Russia: Togliatti Bus Explosion

Global Voices Online
Friday, November 2, 2007

On Oct. 31, a bomb exploded on a bus packed with morning commuters in the southern Russian city of Togliatti, killing eight people and wounding 50.

LJ user kotenok_suz wrote (RUS):

[...] I'm scared. I'm scared to death, just like [the majority of people] in Togliatti. Today Death has settled in our city. Watch out as you walk around. It's close... user anfisa yop wrote (RUS):

And they won't call my favorite city a village anymore. Because in a village, all is quiet and calm... [...] user Omar4ik wrote (RUS):

Today, I guess, has been the most nervous day in my life. My child (the older one) sets out for the institute at THIS VERY time and from THIS VERY [bus] stop (30 meters from the intersection), [to get there] by 8:30 AM. She leaves home at 8 sharp, it takes 5 minutes of walking to reach the [bus] stop, she crosses the street at THIS intersection. So it's a matter of minutes. We learned about the blast in 20 minutes or so, started calling right away. She wasn't picking up the phone! I wasn't too worried at first - [...] she usually turns down the phone's volume when she's in class, and if the phone is in the pocket of her jacket, she doesn't even hear the vibration. Then everyone started calling - relatives, sisters, aunties, friends, etc. I began to get nervous! My daughter didn't respond till 11:30 AM, when the big break began and she turned the phone back on.

Turns out she was at the [bus] stop at the time of the blast and heard the sound of it. People started screaming, ran to the site of the explosion, but she had to go to the institute. She waited till the bus arrived from the other street and left for her classes. [...] It's good that she didn't go to the bus [that exploded] to take a look. The daughter of my colleague at work witnessed the incident, and she got so hysterical that her mother had to leave the office and take her to the doctor. My younger one has also spent the whole day at school crying so hard she got a headache.

Anyway, all's well that ends well. Unfortunately, not for everyone: eight people died, among them children, students, a teacher. All in all, 14 students from my daughters institute were hurt (one from the group she's in). God, receive the souls of the dead and cure the wounded.

LJ user baobabka was incredulous (RUS) on hearing the news of the blast:

And that was when I read about Togliatti... It made me numb. It's not happening in my world. Or, I am elsewhere.

A reader offered an explanation:


Why are you surprised? The elections are real close.


Explain what you mean.


Somehow, in our country, similar crap always takes place on the eve of the elections. A submarine, an apartment building, or even a war...

It does not seem uncommon among Russian bloggers to tie the Togliatti bus blast to the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in Russia, but the strangest connection - though not the most obvious one - has been through LJ user casualmente's blog.

Two months ago, its author, Inna Smbatyan, became one of the two official blogger-representatives of Russia's Central Election Commission (CEC) in the Russian LiveJournal-sphere, as a moderator of the izbircom LJ community, "an informational bridge between the CEC and bloggers," there to "provide information about the election, and election campaign as a whole, in a language that is easy to understand." Such an innovative initiative of the CEC received lots of blog coverage at the time.

On the day of the tragedy in Togliatti, Smbatyan reposted a selection of ten extremely gory photos of the victims of the blast ( - WARNING: VERY GRAPHIC CONTENT). This post of hers, which I choose not to link to directly, topped Russian blog rankings on Oct. 31 and has received 681 comments so far. Two subsequent - explanatory - posts have received nearly a hundred comments each already. Many of Smbatyan's readers were enraged by her decision to run these highly disturbing images - and here's one of her attempts (RUS) to justify herself:

[...] What did I want to achieve? - for people to see what [the line] "eight people were killed" means, instead of turning their eyes elsewhere: "ah... [just] eight..."

Here is part of a related - and a rather typical - discussion at another blog (RUS), whose author, LJ user pantherclaw, also chose to reproduce the horrible photos:


To publish pictures like these means being a jerk just like the one who blew up the bus.


Explain your position.


You aren't a jerk, obviously. But I think that publishing someone's photo on which [he or she] is depicted in a [repulsive] way - and you wouldn't deny that a person torn into two pieces is [repulsive], would you? - means to dishonor him [or her]. Those who died are your fellow citizens, and I think that out of civil solidarity, it's wrong to put up pictures of the fallen for everyone to view. It's better to publish photos of dead enemies - the sight of a dead enemy is more pleasant that the sight of a dead friend.


The thing is, the enemies are still alive. While the ones who have died no longer care.


Yes, yes, of course. Let's show nothing but "flowers" - the way [the state-controlled TV channel] ORT does.


[This is the only way to get] our people to understand what's going on.

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