Svetlana Ter-Minasova
Professor of Moscow State University, Dean of Foreign Languages Department

Russian version

Svetlana Ter-Minasova

It is a widely accepted fact that the history of human civilization is full of violence. Moreover, some scholars attribute first instances of terrorism to Biblical times. Which landmark events in the history of mankind do you associate with terrorism?

The history of every country from the times immemorial is a large collection of terrorist acts - open and hidden. However, until now terrorism was directed against those who were in the way to a certain goal. Killing innocent people (sometimes in huge numbers) in order to frighten the guilty ones is a novelty, an "invention" and a horrible "achievement" of out time.

In your opinion, are the roots of terrorism political and religious or is terrorism rooted in human nature?

The roots of terrorism are political and religious. I am too optimistic to believe terrorism is part of human nature. Terrorism is against it!

What is your idea of a typical terrorist?

A typical terrorist is either a person who is greedy or poor to do it for money or somebody who is simple or gullible to do it for the idea.

In what ways is the contemporary terrorism different from that of the past?

See point 1. The contemporary terrorism is mush worse, more cruel and merciless. However, I realize that it seems to be like this because it is contemporary; we witness it and not just read stories in history books.

What are the major events in the history of terrorism in the UK/ the USA?

The history of monarchy in the UK, the genocide of Native Americans in the USA.

Why wasn't the USA ready to face these drastic terrorist attacks?

The country was "spoilt" by its geography, history and the status of superpower which has led to a strong belief in the absence of external enemies.

What measures should have been taken to prevent this horror?

No measures can be taken against this kind of terrorism. Or rather: I do not think such measures exist.

What are the top priority measures to combat international terrorism?

What is "international" terrorism to one country (or countries) is regarded as "Fighting for Freedom or a better life" to another one. I cannot recommend any "top" or "non-top" priority or non-priority measures.

The reaction to terrorist attacks of September 11th has been extremely diverse. Among other things there have appeared a number of black humour Websites on the subject as well as numerous computer games and "politically incorrect" animations. What do you think about it?

Humour may help to survive under terrifying circumstances. It may relieve people from stresses and fears.

Legendary director Robert Altman says that "Hollywood action films have served as a source of inspiration to terrorists. The movies set the pattern, and these people have copied the movies". Do you think terrorists are getting inspiration from Hollywood films?

I do believe that films of violence - Hollywood and others - give ideas to terrorists and encourage them.

Do you think America might lose the media war?

I do not think so because Americans are very skilful and good at media propaganda and have many years of experience.

Some researchers predict that "America is in danger of losing this war because of political correctness. "If we can't identify who the enemy is - and, in fact, refuse to do so - haven't we lost already?" - could you comment on this statement?

Political correctness is a very complicated and controversial political, cultural and linguistic phenomenon, but America may lose this war for other reasons.

You must have been asked a lot of questions on the subject. Which of them do consider the most crucial?

I am no expert on international terrorism, I am just living through it together with millions of people. When I am asked questions of the subject the most crucial one is "What are the roots of terrorism and how to stop it".

The greatest concern of the world community is finding effective ways of defeating terrorism. In your opinion, can we hope that one day we will win the War on Terror?

As an optimist I will say: "We shall overcome some day" with an emphasis on the last two words. As a realist I doubt it. As a pessimist I think it will end only when something more terrible will come to the forefront.

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