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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kursk Incident Eclipses Other Human Tragedies

Few people reacted with indifference to the sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine. At first, people hoped and prayed for the lives of the crew. Then people felt frustrated at what little efforts seemed to be undertaken for the crew’s rescue. Then people felt the full shock of the horrible and senseless death of the crew.

Yet society’s reaction to this tragedy has once again proved the following morbid rule: Unusual, frightening mass deaths often create more sympathy and feedback than long-lasting conflicts that may in the end bring many more deaths.

Click here to read our Special Report on the Kursk Tragedy.

Various funds have been established to which concerned citizens can transfer money to help family members of the Kursk’s crew. But the routine killing of people in Chechnya hardly moves anyone but their own relatives. How many funds have been established for civilians or soldiers who die in Chechnya daily? None that the average citizen knows of.

Of course, the media shoulder some of the blame in this situation. Chechnya stopped being a hot topic some time ago. And the censorship on our television won’t let the average viewer see 3-year-olds living in Chechnya who have had an arm or leg amputated. Yet people cannot remain unmoved when they see tearful mothers and wives expressing the hope that their sons or husbands will be saved even when they know there is little hope left.

I argued about this very topic with a cab driver the other day. Like many other people these days, he was frustrated at the sailors’ tragic, senseless deaths. But he didn’t think their fate was comparable to that of their fellow soldiers in Chechnya. "They are fighting terrorists," he said of the latter.

And now we hear from politicians about how they have contributed to these funds. State Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov reportedly said he has transferred 4,000 rubles (a generous $145) out of his own savings. And President Vladimir Putin has promised that all the sailors’ relatives will be able to move off the Vidyayevo military base and said a special house in the Moscow region might be provided for them.

All of these mass disasters have a pattern: First, people are horrified at the news. Then, funds are created to help the victims’ family members. Then comes the day of mourning. And, finally, the whole incident is forgotten — indeed, the Kursk incident totally eclipsed the fate of the victims of the Pushkin Square explosion, from which dozens of people are still recuperating in the hospital.

Relatives of the Kursk’s sailors requested that Putin not designate Aug. 23 a national day of mourning. "It’s easy to call it a national day of mourning," one of the sailor’s widows said Wednesday, "and then to forget."

Anna Andreyeva is a freelance journalist. She contributed this comment to The Moscow Times. Soviet-Style Secrecy Endures in Sub Crisis, The Washington Post, Aug. 19. The Bellona Foundation Russian Naval Forces, The Slavic Research Center, Hokkaido University Oscar II: Jane's Naval Forces Oscar: Federation of American Scientists Perry Slingsby Systems: the LR5 submarine Kursk Tragedy: A Message Board Save Their Souls: A Message Board on the Kursk Tragedy (in Russian) The Russian Ministry of Defense (in Russian)