The Battle of Volgograd? Some Thoughts on Terrorist Attacks in Volgograd.


Imagine a stone as big a great house; it hangs and you are under it; if it falls on you, on your head, will it hurt you?”

“A stone as big as a house? Of course it would be fearful.”

“I speak not of fear. Will it hurt?”

“A stone as big as a mountain, weighing millions of tons? Of course it wouldn’t hurt.”

“But really stand there and while it hangs you will fear very much that it will hurt. The most learned man, the greatest doctor, all, all will be very much frightened. Everyone will know that it won’t hurt, and everyone will be afraid that it will hurt.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Besy (Demons).

When the first terrorist attack in Volgograd happened on October 21, 2013, I wrote a post about it in which I noted that death (especially in the form of terrorist act) became the ultimate show. Terrorist act is the final form of ‘acting’: acting not with facial expressions and intonation but with blood and human lives.

When the second terrorist attack in Volgograd took place on December 29, 2013, I tweeted:

It was a formulaic tweet (identical to the one I tweeted when the first attack happened) but I was only able to hide behind these formulaic and non-human words. I didn’t know what to say and how to express what I felt.

The choice of the precise place for the second terrorist act was symbolic. Volgograd (in 1925-1961 called Stalingrad) played a key role in the World War II and is seen as an embodiment of Russian military glory. The Volgograd railway station (where the bombing took place and near which the Barmaley Fountain replica was opened in August 2013) was erected in 1950s near the original building. The latter was almost destroyed during the Battle of Stalingrad. The photo of Barmaley fountain (aka Children’s Khorovod) taken by Emmanuil Evzerikhin on August 23, 1942, became well-known around the world.

Barmaley Fountain (Children's Khorovod) & the Volgograd-1 Railway Station Suicide Bombing
Barmaley Fountain (Children’s Khorovod) on August 23, 1942, and the Volgograd-1 Railway Station after the suicide bombing on December 29, 2013. The left-hand photo by Emmanuil Evzerikhin. The right-hand photo by Dmitry Rogulin, ITAR-TASS.

And then it happened once again.

My feelings on December 30, 2013, when I woke up and saw in my twitter feed that a trolleybus exploded in Volgograd were similar to those when horrible apartment bombings happened in Russia in September 1999. Unspeakable.

The date of attacks was also chosen in such way to ruin the New Year‘s Day celebration which is more than just an ordinary celebration in Russia. It is our main national holiday. The cancellation of the holiday meant that terrorists won, so one could expect suicide bombings on the eve of any Russian holiday in the future. The celebration of the New Year as if nothing happened was also impossible. So it was what it was.

P.S. Marshall McLuhan said: the medium is the message. The first ‘medium’ here is the terrorist, media (no pun intended) being the second (making a contribution to a further spread of the ‘message’). The only ‘real message’ here is the terrorist exploding among common people and the act of exploding. All other message decodings are either social, political and cultural simulacra or the message is simply ‘decoded’ by your emotions and empathy when you receive the message watching a Terror TV report on your screen.

The ‘symbolism’ I’ve dealt with in my post is obviously a product of Russian mass consciousness (which terrorists seem to know well). Something tells me this ‘symbolism’ was one of the terrorists’ (whoever they were) goals: they wanted the Russian people to decode their ‘bloody empty message’ this way.

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2 thoughts on “The Battle of Volgograd? Some Thoughts on Terrorist Attacks in Volgograd.

  1. Pingback: Media Economy of Death, or #RussianLivesMatter too | Russian Universe

  2. Pingback: Death as a show… | Russian Universe

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