Theatre Tragedy: 12 Years After Nord Ost

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Twelve years on, the Moscow theater hostage remains one of the darkest and most controversial pages in modern Russian history. Russians were thrown into a state of shock when dozens of armed militants seized a theater near the center of the country’s capital.

Twelve years on, the Moscow theater hostage remains one of the darkest and most controversial pages in modern Russian history. Russians were thrown into a state of shock when dozens of armed militants seized a theater near the center of the country’s capital.

© RIA Novosti . Dmitry Korobeynikov / Go to the photo bankThe evening of October 23, 2002, started out like any other for the theater center on Dubrovka Street: The actors were in the middle of Part One of the acclaimed musical Nord-Ost and the audience, who had come to see a love story, were anticipating seeing a real WWII fighter plane land on the stage.

Above: Final scene from the musical Nord-Ost, which was shown at the Dubrovka theatrical center in Moscow before a three-year-long tour of Russia.
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The evening of October 23, 2002, started out like any other for the theater center on Dubrovka Street: The actors were in the middle of Part One of the acclaimed musical Nord-Ost and the audience, who had come to see a love story, were anticipating seeing a real WWII fighter plane land on the stage.

Above: Final scene from the musical Nord-Ost, which was shown at the Dubrovka theatrical center in Moscow before a three-year-long tour of Russia.
© RIA Novosti . Dmitry Korobeynikov / Go to the photo bankInstead, an armed man appeared on the stage to announce that the building had been seized. Around 40 terrorists flooded the hall on both levels, turning the performance in central Moscow into a three-day-long nightmare for more than 900 people.

Above: A scene from the musical Nord-Ost, which was shown at the Dubrovka theatrical center in Moscow before a three-year-long tour of Russia.
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Instead, an armed man appeared on the stage to announce that the building had been seized. Around 40 terrorists flooded the hall on both levels, turning the performance in central Moscow into a three-day-long nightmare for more than 900 people.

Above: A scene from the musical Nord-Ost, which was shown at the Dubrovka theatrical center in Moscow before a three-year-long tour of Russia.
© RIA Novosti . Alexey Nichukin / Go to the photo bankThe evening of October 23, 2002, started out like any other for the theater center on Dubrovka Street: The actors were in the middle of Part One of the acclaimed musical Nord-Ost. Suddenly, around 40 terrorists flooded the hall on both levels, turning the performance in central Moscow into a three-day-long nightmare for more than 900 people.

Above: A woman mourns dead hostages at the Dubrovka Theater Center on the anniversary of the Nord-Ost tragedy.
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The evening of October 23, 2002, started out like any other for the theater center on Dubrovka Street: The actors were in the middle of Part One of the acclaimed musical Nord-Ost. Suddenly, around 40 terrorists flooded the hall on both levels, turning the performance in central Moscow into a three-day-long nightmare for more than 900 people.

Above: A woman mourns dead hostages at the Dubrovka Theater Center on the anniversary of the Nord-Ost tragedy.
© RIA Novosti . Alexey Nichukin / Go to the photo bankUp to 916 people were taken hostage, including 75 foreigners. First the hostages was split into two groups: men and women with children, then between actors and spectators. The actors were sent to the balcony, and two huge bombs were placed in the middle of the hall, while women wearing explosive belts spread themselves among the hostages.

Above: Women mourn dead hostages at the Dubrovka Theater Center on the anniversary of the Nord-Ost tragedy.
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Up to 916 people were taken hostage, including 75 foreigners. First the hostages was split into two groups: men and women with children, then between actors and spectators. The actors were sent to the balcony, and two huge bombs were placed in the middle of the hall, while women wearing explosive belts spread themselves among the hostages.

Above: Women mourn dead hostages at the Dubrovka Theater Center on the anniversary of the Nord-Ost tragedy.
© RIA Novosti . Kiril Kallinnikov / Go to the photo bankAs security forces encircled the building, several attempts to negotiate took place. Most of them were fruitless. Still around 50 hostages, most of them children, were set free. Up to a dozen people also managed to run for freedom, escaping through windows.

Above: Participants in an event commemorating the victims of the October, 2002 terrorist attack at the Dubrovka Theater Center.
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As security forces encircled the building, several attempts to negotiate took place. Most of them were fruitless. Still around 50 hostages, most of them children, were set free. Up to a dozen people also managed to run for freedom, escaping through windows.

Above: Participants in an event commemorating the victims of the October, 2002 terrorist attack at the Dubrovka Theater Center.
© RIA Novosti . Alexey Nichukin / Go to the photo bankThe terrorists were scattered among the hostages, and security forces hesitated to storm the building. Any mistake would mean that everyone inside could end up dead.

Above: A memorial church service for the dead hostages at Dubrovka Theater Center on the anniversary of the Nord-Ost tragedy.
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The terrorists were scattered among the hostages, and security forces hesitated to storm the building. Any mistake would mean that everyone inside could end up dead.

Above: A memorial church service for the dead hostages at Dubrovka Theater Center on the anniversary of the Nord-Ost tragedy.
© RIA Novosti . Ilya Pitaev / Go to the photo bankThe militants, on the other hand, were growing fiercer and more and more reluctant to provide the hostages with food, water, the opportunity to visit the lavatory or medical help.

Above: Bishop Savva of Voskresensk, center, at the Dubrovka Theater Chapel, conducts a memorial service for the victims of the 2002 Nord-Ost hostage crisis at the Dubrovka Theater in Moscow.
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The militants, on the other hand, were growing fiercer and more and more reluctant to provide the hostages with food, water, the opportunity to visit the lavatory or medical help.

Above: Bishop Savva of Voskresensk, center, at the Dubrovka Theater Chapel, conducts a memorial service for the victims of the 2002 Nord-Ost hostage crisis at the Dubrovka Theater in Moscow.
© RIA Novosti . Sergey Pyatakov / Go to the photo bankOn the fourth day of the stand-off, a hostage panicked and tried to attack a suicide bomber. The captors responded with gunfire, wounding two other people.

Above: Survivors and the bereaved gathered at the Dubrovka Theater Center for a commemoration service on the anniversary of the October 2002 terror act, when the cast of the musical Nord-Ost and their audience were taken hostage.
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On the fourth day of the stand-off, a hostage panicked and tried to attack a suicide bomber. The captors responded with gunfire, wounding two other people.

Above: Survivors and the bereaved gathered at the Dubrovka Theater Center for a commemoration service on the anniversary of the October 2002 terror act, when the cast of the musical Nord-Ost and their audience were taken hostage.
© RIA Novosti . Vladimir Vyatkin / Go to the photo bankSoon after that, security forces started pumping a noxious gas into the air system of the concert hall. The gas knocked out everyone in the building and allowed the Russian troops to enter.

Above: Funeral ceremony marking the anniversary of the hostage crisis at Moscow's Dubrovka Theater Center.
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Soon after that, security forces started pumping a noxious gas into the air system of the concert hall. The gas knocked out everyone in the building and allowed the Russian troops to enter.

Above: Funeral ceremony marking the anniversary of the hostage crisis at Moscow's Dubrovka Theater Center.
© RIA Novosti . Alexander Polyakov / Go to the photo bankThe hostage crisis ended on the morning of October 26; it had resulted in 130 deaths, including 10 children. Five of the hostages were killed before Russian special forces raided the building, while others died in hospitals after being released. The Nord-Ost cast lost two of its child actors.

Above: The relatives of hostages who were kept captive in the Moscow Dubrovka Theater Center on October 23-26, 2002.
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The hostage crisis ended on the morning of October 26; it had resulted in 130 deaths, including 10 children. Five of the hostages were killed before Russian special forces raided the building, while others died in hospitals after being released. The Nord-Ost cast lost two of its child actors.

Above: The relatives of hostages who were kept captive in the Moscow Dubrovka Theater Center on October 23-26, 2002.
© RIA Novosti . Dmitry Korobeynikov / Go to the photo bankThough the efficiency of the Russian special forces’ operation was hailed by authorities, their actions generated controversy. The families of the victims accused the authorities of using poisonous gas, which in their view was the main reason for the massive death toll.

Above: The Special Task Force troops surrounding the Moscow Dubrovka Theater Center in October, 2002.
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Though the efficiency of the Russian special forces’ operation was hailed by authorities, their actions generated controversy. The families of the victims accused the authorities of using poisonous gas, which in their view was the main reason for the massive death toll.

Above: The Special Task Force troops surrounding the Moscow Dubrovka Theater Center in October, 2002.
© RIA Novosti . Dmitry Korobeynikov / Go to the photo bankThe name or content of the gas has never been released, officials say it is a state secret. Even medics treating the hostages were reported not to have been told what substance their patients had been inhaling.

Above: A billboard advertises the musical Nord-Ost on the Dubrovka Theatre Center in Moscow, which was seized by Chechen terrorists in October 2002.
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The name or content of the gas has never been released, officials say it is a state secret. Even medics treating the hostages were reported not to have been told what substance their patients had been inhaling.

Above: A billboard advertises the musical Nord-Ost on the Dubrovka Theatre Center in Moscow, which was seized by Chechen terrorists in October 2002.
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