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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 October 2004, 02:21 GMT 03:21 UK
Beslan families united in grief
By Damian Grammaticas
BBC correspondent in Beslan

At the Beryozov family home there was a slow and steady stream of mourners. Standing by his gates, Vladimir Beryozov greeted each and every one.

Women mourners in Beslan, 13 October 2004
The mourning period has brought the community together
A small group of relatives, friends and neighbours paused before him, heads bowed as they joined him in his grief.

There were men with tears in their eyes, women clutching flowers, food and cakes.

Inside, propped against a wall, were two photographs - one of Vladimir's wife Sima, the second of his daughter Irina, who was 10. Both were killed during the Beslan school siege in Russia's North Ossetia region.

Piled all around were plates of meat, fruit and sweets. This was the last day of Beslan's mourning.

Forty days have passed since the terrible events in School Number One.

Thoughts of revenge

Families gathered in hundreds of homes across the town, united in their sorrow one more time.

Woman mourns the death of a young girl in Beslan, 13 October 2004
About half of the 330 victims were children
The Beryozov's entire extended family stood in their yard, listening to a song written to commemorate Beslan's tragedy.

It was a haunting tune. Words told how life could never be the same in Beslan.

Women sobbed. One woman collapsed, overcome. Old men gently dried the tears from their eyes.

As the official mourning ends, the thoughts of some are turning to those responsible for killing Beslan's children.

"There are many nationalities in the Caucasus and every nation has its pride," Georgi, one of the mourners said.

"If someone spills blood there will be revenge. The question is what form will the revenge take and who will pay the price."

Bitterness runs deep

It is a sobering thought that what happened in Beslan could easily lead to more bloodshed.

The Caucasus is a region riven by old enmity.

Beslan is in Russia's republic of North Ossetia. Just a short drive away are Chechnya and Ingushetia.

Ossetians and Ingush fought a short but vicious war 12 years ago. Thousands of Ingushetians were driven from their homes in Ossetia and many are still refugees.

We found some living close to the border in old converted railway carriages. It is a desolate spot, equally baking hot in summer and freezing in winter.

These people say they are still waiting to return to their homes in North Ossetia.

One old woman, Zoya, showed me around the converted carriage she and her elderly husband live in.

He is an invalid, confined to his bed. He stretched out his arms, tears in his eyes, begging for help. The family is poor and desperate to leave here.

But it is the Ingush who are now being blamed for Beslan.

There were Ingush men in the gang that seized School Number One, and the Ingush might be the target for any who might seek revenge.

Russia's government is certainly concerned about the potential for conflict.

Alexander Torshin, the man heading the official inquiry into Beslan, told me that the aims of those behind the atrocities was clear.

"Their goal was to destabilise the Caucasus," he said.

"They hit Russia's most vulnerable spot. Any conflict there would be like a whirlwind. It could draw in all the neighbouring republics."

Back in Beslan many are feeling wounded and angry.

But many too are aware of the dangers if new fighting was to erupt in the region, and they are trying to urge restraint.

At Beslan's other schools there are now soldiers guarding the buildings.

It is a sign, if one were needed, of the fear and mistrust many now feel towards their neighbours.




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