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The History That Birthed the Tsarnaev Boys

Alexander Reed Kelly
Associate Editor
In December 2010, Alex was arrested for civil disobedience outside the White House alongside Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges, Pentagon whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg, healthcare activist Margaret Flowers and…
Alexander Reed Kelly

Chechen scholar Thomas Goltz gives a historical primer on the centuries old culture and struggle that shaped the Tsarnaev brothers, suspects in the bombings of the Boston Marathon.

In an article published in the May 13 issue of The Nation, Goltz sees Chechens’ history of resistance to Soviet and Russian rule as being analogous to Native Americans’ struggle to survive under the early, still-developing United States.

“[T]he people of Chechnya do not call themselves ‘Chechens,’ ” Goltz writes. “In their own language — as distinct from Russian as Navajo is from English — they are the Noxchi, which translates more or less as ‘the People.’ “

Throughout conflicts since the 19th century — one of which involved the deaths of more than 235,000 Chechens on their way to exile imposed by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, and in which some members held high positions in the ranks of the occupying forces — three distinct political groups have emerged. One consists of secular nationalists known as Dudayevists; another, collaborators with Russia known as Kadyrovists, who currently rule the country; and a third, the Salafists, is composed of radical Muslims associated with al-Qaida who are sympathetic to or involved in the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syria.

“Of note here,” Goltz writes, “should be the confused division/union between the Dudayevists and Salafists, both opposed to the Kadyrovists, whose utter brutality in the service of Moscow has arguably brought blighted Chechnya more real independence than anything Soviet Major General Dudayev delivered to his country by proclaiming titular independence.”

“Finally,” Goltz continues, “there is what we might call the Chechen ‘fourth estate,’ people so battered by the wickedness of fate that they left their homeland as refugees to start ‘normal’ lives elsewhere — like Boston. According to reports from friends and family, this is the group to which the Tsarnaev family belonged — or appeared to until recently.”

What emerges is a picture of two brothers born into a place of intimately warring traditions, and apparently, upon adulthood, choosing to throw their minds and bodies in with the lot of religious radicals militantly opposing the United States’ toiling in their homelands.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Thomas Goltz at The Nation:

At the very least, it seems clear that Dzhokhar’s older brother, Tamerlan, and perhaps Dzhokhar too, identified with extremist Islamists, as opposed to the strangely and sadly divided Chechen nationalists associated with Dudayev, the ill-fated first president of that equally ill-fated post-Soviet republic. I guess it will all come out as Dzhokhar is interrogated and tried; now my suspicion lies with the brothers having abandoned their compatriots’ weird and horrible 200-year-old resistance against Russia to embrace the Salafist line of global jihad against the United States.

Myself, I am filled with an immense sadness for all involved: the dead and the maimed runners and spectators of the?Boston Marathon, as well as the soul-scarred citizens of the blighted state of Chechnya.

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