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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Black September Anniversaries

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The post-Soviet era in Russia began in August 1991 with a failed coup against perestroika. Since then, important events -- mostly disasters -- have tended to take place in August, such as the debt default in 1998, the emergence of then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in 1999, the sinking of the Kursk in 2000 and the bombing of two passenger airliners in 2004.

These events have a certain logical progression, but the emblematic tragedy of Putin's Russia -- and the one that is likely to shape his legacy -- actually took place in September. It is, of course, the Beslan hostage crisis, resulting in the deaths of 334 people, most of them schoolchildren.

September is also the month of the fundamental event in U.S. history of the 21st century -- the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Their sixth anniversary last week fell once more on a Tuesday.

Although the tragedies were very different, there are stark parallels between them just under the surface. They were representative of each country's culture and values. Beslan showed the same, age-old disregard for ordinary citizens when pitted against the exigencies of the Russian state, embodied in the person of an infallible autocrat. The state would never demean itself by talking to terrorists.

Beslan mirrored another special forces operation -- the storming of the Dubrovka theater in 2002, in which about 130 hostages were poisoned by a still-unknown gas pumped in through the air ducts. Both rescues hark back to Russian history, to the building of St. Petersburg or the construction of the Moscow-St. Petersburg railway, in which uncounted numbers of serfs died for the glory of the state.

The Sept. 11 tragedy, meanwhile, was quintessentially American. The terrorists, though all Arabs, displayed uncanny Yankee ingenuity while taking full advantage of U.S. democracy, technology, transport infrastructure and mass media. The deaths of so many fire fighters and police officers in the collapse of the World Trade Center fed into the heroism cult of these two professions, already deeply rooted in U.S. culture.

It was indicative of the U.S. regard for its own citizens' lives that the remains of the 2,996 victims have been, whenever possible, identified and their families have been compensated with seven-figure payouts. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dying because of the U.S. invasion of their country will never even be counted properly.

The two September attacks raise deep questions about the way we are governed in the 21st century. In Russia, no one was dismissed or disciplined for the botched Beslan rescue effort. Either it was performed to Putin's satisfaction or loyalty among team members counts for more than competence.

Similarly, no dismissals or resignations followed Sept. 11 in the United States, even though subsequent reports have shown that high-level government officials had advance warnings and even clear descriptions of the plots.

The Kremlin refuses to answer questions about Beslan, repeatedly giving the cold shoulder to the other victims of the tragedy -- the parents and relatives of the dead. Meanwhile, Americans rewarded U.S. President George W. Bush with a second term in 2004 and even now are willing to give him a free hand in the Middle East.

For the past five years, these two nations have been content to ignore politics and to enjoy the fruits of a liquidity bubble permeating the global economy. Americans have created that bubble, by exporting trillions of paper dollars in exchange for the goods, services and commodities they consume, whereas Russians have been lucratively selling their natural resources into the global bubble economy.

Financial markets have tottered in July and August, and this September may mark the moment when the global liquidity bubble finally bursts. This could bring both Russians and Americans back to reality. The interesting question is whom they will then start to blame for their problems.

Alexei Bayer, a native Muscovite, is a New York-based economist.