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Examine how hostage crises are handled

October 27, 2002
Web posted at: 10:10 PM EST (0310 GMT)

Overview: Russian forces used a special "sleeping" gas to end a three-day standoff with Chechen rebels at a Moscow theatre, where some 800 people were being held hostage. Approximately 120 hostages have died as a result of the gas used by the rescuers, and over 600 more remain hospitalized. Were Russian military chiefs right to storm the Moscow theatre, given the possible loss of innocent lives?

Have students read "Many Hostages Lost in Russian Theater Standoff" and answer the following questions:


1. Why did Chechen rebels seize a theater in Moscow last week? How many hostages did they take? When and how did Russia's military end the standoff? How many hostages died as a result of the gas used during the rescue operation? How many hostage victims remain hospitalized because of exposure to the gas? What factors intensified the effects of the gas? How did Russian President Vladimir Putin respond to the tragedy?

2. Do you think the Russian government should make reparations to the hostage victims and their families? Why or why not? If so, what types of reparations should the government make?

3. Help students to identify examples of other hostage-taking situations that have occurred throughout the world, such as the Iran hostage crisis of November 4, 1979, or the Philippines hostage crisis of April 23, 2000. Group students and assign each group one of the hostage crises. Instruct groups to investigate the background and outcome of these hostage situations. Have groups prepare presentations on the evolution of the hostage crises and the lessons that were learned from the handling of these situations. After the presentations, ask students: What are some of the different ways that governments have responded to hostage-taking situations? What are the pros and cons of these responses? Do you think Russian military chiefs were right to storm the Moscow theatre, given the possible loss of innocent lives? State your rationale. If not, how should they have handled the situation?

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