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The Tragedy of the Kursk: Crisis Management in Putin's Russia1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2014

Abstract

The objective of this paper is to reconstruct both the Kursk incident and especially the reaction to it by Russian military and political authorities with the aim of gauging the extent of continuity and change of Soviet-era practices in three key areas of contemporary Russia's public institutional life: (1) the organizational behaviour and institutional culture of the Russian military; (2) the behaviour of Russia's executive political leadership, i.e. President Vladimir Putin; and (3) the media of mass communication. Reaction to such crises, the author argues, can shed much light on the actual behavioural patterns and operating assumptions of relevant institutions and leaders. The method employed is essentially a detailed forensic reconstruction of the incident and its aftermath from three angles: the reactions of the military authorities; the reactions of Putin; and the reactions of the mass media (and of the authorities to the mass media).

The individual is nonsense, the individual is zero.

Vladimir Mayakovsky, 1921

Human life still costs nothing here.

Leonid Radzikhovskii, 2000

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Government and Opposition Ltd 2004

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Footnotes

1

Earlier versions of this paper were presented at Texas A&M University (February 2003) and at St Antony's College, Oxford (June 2003). I am grateful to these audiences and to the reviewers for their comments.

References

2 See Izvestia, 4 December 2001.

3 French Press Agency (AFP) (Moscow), 9 August 2001.

4 See http://www.gazeta.ru, 30 December 2002.

5 See, for instance, New York Times, 14 August 2000; Izvestia, 18 August 2000; Nezavisimaia Gazeta, 12–13 September 2000; Novie Izvestia, 24 July 2001; Tribuna, 4 October 2001; and Globe and Mail, 29 October 2002.

6 Izvestia, 3 December 2001; and Alexander Golts, ‘Kursk Firings Should Not Be Military's Last’, Russia Journal, 7–13 December 2001.

7 See Moscow Times, 17 August 2000; and ‘The Chronicle of Tragedy’ at http://www.mediaprom.ru/kursk/1/eng/xron . . . html (2076/16).

8 See Komsomolskaia Pravda, 22 November 2001.

9 See the interview with Major General Yurii Senatskii in Trud, 22 August 2001; and Novaya Gazeta, 6–12 December 2001.

10 Kramer, Mark, ‘The Sinking of the Kursk’, PONARS Policy Memo 145 (September 2000), p. 4.Google Scholar

11 See Golts, Alexander, ‘Military Reform Sinks Along with the Kursk’, Russia Journal, 2 September 2000.Google Scholar

12 Moskovskii Komsomolets, 15 November 2001.

13 See AFP (Moscow), 9 September 2002.

14 Krasnaya Zvezda, 9 September 2000.

15 Clive Burleson, Kursk Down!, New York, Warner Books, 2002, p. 163.

16 AFP (Moscow), 9 August 2001.

17 See the interview with Manilov in Krasnaya Zvezda, 9 September 2000.

18 ‘Statement of Fatherland–All Russia Duma Faction Presented by Yevgenii Primakov’, Federal News Service (Moscow), 23 August 2000.

19 Cited in Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Newsline I (RFE/RL I), 4: 180 (18 September 2000).

20 AFP (Moscow), 15 September 2000; and Russia TV (Moscow), 7.00 a.m. GMT, 15 September 2000, BBC Monitoring.

21 New York Times, 5 September 2000.

22 Cited in Christian Science Monitor, 22 August 2000.

23 See Boris Kagarlitsky, ‘Submarine Tragedy Breaches Curtain of Lies’, in Johnson's Russia List (JRL), 4486 (1 September 2000).

24 Magyar Hirlap, 21 July 2001.

25 Putin's First Person: An Astonishingly Frank Self-Portrait by Russia's President, New York, Public Affairs, 2000, is far from ‘astonishing’ but not without insights into his background. For a perceptive analysis of his role during the crisis, see Lilia Shevtsova, Putin's Russia, Washington, DC, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2003, pp. 115–21.

26 The Times, 24 August 2000.

27 Moskovskii Komsomolets, 16 July 2001. See also, Lilia Shevtsova, ‘From Yeltsin to Putin: The Evolution of Presidential Power’, in Archie Brown and Lilia Shevtsova (eds), Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and Putin: Political Leadership in Russia's Transition, Washington, DC, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2001, pp. 96–7.

28 See http://www.gazeta.ru, 21 August 2000.

29 Interfax (St Petersburg), 15 September 2000; and Straits Times (Singapore), 20 August 2000.

30 See, for instance, Reuters (Moscow), 26 August 2000.

31 See, for instance, Moscow Times, 2 September 2000; his interview with CNN's Larry King in JRL, 4501 (9 September 2000); and Washington Post, 8 September 2000.

32 Cited by Reuters (Moscow), 18 August 2000. See also Vremya MN, 19 August 2000; and Moscow Times, 2 September 2000.

33 See Robert Moore, A Time To Die: The Untold Story of the Kursk Tragedy, New York, Crown, 2002, p. 247.

34 Cited by RFE/RL I, 4: 163 (24 August 2000).

35 See, for instance, AP (Moscow), 23 August 2000; and AFP (Moscow), 13 September 2000.

36 Kommersant, 23 September 2002.

37 See Moscow Times, 23 August 2000.

38 AFP (Moscow), 9 August 2001.

39 Interview with General Valerii Manilov in Krasnaya Zvezda, 9 September 2000; Los Angeles Times, 26 September 2000; and interview with Admiral Eduard Baltin in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 11 August 2001.

40 Merridale, Catherine, ‘Cheated of Their Vodka and Cake’, New Statesman, 4 September 2000,Google Scholar in JRL, 4492 (5 September 2000). See also Carlotta Gall and Thomas de Waal, Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus, New York, New York University Press, 1998, pp. 14–17; and Anatol Lieven, Chechnya: Tombstone of Russian Power, New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 1998, pp. 110–11.

41 Quoted in Izvestia, 28 August 2002.

42 See, for instance, Catherine Merridale, Night of Stone: Death and Memory in Russia, London, Granta Books, 2000.

43 See the interview with Vice-Admiral (Ret.) Yurii Senatsky in Guardian, 17 September 2001.

44 Vremya Novosty, 22 August 2000.

45 See the interview in Interfax (Moscow), 12 June 2001.

46 See Nezavisimoye Voennoye Obozreniye, 2 March 2001; and Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 13 March 2001. See also Pavel Baev, ‘The Russian Navy after the Kursk: Still Proud but with Poor Navigation’, PONARS Policy Memo 215 (December 2001), p. 2.

47 Nezavisimoye Voennoye Obozreniye, 29 (10 August 2001).

48 Burleson, Kursk Down!, op. cit., p. 113.

49 See, for instance, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 12–13 September 2000; AFP (Moscow), 25 October 2000; Zavtra, 48, (November 2000); UPI (Moscow), 5 November 2000; Reuters (Brussels), 10 November 2000; and Izvestia, 25 March 2002.

50 See Obshchaya Gazeta, 3 (January 2001); and Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 12 January 2001. See also Rossiiskaia Gazeta, 26 May 2001.

51 See RFE/RL I, 4: 164 (25 August 2000); the Kavkaz Tsentr document in http://www.kolumbus.fi/kavkaz/english/25_8.htm, in JRL, 4480 (28 August 2000); and Interfax (Moscow), 29 August 2000, in JRL, 4484 (29 August 2000).

52 See Vadim Saranov's report in Versiya, 17–23 April 2001.

53 Der Spiegel, 16 October 2000; RFE/RL I, 4: 215 (6 November 2000); and Sunday Times, 4 March 2001. For a Russian commentary on this hypothesis, see Segodnya, 6 March 2001.

54 ITAR-TASS (Moscow), 5 March 2001.

55 See, for instance, Magyar Nemzet, 18 February 2002.

56 See Versiya, 10 April 2001; and Komsomolskaya Pravda, 21 April 2001.

57 Rossiiskaia Gazeta, 29 August 2002.

58 For more details about the fuel, see Moore, A Time To Die, op. cit., pp. 32–3.

59 See the interview with Dorogin in Kommersant, 27 July 2002, in JRL, 6385 (28 July 2002).

60 Novaya Gazeta, 1 (10 January 2002); and Vremya MN, 13 August 2002.

61 See Izvestia, 3 December 2001; Gazeta, 3 December 2001; and Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 4 December 2001.

62 See Trud, 21 February 2002.

63 Guardian, 9 August 2001.

64 See William Odom's comments in the New York Times, 20 August 2000; Obshchaya Gazeta, 3 (January 2001); and Izvestia, 4 December 2001.

65 Rossiiskaia Gazeta, 29 August 2002. It is noteworthy that investigators found many of the same problems following the 1989 sinking of the Komsomolsk, the last submarine disaster prior to the Kursk. See Tribuna, 7 April 2001.

66 Cited in Christian Science Monitor, 15 August 2000.

67 Obshchaya Gazeta, 6 (7–13 February 2002); and Kommersant, 19 February 2002.

68 See Izvestia, 3 July 2002; UPI (Moscow), 13 July 2002; and AP (Moscow), 10 August 2002.

69 Gazeta, 3 December 2001; and Burleson, Kursk Down!, op. cit., p. 22.

70 Moskovskii Komsomolets, 15 November 2001; and Rossiiskie Vesti, 11 July 2002.

71 See, for instance, Rossiiskaia Gazeta, 29 August 2002.

72 See Moore, A Time To Die, op. cit., pp. 125–8.

73 Moscow Times, 21 February 2002.

74 Cited in Atlanta Journal Constitution, 12 January 2001; in JRL, 5023 (12 January 2001).

75 AP (Moscow), 20 August 2000, in JRL, 4466 (20 August 2000).

76 See, for instance, Nezavisimoye Voennoye Obozreniye, 29 (10 August 2001). I thank Laura Belin for sharing her knowledge of the Russian media with me.

77 See Iain Elliot, ‘The Kursk Disaster: Casualties of the Secret State’, Times Literary Supplement, 1 August 2002.

78 See New York Times, 5 September 2000; and Financial Times, 5 September 2000.

79 See, for instance, NTV International (Moscow), 19.00 GMT, 12 December 2000 (BBC Monitoring in JRL, 4685 (13 December 2000)); and Moore, A Time To Die, op. cit., pp. 176–7.

80 Cited in The Times, 24 August 2000.

81 Moscow Times, 2 September 2000.

82 Novie Izvestia, 31 July 2001.

83 Interfax (St Petersburg), 15 September 2000.

84 Cited by RFE/RL I, 4: 165 (28 August 2000).

85 Cited in Moscow Times, 2 September 2000. See also David Satter, Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State, New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 2003, pp. 16–18.

86 See Sunday Times, 3 March 2001; and Guardian, 9 August 2001.

87 NG-Stsenarii, 15 November 2000, cited by Shevtsova, ‘From Yeltsin to Putin’, op. cit., p. 111.

88 RFE/RL I, 5: 152 (13 August 2001). See also The Economist, 18 August 2001, pp. 38–9.

89 AP (Murmansk), 27 October 2000. See also Reuters (Moscow), 26 August 2000; The Times, 26 August 2000; and Izvestia, 28 August 2002.

90 AP (Moscow), 10 August 2002. See also Moscow Times, 23 August 2000.

91 Izvestia, 17 June 2002; Kommersant, 23 September 2002; and ITAR-TASS (Moscow), 5 December 2002. See also Reuters (Moscow), 19 June 2002, in JRL, 6317 (19 June 2002); and Baev, ‘The Russian Navy after the Kursk’, op. cit., p. 4.

92 For recent studies see Zoltan Barany, ‘Politics and the Russian Armed Forces’, in Zoltan Barany and Robert G. Moser (eds), Russian Politics: Challenges of Democratization, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2001, pp. 174–214; and Dale Herspring, ‘Putin and the Armed Forces’, in Dale Herspring (ed.), Putin's Russia, Lanham, MD, Rowman & Littlefield, 2003, pp. 155–76.

93 See ITAR-TASS (Moscow), 12 May 2003; Moscow Times, 15 May 2003; ITAR-TASS (Moscow), 23 June 2003; RFE/RL I, 7: 123 (1 July 2003), 7: 130 (21 July 2003), and 7: 142 (29 July 2003).

94 See RFE/RL I, 6: 158 (22 August 2002); and Moscow Times, 5 September 2002.

95 For recent analyses of contemporary Russian media policy, see Laura Belin, ‘Politics and the Mass Media under Putin’, in Cameron Ross (ed.), Russia Under Putin, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2003; and Masha Lipman and Michael McFaul, ‘Putin and the Media’, in Herspring (ed.), Putin's Russia, op. cit., pp. 63–84.

96 Cited in RFE/RL I, 6: 236 (18 December 2002).

97 Sunday Times, 27 August 2000.

98 See Izvestia, 11 July 2001.

99 For a lucid if brief comment on the handling of the hostage crisis, see Satter, David, ‘A Low, Dishonest Decadence’, The National Interest, 72 (Summer 2003), pp. 122–3.Google Scholar

100 See Christian Caryl, ‘Death in Moscow: The Aftermath’, New York Review of Books, 19 December 2002, pp. 58–60.

101 See also ‘The Value of Human Life’, in Satter's Darkness at Dawn, op. cit., ch. 12, pp. 198–221.

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