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Local Expert Talks Chechnya Connections

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ASHLAND, Ore. — Investigators are working to piece together the history and motives behind the two brothers accused in the Boston Marathon bombing. One local expert says a piece of that puzzle can be found over 6,000 miles away.

Evidence suggests the Tsarnaev brothers are of Chechnyan-Muslim descent. While there is no indication that ethnicity played a role in their motives, it does make for a difficult and potentially violent upbringing. For many youth growing up in Chechnya, violence is a part of daily life.

Dr. John Richards specializes in Russian politics and history at Southern Oregon University. He says that violence has been mostly at the hands of Russians. Chechnyan Muslims have been among the victims.

“In the last 19-26 years, in Chechnya, pretty good, pretty high likelihood of having witnessed violence,” explained Dr. Richards. “The schools were destroyed, the teachers were killed, the manuscripts were destroyed, and the religion was forced underground.”

But with no Islamic texts or teachings to turn to, Muslims curious about their ethnicity sought answers from outside sources, some of them extremist.

“I think that’s how Muslim extremists get a toehold in this area of the world,” Dr. Richards said. “They come in, they’re willing to teach, they’re willing to set up schools. People are curious about Islam, and so they listen to whatever voices are available.”

Richards says that religion has been used as a recruiting tool for Chechnyan insurgents fighting against Russian control.

“The nationalists can use religion to rally the troops as it were, but they’re clearly not religious people. They’re interested in political power,” said Dr. Richards.

While insurgent groups have claimed responsibility for violence in Russia, they have never been linked to attacks here in America. Authorities are still looking into Tsarnaev’s motives. There is no indication that this bombing is connected with the Chechnyan government or any known terrorist groups.