Below is the full text of the President's address:
"It is difficult to speak and it is bitter.
"A terrible tragedy has occurred on our territory. Over these last few days each of us has been suffering deeply and passing through his heart all that was happening in the Russian town of Beslan. We faced not only murderers but those who used weapons against defenseless children.
"And now I am addressing, first of all, with the words of support and compassion, people who have lost the most valuable in their life: their children and their near and dear ones.
"I am requesting to recall all those who have been killed by terrorists in the past days.
"There were a lot of tragic pages and hard events in the history of Russia. We are living in the conditions that have emerged after the collapse of the huge and great state, the state, which had proved to be non-viable in the conditions of the rapidly changing world.
"However, despite all the difficulties, we have been able to keep the nucleus of this giant, the Soviet Union. And we called the new country the Russian Federation.
"We all expected changes, changes for the better.
"However, we have proved to be absolutely unprepared for many changes in our life. Why?
"We are living in the conditions of a transitional economy that does not correspond to the condition and the level of the development of society and the political system.
"We are living in the conditions of exacerbated internal conflicts and inter-ethnic contradictions, which were previously toughly quelled by the ruling ideology.
"We have stopped paying due attention to the issues of defense and security and allowed corruption to pervade the judicial and law-enforcement spheres.
"Apart from that, our country, which once had the most powerful system of defending its external borders, suddenly turned out to be unprotected either from the West or the East.
"It will take many years and billions of rubles to create new, modern and really protected borders.
"However, in this respect, we would have been more effective, if we acted in time and more professionally.
"In general, we have to admit that we did not pay due attention to the complexities and dangers of the processes going on in our country and in the world.
"In any case, we couldn't adequately react to them. We showed weakness and the weak get beaten.
"Some want to tear away a more delicious slice from us and others are helping them. They are helping them in belief that Russia, as one of the largest nuclear powers, still poses a threat to them and, therefore, this threat has to be eliminated.
"And terrorism is, of course, only an instrument for attaining such goals.
"As I spoke on many occasions, we were confronted with crises, mutinies and terrorist acts many times. What happened was a terrorist act that was inhuman and unprecedented in its cruelty. It is a challenge not to the President, the parliament and the government but a challenge to all of Russia and to all of our people.
"This is an attack on our country.
"Terrorists think that they are stronger than we are and that they can frighten us by their cruelty and that they will be able to paralyze our will and disintegrate our society. And it would seem that we are faced with a choice: we either fight them off or agree with their demands, surrender and let them destroy and tear apart Russia in the hope that they will leave us alone.
"As the President and the head of the Russian state, as the person who vowed to protect the country, its territorial integrity and simply as a citizen of Russia, I am convinced that in reality we simply have no choice. This is because once we allow ourselves to be blackmailed and abandon ourselves in panic, we shall plunge millions of people into the endless string of bloody conflicts, like the Karabakh, Transdniestrian and other similar tragedies. We cannot fail to see obvious.
"We are dealing not with separate intimidation actions or separate terrorists' raids. We are dealing with the direct intervention of international terror against Russia, with a total, cruel and all-out war, which is claiming time and again the lives of our compatriots.
"The entire world experience shows that such wars, unfortunately, do not end quickly. In these conditions, we simply cannot and must not live as light-heartedly as before.
"We are simply obliged to create a more effective security system and demand that our law-enforcement bodies act at a level adequate to the level and scope of the new threats.
"But the main thing is that the nation should mobilize in the face of a common threat. The events in other countries show that terrorists are fought off most effectively precisely where they are confronted not only with the might of a state but with an organized and consolidated civil society.
"Respected fellow citizens!
"Those who sent the bandits to commit this horrible crime had the aim to bring our peoples against each other, scare the citizens of Russia and unleash a bloody interethnic strife in the North Caucasus.
"In this connection, I would like to say about the following:
"A set of measures aimed at strengthening the country's unity will be prepared shortly.
"I believe it necessary to create a new system of the interaction of means and forces that exercise control over the situation in the North Caucasus.
"It is necessary to create an effective anti-crisis management system, including fundamentally new approaches to the activity of the law-enforcement bodies.
"I want to stress that all these measures will be carried out in full compliance with the country's Constitution.
"Dear friends, we are living through very hard and sorrowful hours. And I would like to thank all those who showed restraint and civil responsibility.
"We were and we shall be stronger than they both with our morale and courage and our human solidarity. I saw that again this night.
"In Beslan, literally saturated with grief and pain, people cared and supported each other even more.
"They were not afraid risking their lives for the sake of the life and calmness of others.
"Even in the most inhuman conditions, they remained humans.
"It is hard to get reconciled with the pain of losses. But the trials have brought us together and have made us revalue a lot.
"Today we must be together. Only in this way can we defeat the enemy."