Policy Memos

'Juicy Morsels': Putin's Beslan Address and the Construction of the New Russian Identity

Policy Memo:


Publication Date:




Russia President Putin’s state of the nation address on September 4, 2004, immediately following the terrorist act in Beslan, was regarded by many as a strategic blueprint. He has made several statements pertaining to the national interest and national strategy:
• He has admitted to the strategic “failure” to respond to the challenges of the global world;
• Much like George W. Bush following 9/11, Putin has qualified the terrorist attack as a “total, cruel, and full-scale war” meant to weaken and divide the country;
• He has called for the “mobilization of the nation”;
• In one of the most intriguing passages, Putin revealed that he believed some countries threatened by Russia’s nuclear deterrent could be supporting the terrorist attacks to try to weaken Russia. In Putin’s words,
We showed weakness, and the weak are trampled upon. Some want to cut off a juicy morsel from us while others are helping them. They are helping because they believe that, as one of the world’s major nuclear powers, Russia is still posing a threat to someone, and therefore this threat must be removed. And terrorism is, of course, only a tool for achieving these goals. Putin’s message was even more eloquent in what he had omitted. Namely, he failed to mention the war in Chechnya once, preferring instead to lay the blame on the conveniently vague and all-encompassing notion of international terrorism. [...]

About the author

Professor of Politics; Deputy Dean for International Affairs
Higher School of Economics, Moscow