change for the
better. But many of the changes that
took place in our lives found us
unprepared. Why is this?
We are living at a time of an economy in
transition, of a political system that
does not yet correspond to the state and
level of our society’s development.
We are living through a time when
internal conflicts and interethnic
divisions that were once firmly
suppressed by the ruling ideology have
now flared up.
We stopped paying the required attention
to defence and security issues and we
allowed corruption to undermine our
judicial and law enforcement system.
Furthermore, our country, formerly
protected by the most powerful defence
system along the length of its external
frontiers overnight found itself
defenceless both from the east and the
It will take many years and billions of
roubles to create new, modern and
genuinely protected borders.
But even so, we could have been more
effective if we had acted professionally
and at the right moment.
In general, we need to admit that we did
not fully understand the complexity and
the dangers of the processes at work in
our own country and in the world. In any
case, we proved unable to react
adequately. We showed ourselves to be
weak. And the weak get beaten.
Some would like to tear from us a “juicy
piece of pie”. Others help them. They
help, reasoning that Russia still
remains one of the world’s major nuclear
powers, and as such still represents a
threat to them. And so they reason that
this threat should be removed.
Terrorism, of course, is just an
instrument to achieve these aims.
As I have said many times already, we
have found ourselves confronting crises,
revolts and terrorist acts on more than
one occasion. But what has happened now,
this crime committed by terrorists, is
unprecedented in its inhumanness and
cruelty. This is not a challenge to the
President, parliament or government. It
is a challenge to all of Russia, to our
entire people. Our country is under
* * *
The terrorists think they are stronger
than us. They think they can frighten us
with their cruelty, paralyse our will
and sow disintegration in our society.
It would seem that we have a choice -
either to resist them or to agree to
their demands. To give in, to let them
destroy and plunder Russia in the hope
that they will finally leave us in
As the President, the head of the
Russian state, as someone who swore an
oath to defend this country and its
territorial integrity, and simply as a
citizen of Russia, I am convinced that
in reality we have no choice at all.
Because to allow ourselves to be
blackmailed and succumb to panic would
be to immediately condemn millions of
people to an endless series of bloody
conflicts like those of Nagorny Karabakh,
Trans-Dniester and other similar
tragedies. We should not turn away from
this obvious fact.
What we are dealing with are not
isolated acts intended to frighten us,
not isolated terrorist attacks. What we
are facing is direct intervention of
international terror directed against
Russia. This is a total, cruel and
full-scale war thatagain and again is
taking the lives of our fellow citizens.
World experience shows us that,
unfortunately, such wars do not end
quickly. In this situation we simply
cannot and should not live in as
carefree a manner as previously. We must
create a much more effective security
system and we must demand from our law
enforcement agencies action that
corresponds to the level and scale of
the new threats that have emerged.
But most important is to mobilise the
entire nation in the face of this common
danger. Events in other countries have
shown that terrorists meet the most
effective resistance in places where
they not only encounter the state’s
power but also find themselves facing an
organised and united civil society.
* * *
Dear fellow citizens,
Those who sent these bandits to carry
out this dreadful crime made it their
aim to set our peoples against each
other, put fear into the hearts of
Russian citizens and unleash bloody
interethnic strife in the North
Caucasus. In this connection I have the
following words to say.
First, a series of measures aimed at
strengthening our country’s unity will
soon be prepared.
Second, I think it is necessary to
create a new system of coordinating the
forces and means responsible for
exercising control over the situation in
the North Caucasus. Third, we need to
create an effective anti-crisis
management system including entirely new
approaches to the way the law
enforcement agencies work.
I want to stress that all of these
measures will be implemented in full
accordance with our country’s
We are living through very difficult and
painful days. I would like now to thank
all those who showed endurance and
responsibility as citizens.
We were and always will be stronger than
them, stronger through our morals, our
courage and our sense of solidarity.
I saw this again last night.
In Beslan, which is literally soaked
with grief and pain, people were showing
care and support for each other more
They were not afraid to risk their own
lives in the name of the lives and peace
Even in the most inhuman conditions they
remained human beings.
It is impossible to accept the pain
caused by such loss, but these trials
have brought us even closer together and
have forced us to re-evaluate a lot of
Today we must be together, for it is
only together that we will vanquish the