When authorities revealed the identity of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings, the news that the two men, Tamerlan and Dzokhar Tsarnaev, were of Chechen origin might have put a smile of satisfaction on Vladimir Putin’s face. After all, the Russian president might have concluded, a terrorist attack by Chechens in America would go some way in vindicating his hard-line approach to Chechen rebels.
The fact, however, is that the evidence so far does not support that view. Judging by what we know at this point, while the Tsarnaev brothers came from a Chechen family, their ideology had little in common with the nationalist drive that defines the conflict between Chechen separatists and Moscow.
From what we know, it appears that the elder brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, developed his radical ideology by following the views of Islamist extremists. His views appear to focus more on the plight of Muslims than on Chechnya’s claims for independence. The Chechen cause may have influenced his views to the extent that he saw the strong-arm tactics of the Russian state as further proof of the plight of Muslims, not of Chechens. As his former brother-in-law told reporters, Tamerlan was concerned about the oppression of the Muslim population around the globe. More ironically, he was also “angry that the world pictures Islam as a violent religion.”