We’re still learning new information about Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the brothers suspected in the terror attack at the Boston Marathon on Monday. Many Russian news outlets are covering this story, and what we’ve learned from them is that no one really knows where the Tsarnaevs come from.
Initially, both Russian and U.S. authorities believed that the suspects were from Chechnya, a former Soviet republic just south of Russia. However, throughout the day, we’ve learned that they are originally from the Russian Caucasus (which includes Chechnya) and have since potentially lived in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Dagestan, Turkey, and the U.S.
The Tsarnaevs’s uncle told the media that neither of the brothers has ever been to Chechnya and they certainly weren't born there. They are referred to as Chechen because of their family’s nationality. Tsarnaev is a common Chechen last name, and their aunt and uncle have both told the media their family is Chechen.
The brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, however, were born in Kyrgyzstan, according to RT News. Ridus.ru reports that in 2001, they moved to Dagestan, a smaller former Soviet republic bordering Chechnya (also part of the Russian Caucasus), where they attended school and where their parents live today.
According to what CNN and the Russian media believe to be Dzhokhar’s social media page VKontakte, he attended a school in Mahachkala, the capital of Dagestan. The principal of the elementary school, Temirmohamed Davudov, confirmed this fact to Interfax.
Davudov told Interfax that the Tsarnaevs were “a family of refugees from Kyrgystan” and that they left the republic in 2002, after only one year at the school.
Here’s where things don’t completely add up: Ridus reports that the brothers moved to the United States in 2002 from Dagestan, but some Russian media believes that at this point, the Tsarnaevs moved to Turkey first.
According to Ria News, they have Turkish citizenship and apparently entered the United States using Turkish visas, but Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Guler denies this assertion. Instead, he says the Tsarnaevs stayed in Turkey for 10 days about a decade ago and then left for the United States. He added that they entered Turkey using Kyrgyz passports, which could also confirm Kyrgyzstan as their birth country.
Dzhokhar’s social media profile says he attended school in Dagestan followed immediately by Cambridge Rindge & Latin School in Massachusetts, which would suggest that the Tsarnaevs came to the United States straight from Dagestan.
(The Wall Street Journal reports that the brothers entered the United States at different times: Dzhokhar came to America with his parents in 2002, while Tamerlan came by himself in 2004.)
To complicate things further, a local Massachusetts photographer, Johannes Hirn — who photographed the older brother, Tamerlan, practicing mixed martial arts — says the Tsarnaevs are natives of Chechnya and have been living in the United States for about five years. In the photo gallery, Hirn also points out that the Tsarnaevs left Chechnya in the 1990s and came to Kazakhstan before immigrating to the United States, which is in line with CNN’s reporting but contradicts the school principal’s statement and the Russian media reports.
In addition, the president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, denies all ties between Chechnya and the Tsarnaev brothers. On his Instagram account, he wrote, “Any attempts to make a connection between Chechnya and the Tsarvaevs, if they are even guilty, are futile.” He also told the media that the Tsarnaevs “never lived in Chechnya — they lived and studied in America.”
The Russian authorities are still working to confirm whether or not the Tsarnaevs are Russian citizens. Technically, the Russian Caucasus is part of the Russian Federation; therefore, residents of republics like Chechnya and Dagestan are considered Russian citizens. On social media, Dzhokhar identifies himself as Chechen.
Russian consulate says the Tsanaevs never turned to them, doesn't know whether they have Russian citizenship.gazeta.ru/social/news/20…
— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) April 19, 2013