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be proud of or believe in, hockey had become Sergei's faith. And disappointment had made
his belief even stronger.
Our conversation brought to mind a 2011 suicide bombing at Moscow's Domodedevo
Airport that I covered. The Islamist insurgency had been growing ever bolder in Russia's
North Caucasus, and terrorist leaders vowed to redouble their efforts to carry out attacks
on Russian soil. It's the same simmering radicalism that some believe influenced Tamerlan
Tsarnayev, the older of the two brothers who carried out the bombing of the Boston Mara-
thon in 2013. Tamerlan is ethnically from Chechnya and spent time in Dagestan—both re-
gions in the North Caucasus. On January 24, 2011, a twenty-year-old from another region,
Ingushetia, set off an explosion in the international arrivals hall at the airport in Moscow,
killing several dozen people. The attack set off an old debate over Putin's antiterrorism
tactics. Putin supporters said the deadly airport attack was a reminder of why the Russian
government must aggressively target anyone suspected of terrorist ties in the North Cau-
casus. Putin's critics said he has led a fierce campaign—often to score political points at
home—that has backfired. Their thinking is Putin has been too aggressive, ordering Russi-
an forces to round up young Muslim men in droves, which has actually helped the Islamist
insurgency recruit in larger numbers.
Covering the aftermath of the airport attack stunned me. Even as body bags were still be-
ing removed from the international terminal, the airport was up and running again. Check-
in desks were open for business. Newsstands were selling magazines and gum. Planes were
taking off and landing. The cab driver who drove me back into the city after my night of
reporting told me that his jacket, laid out in the back of his station wagon behind my seat,
was covered with blood and pieces of flesh. He had been in the room when the explosion
detonated. “One man, he fell down. His leg was torn off,” he said in Russian to Sergei, who
was sitting shotgun and translating.
“There were all these pieces of flesh,” the driver said. “I am in shock. I still can't get
myself together.” I could not understand how this man was back to work, driving a cab,
hours after witnessing such a scene. His explanation was matter-of-fact: “I have a schedule
that I have to keep to. There's no way I can call my boss and say I'm not working anymore
today.” Duty called, a job called, and neither chaos nor anger nor pain was going to be a
disruption. It was simply about moving on, fighting through.
It's the way the soul of a Russian person is built.
The historian Orlando Figes captured this in his 2007 book The Whisperers: Private Life
in Stalin's Russia . After tragedy, he wrote, Russians have long sought out a “different type
of consolation.” Even gulag laborers, he found, believed they “had made a contribution to
the Soviet economy. Many of these people later looked back with enormous pride at the
factories, dams and cities they had built. This pride stemmed in part from their continued
belief in the Soviet system and its ideology, despite the injustices they had been dealt and
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