World View: Chechnya, Kyrgyzstan, and Analysis of the Boston Bombers

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Background profiles of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev
  • The radicalization of the Tsarnaev brothers
  • Generational history of Kyrgyzstan
  • The Beslan massacre and ABC news

Background profiles of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left (dead), and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, right (captured) (AP)
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left (dead), and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, right (captured) (AP)

The satirist Ambrose Bierce said a century ago, "War is God's way of teaching Americans geography." Bierce might have said the same of terrorism, because now Americans may finally have occasion to learn something about Chechnya (in the North Caucasus) and Kyrgyzstan (in Central Asia). Long-time readers of Generational Dynamics will already be familiar with these regions, as I've written about them many times, but for most Americans, they'll be completely unfamiliar. 

Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were ethnic Chechens (from Chechnya), but they were born in Kyrgyzstan. What were ethnic Chechens doing in Kyrgyzstan? 

The two regions -- the North Caucasus (Dagestan, Chechnya, etc.) and central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan) -- are linked by history. The two regions are historically connected because Josef Stalin in 1944 deported North Caucasus ethnic groups to Central Asia, believing that they were collaborating with the Nazis. When Nikita Khrushchev allowed the deported people to return in the 1960s, many remained behind. Thus, familial relationships between the two regions remain to this day, and there has been cross-pollination of Islamist terrorist fighters in both regions. 

According to interviews with the Tsarnaev brothers' relatives, including their father in Dagestan and their uncle in Baltimore, the family new nothing about the brothers' plans and were both shocked and saddened by the revelation that they were the perpetrators. Baltimore Sun and Russia Today

The radicalization of the Tsarnaev brothers

If we look back at the London subway bombers of 7/7/2005, it turned out that the suicide bombers were committing "altruistic suicide," because they believed that their parents' community would support and honor their actions. The Boston bombers were not suicide bombers, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were acting for what they considered to be altruistic regions, expected to be honored by their parents. 

The London subway bombers were radicalized by internet contact with al-Qaeda imams in the Pakistan tribal areas. As I recall, there were also some visits to Pakistan by one or two of the London bombers. 

It appears that the Boston bombers were radicalized through social networks. Tamerlan apparently spent around six months of last year out of the U.S., during which time he visited his father in Dagestan and relatives in Chechnya. It's possible that Tamerlan arranged for some training during that six month period, with or without the knowledge of his father. NBC News and Jamestown

Generational history of Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan's last generational crisis war was the brutally repressed 1916 rebellion against the Russians, after which Kyrgyzstan became part of the Soviet empire. World War II was a generational Awakening era war for Kyrgyzstan. So, from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, Kyrgyzstan today is in a "fifth turning," a distinctly different era that occurs if the entire generational Crisis era (fourth turning) passes with no crisis war. (See "Basics of Generational Dynamics"

Within Kyrgyzstan, there are many pending conflicts that may have contributed to the radicalization of the Tsarnaev brothers. 

  • There are ancient ethnic hatreds between the Kyrgyz and the Uzbeks. These ethnic hatreds are particularly pronounced in the Fergana valley, which is at the intersection of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. In June 2010, there was a massive genocidal slaughter of Kyrgyz by Uzbeks on the Uzbekistan side of the border. (See "15-Jun-10 News -- Uzbekistan closes border to refugees from Kyrgyzstan"). This massacre has radicalized the entire Fergana valley region.
  • One consequence of the 2010 massacre in Kyrgyzstan is that discrimination against Uzbeks has increased dramatically, especially in and near the Fergana valley. Uzbeks can't get jobs, and Uzbeks are increasingly religiously oppressed, leading to a backlash of radicalization among the Uzbeks.
  • At the same time, tensions between Russians and Kyrgyz are leading to violence in northern Kyrgyzstan. Russians (12.5 percent of the republic’s population) are the second most numerous (after Uzbeks) ethnic minority in Kyrgyzstan.
  • Kyrgyzstan has been cooperating with the U.S. with logistics for the Afghan war, as have the Russians. This cooperation is becoming increasingly significant as the U.S. has to find a way to remove ten years of military equipment from land-locked Afghanistan. America's drone strikes in Pakistan has unified Islamist militants throughout central and southern Asia. (See "Islamist Uzbeks lead terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan")

So what we're trying to do here is identify possible reasons why the Tsarnaev brothers, growing up in Kyrgyzstan, were radicalized against the U.S., and why they eventually decided that bombing the Boston Marathon would be an altruistic act that would make their parents proud of them. We've identified several possibilities: 

  • Opposition to the American drone strikes.
  • Opposition to the Kyrgyz government's cooperation with the Americans.
  • Opposition to the Russian government's cooperation with the Americans.
  • All of the above.

These appear to be the most likely motivations for the Boston Marathon bombers. 

It's important to emphasize the obvious: None of this is supposed to imply logical or rational reasoning on the part of Tsarnaev brothers. But it's not crazy either. It's no different than the recent massacre of Muslims by Buddhists in Burma, the slaughter of Sufis and Shias by Sunni radicals in Pakistan, or the genocide of Jews by ordinary Germans in the 1930s. (See "The Legacy of World War I and the Holocaust"

As I've described at length many times, these things occur when inter-generational hatreds metastasize into hatred along fault lines defined by religion, ethnicity, geography, language, or skin color. As time goes on, we'll probably learn a lot more about the specific motivations of the Tsarnaev brothers. 

Whatever the motives of the Tsarnaev brothers, it's still necessary for the investigation to determine exactly what methodology was used to radicalize them. Did they figure out how to build a bomb on their own, following directions from the internet, or through online contacts? Or were they part of a larger cell that's still out there, building more bombs? These questions will presumably be answered in the coming days. Guardian (London)

The Beslan massacre and ABC news

This analysis of the Boston Marathon bombings gives me an opportunity to review the extremely shameful news coverage by ABC News in 2005. 

One change that the Boston Marathon bombings may have brought to America is a new appreciation for the horrific terrorist attacks that the Russians have suffered at the hands of Islamic terrorists from the North Caucasus. 

In September 2004, Russia was the target of several major terrorist attacks -- the bombing of two airplanes in flight, a subway bombing in Moscow, and the massacre of 340 people, including 156 children, at a school in Beslan, North Ossetia. (See "Russian President Putin asks revenge for Beslan"

All of these terrorist attacks occurred in a ten-day period and were comparable in size and horror to America's 9/11 attacks, but the Russians received no sympathy from Americans. To the contrary, some American leaders blamed the terrorist attacks on the Russia government, saying that it had been mistreating the Chechens. 

As if to prove the point, in July 2005, ABC News broadcast a lengthy interview with Shamil Basayev, the mastermind of the Beslan massacre and other terrorist acts. Basayev was permitted to go on and on, justifying his bloody massacres politically. It's as if ABC News had broadcast a lengthy interview with Osama bin Laden, allowing him to go on and on criticizing the U.S. and saying that we deserved the 9/11 attacks. 

This was completely irresponsible "journalism" on the part of ABC News, and the Russians were quite angry. (See "Russia infuriated over ABC 'Nightline' interview of Shamil Basayev".) 

Returning now to paraphrase Ambrose Bierce's quote, "Terrorism is God's way of teaching geography to Americans"; perhaps now Americans will learn where the North Caucasus is, and ABC News will learn to be less contemptuous of terrorism originating there. The Atlantic Wire

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Chechnya, Kyrgyzstan, Ambrose Bierce, Dagestan, Uzbekistan, altruistic suicide, Afghanistan, Russia, Pakistan, Burma, Beslan massacre, Vladimir Putin, Shamil Basayev 

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