The attack on the Moscow subway shows how vulnerable systems of transport are to terrorism, following in the wake of similar attacks in London and Madrid. Thirty-nine are dead, and the number of the wounded has not yet been revealed definitively. Muscovites have proved themselves resilient, and seem to be commuting much as before. To old-timers, of course, survivors from the war and Stalin, an incident like this belongs to a lifetime of violence.
When al-Qaeda hit targets in America, the intention was obviously to destroy symbols of the nation’s strength and values. It is the same now in Moscow. One attack was at the Lubyanka station, with above it the huge, frowning, and sinister yellow-stone headquarters of the secret police who made its routines and underground prison a by-word of horror; and the other attack was at Culture Park, a name flattering to the Russian self-image. This reinforces the first suspicion that Chechens are responsible. For almost two centuries, Russia has made them the victims of brutal police methods and sought to impose its own culture on them. The tragedy is that they deserve autonomy and even independence, and might well have achieved such a goal through a peaceful national movement. Violence deprives them of all justification, and worse still, calls down retribution. This seems to be a cycle of mistakes that minorities cannot help making. Think Tamils. Think Palestinians. Think Basques. Think I.R.A. Take care, Tibetans.