Experts on Chechnya discuss suspect’s background

By on April 19th, 2013

One suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, which President Obama referred to as an “act of terrorism,” remains on the loose in Boston and the city is on lockdown as officials conduct a door-to-door search. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, the fugitive, and his brother, Tamerlan, who died Thursday night, are known to be of Chechen descent.

According to Reuters, Dzhokhar describes himself as a minority from a region that includes Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia. Chechnya is a Russian controlled state with a history of radicalism, terrorism and Islamist conflict.

Paul D’Anieri, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Florida and expert on international and domestic politics in the Soviet Union, said he is not speculating as to what the impetus behind Monday’s attack was, but that Chechnya does have a history of insurgence.

“I don’t think we know whether (the suspects’) backgrounds in Chechnya were part of the motivation for what they did or whether it was completely disconnected,” he said. “So for the authorities, I think it’s really important, and for those who are really curious, it’s really important that they capture this second person alive and try to figure that out.”

D’Anieri said when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Chechnya became part of what is now Russia and there were violent separatist movements.

“There was an immense amount of violence and there were a huge amount of refugees created by that violence,” he said. “People fled.”

The terrorism that happened during the marathon on Monday could be an expression of that separatism, anti-American Islam or rather the expression of “two isolated, lonely kids in Boston,” he said.

According to CBS News, Tamerlan said in a magazine interview that though he lived in the U.S. for five years, he did not have a single American friend.

As for the relationship between Russia and the United States, D’Anieri said, some people think that this event will give the two countries a common concern. One idea is that the two countries could be on the same side that other is “something that is not very pleasant,” he said.

Reuters reported President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman condemned all terrorists.

Bryon Moraski, an associate professor of political science at UF and an expert on politics in Chechnya, said it is a movement of insurgents to have the state break away from the country.

“Whether that has anything to do with the United States,” he said, “that’s very far removed in my mind.”

Moraski said it’s important to remember that 9/11 changed the relationship between Russia and the United States. The event made Russia seem not alone as a developed country that has terrorism.

Kelsey Meany wrote this story for online.

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