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August: Russia’s month of Disaster

Yet another horrendous month for Russia, as a dam explosion kills 70, a suicide bomber kills 20, and a freighter goes missing very publicly in the Atlantic.

kursk-wreckIt looks like August is going to be yet another busy month for bad news in Russia, and yet another busy month for those among the commentariat who think that Russia is well on its way to Hell in a handcart.

With a week still to go in August 2009, Russia has already seen three disasters that have been big enough to warrant global media attention, making August 2009 a bad month, even by the usual Russian standards:

  • an explosion in a Siberian dam that killed at least 70, and has caused massive damage to the local economy;
  • a suicide bomb attack that killed 20 in Ingushetia and re-emphasises the Russian government’s inability to impose order in the troubled North Caucuasus region;
  • and a very public hunt for a missing, presumed hijacked freighter that so alarmed the Russian government that they sent the entire Atlantic fleet on a frantic hunt for it.

While thinking about Russia’s least favourite month, I stumbled across this graphical timeline of Russian disasters so far in the 21st Century. A quick count up of the totals reveals that, of the 28 disasters listed, 7 took place in August – a full 25%.

Does anyone have any rational explanation for Russia’s unfortunate sequence of Augusts? Are there some local factors that make Russia (or maybe even the rest of the world) more likely to suffer from a catastrophic event during the height of summer, or is it just a run of plain bad luck?


  • You have a point here, Andy. Many wars tend to start in August too.
    Summer holidays (laziness) –> accidents & irate temperaments from excessive heat –> wars, perhaps?

  • It is really a bad news to hear about the problem face by the Russians.There are lots of disaster which they are facing.a suicide bomb attack that killed 20 in Ingushetia and re-emphasizes the Russian government’s inability to impose order in the troubled North Caucasus region.

  • multiple choice:

    a. It’s planned. To ensure a speedy response, it is better to have crises 1) when the climate is cooperative and 2) when the powers that be are not overscheduled.

    b. People have too much free-time in August. An idle mind is the Devil’s workshop, I’m told.

    c. Colossal tragedies happen in Russia year round, but we’ve bought into the mythology and have our eyes peeled for them in August. Probably because we have a lot of free time too.

    d. August hates Russia. August is on the WSJ’s payroll. August is a CIA agent. August wants Russia to fail. August owes Russia gas money. August wants to join NATO.

  • Hmm, I vote for (d) – August owes Russia gas money.

    It is very noticeable that gas revenues decrease during the summer months.

  • Disasters, being known for being notoriously selfish, prefer to happen in August because they know that all the politicians will be on holiday and will not be immediately on scene as they have to make a political risk assessment as to whether the disaster is big enough to warrant an ‘helpful’ visit. During any other period politicians are all over the disaster area (if possible) competing with the disaster for face time. Nature likes to have things its own way, only sometimes does it let the foolish human beings think they are in charge….at least until robots take over the world.

  • A lot of key maintenance people are likely to be away in August, and spare parts likely to be held up longer in customs. I have no idea whether the explosion in the dam was caused by a key person being absent or a part being delayed, but I’d bet everything I own on the root cause being poor maintenance.

  • Just an anecdotally-based guess, but I know that the Ministry of Education (and I’m guessing other ministries, as well) shuts down in August completely. So….disaster strikes when nobody’s around to deal with things???

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