Columbine in Crimea

Columbine in Crimea

Columbine in Crimea

While Americans were busy venting their outrage about Jamal Khashoggi, about the left attacking the right in restaurants, about the right accosting the left in other restaurants, and about the NPC meme, something horrible happened in Crimea – a Columbine-like event that left 20 people dead and scores more injured. I can’t blame us; there’s a lot going on – everything from the mid-term elections around the corner, to violence in our streets, to Lizzie Warren’s “Pocahonky” moment.

But we forget there’s a whole world out there in which events can result in secondary and even tertiary effects – unintended consequences that we don’t even consider…

…until it’s too late.

Th Wall Street Journal reports that authorities first considered the shooting at a college in Crimea – the sliver of property in Ukraine annexed by Russia in 2014 that led to what some have referred to as Cold War v. 2.0 – a terrorist attack. The 18-year-old murderer Vladislav Roslyakov opened fire and detonated explosives at Kerch Polytechnic College, before self-terminating.

Authorities now say the shooting was mass murder, but some believe that Roslyakov had help, in which case, there could be another murderer at large in the area.

A young woman claiming to be Roslyakov’s ex-girlfriend said he was bullied at school – something we discussed here at length in the aftermath of previous shootings.

Photo credit: Matytsin Valery/Zuma Press

Politicians and the local media immediately took to their computers to lay blame, to explore causes for the tragedy, to be the first at the mike, on camera, or on Twitter to publicize their take. This isn’t unusual – vultures can sense their next meal.

“The night­mare of school shoot­ings has now come to us,” Russ­ian op­po­si­tion leader Alexey Navalny said in a tweet, of­fer­ing con­do­lences to the fam­i­lies of the dead and to the in­jured.

The tragedy was dubbed “Crimea’s Columbine” by lo­cal com­men­ta­tors, re­fer­ring to the 1999 as­sault at Col­orado’s Columbine High School in which two stu­dents mas­sa­cred a dozen of their peers and one teacher be­fore dy­ing by sui­cide.


The last gun at­tack at a school in Rus­sia was in 2014 when a stu­dent in Mos­cow shot dead a teacher and po­lice­man. Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial data, there have been five at­tacks in schools in Rus­sia this year, in which sev­eral chil­dren were in­jured. Those in­ci­dents in­volved knives, axes or air guns.

The Virginia Tech massacre happened during my last deployment. My job back then involved being part of a liaison team that held talks with an adversarial country. We were scheduled for a bilateral meeting on the day we received the news.

There was no adversarial snark that day. The head of the delegation, who normally enjoyed needling the ignorant, stuck up head of our team at these meetings, opened the event and very solemnly passed on his condolences. He did not use his interpreter, but rather conveyed his kind thoughts in broken English.

At that moment, we were not adversaries. We were human beings recognizing an enormous tragedy and acknowledging an unimaginable grief.

After his initial comment in English, the delegation head told us through his interpreter that no matter what political garbage went on between our two nations, we were all human beings, and this tragedy extended far beyond politics.

I will never forget his words, and I apply those sentiments here.

Twenty young people died at that school three days ago. Twenty promising lives were snuffed out by a heartless murderer, who according to several accounts, was having trouble at school and got into disputes with his professors. Twenty families have lost someone they loved, and 50 more sustained injuries.

This is not the time for adversarial snark.

This is a tragedy – an event that will probably shape Russia’s policy – not just on gun ownership, but also on freedom of expression and access to information which ultimately could impact relations with the United States.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed a mass shooting at a college in Crimea on globalisation.


“Everything started with well-known tragic events in schools in the United States. Young people with unstable minds create false heroes for themselves,” he said.

“This means that we all, not just Russia, but we across the world are reacting badly to changing conditions in the world,” Mr Putin said.

“We are not creating necessary, interesting and useful content for young people.”

Yes, this is Putin taking a backhanded swipe at the United States and our free access to information. Yes, this is Putin signaling a possible change in how Russians access information. And yes, this – at least to me – portends yet another turn toward the Soviet days, when information was tightly controlled, newspapers, magazines, and books were censored, and the state created “necessary, interesting and useful” content for young people.

So yes, this event – that barely anyone mentioned or cared about – could further impact Russia’s relations with the West.

Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers are with the families of everyone impacted by this horrific tragedy.

It might seem like we’re a bit distracted these days, but we do care, we do understand, we do sympathize, and many of us do empathize. The victims deserve our solemn respect, and I hope their families find peace as they work to deal with this horror.

Written by

Marta Hernandez is an immigrant, writer, editor, science fiction fan (especially military sci-fi), and a lover of freedom, her children, her husband and her pets. She loves to shoot, and range time is sacred, as is her hiking obsession, especially if we’re talking the European Alps. She is an avid caffeine and TWD addict, and wants to own otters, sloths, wallabies, koalas, and wombats when she grows up.

  • Overgrown Hobbit says:

    Amen to that.

  • George V says:

    “We are not creating necessary, interesting and useful content for young people.”

    Well, I don’t know if “content” is the right word, maybe the translation’s a bit off. But I actually agree with Vlad about this one. There must be a stopped clock pointing to the correct time somewhere.

    Our society as a whole does a crappy job raising our children. TV and movies emphasize bad behavior, books for young people, if any actually read them, are not much better, and don’t get me started on music videos. Cultural influences today seem to be designed to create snarky a-holes instead of people who are kind and compassionate. Bullying the weak has always been a problem at schools, but the brakes and controls that society used to have on all bad behavior have been systematically removed.

    Let’s hope the Russians figure out a way to stave off the darkness without repression. Then maybe we’ll be smart enough to copy what they do.

    • Marta Hernandez says:

      Unfortunately it’s not what Putin meant. He is using perfectly rational observations about just how miserably bad our society has become to push the idea of government control. The translation is not off.

  • GWB says:

    The last gun at­tack at a school in Rus­sia was in 2014
    Well, technically this one was NOT IN Russia, so……..

    an event that will probably shape Russia’s policy
    More likely will be used to justify something they’ve already decided on.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed a mass shooting at a college in Crimea on globalisation.

    Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers are with the families of everyone impacted by this horrific tragedy.

    And, while I agree with Marta as to what Putin means with his comments, I also agree with George V about that phrase being right about our society. We have to find ways to re-instill morality in our culture (which is hard, because the non-moral things are just so much fun). Because, if you won’t govern yourself, you will be governed.

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