Kursk Tragedy: Russia's past or future?

The events surrounding the sinking of the Russian submarine K-141 – the Kursk – and the tragic loss of its crew have produced extensive speculation and analysis in the West and in Russia. Some observers attach symbolic importance to the disaster, which encapsulated, so it is claimed, the legacy of the Soviet past: the decline of military power, the loss of status in the world, the anti-democratic nature of the system, the persistence of a Soviet–era mentality of secrecy and suspicion, and a lack of due care and regard for citizens.

The World Today
6 minute READ

Dr Joris Van Bladel

Associate Fellow, Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy

Stephen Webber

Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Birmingham

Such impressions were strengthened by incidents in two other symbols of Soviet/Russian achievement in what has been termed Black August: the bomb attack on the Moscow metro, and the blaze in the Ostankino TV tower. Some see the Kursk episode as a turning point: the end of President Vladimir Putin’s honeymoon with the Russian people, perhaps a catalyst to develop a stronger civic identity, or even – somewhat melodramatically – as the post-Soviet equivalent of the shot fired by the Aurora in 1917 – signalling the end of the current regime.

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