Disbelief | Nedoverie-original title

 

This was the official website for the compelling docu-drama film, Disbelief (Nedoverie-original title). It was released in the US in 2004
The content below is from the site's archived pages.

 

A fatal bomb blast in a Moscow apartment building ignites a fury of questions about terrorism, shadow politics, and post-Soviet intrigue in Disbelief; a film as much about the high art of political deception as it is about violence and human tragedy. The bombing on September 9, 1999, of a nine-story working-class apartment complex in Moscow was quickly blamed on Chechen terrorists. But was it their crime? Or did the Russian secret service deflect its own responsibility for the bombing on the Chechens to heighten national fear and hysteria and justify Russia's subsequent military attack on the breakaway republic?

"Deploying all the suspense and drama of a sophisticated murder mystery, Nekrasov has created one of the most compelling and captivating films of the year - 2004 Sundance Film Festival Catalogue.

 

 

Disbelief, the Story

When Tatyana Morozova, a pre-school teacher happily married in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, learned that her mother had been killed and her sister Alyona had barely survived a middle-of-the-night blast that destroyed her old apartment building back in Moscow, she believed what she was told by the Russian government--that the attack was the work of Chechen terrorists.

But in the immediate aftermath of the attack she was more concerned about getting her shell-shocked sister over to America than about looking into the mystery of the serial apartment house bombings, that shook up Russia in September 1999.

Within a year, Alyona moved to the US and enrolled in a college, a stranger in a strange land trying to cope with nightmarish visions of her whole world collapsing around her on that fateful night.

In the meantime, the blasts triggered the war in Chechnya, propelled the hawkish ex-KGB spy Vladimir Putin to power and turned Chechens throughout Russia into despised and feared second-class citizens.

Immersed in their new lives in America, Tanya and Alyona initially discounted the rumor filtering out of Russia that it was not the Chechens, but the Russian secret service FSB that staged the bombings to help Putin win the elections.
The FSB theory originated from an investigative TV report about FSB agents being caught red-handed while planting a bomb in the apartment block in the city of Ryazan. The Ryazan report--reproduced in Disbelief - brought the FSB theory home to many Russians and won authoritative followers abroad, including David Satter, the scholar at the Hudson Institute in Washington and former Moscow correspondent of the Wall Street Journal.

In summer 2003, Alyona traveled to Washington to attend the presentation of Satters new book Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State published by Yale University Press, which squarely puts the blame for the 1999 bombings at the door of the FSB. Satters speech, with Alyona in attendance, makes the central scene in Disbeliefs narrative, puting the sisters personal story in the context of political history. By then, Tanya and Alyona were already considering an offer from Andrey Nekrasov to participate in a documentary about the 1999 bombings.

The film project would entail a trip to Russia, where the sisters would reunite with members of their family, see other survivors, and meet the official investigators of the attacks. They would get a chance to judge by themselves on the merits of the FSB theory, about which they were still unconvinced.

In the end they decided that only Tanya would go, accompanied by her three-year old American-born son, Sasha. Alyona felt that she was not yet emotionally capable of confronting the memories of walking out from ground zero.

In her Moscow encounters, and in the Ural village with her grandparents and her uncles family, Tatyana asked the same question: do you think our own government could do it? And she got the full spectrum of answers: from a solid yes by her attorney, an ex-KGB agent turned dissident, to a firm no by her mothers old friend, a Russian nationalist who lectured her on the devious character of the Chechens.

She heard the horrific account of a man, Timur, who had been falsely accused of the bombing and confessed to it under torture. She listened to the protestations of a Chechen official who pointed out how absurd would it be for the Chechens to stage the bombings that were retaliated by massive Russian bombardment of their towns and villages. She visited the investigator who denied her access to the case files for reasons of state security.

But perhaps the most dramatic response came from her childhood friend who lost her parents in the blast: she did not want to know the truth because the truth might be even worse than the loss itself.

In the film, Tanya does not reveal her conclusions. And the viewer is left to judge on his own: who was the perpetrator of the greatest unsolved crime of the 20th century?

 

 


Tanya Morozova-White

Protagonists
in order of appearance

Tanya (Tatyana) Morozova-White

Tanya:They say "Chechens" to spread,
expand our pain, as it were, instead of focusing
on the specifics, on the task of finding the culprits. 

Akhmed Zakaev: I understand a person
who carries that pain inside, and the need for answers.
We are all children of God, even if we
believe in different ways...
Please do not blame us Chechens!


 


Sasha White

Sasha White, Tanyas son

Tanya: He does not even know about it, but he has Russian history in his blood. And that is a connection to the history of Russia. The way we, my sister and I will present it to him, Russias past, our mothers past - will probably have an impact on his whole future life. He may love Russia, or he may hate it Of couse, I dont want him to hate it

 


Yelena Morozova

Yelena (Alyona) Morozova, her sister

Tanya: Alyona went through so much, she saw so much. You cant just kick it out of your head. Thats why she cant sleep or sees these nightmares. I think until her last day she will see them

Alyona:There aren't many people
trying to find out the truth.
Those who suffered, like me, who were injured
and lost limbs and so on...
They just want to forget about it:
the sooner the better.

Alyona:I long for the perpetrators to be caught, I really do.
We're not just puppets for playing war games with...
It's not on simply to say:"Some people died, too bad,
we'll put up a new building."We all have feelings.
Well, obviously some don't...

 


Lubov Morozova

Lubov Morozova, their mother 

Alyona: I could suddenly see through the wall, there was just an empty space, and I knew that that's where my mother should have been.

Tanya: I have not seen her sick, I have not seen her sad. I feel like she is still alive. Its just a hard thing - you miss her, and you cant talk to her.

 
Abraham White
Abraham White, Tanyas husband, a restaurant chef in Milwaukee, Wis.

Tanya: I lost my mom and with her I lost my Russia. So as hard as I could I started to build a new home, and now I have my husband, I have Sasha, and, well, thats enough for me. If I have a little Russia it is right here, in my heart, and if somebody will want to take this last bit away, they will have to take it right from my heart, with my life.

Jeff L. Kinney
Jeff L. Kinney, CNN videographer and producer who helped Alyona after the bombing

Tanya: Jeff went on the Internet to find our adress and our phone number. He called me and said, Alyona is with some friends, call her on this number; I said, what is this, a joke? No, he said, its not a joke, its an emergency.

Jeff: The way the Americans view Chechens changed on Sept.11th. On Sept.10th Americans thought that these were poor people abused by the Russians; on the Sept.12th Chechens became Muslim terrorists DEALT WITH ACCORDINGLY BY the Russians for the safety of the rest of the world.

 


Svetlana Rozhkova

Svetlana (Sveta) Rozhkova, Tanyas friend and former neighbor, who lost her parents in the attack.

Nobody can give us our parents back.
I've tried to subdue these feelings.
What can we do? We have to carry on living in this country.
Finding out the truth won't make it less hard.
Sometimes I'm afraid. And sometimes I get really annoyed
because we weren't more on the ball, somehow.
But I have to carry on living here.
You have to get on with your parents whatever they're like.
And it's the same with your country: it's the only one you've got.
I'm talking about these things now because it really hurts.
And maybe I'm afraid of finding out the truth,
because the truth might be even worse than what's happened...

 


Michail Trepashkin
Michail Trepashkin, Tanyas and Alyonas lawyer in Moscow who was arrested after finding evidence of FSBs involvement in the bombing

Michail Trepashkin :
The KGB had a huge political section, yes.
And it's interesting to note that the people who now occupy
the top positions in the FSB are the same ones
who used to be responsible for political prosecutions:
ex-members of the KGB's notorious Section 5.

According to the article 7 of the Secrecy law crimes resulting
in large numbers of deaths cannot be kept secret.
What would happen if the results of the investigation were made public? It's simple: all those involved
in these crimes would be arrested.
The question is: Who would that hurt?

Tahya: Are you not afraid? By persisting in your investigations you are putting your own life on the line!

Michail: Well, what can I say... I have a cause and I believe it is just. Even my own former colleagues from the FSB will testify that Ive never deceived or betrayed anyone. So I am in peace with myself.

 


David Satter
David Satter, scholar,former Moscow correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and New York Times who wrote a book arguing that the bombing was staged by the Russian secret service, the FSB.

Some people say I havent proven it, I cant prove it. Well, I say, this is a little bit of a perversion of the venerable Anglo-Saxon doctrine of presumption of innocence. Presumption of innocence is intended to protect the individual against the government. It doesnt apply to a government which is suspected of a mass crime against its own population.

 


Timur Dakhkilgov
Timur Dakhkilgov, a Muscovite from Chechnya who confessed to the bombing under torture but was released when the case fell apart.

Lidia: I wanted to go out onto the streets
and cry out: "He's innocent!" I can swear
on the health of my children, on the most sacred things!"

Lidia: Timur doesn't like talking about these things.
He doesn't even want to remember.

Timur: I did my army service
at Baiconur cosmodrome, did special training...
But I've never heard the word "hexogen" in my life...

Timur: sometimes I think, what if they hadn't been proven wrong?
I would have been locked up for life. Simple as that.

 


Lidia Dakhkilgov
Lidia Dakhkilgov, Timurs wife 

Lidia: It all started with fingerprints, we had to submit them - because we were born in Grozny. They said: 
"fingerprints are taken in the whole civilized world."
"Maybe," I said, "but is it done only to people with certain kinds of facial features, as a kind of face control? What's wrong
with his face or mine?"

Then the lawyer told me:
"He's about to make a confession."
But how can that be if your conscience is clear?
The lawyer said:"They have their methods."

I then found out how they were pressuring him:
I was pregnant at the time with our third boy.
So they told him they'd take me and our kids
to Gurianov Street, to that crowd, those people
whose families were killed, and tell them, "Here's the wife
of the man who blew up the building."
And Timur would have to sit in a car and watch the crowd deal with me.

 


Alexandra Mingaleva

Alexandra Mingaleva, Tanyas grandmother who lives in a village in the Urals, Russia

May she rest in peace. And be eternally remembered.
May Lubov, God's child, rest in peace! Let's drink to her memory!

 


Vladimir Mingalev

Vladimir Mingalev, Tanyas grand-father

How did our Luba get from the Urals to Moscow?
She was a hairdresser.
She found out that there was a special hairdressing college
in Moscow.
And she wrote them a letter.
And they offered her a place, and so she went to Moscow.
And that brought Moscow closer to us.
And now it's far away again, and we no longer have anybody there.

 


Sergei Mingalev

Sergei Mingalev, Tanyas uncle

And as for the people involved,
had they been ordinary people, Chechens,
they would've been caught straight away.
But there are bigger fish involved,
that's why it's taking so long.
Until none of the powers-that-be die, or... this one...
doesn't get kicked out... nothing will happen.

 


Alyona Kozhevnikova

Alyona Kozhevnikova, a friend of Tanyas late mother (the White Russian)

I dont believe it was the FSB that organized the 1999 bombings. Nor I believe that the Chechens are innocent victims. PEACE IN THE CAUCASUS HAS ALWAYS BEEN MAINTAINED BY THE RUSSIAN BAYONETS. I dont believe those claims are substantiated. If the Russian army hadnt been there they would have been still cutting each others throats.

 


Akhmed Zakaev

Akhmed Zakaev, the deputy prime-minister of Chechnya in 1999 (now in exile) 

Sergei Ivanov, Defence Minister: The terrorist must be caught and tried

Alyona: My main thought then was:
give me the person responsible, and let me kill him with my own bare hands!

Akhmed Zakaev: Even if some Chechens who lost
their families during the first war were prepared
to do something like that, they would have chosen a totally
different target for their revenge, a legitimate one of sorts.
The FSB headquarters, the Interior Ministry or the General Staff...
I am certain the Russian public wouldn't have condemned
all of the Chechen people so unanimously.
There would have even been split in peoples reaction.
But the secret service was counting precisely
on the indignation of ordinary people who would demand:
"Punish the Chechens!"
That's why those buildings were chosen.
When the troops were sent into Chechnya,
Russian society had to be made look elsewhere
When Grozny was being showered with 5-ton bombs,
when women and children were being blown up,
the Russians were kept busy by alarms and overnight vigils
and were only concerned with a possible bomb in the basement
and not with the fate of mortals like themselves
who were being massacred somewhere down in the south...

 

  In the episodes

Yuri Luzhkov

Yuri Luzhkov, the Mayor of Moscow

We've got an uprising on our hands!

 


Sergei Shoigu

Sergei Shoigu, the Minister for Emergencies

This is just an ordinary routine job.

 


Nikolai Patrushev
Nikolai Patrushev, the Director of the FSB 

That wasn't an explosion, first of all.
Secondly, it wasn't prevented. Well,
our people weren't quite spot on...
It was an exercise. And there was
sugar in the sacks, not explosives.

Sergei Kirienko

Sergei Kirienko, the Prime Minister in 1998 

The State admits
that it is unable to pay its debts.

 


Boris Yeltsin

Boris Yeltsin, the President of Russia until Dec. 1999 

I am not going!
I am not resigning!

 


Evgeni Primakov

Evgeni Primakov, the Prime Minister in 1998

Harsh measures are required,
and these will be implemented.

 


Yuri Skuratov

Yuri Skuratov, Prosecutor General in 1998

Dont expect the fight against corruption to be selective!

 


Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin, Director of the FSB in 1998, the Prime Minister in 1999, currently the President of Russia.

Where are these casualties?
That's all the propaganda
of bandits and terrorists.
There are only a few isolated cases.
And besides, some died
not from shelling,
but rather from, well, hard conditions
or that sort of thing...

 


Vladimir Rushailo

Vladimir Rushailo, the Minister of Interior in 1999

The evidence of an improvement
in our work is the prevention of the explosion
at a building in Ryazan.

 


Alexander Zdanovich

Alexander Zdanovich, head of PR Center of the FSB in 1999,
currently deputy chairman of RTR Russian State TV network


During exercises we use all
our available means and forces...
Don't smile like that. You've asked
a question, listen to the answer!
So... I was saying that
we use secret agents
and we never show them.

 

 

Historical Background

When Russian President Vladimir Putin called George W. Bush on September11, 2001, to express sympathy for the World Trade Center attacks, the mysterious explosions of apartment houses in Russian cities two years earlier were cited as Russia's September 11. The blasts that had left nearly 300 people dead and scores wounded were blamed on Chechen separatists and had served as the pretext for Russia starting a new war in Chechnya in September 1999.

The house at 19 Gyryanova St. in Moscow, which exploded in the middle of the night of September 9, 1999 was the home of the Morozov sisters, the protagonists of Disbelief.

Who Did It: the Official Version

Over the years, the official investigation of the bombings conducted by the Russian security service, the FSB, has named several suspects linked to Chechnya. One of them, who appears in Disbelief, was arrested immediately after the attacks and was tortured into signing a confession, only to be released when the case against him fell apart. In 2001, three other people confessed to the bombings. They were convicted on other counts of terrorism but were cleared of all charges related to the Moscow attacks for lack of evidence.
 

 

Who Did It: The Other Theory

In November 2003, two men were tried in Moscow at a courthouse closed to the press and the public. They were accused of transporting explosives for the bombings. Reportedly, both of them retracted the confessions they had made while in FSB custody.

The prime suspect, according to the FSB, is a mysterious man named Achemez Gochiyaev who has never been captured.

From the moment of the first blast, a theory began to circulate in Moscow that it was not the Chechens, but the Russian secret service (the FSB) that planted the bombs to help the hawkish Vladimir Putin, then Prime Minister, win presidential elections.

Far from being a fringe conspiracy theory, these allegations are taken seriously by 43% of Russians and by many in the West. "Questions about those attacks, like Russia's conduct in Chechnya, continue to follow Mr. Putin like a shadow," wrote the Wall Street Journal in an editorial comment. In a statement in the U.S. Congress, Senator John McCain cited "credible allegations that Russia's FSB had a hand in carrying out these attacks".

 

The Inquiry, the Crackdown and the Coverup

The FSB theory of the bombings was initially probed by the independent Russian network NTV, which aired its famous investigative report on the eve of the presidential elections in March 2000. The central episode in that program - reproduced in Disbelief - was a bizzare incident on September 23, 1999 (a fortnight after the Gurianova St. explosion), when the local police in the city of Ryazan dismantled a bomb and arrested suspects in planting it, who unexpectedly turned out to be undercover agents of the FSB. The government quickly defused the scandal calling the incident an "ill-conceived readiness exercise".

After Putin's victory, NTV was taken over by the government. Its owner, Vladimir Gusinsky, fled abroad. A documentary based on the NTV report was produced by Boris Berezovsky, another exiled media baron. His TV station has been closed down. In fact, the overall crackdown on independednt media and its owners - "the oligarchs" - under Putin can be traced to that report on NTV.

Attempts to conduct a parliamentary investigation of the alleged FSB conspiracy were voted down in the Duma by the majority loyal to president Putin. The two liberal deputies, Sergei Yushenkov and Yuri Schekochikhin, who had tabled those motions were assassinated.

A Moscow lawyer, Mikhail Trepashkin, investigating the bombings on behalf of the victims' families was jailed on a fabricated charge after being interviewed for Disbelief.

All materials related to the bombings have been classified "top secret".

 

The West's Attitude
The war in Chechnya, now in its fifth year, has claimed tens of
thousands of civilian casualties and has been characterized as the
worst atrocities in Europe since World War II. But after September
11, 2001, the United States, eager to gain Russia's support for its
action in Afghanistan, reversed its policy of condemning Russian
behavior in Chechnya, and began to call the war an "anti-terrorist
operation". Having looked the other way as human rights violations in Chechnya and suppression of free speach in Russia continue, the Western governments have also chosen to discount the theory of FSB responsibility for the blasts of September 1999.

 

 

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